censorship

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They’re Worried About The Spread Of Information, Not Disinformation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 1:03am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/3b88b04988492da0a094c1ebad13c503/href

We’re in the final countdown to British Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision on the fate of Julian Assange, with the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the United States due to be approved or rejected by the end of the month. Joe Lauria has a new article out with Consortium News on the various pressures that Patel is being faced with from both sides of this history-making issue at this crucial time.

And I can’t stop thinking, as this situation comes to a boil, about how absurd it is that the US empire is working to set a precedent which essentially outlaws information-sharing that the US doesn’t like at the same time western news media are full of hand-wringing headlines about the dangerous threat of “disinformation”.

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Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has an article out titled “‘Disinformation’ Label Serves to Marginalize Crucial Ukraine Facts” about the way the mass media have been spinning that label to mean not merely the knowing distribution of false information but also of information that is true but inconvenient to imperial narrative-weaving.

“In defense of the US narrative, corporate media have increasingly taken to branding realities inconvenient to US information goals as ‘disinformation’ spread by Russia or its proxies,” writes FAIR’s Luca Goldmansour.

Online platforms have been ramping up their censorship protocols under the banner of fighting disinformation and misinformation, and those escalations always align with narrative control agendas of the US-centralized empire. Just the other day we learned that Twitter has a new policy which expands its censorship practices to fight “misinformation” about wars and other crises, and the Ukraine war (surprise surprise) will be the first such situation about which it will be enforcing these new censorship policies.

Then there’s the recent controversy over the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board,” a mysterious institution ostensibly designed to protect the American people from wrongthink coming from Russia and elsewhere. The board’s operations (whatever they were) have been “paused” pending a review which will be led by Michael Chertoff, a virulent swamp monster and torture advocate. Its operations will likely be resumed in one form or another, probably under the leadership of someone with a low profile who doesn’t sing show tunes about disinformation.

And this all comes out after US officials straight up told the press that the Biden administration has been deliberately sowing disinformation to the public using the mainstream press in order to win an infowar against the Kremlin. They’ve literally just been circulating completely baseless stories about Russia and Ukraine, but nobody seems to be calling for the social media accounts of Biden administration officials to be banned.

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You see so many discrepancies between what the oligarchic empire says and what it actually does regarding the issue of disinformation because the empire has no problem with disinformation. The empire that is built on propaganda and lies has no problem with propaganda and lies. It has a problem with the truth.

They’re not worried about disinformation, they’re worried about information. They’re worried about journalists using the unprecedented information-sharing power of the internet to reveal inconvenient facts about the largest and most murderous power structure on earth. They’re worried about people finding out that they’ve been lied to their entire lives about their world, their nation and their government. They’re worried about people using their newly connected minds to decide together that they don’t much like the status quo as it’s been laid out for them, and deciding to build a new one.

All the safeguards they’re setting up now to manipulate the flow of information online are not there to eliminate lies, they’re there to eliminate truth. These people have a vested interest in keeping things dark and confused, and we the ordinary people of the world have a vested interest in shining a big inconvenient spotlight on everything. The elite agenda to keep things endarkened is at direct odds with the people’s agenda to get things enlightened.

We are not being protected by a compassionate alliance of corporations and governments who only want us to know the truth, we are being manipulated and oppressed by an oligarchic empire that wants us to believe lies. That’s why they’re locking up Assange, that’s why they’re censoring the internet, that’s why they’re filling our minds with propaganda, and that’s why we can’t let them win.

______________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Twitter To Ramp Up Censorship Of ‘Misinformation’ About The Ukraine War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 11:34pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/8844fea9736efb67d1ef1482eb58df1a/href

Twitter has published what it calls a “crisis misinformation policy” announcing that it will be actively reducing the visibility of content found to be false which pertains to “situations of armed conflict, public health emergencies, and large-scale natural disasters.”

If you’ve been paying attention to the dramatic escalations in online censorship we’ve been seeing in 2022, it will not surprise you to learn that the Ukraine war is the first crisis to which this new censorship policy will be applied.

