censorship

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Twitter’s Attempt to Suppress Grayzone Reporting Backfires as Warning Label Becomes Meme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/02/2021 - 4:32am in

SAN FRANSICO — “These materials may have been attained through hacking.” That is the warning message that any Twitter users coming across a recent Grayzone investigative report are met with, replete with a large exclamation point (!) signaling danger.

The report, penned by Grayzone’s editor Max Blumenthal, exposes how influential media outlets like Reuters, the BBC and Bellingcat have been secretly working hand in hand with the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to promote regime change inside Russia and lead a campaign of demonization against it internationally.

However, Twitter, which itself was exposed as having intimate ties to the UK military and secret services, attempted to suppress the report’s spread. Those attempting to retweet posts containing a link to the Grayzone article were met with another alert about sharing hacked information. Many users also claimed that interacting with the post caused their Twitter apps to crash.

Blumenthal saw the decision as an attempt to stifle unwelcome revelations, telling MintPress this morning:

By applying a scare label exclusively to my article, Twitter has contributed nothing to the public’s understanding of news or disinformation. Instead, it has confirmed the veracity of my reporting, which shows some of the most powerful and esteemed news organizations acting as UK Foreign Office-funded information warfare weapons. Further, the Twitter scare label illustrates the threat this kind of factual reporting presents to a national security state that must employ social media censorship to conceal its agenda from the public.”

 

Double standards

The Grayzone maintains that the documents it used were leaked, not hacked. Yet the line between the two is not always clear. Anonymous leaks are the lifeblood of journalism. But without a name to go with a document, it is virtually impossible to prove good intentions on the part of the leaker. Governments and other powerful entities or individuals can consequently claim that any information portraying them in a bad light was hacked, shutting down any discussion or reporting of it online. This has already happened with YouTube, which announced in August that it would remove all content containing hacked information.

Twitter did not extend the same warning label to The Intercept’s recent article on the Chinese police force’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, nor to The New York Times’s report on Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s trip to Cancun amid a winter blackout in his home state. Both of these stories were based on confidential information that was either leaked or hacked. According to Twitter, the Grayzone report was the first time they used their powers to slap on the label.

“Twitter is ad hoc inventing new soft-censorship tools as leaked information reveals clandestine military intelligence disinformation networks operating across a variety of mainstream news outlets,” journalist Dan Cohen, who has published with the Grayzone (as has the author of this article), told MintPress. Others, such as the host of the “Chapo Trap House” podcast, Will Menaker, joked that the warning sign was actually a new feature that alerted users to “journalism that is especially important.” Meanwhile, Ian Goodrum, a journalist from China Daily, shared a doctored image of the warning message that read “These materials make the US State Department mad.”

 

Unintended consequences

What Twitter did not expect to happen was for its massive user base to turn the warning label into a meme, sharing pictures and joke information along with a link to the Grayzone report, ensuring that the phrase “These materials may have been attained through hacking” was prominently displayed on the tweet. At the time of writing, a new tweet featuring a link to the article was being sent around once every 25 seconds, turning the situation into the latest example of the Streisand Effect — a phenomenon whereby attempts to remove, suppress or censor information has the unintended effect of further publicizing it.

“It was thanks to the creativity and utterly hilarious intervention of thousands of Twitter users, who discovered that the scare label was prime meme material, that the censorship could not be swept under the rug. Now Bellingcat is trending, and not for the reasons its UK FCO-backed directors would like it to be,” Blumenthal told us.

 

A familiar pattern

The Grayzone has long been on the receiving end of strongarm tactics from internet giants. Like MintPress, it was fully censored from Wikipedia last year, meaning that it is no longer allowed to be used as a source. It has also felt the wrath of Google’s algorithmic changes, meaning that it will rarely appear as the top result for many searches, throttling traffic to the site.

Twitter also announced yesterday that it was deleting hundreds of accounts linked to Russia. Among the primary reasons it gave for the decision was that these users were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance.” It appears that, as big tech and big government become increasingly indistinguishable, there will be a diminishing ability to expose or challenge the actions of Western nation-states online.

Feature photo | MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Twitter’s Attempt to Suppress Grayzone Reporting Backfires as Warning Label Becomes Meme appeared first on MintPress News.

CNN Declares BBC ‘Banned’ but CGTN ‘Withdrawn’ as UK and China Fire off in Propaganda Battle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 6:27am in

Chinese regulators announced yesterday that they are banning British government-funded media outlet the BBC from broadcasting to its population of 1.4 billion people. The decision to block the 98-year-old corporation entirely elicited a storm of condemnation in the West. “China’s decision…is an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom. China has some of the most severe restrictions on media and internet freedoms across the globe, and this latest step will only damage China’s reputation in the eyes of the world,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. government was of a similar opinion. “We absolutely condemn the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) decision to ban BBC World News,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “The PRC maintains one of the most controlled, most oppressive, least free information spaces in the world.”

The news should hardly have come as a surprise, however, as last week the United Kingdom banned Chinese state-owned channel CGTN from its airwaves, claiming that the outlet was ultimately under the control of the Communist Party, something which disqualified it from broadcasting inside the U.K. Why British regulators appeared to realize this only after 23 years of CGTN broadcasts is unclear.

While this was clearly a tit-for-tat decision, Western media still managed to frame it as a chilling blow for free speech in China. “BBC News banned in China, one week after CGTN’s license withdrawn in the UK,” ran CNN’s headline (emphasis added), the story using the harsher word “ban” five times in relation to China’s actions, but referring to the British decision as merely “withdrawing” or “pulling” a license.

The United States has long attempted to make it as difficult as possible for journalists from outlets owned by adversarial nations to work inside America. Reporters from CGTN (China), RT (Russia) and Al-Jazeera (Qatar) must, by law, register as “foreign agents” under a resuscitated 1938 law designed to help fight the Nazis. And while other countries can sanction American outlets (Russia has just levied a fine of $150,000 upon U.S.-owned Radio Free Europe), the fight is an uneven one, as the White House holds considerable control over social media which reaches a worldwide audience.

Organizations such as TeleSUR, owned by progressive Latin American nations including Venezuela, are frequently suspended from Facebook and Twitter with little reason given. Meanwhile, Google removed Iranian-owned Press TV from YouTube. And at the same time as Voice of America or PBS are considered reliable and trustworthy sources by Silicon Valley algorithms, TeleSUR, Press TV, CGTN, and others are demoted and deranked, consigning them to the margins of the Internet.

