In a move that has drawn concern and criticism, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has unveiled increased surveillance initiatives on social media platforms. This decision, ostensibly to combat a rise in hate crimes, notably antisemitic incidents, has sparked a debate about privacy and the role of government in monitoring online activity.
Since the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, there has been a reported 331% increase in antisemitic hate incidents in New York City. In response, Hochul has announced significant funding increases for local law enforcement and security grants. She also detailed plans to monitor social media activities more closely, reiterating that no New Yorker should feel compelled to conceal their religious beliefs.
Governor Hochul says that New York will now "collect data" and conduct mass surveillance of social media
Re-education camps, here we come
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) November 14, 2023
Hochul expressed the state’s intent to amplify its “surveillance efforts,” stressing the negative manner in which New Yorkers interact with each other as the driving force behind this new, contentious campaign.
The increased monitoring, according to Hochul’s office, is in response to heightened hate crimes and harassment incidents. It includes bolstering staff to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, an action defined as part of New York’s broader commitment to battling hate. The governor, addressing the press, cited the recent surge in hostility and discrimination, especially on social media, as “a clear and present danger to the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers.”
Hochul’s approach has been to deploy state police to locations perceived to be at risk of hate crimes and to enhance collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security. The focus, however, has sharply turned to social media, where the governor has pointed out an increase in hate speech and threats. The newly intensified efforts by the state’s social media analysis unit aim to preemptively spot and counter potential incitements of violence.
Critics see this strategy as a precarious balancing act between safeguarding citizens and infringing upon civil liberties. They argue that this may lead to an Orwellian scenario where government surveillance becomes invasive, infringing upon the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In the past weeks, Hochul has visited Israel, spoken at a synagogue and met with students at Cornell University following threats. The governor has emphasized her zero-tolerance stance on hate and violence, extending her acknowledgment to threats against Muslims, drawing parallels to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.