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Black Lives Matter, Online and in the Streets: Statement from EFF in the Wake of the Police Killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd

Black lives matter on the streets. Black lives matter on the Internet. 

EFF stands with the communities mourning the victims of police homicide. We stand with the protesters who are plowed down by patrol cars. We stand with the journalists placed in handcuffs or fired upon while reporting these atrocities. And we stand with all those using their cameras, phones and digital tools to make sure we cannot turn away from the truth.

There is no doubt that we are in deeply troubled times. From lockdown in our homes, many of us are watching with heart-stopping horror as the cellphone footage of extreme police violence washes down our feeds. Others feel compelled to join the protests in person and to bear witness and document it for the rest of us over the digital networks that connect us all. The president is sowing chaos through incendiary, authoritarian orders and pressure toward more violence, sometimes through official channels, more often on Twitter. The build-up of even more sophisticated mass and targeted surveillance tools in the hands of American law enforcement, and the erosion of local control and protections against misuse, have all been normalized over the past two decades. Now the pandemic management technology being pushed by some tech companies and governments over the last few months is primed to be deployed as a massive new surveillance and control apparatus. 

With all of it, who will feel the brunt of the harm? 

Black lives. 

Our hearts are breaking for our Black coworkers, neighbors and friends, who have suffered from this trauma for far too long. While we’ve seen small rays of hope by a few in government and law enforcement, they are overshadowed by the rest. Overall, we are enraged at the response by the police all over the country to these protests, doubling down on abusive tactics and ramping up tracking of protesters. And we are worried about what’s coming: protest movements often bring out the worst in constitutional abuse. We’ve seen police surveillance tools grow and metastasize, with law enforcement officials specifically targeting the Black-led movement to end racist police violence.

To the protesters and reporters on the front lines, we urge you to stay safe, both physically and digitally. Our Surveillance Self-Defense Guide for protesters was designed for these situations. We’ll be updating it as we see new tactics and strategies and tools.  To our racial justice, economic justice, and environmental justice allies, EFF is here to help whenever you need some hands who understand technology and the law. To the reporters from struggling newsrooms: we are available to answer your questions and we have resources to help you. 

And to everyone, we pledge to redouble our efforts to beat back police surveillance and abuse, and to build and protect the tools that allow you to organize, assemble, and speak securely and without censorship. 

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