Going further back, there was something close to hysteria when Al-Jazeera America began broadcasting in the United States. Conservative pundit Glenn Beck described the network as being “as close to being an enemy of the state as any media can get” and insisted it would be used to spread Sharia law across the country. Partially as a result of the bad press, Al-Jazeera spent much of its time in court, fighting a great number of legal battles just to be allowed to broadcast.

 

The growing war on China

The latest media spat between the West and China is part of a broader conflict emerging both on and offline. The Trump administration went to great lengths to impede the growth of Chinese tech company Huawei and its 5G network. It also blacklisted a number of other Chinese entities, including Xiaomi, who had recently been outcompeting Apple in the global cell phone market. On Wednesday, the Biden administration signaled that it was backing down on Trump’s attempts to force Chinese-owned video platform TikTok to sell to an American bidder or be banned from the United States.

The U.S. has also increased its military presence in eastern Asia, going so far as to conduct provocative war games in the region and probe China’s coastline defenses with warships and bombers. Last week, Admiral Charles A. Richard, head of Strategic Command, advised that the U.S. must prepare for the “real possibility” of nuclear war with either China or Russia.

NATO-aligned think tank the Atlantic Council also requested that Biden turn up the heat on Beijing, advising him to draw a number of “red lines” around the country. If China were to cross these boundaries, which include interference in its neighbors’ politics or cyberattacks on the U.S., the response should be a military one. Anything less would result in national “humiliation,” it insisted.

The Conservative government of Boris Johnson, recently divorced from the European Union, has been courting the Biden administration, suggesting that it could work closely with it on matters regarding China. The E.U. has taken a more skeptical stance on American efforts to increase tensions with Beijing. French President Emmanuel Macron has been leading the calls for a friendlier Sino-European relationship. “I think we have to engage China in a bold and efficient climate agenda,” he told a no doubt disappointed Atlantic Council last week. “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” he added. If Macron’s words are anything to go by, don’t expect any petty Chinese media bans from Europe in the near future.

Feature photo | A pedestrian enters the BBC’s Bush House in London. Photo | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post CNN Declares BBC ‘Banned’ but CGTN ‘Withdrawn’ as UK and China Fire off in Propaganda Battle appeared first on MintPress News.

American Tech Giants Are Partnering with India’s Strongman Leader to Crackdown on Dissent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 4:25am in

The far-right government of Narendra Modi is attempting to silence dissent online amid enormous national farmers’ protests — and it is finding willing partners in Silicon Valley social media giants.

Earlier this week, the Indian government successfully lobbied YouTube to remove a number of videos, including a popular Punjabi song that had become an anthem to the protest movement. Indians trying to access the song “Ailaan” by Kanwar Grewal, a video amassing over six million views in just four months, are met with the message: “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government.”

The Modi administration has also sought the removal of over 1,100 Twitter accounts it claims were spreading disinformation. Twitter has largely complied with the request, permanently deleting at least 500 accounts and blocking an unspecified number of others from view inside India. It also announced that it had agreed to suppress certain hashtags and search terms associated with the protest movement that it deemed to be “harmful,” although it did not specify which ones or what its criteria was for making the decision. However, it claims it did not take action against the many journalists Modi had ordered removed from social media.

This is quite the departure from Twitter’s actions amid protests in Iran in 2019. There, the service was set to temporarily shut down for a network upgrade. However, at the behest of the U.S. government, it delayed its upgrade in order that Iranians could continue using the service to organize and coordinate anti-government demonstrations.

On Tuesday, authorities raided the offices and homes of senior journalists at NewsClick, a progressive independent media outlet in Delhi that had taken the lead in covering the monthslong farmers’ rebellion. A number of other reporters are still in custody, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

India is almost universally described as the world’s largest democracy. However, the increasing restraints on a free press have put that title in question. The country dropped to 142nd (of 180 states) on Reporters Without Borders’ index of media freedom last year. Eight journalists have been charged with crimes (including sedition) for their actions while covering the protests. Four have been killed in the past 12 months. And while online censorship is often associated with states such as China, India leads the world in Internet shutdowns, with more than all other nations combined. Many, including in conflict regions like Jammu and Kashmir, last for hundreds of days at a time. There were 83 shutdowns across India in 2020 and 469 since 2012. Last week, the capital Delhi had its Internet temporarily suspended.

 

Money talks

Prime Minister Modi boasts an enormous online presence. He has over 65 million followers on Twitter, more than any political figure except Barack Obama. He also has over 51 million Instagram followers and owns the seventy-eighth most “liked” Facebook page. Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party have used their online empire to directly reach hundreds of millions of Indians through their smartphones, encouraging them to develop a “personal connection” with their prime minister.

As such, he is a massive money spinner for Silicon Valley, his presence being a primary factor in the growth of the gigantic Indian market. The fact that Modi is not only the source of huge profits for social media but also ultimately in charge of the bodies that regulate them makes it particularly difficult for them to reject his requests. As such, this highlights the conflict in interests between making money and providing a service that aids the free flow of vital information.

The farmers’ protests were sparked in the fall after the government’s attempts to change the way in which the country’s food producers sold their crops. For decades, government buyers had guaranteed a minimum price on 23 essential commodities. However, the Modi administration is attempting to change the laws to allow private buyers into the market. Farmers fear that this will allow the government to retreat, leaving India’s small farmers at the mercy of international finance and agribusiness corporations. The government has refused to pass laws forcing new private buyers to offer a minimum price. It is also proposing removing some of the crops from the essential commodity list, an action that opens the door to speculation and hoarding.

In late November, an estimated 250 million people joined a general strike organized by farmers, regarded as the largest industrial action event in world history. The Biden administration, however, has backed the pro-free-market, pro-corporate changes Modi is proposing. “The United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment,” a State Department official said.

With Biden in his corner, it is doubtful that the big social media companies will provide a great deal of resistance to Modi’s censorship demands, meaning that India’s fragile democracy might join its farmers in being the big loser out of this situation.

Feature photo | A policeman pushes a pedestrian during a protest by student activists during a protest in Kolkata, India, Feb. 11, 2021. Bikas Das | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post American Tech Giants Are Partnering with India’s Strongman Leader to Crackdown on Dissent appeared first on MintPress News.

YouTube Financially Deplatforms Swath Of Indie Media Accounts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 10:40am in

The Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube has demonetized numerous independent media accounts, a jarring escalation in the steadily intensifying campaign against alternative news outlets online.

