Australia's new surveillance laws have Edward Snowden's full attention.

Women and minorities are disproportionately spied on, and Edward Snowden has had enough.

While those of us in America were enjoying a long weekend of questionable origin, the Australian government passed some pretty crazy surveillance laws.

If you live in Australia, then basically every single thing you do involving telecommunications (Internet, phone, television — um, you know, life?) will be tracked and stored as metadata for two years. (Sound familiar?)

To put it mildly, this is a terrifying overreach of privacy. The fact is, even if the content of a message is hidden, the location and the people involved can reveal a startling amount about our personal lives.


Naturally, the newly Twitter-ified American super-patriot-at-large Edward Snowden had something to say about it.

Snowden then went on to tweet about the Tor Project, aka The Onion Router, a popular web browser that helps keep you anonymous by bouncing your computer signals across a dozen or so other computers.

Cool, cool ... but things really started to get interesting when Snowden brought up issues of power and control.

And then he got down to it:

Despite the fact that we are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by a terrorist, the U.S. government spends $16 billion annually on anti-terrorism efforts — and a significant portion of that is spent spying on domestic "radical movements" like Black Lives Matter and Occupy. That's basically $500 million spent for every victim of terrorism.

You know what's even crazier? 90% of that money is spent snooping on normal people rather than persons of interest. Wouldn't that money be better spent — oh, I don't know — maybe fixing literally any of the ailments that plague our communities?

I'll be mulling that over the next time I'm waiting in line for airport security.

Of course, none of this is surprising to minorities who have lived their entire lives in a surveillance state.

Many of us (read: white people like me) know that Muslims are unfairly targeted by law enforcement. But surveillance overreach goes far beyond that — just check out the FBI's files on "black extremists" over the last 50 years. (Yes, 50 years. And remind me how many of those leads turned out to be terrorists?)

Shortly after the Snowden revelations first came to light in 2013, Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and Voices for Internet Freedom, hosted a forum in Washington, D.C., to address the fact that — well — none of this was actually that surprising.

During the forum, Seema Sadanandan, the American Civil Liberties Union's criminal justice director for the D.C. area, had this to say:

"The Snowden revelations really represent a terrifying moment for white people in this country, not just white people, but middle-class people, upper-middle class people, people who essentially on some level — consciously or subconsciously — believed in the document, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, and believed that these were realities that were protecting their everyday lives. For people of color, particularly for people coming from communities with a history of discrimination, with a history of being surveilled, with a history of second-class citizenship, with a history of the type of economic oppression that prevents one from realizing any of those rights on a day-to-day basis, I think it was a little annoying and frustrating, like I told you so, I told you they were listening to all of our phone calls."

So while it's nice to see Snowden calling out the issue, it's even nicer to see him highlighting the voices of those who speak from firsthand experience.

Toward the end of his Oct. 12, 2015, Twitter spree, Snowden got into a conversation with activist and educator DeRay Mckesson:

Snowden's advice here isn't perfect or even revolutionary. But it was still nice to see his willingness to boost the voices of people like Mckesson and share that message with his 1.48 million followers instead of just speaking for the minority people being unfairly targeted.

Surveillance and inequality are both major problems in our country. But like many of the issues we face, they don't exist in isolation from each other.

It's an important thing to remember when we get into political debates. Sometimes, people trying to address issues in isolation get frustrated and say, "We're not talking about that right now!" When actually, we kind of are.

The important thing is that we all pay attention and that we all listen to each other. Because human rights issues affect all of us (hence the "human" part of the phrase).

And if we can find this kind of common ground on two things like surveillance and systemic racism, who knows what other connections we might find to unify our struggles?

In the meantime, here are a few ways you can help take action against mass surveillance.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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