Camilla A. Hawthorne

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How can a particular technology enable certain power-laden practices of “racializing surveillance” (Browne 2012), practices that also coincide with national borders? Following the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 attacks on London’s public transportation system, the Italian government quickly enacted some of the strictest Internet regulations in the European Union as part of a broader anti-terrorism legislative package. The Pisanu regulations required the mandatory collection of identification documents for all Internet café users, as well as their web browsing histories; at the same time, the physical space of the Internet café also emerged as a common target for police inspections and immigration raids. While extensive literature exists on the use of biometric technologies for border securitization, the deployment of Internet regulations and surveillance mechanisms to reinforce borders and control immigrant populations remains a comparatively underexplored topic. The case of the Pisanu Decree suggests that Internet surveillance is not simply compatible with practices of bordering, immigration control, and racism, but is in fact intimately intertwined with them. An understanding of Internet surveillance as co-constitutive of racism (as opposed to an understanding of the Internet as either a borderless zone of unrestricted identity passing or a mere tool for racist oppression) requires a different theoretical genealogy of the historical relationship between race and technology—one in which the Internet, as a sociotechnical space of practices, is revealed as itself generative of new forms of race and racism. Unlike biometric surveillance, which attempts to make bodies visible as faces or organic molecules, Internet surveillance is bound up with questions of location, transnational mobility (understood in this case as movement through physical and virtual space), social networks, and habit. If race is a sociotechnical rather than a biological phenomenon, then in the digital age technologically mediated social networks serve as the raw material for the algorithmic assembly and identification of new forms of racial subjects.