Twitter says that it “won’t amplify or recommend content” found to violate its new policy, and will also attach warning labels to individual tweets and even hide offending content behind a warning label and disable the retweet function on particularly naughty posts.

The problem here is of course the question of how to impartially establish whether something is objectively false without it turning into at best a flawed system guided by fallible human biases and perceptual filters and at worst a powerful institution shutting down unauthorized speech. Twitter says it formed its new policy with input from unnamed “global experts and human rights organizations,” and will be enforcing it with the help of “conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more.” This will come as no comfort to anyone who’s familiar with the history of propaganda peddling that can be found in every single one of those respective categories.

Twitter lists the following examples of the kind of content that will be found in violation of its crisis misinformation policy:

  • False coverage or event reporting, or information that mischaracterizes conditions on the ground as a conflict evolves;
  • False allegations regarding use of force, incursions on territorial sovereignty, or around the use of weapons;
  • Demonstrably false or misleading allegations of war crimes or mass atrocities against specific populations;
  • False information regarding international community response, sanctions, defensive actions, or humanitarian operations.

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When Jack Dorsey resigned as Twitter CEO last November, I noted the warning signs we were seeing that his replacement, Parag Agrawal, supported the use of measures which make unauthorized content much less visible than authorized content without eliminating the unauthorized content altogether.

“There’s a lot of content out there,” Agrawal said in a 2020 interview. “A lot of tweets out there, not all of it gets attention, some subset of it gets attention. And so increasingly our role is moving towards how we recommend content and that sort of, is, is, a struggle that we’re working through in terms of how we make sure these recommendation systems that we’re building, how we direct people’s attention is leading to a healthy public conversation that is most participatory.”

This agenda to “direct people’s attention” toward “healthy public conversation” by controlling how content is “recommended” to viewers echoes the censorship-by-algorithm tactics we’ve seen employed by Facebook, Google, and by Google-owned YouTube. Google has been hiding dissident media in its search results for years, and in 2020 the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet admitted to algorithmically throttling World Socialist Website. Last year the CEO of YouTube acknowledged that the platform uses algorithms to elevate “authoritative sources” while suppressing “borderline content” not considered authoritative. Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said in 2018 that if the platform’s fact-checkers (including the state-funded establishment narrative management firm Atlantic Council) rule that a Facebook user has been posting false news, moderators will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”

Twitter has generally been the most reluctant of the major platforms to exercise censorship on behalf of the empire, which is what has made it a better source of ideas and information than any other major platform. But now we’re seeing the most pernicious form of online censorship, censorship by manipulation of content visibility, take hold there as well.

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Censorship by visibility manipulation is the most destructive form of online censorship that exists, because its consequences are both so much more far-reaching and so much less attention-grabbing than the controversial act of banning users from platforms or removing their posts. It’s a kind of censorship that people don’t even know is happening, and it’s happening all over the place.

It is deeply disturbing how Silicon Valley megacorporations have simply accepted that it is their job to help the US win a propaganda war against Russia, and how everyone’s just going along with that like it’s fine and normal. Our ability to share ideas and information on the platforms where most people congregate is being increasingly restricted, not on the basis of whether our speech is harmful, or even whether it is true, but on whether it helps or hinders the US propaganda campaign against Russia.

Silicon Valley censorship with the Ukraine war is an unprecedented escalation because they’re not pretending to be doing it to protect people from a virus or to safeguard elections or defend the public good in any way. It’s literally just “Well we can’t have people thinking wrong thoughts about a war,” without even really explaining why that’s important in any coherent and sensical fashion.

There’s no longer any pretense that the internet is being censored to protect the public interest. It’s just open censorship of information about a war, solely because they take it as a given that it’s their job to control the things people think and say about that war. They’re coming right out and saying yes, we are the platforms you come to in order to share ideas and information with your fellow humans, and yes, we are agents of the US empire. This is a dramatic escalation.

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All this public hand wringing about misinformation and disinformation is itself disinformation. They’re not worried about the spread of disinformation, they’re worried about the spread of information. Your rulers are not concerned that you’ll start learning false things about Covid or the war in Ukraine, they are worried you’ll start learning true things about your rulers. That’s what all this fuss is really about.