Progressive commentators Graham Elwood, The Progressive Soapbox, The Convo Couch, Franc Analysis, Hannah Reloaded and Cyberdemon531 have all received notifications from YouTube that their videos are no longer permitted to earn money through the platform’s various monetization features, as has Ford Fischer, a respected freelancer who films US political demonstrations. No explanation has been offered for this decision beyond the vague claim that “your channel is not in line with our YouTube Partner Program policies” due to “harmful content”.

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Like all large online platforms, YouTube’s appeals process is notoriously opaque and unaccountable. These accounts could remain demonetized for months, or forever, without any clear explanation at all. Ford Fischer, who has been in this situation before, said on Twitter that his account was left demonetized for seven months before YouTube reversed its decision.

“Last time you demonetized my channel, I spoke out for seven months. I didn’t delete a single piece of content. You admitted you were wrong. I forgive you. Please don’t do this again,” Fischer tweeted.

“No superchats, no ad revenue, no YouTube premium money,” tweeted Elwood, who also said “I have a call with my lawyers later today.”

“You guys have destroyed my channel without legit explanation as to why,” tweeted Jamarl Thomas of Progressive Soapbox. “No videos are given — and frankly there is literally zero ‘harmful’ content on my channel. This is a radically bad error that needs to be corrected.”

The Convo Couch’s Jonathan Mayorca tweeted the notification he received from YouTube which gave the reason as “Harmful content: Content that focuses on controversial issues and that is harmful to viewers,” saying no specific video or subject was named. Nobody receiving these notifications appears to have any idea what is meant by “harmful” or “controversial” or why YouTube is mentioning them in the same breath as though these two things are connected or synonymous in some way.

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YouTube has been providing template responses saying “We recommend making the needed changes to your content and reapply in 30 days” while refusing to specify what the “needed changes” even are.

Speaking for myself, I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be able to create content at anywhere near the pace I do were I not making enough money from it to do it full time. Life is far too demanding with far too much else going on for me to be able to maintain anything like daily output; being financially deplatformed and having to get another job would force me down to an essay a week in my spare time, if that. Anyone who works in independent media full time knows this, and so do the powerful people who are steadily ratcheting up the campaign to silence anyone who hasn’t passed through the gatekeepers of the plutocratic media.

Financial deplatforming is censorship. People were given an opportunity to devote themselves to the vocation of creating media outside the gatekeeping apparatus of billionaire news institutions, which is arguably the single most important vocation anyone can give themselves to in our world right now, and they built their lives around their ability to do this. Now it’s being ripped away from them; their literal jobs are being taken away. They were offered a reason to think they’d be able to make a living doing very important work, and then they were sucker punched with what amounts to political censorship.

This has been a continually escalating trend for years. The general population is herded onto huge monopolistic social media platforms offering democratization of information where your voice can be heard, and then those platforms proceed to censor an increasing amount of political speech in increasing coordination with the US government.

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If the democratization of information online is successfully reversed and the mass media gatekeepers are again the sole authorities on what’s real and true, people will be locked into forming their ideas on how to think, act and vote based on what they are told by the same plutocratic media institutions which have been deceiving them into every war and manipulating them into accepting the status quo for generations.

If the door is locked to the possibility of a grassroots information rebellion against the narrative hegemony of our rulers, we will remain doomed to continue along the same ecocidal, omnicidal trajectory these bastards have us on until it reaches its inevitable conclusion. This must be resisted.

__________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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“At First I Thought it Was a Joke”: Academic Media Censorship Conference Censored by YouTube

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 2:14am in

An academic critical media literacy conference warning of the dangers of media censorship has, ironically, been censored by YouTube. The Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas 2020 took place without incident online over two days in October and featured a number of esteemed speakers and panels discussing issues concerning modern media studies.

Weeks later, however, the entire video record of the conference — estimated at around 24 hours of material — disappeared from YouTube. Organizer Nolan Higdon of California State University East Bay, began receiving worried messages from other academics, some of which were shared with MintPress, who had been using the material in their classrooms, noting that it had all mysteriously disappeared.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” said Mickey Huff of Diablo Valley College, California. “My initial reaction was ‘that’s absurd;’ there must have been a mistake or an accident or it must have got swept under somehow. There is no violation, there was no reasoning, there was no warning, there was not an explanation, there was no nothing. The entire channel was just gone,” he told MintPress. Huff is also the director of Project Censored, an organization that sponsored the event.

Higdon suspected that it was the content critical of big tech monopolies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter that was the reason why the channel was deleted. “Each video was a different panel and every panel had different people from the other ones, so it is not like there was one theme or person or copyrighted content in all of our videos; this seems to be an attack on the conference, not on a singular video,” he said.

 

“This wasn’t a keg party with Parler users”

The organizers were careful to avoid copyright infringement, with the large majority of their videos in lecture format, essentially a recorded Zoom call. Speakers included some of the best-known names in media studies, with the event sponsored by institutions like Stanford University and UCLA. “This wasn’t a keg party with Parler users: it was an academic conference,” Huff said.

These are pioneering figures in critical media literacy scholarship. It’s mind numbing that all of this was just disappeared from YouTube. The irony is writ large…This is part of a potentially algorithmic way of getting rid of more radical positions that criticize establishment media systems, including journalism.”

Higdon too, suspected YouTube’s action was politicized: “This is the same year we saw big tech trying to influence Prop 22 here in California, so I am not too surprised that they would be aggressive with folks like us who are critical of media corporations.”

Organizers say they attempted to contact YouTube but did not receive a reply.

MintPress spoke to representatives from Google, YouTube’s parent company, who strenuously denied that they would ever remove content from their platforms purely because it was critical of the company, noting that there is a wealth of videos on the website that challenge or attack them.After looking into the matter, Google said they could find only one video and reinstated it (although the video does not appear on the conference’s channel). As for the hours of other footage, that remains an enigma to them, with no record of its existence. Thus, it appears that there will be no closure or a definitive answer to this mystery.

 

Algorithms take aim

Media literacy, big tech power, and censorship are hot topics right now. In the wake of the dramatic storming of the Capitol Building earlier this month, a host of companies, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, took actions against Donald Trump, limiting his and his supporters’ ability to communicate online. Perhaps most notably, however, Google, Apple, and Amazon Web Services launched a coordinated assault on “free speech app” Parler, a service popular with the far-right for its lax laws on racism. Together, the three effectively took the service offline around the world.

