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Actions cannot miss ethics.

Advocacy is also defense when it acts to preserve the initial aims and values of modern discoveries.

According to legend, when Vladimir Lenin was asked how he planned to “hang all the capitalists” in the face of a rope shortage in the young Soviet Union, he replied “don’t worry comrade; the capitalists will sell us the rope.” Even Lenin was not cynical enough to think that democracies would sell out their freedom of speech. No one is rough enough to distrust the best modern finding and technologies to self-destruct by enslaving itself to the worst aims.

Uranium strength has become a destructive bomb; social networks spread fake news; pharmaceutical companies do not primarily intend serving public health but take advantage of people sicknesses. Pfizer achieves sales figures of 45 billion, Novartis 44 billion, Sanofi 37 billion, Merck 35 billion. The most common and in many ways every day very useful smart cellphone for every person is becoming a dictatorial tool.

Now it is Pegasus’s turn, a software intended to protect people from terrorism; it had become a spying terrorist tool. “A huge data leak suggesting authoritarian regimes were possibly using smartphone hacking software to target activists, politicians and journalists”, writes Katharine Viner, Editor in Chief of Guardian. And she goes on say, “The more we’ve learned about global surveillance, ever since the Guardian’s Snowden revelations in 2013, the more the world has become accustomed to the idea that governments, both democratic and otherwise, are keenly interested in using technology and the phones in our pockets to keep tabs on us.”

Her comment is already very disturbing, as she says, “NSO – the company producer – sells its software to 40 governments around the world (it does not say which ones), and says its purpose is to help them investigate terrorists and criminals. But a leaked list of tens of thousands of numbers, many belonging to people with no apparent connection to criminality, and forensic analysis carried out on some of their phones, suggests some governments are spying on pro-democracy activists, journalists investigating corruption, and political opponents.”

Moreover, she explains, “The phone hacking tool, Pegasus, can gather data, record video using a phone’s camera, activate the microphone covertly, and take screenshots and location information – all without the owner’s knowledge. A phone can be infected without its owner even clicking on an incoming call or message.”

However, more disturbing is the conclusion of her 23/07/2021 briefing. The title proclaims, “The Pegasus project: why investigations like this are at the heart of the Guardian’s mission,” and the conclusion calls, “yet for the Guardian, such investigations are at the heart of our mission. Because of our independence, we are able to investigate boldly,putting the truth ahead of the agenda of an owner, investors or shareholders […] so when important stories like this come along, everyone gets
to read them.”

You can perceive in her words a tune of satisfaction for having at hand such disturbing unethical behavior and a joy at finding them as a pride of her professional work. As an African Proverb says, “A roaring lion kills no game,” meaning, “You cannot achieve anything by mere talking about it.” Yes, denouncing illegal practices is good but not enough, even for newspapers and magazines a real advocacy would be building inside and around them a culture of ethics in action, because, as another African Proverb admonishes, “Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” Meaning, “Do not look at your or others’ mistakes; look at what causes you and everyone to make such mistakes,” that it the lack of ethics in public and private behavior that is becoming “normal” today.

Jean Paul Pezzi

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