They are locking down our minds and sanitizing our information ecosystem for the protection of the empire. I will keep saying this and saying this for as long as I am able: we’ve got to wake up and stop these bastards before it is too late.

______________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Censoring Palestine: Swarms of Israeli Bots Are Crippling Pro-Palestinian Twitter Accounts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2022 - 5:48am in

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — On April 29, Inès Abdel Razek woke up to 80 new Twitter followers.

“These accounts were following the exact same people that were tweeting about Palestine, but from France or Francophone accounts that work on Palestine,” Razek said of her new followers.

The advocacy director of Rābet, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy’s digital platform, became wary of the issue after Abier Khateb, a grants manager at Open Society Foundations, reported mass followings as well.

Razek told MintPress News that she began individually reporting each account as fake but kept her own account open — lest she let the alleged bots win. But after a few days, Razek made her profile private. At the peak of the mass following, Razek had accumulated 400 fake followers.

From the end of April through the first few weeks of May, more than 40 pro-Palestine Twitter accounts reported mass followings. Digital-rights experts say acquiring huge amounts of fake followers triggers Twitter’s algorithm and can lead to the tech giant suspending an account, effectively censoring users by forcing them to make their accounts private.

These accounts included those belonging to human rights and activist organizations Adalah, Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. They also included news publications and journalists, like The Palestine Chronicle, Ali Abunimah and Hind Al-Eryani; and politicians, such as Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom. Twitter did not respond to MintPress inquiries on the source of the suspicious accounts.

Dr. Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University, conducted an analysis that found more than 1,150 fake accounts. Twitter deleted approximately 1,090 of these accounts, according to Jones. His analysis determined that the average account-creation time was one to three per minute, suggesting these accounts were created using an automated process.

The profiles were in various languages, including French, Spanish, English and German, but usually had Arabic bios. They often had strange names — like Noble Betty Thomas — and zero followers.

“They had clearly made-up names,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who also experienced a large influx of new followers, told MintPress. “The vast majority of them had Israeli names and Israeli addresses. Some of them had made-up Arab names, which were mangled. It’s clear that they’re [using] stolen images of people.”

In response to the bulk followings, software developer Daniel Easterman created a free script to automatically report and block hundreds of these bots for users.

Easterman said the spamming problem has a censorship effect by forcing users to make their accounts private. “This means they won’t be able to distribute their messages widely as they would normally,” Easterman told MintPress News.

Another area of particular concern is how a flood of fake followers may cause Twitter to shut down an account. “When you see such a dramatic increase in followers, it’s usually somebody manipulating the system for commercial gain,” Easterman said. “So that could trigger Twitter to automatically flag that as suspicious activity and suspend the activist’s account.”

Using Twitter to target human rights defenders and journalists isn’t unusual. In 2017, journalist Iona Craig and others who report on Yemen were spammed with thousands of fake followers. Many speculated the culprits were state entities belonging to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The reason behind this particular mass following campaign remains unknown. Jones hypothesized it’s acting as a form of social media suppression, writing on Twitter:

Some suggest it’s a means to degrade the algorithmic quality of a Twitter account so that it possibly gets suspended; some suggest it’s others trying to boost popularity of an account. When it’s unsolicited, as in this case, I tend to think it’s more of a targeting operation. I am naturally cynical, but most people who get a sudden influx of fake followers feel unnerved and uncomfortable. If that fact is widely known, it functions as a tool of surveillance and potentially intimidation (e.g., you are being watched). It also makes many people mute their accounts for a bit which has a censorship effect.”

Razek, Whitson, and others told MintPress that the flood of fake followers appears to be diminishing for them. However, a new operation has emerged.

In the past week, Jones found around 2,800 fake accounts following pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist accounts who have recently been tweeting on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh.

“This network is likely the same as the one found at [the] end of April, although now it is active,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

The accounts have between 0 to 20 followers, with the majority of bios written in English and simply stating the account location, which is Israel. Most accounts don’t have a banner picture and the profile pictures have purportedly been swiped from real people.