More recently, the Wall Street Bets subreddit, responsible for intentionally sinking a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, has endured retaliation, its communications channels cut by messaging app Discord, amid calls to immediately criminalize their behavior.

While the pros and cons of such decisions can, and have been, debated, the bigger question of should privately-owned companies be allowed to have the power to regulate who can and cannot speak online, has largely been downplayed.

“On the one hand I understand they have the right to deplatform people,” Huff told MintPress. “On a broader level though, I don’t think they should have achieved this kind of power over our communication systems in the first place, and these should be publicly run platforms regulated the same way our government regulates and enforces the First Amendment.”

Higdon was equally worried about the power amassed by the tech giants. “By empowering these tech companies to decide what is and is not appropriate, they are going to look out for their vested interests, and people who are critical of their business model and practices are going to be targets,” he said, predicting that,

These lefties right now who are advocating for censorship…the outcome of this is going to be on them.”

If history is any judge, he will be proven correct. In the wake of the 2016 election and the allegations that Russian disinformation swung the result in Trump’s favor, social media companies changed their algorithms to help halt the spread of fake news. The main result, however, was a throttling of traffic to high-quality alternative news sites and the promotion of corporate media like CNN and Fox News. Overnight, Consortium News’ Google traffic fell by 47%, Common Dreams’ by 37%, Democracy Now! By 36% and The Intercept by 19%. MintPress suffered similar, unrecoverable losses.

Likewise, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally approved the deliberate choking of alternative media, admitting that his company deranked Mother Jones because of its left-wing persuasion (despite Facebook’s assurances that it was doing no such thing). Other, more radical outlets have suffered even greater reductions in traffic.

 

Anti-social media

Whatever decisions big tech companies make reverberate throughout society. 35, 24, and 17% of Americans get their news from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, respectively, with similar numbers worldwide. This enormous user base makes them by far the greatest and most influential news platforms on the planet, with the ability to highlight stories, bury others, and even swing elections. Huff was extremely worried about the power of these new media monopolies.

“We can’t get away from the fact that Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the whole corporate Alphabet soup of this big tech dystopia have gobbled up the public sphere. This is where people can go to congregate and share their information and it is also where invisible forces decide which voices get heard and which do not. Let’s also not forget that all of this tech was initially funded with taxpayer money.”

Worse still, although we now live in an online world, the public is hopelessly ill-equipped to navigate its waters, displaying a shocking lack of awareness and understanding of how they can be manipulated.

A 2016 study from Stanford University found that two-thirds of college-aged “digital natives” — people who grew up using the Internet — mistook native advertising for a genuine news story, even with the words “sponsored content” displayed prominently. “Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak,” the study concluded, leading to calls for more critical media literacy education in schools. “Since we are not teaching people how to use these technologies, or how these technologies use them, they are more susceptible to propaganda and to disinformation. And ironically our conference was designed to combat exactly that problem,” Huff added.

Perhaps most worrying of all is the increasingly close connections between Silicon Valley and the National Security State. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first,” wrote Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. Late last year, the CIA signed a partnership deal worth tens of billions of dollars with Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM, and Amazon Web Services. Meanwhile, Facebook has partnered with the NATO cutout organization the Atlantic Council to help them curate the world’s news feeds. Reddit has also hired Atlantic Council official Jessica Ashooh as its director of policy.

The Atlantic Council’s board of directors includes eight former CIA chiefs, multiple U.S. Army Generals, and high statespeople like Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, meaning that any decisions big tech companies make are only one step removed from the U.S. government. “This is actually [state] censorship by proxy,” Higdon warned.

“These companies, we know thanks to Edward Snowden and others, have contracts with the Federal government. There is a revolving door between particularly the Democratic Party and big tech, and there are also various loans and government protections given to this industry. So this is not some independent set of entities making this decision.”

“If 1984’s protagonist Winston Smith were a real character today he’d be a fact checker at Facebook or a content curator at YouTube, relegating to the dustbins of history whatever programmers are told to or whatever keywords our conference triggered,” Huff added.

Big tech has repeatedly acted at the behest of the U.S. government to silence its international opponents, suspending the accounts of foreign leaders like Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro or Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei or deranking foreign media outlets like RT and TeleSUR.

It is in this light that the deletion of the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas can be seen; not as a deliberate decision by an angry Google employee intent on revenge, but as the result of a powerful and Byzantine algorithm designed by Silicon Valley executives who are intimately intertwined with both the government and the corporate world. There is little oversight of their power or recourse to their decisions, given their enormous influence over public life today.

Huff was particularly sardonic about the whole affair:

There are layers of irony here that are certainly not lost on us. But I don’t know if the public at large is realizing the attack that is happening against the very people that are the intellectual bulwark against such institutional censorship. I’m not trying to make us out to be martyrs here, but my point is that I think it has a particular irony when the very public intellectuals who try to educate the public about how these systems work are silenced,” he said.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News | Based on art created for Project Censored

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post “At First I Thought it Was a Joke”: Academic Media Censorship Conference Censored by YouTube appeared first on MintPress News.

Twitter Rolls Out New Wikipedia-Like Program To Narrative Manage Tweets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 3:12pm in

Twitter has announced that it will be employing “a new community-driven approach to help address misleading information” called Birdwatch which news media are comparing to the model of content moderation used by Wikipedia.

“Twitter unveiled a feature Monday meant to bolster its efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation by tapping users in a fashion similar to Wikipedia to flag potentially misleading tweets,” reports NBC. “The new system allows users to discuss and provide context to tweets they believe are misleading or false. The project, titled Birdwatch, is a standalone section of Twitter that will at first only be available to a small set of users, largely on a first-come, first-served basis.”

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“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” Twitter’s official statement says. “We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot.”

Such claims provide little reassurance for anyone who’s familiar with the establishment narrative control operations which take place on Wikipedia in exactly that way. The Grayzone’s Ben Norton did a great two-part report last year on the way concerted, aggressive efforts by a small group of shady-looking Wikipedia editors has succeeded in dominating the site’s articles which relate to western imperialist agendas and the reporters who support and oppose those agendas, including getting outlets like WikiLeaks and The Grayzone banned from use as sources despite their having no history of false reports.

“The internet encyclopedia has become a deeply undemocratic platform, dominated by Western state-backed actors and corporate public relations flacks, easily manipulated by powerful forces,” wrote Norton. “And it is run by figures who often represent these same elite interests, or align with their regime-change politics.”

