Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor set to depict former NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden in a forthcoming movie, has announced he will donate his entire acting fee from the film to "help facilitate the conversation" about the relationship between technology and democracy.
Teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gordon-Levitt announced a community-sourced video project that will be published by his production company hitRECord and will make a series of short films on the subject.
"I think it's pretty clear that the internet and smartphones and this whole massive wave of new technology, it changes everything," the actor said in a video posted online. "The question is, are these changes good or bad for us?"
Now, the actor has asked people to send in video recordings containing their thoughts about how technology has impacted subjects such as freedom of expression, government surveillance, the daily news cycle and elections in the digital age.
"One thing you could talk about is what new technology means for privacy," he said. "Some people believe that the right to privacy is a cornerstone of democracy, and without privacy, we don't really live in a free country. Other people, and especially perhaps people who are so open about their lives online anyway, don't seem to mind being watched. So I'm curious how you feel about it. Does it bother you that the government is using the internet for mass surveillance?"
The project has been launched with the aim of being completed in time for the debut of the movie Snowden, which is expected in May 2016. The much-anticipated dramatisation, written and directed by Oliver Stone, is based on The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Guardian journalist Luke Harding.
According to Gordon-Levitt, portraying the famed whistle-blower has altered his perspective about surveillance. "I've been thinking a lot about these questions since playing Edward Snowden," he admitted.
"I think it's a really worthwhile conversation for us all to be having. So, I'm going to be donating my acting fee from the Snowden movie to help facilitate [the] conversation. Some of that money will go towards this project, to pay the contributors, and the rest will be going to the ACLU to support the legal work they do in the areas of technology and democracy."
Back in 2013, Edward Snowden contacted a number of journalists in order to disclose a trove of secret NSA documents that exposed a vast spying apparatus used by intelligence agencies across the globe. In the fallout, Snowden was forced to flee the US and now resides under asylum in Russia.