According to Jones, the accounts have begun liking and retweeting posts, without any real partisan regularity: they like both pro- and anti-Palestinian subject matter and follow both pro-Zionist and pro-Palestinian accounts but appear to target the pro-Palestinian side more. Accounts targeted include The Jerusalem Post; the government of Israel’s official state account; activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace; the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; Israeli journalist Ilan Pappe; and former Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.

Again, the reason for the bulk followers remains unclear. “Those who get followed understandably find it intimidating, as if a form of surveillance or a technique to try and degrade [the] quality of an account with low-quality follows,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “The fact remains, these are clearly fake accounts and ruin the experience of Twitter.”

 

censorship of Palestine, an ongoing problem

Palestinian digital-rights experts have long decried the increasing censorship of Palestinian content online. During Israel’s assault on Gaza and the upticks in Israeli attacks at Al-Aqsa Compound and in Sheikh Jarrah in May 2021, Palestinian activists reported social media companies were removing their content on Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing for violating community guidelines.

The social media censorship didn’t stop when tensions died down over the summer, though. Last month, social media users in Jordan said their posts related to Israeli violence at Al-Aqsa were taken down and their accounts blocked. Additionally, accounts belonging to Palestinian news publications covering the violence in occupied East Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa were deactivated by Facebook.

In their recent monthly report on social media violations, Palestinian NGO Sada Social stated the deletion of Palestinian content “is in line with and in response to Israeli requests to tighten the screws on Palestinians and their media.”

Palestinian-American model Bella Hadid also accused Instagram of shadow-banning (having content viewership limited) her pro-Palestinian content during Ramadan.

Razek suggested the swarm of fake followers on Twitter may be an extension of Instagram’s alleged shadow-banning. “The purpose is to pollute our algorithms and make our accounts less visible. So in the way that Instagram is shadow-banning some content, this could be a way that Twitter shadow-bans our content,” she said.

While the identities behind the fake followers haven’t been revealed, many have pointed to Israel. The Israeli government’s targeting of Palestinian digital content is well-documented. According to 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, the Israeli Ministry of Justice Cyber Unit sends content-removal requests aimed at Palestinian content to social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube. The Justice Ministry has boasted these corporations comply with 95% of their requests. And Israeli governmental organizations and NGOs also encourage their citizens to flag Palestinian content for removal.

 

Attacking free speech

Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s pending purchase of Twitter came with a promise of securing free speech on the digital platform. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” the self-declared free-speech advocate said in a statement about his Twitter deal.

While digital-rights experts like Jones are wary of Musk’s potential Twitter takeover, Whitson, who’s experienced targeted attacks, harassment, and censorship threats for decades for speaking out against Israeli abuses, views the buyout positively.  For the executive director of nonprofit Democracy for the Arab World (DAWN), the risk of corporate censorship is a bigger issue than online hate speech. Whitson said:

I’m hopeful that Elon Musk will be true to his word to protect and promote free speech and to end concerted efforts to target and cancel speech that we don’t like. Seeing how Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have launched systematic efforts to silence pro-Palestine activist voices, I’m very wary of corporate moderators deciding what speech is and isn’t acceptable.”

Whitson doesn’t agree the bots are a form of censorship, but she does see them as an assault on free speech. “It’s a form of targeted harassment and bullying,” she said. “It’s a targeted attack on people who are speaking freely, including journalists and human rights activists.”

Feature photo | MintPress News | AP

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

The post Censoring Palestine: Swarms of Israeli Bots Are Crippling Pro-Palestinian Twitter Accounts appeared first on MintPress News.

Say No To Censorship: Here’s How We’re Rebuilding Alternative Media 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/05/2022 - 3:18am in

I’m Mnar Adley, founder, and editor-in-chief of MintPress News and director of our new video project “Behind the Headlines.”

I have an urgent appeal to make to everyone who cares not only for our first amendment but for the future of our planet. Independent, watchdog journalism that holds the military class accountable is under threat.