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Since 2018 alternative media voices like The Canary and Media Lens have been reporting on the frenetic editing behavior of a Wikipedia account by the name of “Philip Cross” which works an inhuman number of hours without ever taking a day off, largely targeting the accounts of those who criticize the western empire and voice skepticism of its dominant narratives.

This kind of aggressive narrative management campaign is why when you look at any Wikipedia article about an internationally disputed issue on the world stage, say for example the article about the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, you’ll see the word “Bellingcat” no fewer than 20 times as of this writing and a heavy bias toward the western narrative that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack, but won’t find information about the gaping plot holes in the story like the ones documented in this excellent article by The Nation’s Aaron Maté, nor will you see any links back to this article.

So it’s already established that this sort of “community-driven approach” to information control can easily be exploited by well-funded groups which have a vested interest in doing so. The fact that Twitter has already been functioning as a propaganda arm of the US government with regard to its willingness to deplatform accounts from imperialism-targeted nations like Iran, Venezuela, Russia and China means we can only expect this bias to go one way with regard to imperialist narrative management.

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The fact that this “Birdwatch” program will most likely be used to determine the dominant narrative on disputed events like potential false flags and what’s happening in nations like China and Syria means it’s obnoxious that Twitter’s post promoting it features an imaginary account saying “Whales are not real! They’re robots funded by the government to watch us!!” As though that sort of indisputable falsehood is the sort of post this program will actually be targeting rather than people expressing doubts about things like Russian hackers and the White Helmets.

Twitter chose to use “whales aren’t real” as its example of the “misinformation” its new program will be “fighting” not because it is cute and funny, but because using any of the actual narratives it will wind up manipulating would have set off people’s alarm bells. Imagine the reaction if they’d chosen something like Covid vaccinations for example, even though this could very well end up being one of the issues Birdwatch winds up exercising narrative control over.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. That’s all you’re ever seeing in all the efforts to manage information via censorship, algorithm changes, “fact” checking, Russian propaganda panic, etc. Humans are story-driven animals, so if you control the stories you control the humans.

The US-centralized oligarchic empire will be doing a lot of evil things in the near future, and it will be necessary to control the narrative about those things. That’s all we’re really looking at here.

_______________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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The Pendulum Of Internet Censorship Swings Leftward, As It Always Will

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 2:54pm in

The Pendulum Of Internet Censorship Swings Leftward Again

There has been a purge of left-wing accounts from social media, with socialist organizations being targeted on Facebook and multiple Antifa-associated accounts suspended from Twitter.

“We have just confirmed that Facebook has disabled the page of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Michigan, as well as the accounts of all admins,” World Socialist Website editor tweeted today. “This is an unprecedented attack on the speech rights of an official campus student group.”

World Socialist Website also reports the following:

On Friday, Facebook carried out a purge of left-wing, antiwar and progressive pages and accounts, including leading members of the Socialist Equality Party. Facebook gave no explanation why the accounts were disabled or even a public acknowledgement that the deletions had occurred.

At least a half dozen leading members of the Socialist Equality Party had their Facebook accounts permanently disabled. This included the public account of Genevieve Leigh, the national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, and the personal account of Niles Niemuth, the US managing editor of the World Socialist Web Site. In 2016, Niemuth was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for US Vice President.

Facebook also disabled the London Bus Drivers Rank-and-File Committee Facebook page, which was set up with the support of the Socialist Equality Party (UK) to organize opposition among bus drivers. This follows a widely discussed call for a walkout by bus drivers to demand elementary protections against the COVID-19 pandemic.

None of the individuals whose accounts were disabled had violated Facebook’s policies. Upon attempting to appeal the deletion of their account, they received an error message stating, “We cannot review the decision to disable your account.”

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The New York Post reports the following:

Twitter has suspended several popular accounts with alleged ties to Antifa — which have more than 71,000 followers combined — following the Inauguration Day riots.

At least four accounts tied with the militant group have been yanked offline — including @TheBaseBK, the account for the anarchist center in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Archived web pages of the accounts show they shared more than 71,000 followers and dated as far back as 2012.

Their pages now read “Account suspended” for violating Twitter rules.

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This follows a mass purge of right-wing accounts in the wake of the Capitol riot earlier this month, a swing-back of the censorship pendulum that surprises nobody who knows anything about anything. That purge was broadly supported by shitlibs and a surprisingly large percentage of the true left, despite the overwhelming and growing pile of evidence that it is impossible to consent to internet censorship for other ideologies without consenting to censorship for your own.

I encountered many arguments in support of the right-wing purge from the online left while it was happening, and none of them were good.

“They’re only banning fascists,” they told me. “Why are you defending fascists?”

Well first of all there was never any evidence that these social media corporations were only purging fascists. We know for example that included in the sweep were tens of thousands of basic QAnon posters, who while ignorant and wrong would not in most cases meet most people’s definition of “fascist”. We don’t know who else was eliminated in the purge, but believing on blind faith that Facebook and Twitter were only targeting fascists who want to violently overthrow the US government is silly.

In reality these social media giants have never claimed to be “banning fascists”, and there’s no reason to believe that’s their policy; white nationalists like Richard Spencer are still there. And even if these outlets did have a policy of “banning fascists”, what definition of “fascist” are they using? Do proponents of Silicon Valley censorship believe they’ll be using their personal definition of fascism to determine whose political speech is off limits? Do you think they’ll be calling you personally to consult you on whom to ban? How do you imagine this works exactly?

And of course opposing the normalization of government-tied monopolistic Silicon Valley oligarchs controlling worldwide political speech on the platforms an increasing number of people use to communicate important ideas is not “defending fascists”. Opposing oligarchic authoritarian control is the exact opposite of defending fascism.

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“They always censor the left,” they told me. “We’re just happy that now they’re censoring fascists too.”

So you imagine it can’t get worse? We just saw a major escalation against leftist accounts these past few days; do you think that’s the end of it? What do you imagine will happen if the left ever gets close to actually threatening the interests of the powerful after you’ve helped manufacture consent for the normalization of internet censorship every step of the way?

It can always get worse. The online left has not yet experienced mass-scale censorship of political speech yet; it’s experienced losing a few accounts here and there. You haven’t seen anything yet. Some Twitter leftists really seem to think that getting suspended because Kamala Harris supporters mass-reported them over a mean tweet is as ugly as this thing will get. If your goal is to threaten power at some point (and if you’re a real leftist it should be), then you need to oppose the normalization of any policies that can be used to silence those who threaten the powerful.

