Life in the United States is like prison, former U.S. Army soldier and political prisoner, Chelsea Manning said at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London Monday.
“This whole notion that you get out of prison and you are free, now turned out to be a bit of a downer in that sense,” said Manning, 30, who served seven years for sharing thousands of classified files detailing U.S. espionage missions and military secrets.
“I see a lot of similarities between the world out here and the world that was in there,” she said.
“You think about the surveillance systems, the cameras, or the police presence and you think about the fact that we have walls around our country, and that is very much the same thing that is inside a prison,” said Manning, who, as a transgender person, has become an advocate for gender rights since her release in 2017.
She continued, comparing social media to police tactics, using machine-learning algorithms to determine which are the most emotive posts in order to increase or decrease the views on a certain news story or political theme.
“It’s interesting that there are actually feedback loops ... especially with social media. ... It’s very similar to the feedback loops that you see in policing or in combat operations,” Manning said.
Manning, who was granted clemency by former U.S. President Barack Obama, was released in May 2017 from a U.S. military prison in Kansas where she had been serving time for passing secrets to the WikiLeaks website in the largest breach of classified data in the history of the United States.
The former soldier remains resolute with her decision, telling the Press Association, “I did what I did because of what I had available to me.”