“Well it’s not like leftist revolution will be planned on social media anyway,” they told me.

You don’t use social media to plan the leftist revolution, you use it to create more leftists. You use it to bring consciousness and understanding to your ideas and your causes. Consenting to the institutionalization of the censorship of political speech is consenting to your own silence on this front, which will mean the only people who will be able to quickly share ideas and information online with the mainstream population will be those who support the very power structures you oppose.

And make no mistake, the imperial narrative managers most certainly do need the public’s consent for internet censorship. They don’t pour vast fortunes into manufacturing consent for evil agendas because it’s fun, they do it because they require the public’s consent. The empire’s inverted totalitarianism only holds together because they’re able to maintain the illusion of freedom and democracy; the iron-fisted silencing of wholesome political speech can only happen if the public has been paced into believing it’s a good thing. Every step of the tightening of the censorship noose is a part of this pacing, and if you consent to it, you’re helping them.

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“Ultimately this content moderation movement will restore a system where the only allowable route to a mass audience is through a major institutional partner,” journalist Matt Taibbi recently observed.

That is it. That is the goal. They tried allowing free speech online while simply hammering us with propaganda to keep us asleep, but people still just wanted to use the democratization of information that the internet afforded them to talk about about how horrible the status quo is. So now they’re working to reinstate the supremacy of mainstream gatekeepers.

When you realize that corporations are America’s real government, the whole “it isn’t censorship if it’s a private company doing it” argument is seen for the joke that it is. When you learn that this censorship is being actively coordinated with the official government, it’s even more of a joke.

To support the censorship of online speech is to support the authority of monopolistic tech oligarchs to exert more and more global control over human communication. Regardless of your attitude toward whoever happens to be getting deplatformed on any given day, supporting this can only be self-destructive.

__________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Chinese-Australian cartoonist Badiucao walks a fine line to avoid being politically hijacked


Image by Chinese-Australian cartoonist Badiucao alluding to the fact that several companies, including Muji, are believed to purchase cotton harvested by ethnic Uyghur prisoners in Xinjiang. Image used with permission.

Being in the middle of two countries currently engaged in one of their worst rows in years is a difficult space to navigate, even more so if one is an outspoken visual artist. This is precisely the case of Badiucao, a Chinese-Australian cartoonist known for his stand on human rights, freedom of expression and fight against racism who, even while being targeted by Beijing supporters, finds himself increasingly isolated and alienated by all sides in Australia.

Born in mainland China, Badiucao sought political asylum in Australia where he is now a citizen. His art seeks to act as a voice of reason, denounce political instrumentalization and support human rights globally.

A turning point in bilateral relations between Australia and China came in 2020, significantly worsened by a series of economic, political and ideological disputes that still remain unsolved. Until last year, both countries enjoyed an economic honeymoon: in 2014, Canberra and Beijing announced their relationship to be a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. By the time they reached the peak of their economic integration in 2019, China had absorbed over a quarter of Australia's trade, and in that year alone, 1.4 million Chinese tourists had visited Australia.

By 2020, the partnership deteriorated as Australia raised serious concerns about issues of human rights and democracy in the context of the many Chinese-Australian citizens, Hong Kong and pro-Taiwan students that were targeted and sometimes attacked by pro-Beijing supporters in Australia. Beijing rejected the criticism and retaliated by imposing a series of bans on key Australian imports. The situation escalated towards the end of 2020 when China decided to stop purchasing key commodities, such as coal, from Australia — a ban that possibly caused power shortages for millions of Chinese.

In an interview by phone with Global Voices, Badiucao suggested that the diplomatic fall-out should not have come as a total surprise:

I think the problem has been present for a very long time, because it was never mutually beneficial. China sees Australia as a ground for infiltration, from education to politics to media. For such a long time, the Australian government was short-sighted about this relationship, it only saw the economic benefit, but [not] much beyond. 

The COVID-19 pandemic did not help matters. Many of the estimated 260,000 Chinese students who were in Australia in 2019 were prevented from returning, and Canberra accused Beijing of a lack of transparency in its management of the pandemic. The impasse has damaged both sides: society and government bodies have engaged in anti-China or anti-Australia movements, some of them violently racist.


Wine label designed by Badiucao calling for other countries to buy Australian wine after China banned its imports. Image used with permission.

To explain the crisis, Badiucao points to a fundamental difference in values and tolerance for criticism between the countries:

Australia has realized that this toxic relationship has to end and that basic values, such as freedom and democracy, can no longer be overlooked. Canberra wants to make clear [that] the relationship must be mutually beneficial, and that Beijing needs to know the difference in their value systems. However, China is not used to any kind of criticism of its government, and responds in an outrageous manner, particularly under Xi Jinping's strategy of wolf warrior diplomacy. 

The cartoonist believes the crisis is a healthy eye-opener not only for Australia, but for the rest of the world, when determining whether to depend economically on China:

I think that because of the geographic locations of China and Australia, we are the first country in the free world seeing the problems of this relationship. China is not willing to play by the rules like other democratic countries. I hope there could be an alliance against those bully threats China can project on countries like Australia, as in the case of the wine exports.

A narrow space for democracy

While this crisis might indeed be a wake-up call, Badiucao is finding it increasingly difficult to make his voice heard in Australia. While the right and far-right have a strong anti-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) line, that discourse, he explains, often includes elements of xenophobia and racism. Many on the left, meanwhile, are afraid to criticize China in the name of political correctness, lest they be accused of supporting racism.

Within Australia's Chinese communities, the narratives are even more complex and do not favour Badiucao. An estimated 1.2 million Chinese Australians (nearly six percent of the total population), come from very different geographies, as Badiucao decodes:

We often overlook the differences within the community: there are second or third generations; they don’t really know much about what is happening in mainland China, and they might have a sense of nostalgia more related to Jackie Chan movies. There are also recent Hong Kong immigrants who have a different understanding of their identity and political stand. But here is the bottom line: we have to tell the difference between people [and] government. The Chinese government does not represent the Chinese people. Unfortunately, some Chinese-Australians are brainwashed by platforms […] in Australia.

Badiucao thinks the Australian government is not doing enough to communicate this distinction between the Chinese government and being Chinese, and that it needs to invest in the Chinese-Australian community much more efficiently in order to counterbalance Beijing propaganda filtering through WeChat and TikTok. 

Cartoons for human rights

For Badiucao, the best way to spread the message of universal human rights is through his art. Political cartoons require no or little translation and can be immediately understood worldwide. Paradoxically, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect on his outreach. Offline art events have virtually stopped, but Badiucao has always relied on social media to share his art, which has worked to his advantage.

His cartoon transposing the iconic Beijing 1989 TankMan to the context of Trump's America shows how powerful his integration of global images can be:


Image of the 1989 Tiananmen Square iconic Tank Man transposed to the context of Trump's America, by Badiucao. Image used with permission.

Political satirical art may be global, but Badiucao warns against the manipulation around this form of freedom of expression that occurs in authoritarian countries like China. In November and December 2020, Wuhe Qilin (乌合麒麟 ), a satirical artist based in mainland China, released a series of photoshopped images pointing at an investigation conducted by Australia's own military, which found that the country's soldiers may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Badiucao explains why one should be very careful when comparing the role and function of cartoon art in China and in democracies:

I wouldn't use the term ‘artist’ or ‘political cartoonist': the whole narrative [that] he is an independent artist who cares about human rights in Afghanistan is bogus. Here is a telling detail: the work he posted on November 23 on Weibo has no signature of the user ID and no time stamp, which is mandatory as per Weibo regulations. This could indicate Wuhe Qilin himself provided the original copy to the Chinese authorities. Besides, for a long time, he smeared Fang Fang, the author of the Wuhan Diary, [portraying her] as a villain hired by the CIA. He is not an independent artist, because there is no such thing as independence in China. If you don’t collaborate, you don’t have a shred of space to survive or you end up in prison. 

Baiduacao responded to Wuhe Qilin via a series of images showing a PLA (People's Liberation Army) soldier repeating the same gesture aimed at Uyghur, Tibetan and Hong Kong people, wondering whether China would allow Wuhe Qilin to be critical of his own country's violations of human rights:

The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 2:27am in

Tags 

censorship, Media

You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country…why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect? You want to defend the United States of America, then defend it with the tools it supplies you with—its Constitution. You ask for a mandate, General, from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight, when the country has its back turned.”— Seven Days in May (1964)

No doubt about it: the coup d’etat was successful. That January 6 attempt by so-called insurrectionists to overturn the election results was not the real coup, however. Those who answered President Trump’s call to march on the Capitol were merely the fall guys, manipulated into creating the perfect crisis for the Deep State—a.k.a. the Police State a.k.a. the Military Industrial Complex a.k.a. the Techno-Corporate State a.k.a. the Surveillance State—to swoop in and take control.

It took no time at all for the switch to be thrown and the nation’s capital to be placed under a military lockdown, online speech forums restricted, and individuals with subversive or controversial viewpoints ferreted out, investigated, shamed and/or shunned.

This new order didn’t emerge into being this week, or this month, or even this year, however.

Indeed, the real coup happened when our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” was overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic, techno-corporate state that is in cahoots with a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations.”

 

We’ve been mired in this swamp for decades now.

Every successive president starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt has been bought lock, stock and barrel and made to dance to the Deep State’s tune.

Enter Donald Trump, the candidate who swore to drain the swamp in Washington DC. Instead of putting an end to the corruption, however, Trump paved the way for lobbyists, corporations, the military industrial complex, and the Deep State to feast on the carcass of the dying American republic.

Joe Biden will be no different: his job is to keep the Deep State in power.

Step away from the cult of personality politics and you’ll find that beneath the power suits, they’re all alike.

Follow the money.  It always points the way.

As Bertram Gross noted in Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, “evil now wears a friendlier face than ever before in American history.”

Writing in 1980, Gross predicted a future in which he saw:

…a new despotism creeping slowly across America. Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion…”

This stealthy, creeping, silent coup that Gross prophesied is the same danger that writer Rod Serling envisioned in the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May, a clear warning to beware of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

Incredibly enough, almost 60 years later, we find ourselves hostages to a government run more by military doctrine and corporate greed than by the rule of law established in the Constitution. Indeed, proving once again that fact and fiction are not dissimilar, today’s current events could well have been lifted straight out of Seven Days in May, which takes viewers into eerily familiar terrain.

The premise is straightforward.

With the Cold War at its height, an unpopular U.S. President signs a momentous nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Believing that the treaty constitutes an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States and certain that he knows what is best for the nation, General James Mattoon Scott (played by Burt Lancaster), the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presidential hopeful, plans a military takeover of the national government.  When Gen. Scott’s aide, Col. Casey (Kirk Douglas), discovers the planned military coup, he goes to the President with the information. The race for command of the U.S. government begins, with the clock ticking off the hours until the military plotters plan to overthrow the President.

Needless to say, while on the big screen, the military coup is foiled and the republic is saved in a matter of hours, in the real world, the plot thickens and spreads out over the past half century.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’ve been on that fast-moving, downward trajectory for some time now.

 

The question is no longer whether the U.S. government will be preyed upon and taken over by the military industrial complex. That’s a done deal, but martial law disguised as national security is only one small part of the greater deception we’ve been fooled into believing is for our own good.

How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police forces, surveillance cameras in their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?

Try to ram such a state of affairs down the throats of the populace, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard them with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and sell the whole package to them as being for their best interests.

This present military occupation of the nation’s capital by 25,000 troops as part of the so-called “peaceful” transfer of power from one administration to the next is telling.

This is not the language of a free people. This is the language of force.

Still, you can’t say we weren’t warned.

Back in 2008, an Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report went on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

In 2009, reports by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced that labeled right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) and called on the government to subject such targeted individuals to full-fledged pre-crime surveillance. Almost a decade later, after spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the police have been transformed into extensions of the military while the nation itself has been transformed into a battlefield. This is what a state of undeclared martial law looks like, when you can be arrested, tasered, shot, brutalized and in some cases killed merely for not complying with a government agent’s order or not complying fast enough. This hasn’t just been happening in crime-ridden inner cities. It’s been happening all across the country.

And then you’ve got the government, which has been steadily amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.

Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that has been colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.

 

So you see, January 6 and its aftermath provided the government and its corporate technocrats the perfect excuse to show off all of the powers they’ve been amassing so assiduously over the years.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats.

I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

I’m referring to the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

Brace yourself.

There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware.

Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware.

And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are at our most vulnerable right now.

All of those dastardly seeds we have allowed the government to sow under the guise of national security are bearing demon fruit.

The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.

Feature photo | Two White House Marine stand at the front doors at the US Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. The door was damaged from last week’s violent protest. Jim Lo Scalzo | Pool via AP

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available online at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.orgClick here to read more of John Whitehead’s commentaries.

The post The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes appeared first on MintPress News.

Social Media Giants Ban Trump, but the Real Censorship is of Palestinians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 4:09am in

In the wake of the Capitol Hill insurrection, Facebook and Twitter finally took a principled stand against President Donald Trump by suspending his accounts. While Trump lashed out at the tech giants, media analysts condoned the move—noting stronger moderation of his and other inflammatory posts are long overdue.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media behemoths have faced criticism over the years for allowing misinformation and dangerous incitement to run rampant on their platforms. Yet while these companies seem to fail at controlling right-wing propaganda, they’ve had no problem suppressing content on Palestine.

 

Palestinian Facebook pages see 50% drop in reach

According to Palestinian non-governmental organization Sada Social Center, Palestinian Facebook pages saw their content’s reach dip by more than 50%, and in some cases, by more than 80%. Sada Social attributes the steep decline to coverage of Arab countries’ normalization agreements with Israel.

“Most of the pages that brought complaints to us are followed by millions of users through Facebook,” Sada Social wrote in their report. “These pages actively participated in covering the issue of Arab normalization with the Israeli occupation recently.”

 

The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine and Muslim Scholars were just two of the numerous Facebook pages to have their content blocked or restricted in the last month.

When pressed for an explanation about the recent removals, a Facebook company spokesperson told MintPress News:

We do our utmost to ensure that only content in violation of our Community Standards is removed. Where mistakes are made, due to human or technical error, the content is restored. The Global Campaign for Return to Palestine page was unfortunately removed due to an error – it has now been restored. We were not trying to limit anyone’s ability to post or express themselves.”

In response to the increasing censorship, The Palestinian Content Protection Initiative—a group of media outlets, activists, and journalists working to defend Palestinian content online—called for a two-hour boycott of Facebook on Jan. 9.

“The administrations of social media websites have been pursuing, targeting, and restricting the publishing and access of Palestinian pages and accounts, and in full coordination with the Israeli occupation government,” the Initiative said in a statement. “As a result, Palestinian media have been restricted, and were unable to convey their national message.”

 

Facebook working with Israel to suppress content

Facebook’s targeting of Palestinian content isn’t new. The social media titan has a long history of working with Israeli authorities to remove Palestinian information.

Under the guise of hate speech, Facebook cracks down on content often related to certain keywords such as “Hamas” or “Zionism,” Alison Ramer, International Relations Manager at 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, explained.

“A lot of times this is done through artificial intelligence, which the companies are really being pushed to use under increasing pressure from governments and the public to respond to hate speech,” Ramer said.

But it’s not just automatic processes that are determining what’s permitted on social media. According to a 2020 7amleh report, the Israeli government has orchestrated a systematic campaign through Facebook to ensure content related to the Palestinian cause is removed.

“The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked stated that ‘Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that the Israeli government says incites Palestinian violence.’ This shows a significant focus on Palestinian content and efforts to label Palestinian political speech as incitement to violence,” 7amleh wrote.   

These requests are done through the Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit, which was established in 2015. Even Facebook’s own personnel appear to be in bed with Israel. Currently, Emi Palmor, Israel’s former Justice Ministry director-general, sits on Facebook and Instagram’s Oversight Board — a committee responsible for content moderation.

 

Additionally, governmental and non-governmental organizations are urging citizens to report Palestinian content. “Several of these organizations — dubbed “GONGOs” (government-operated NGOs) — are working to conflate criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and hate speech and have designed strategies to manipulate social media algorithms with the support of online trolls,” 7amleh wrote.

These efforts not only remove Palestinian content but elevate smear campaigns against Palestinians. As Facebook works diligently to remove white supremacist content, Ramer acknowledged that it leaves hate speech directed toward Palestinians on its site.

“7amleh has documented hate speech directed toward Palestinians in Hebrew, which we have seen left online for many years, while legitimate political speech critical of Israel is being flagged as hate speech and censored,” Ramer said. “We know that the Israeli government and government-supporting NGOs are pushing for tech companies to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which is leading to increasing censorship of Palestinians and human rights defenders.”

According to Ramer, pressure from the Israeli Lobby is the motivating factor in restricting Palestinian content.  

“There’s pressure on Facebook to expand the definition of anti-Semitism, and we know that the intention of this is to censor those critical of Israel, Palestinians and human rights supporters. And this, obviously, can have a large impact on the development of many other tech companies’ policies,” Ramer said.

 

Not just Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media platform for Palestinians, but it’s not the only one restricting their content.

TikTok recently removed the account belonging to Palestinian news organization, Quds News Network (QNN). The account manager, Hamzah al-Shobaki, said it was deleted after sharing 1,200 posts about Arab countries’ normalization with Israel. TikTok has since reinstated the account, claiming a violation error led to the account’s removal.

This isn’t QNN’s first experience with social media censorship, however. In 2019, the news outlet had four of its Twitter accounts deactivated without warning. QNN editors also had their personal Facebook accounts suspended in 2016, reportedly by mistake. Other Palestinian media sources have also had their Twitter and Facebook accounts removed over the years.

YouTube has been accused of violating Palestinian digital rights as well. Research from 7amleh details that the video-sharing platform uses hyper-surveillance tactics referred to as “locative discrimination” to monitor content coming from Palestine.

According to their findings, Palestinian YouTube user Ahmad conducted an online experiment to see if the removal of his content was due to his location:

“I sent the same video which has been deleted from my YouTube account to my friend’s YouTube account in Europe…and YouTube was fine with the video being published from a European country.”

“This simple test showed that content that’s being uploaded in the Palestinian Territories is being treated differently than the content uploaded by Western countries,” 7amleh’s Ramer said. “These policies are discriminatory and overly surveying and censoring Palestinians.”

Ramer emphasized that tech companies should not be the decision-makers regarding freedom of expression. Yet because they control these communication channels, they are ultimately tasked with monitoring what is shared—and Israel is taking full advantage of that.

“Israel is using this for its political aim to silence Palestinians. They’re using hate speech as a political tool,” Ramer said, clarifying that what’s happening not only blacks out Palestinian issues but the global conversation on human rights as a whole.

“This won’t just silence Palestinians, but it’ll silence human rights defenders, and it will show other governments how to use hate speech to silence and censor people.”

Feature photo | In this undated photo, a young Mark Zuckerberg meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo | Magnum

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Palestine, Israel and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf New

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