With the war in Ukraine raging on and corporate media outlets pushing a pro-NATO agenda – we’ve entered war time and having access to alternative information to the war machine is crucial to preventing escalation. We are now facing the very real threat of nuclear war.

We’re experiencing censorship unlike anything we’ve faced before, and MintPress and other antiwar media have been facing 5 years of algorithmic shadowbanning by Big Tech.

In the last month alone, independent antiwar journalists have been targeted in organized smear campaigns, de-platformed, given “state affiliated” labels on their accounts, and even outright purged off of social media platforms. Youtube has deleted hundreds of thousands of historical videos from prominent antiwar journalists and activists including Abby Martin, Chris Hedges, and Lee Camp, and is demonetizing political content everywhere in an effort to defund antiwar efforts. Our very own Gofundme fundraisers were taken down without reason or an opportunity to appeal.

What this amounts to is little more than a modern-day book burning. The work of the most important dissenting voices of our time is being discredited. Division is being sowed and any information that challenges the corporate and military establishment’s agenda is censored. Meanwhile, the bank accounts of executives at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are being filled at a record pace.

For the last several years, MintPress has been at the forefront of sounding the alarm about the deep state working with silicon valley tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to control your news feed and ensure that any alternative narrative is algorithmically disappeared. But we’re not backing down because the future of our planet and the prosperity of peace and justice depends on our reporting.

This is why I consulted with anti-censorship, pro-free press, and human rights experts on our nonprofit board– including Mickey Huff, president of the Media Freedom Foundation and the director of Project Censored; FBI whistleblower, Coleen Rowley; and international human rights attorney, Todd Pierce– to create a new video reporting project called Behind The Headlines. To help us build this project we will need your support.

We need to raise $400,000 in the next year, so we’re creating our first phase fundraiser to be stated for $200,000.

Join us here: We’re LIVE on Indiegogo! 

Behind The Headlines Ad

Our goal is to create a video platform that is a 100% people-funded non-profit with the most important dissenting names in independent media that have felt the brunt of this censorship campaign.

We’re working with Political Comedian Lee Camp and filmmaker and investigative journalist Dan Cohen.

In addition to the Behind the Headlines board, we also have an esteemed board of advisors, including John Pilger, Abby Martin, Miko Peled, Ollie Vargas, and Dr. Ramzy Baroud.

Lee Camp follows a long line of political comedians from George Carlin to Bill Hicks ……. We’re giving him a platform with full editorial freedom to write and produce his own political comedy show.

Lee Camp’s shows are like a form of investigative comedy. They give the audience something to think about regarding key issues of the day that are often either distorted in the establishment press or ignored altogether. Given the many challenges we face from the climate crisis to war and the global pandemic, it’s important to laugh when and how we can, otherwise, we’d just have to wail and cry. Lee blends wit and dark humor with quality reporting that is truly a call to action.

Dan Cohen is a jack of all trades. He’s an investigative journalist based in Washington DC reporting from the belly of the beast. He’s currently working on several guerilla-style documentaries where he traveled to the heart of conflicts targeted by U.S. imperialism and corporate pillaging– the first is a three-part series about a revolution in formation in Haiti. Another is about the failures of the peace accord in Colombia.

Another covers the resistance movement in Gaza and Israel’s temple movement and plans to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque as part of an end of times prophecy. All of these issues can be traced in some manner back to U.S. empire and efforts to create and maintain instability around the world. In addition to documentaries and written investigations, Dan is also leading our video investigative series called Behind The Headlines. He has already exposed the murky connections between corporate media, the Pentagon, the Biden administration, and much more.

For far too long, some of America’s most talented journalists have been forced to turn to foreign state media to produce watchdog journalism after being ousted and ostracized from U.S. mainstream media outlets. Those outlets have utterly failed the public and specialize in producing fast food news that is sensationalized, divisive, and wor as a mouthpiece for the two-party duopoly, weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and hawkish think NATO-funded think tanks.

We don’t have watchdog media anymore, we have extremist corporate media lapdogs beating the drums of war and acting as stenographers for the government.

We can’t rely on the legacy media in our own countries to tell us what’s really happening at home and around the world, and we shouldn’t have to rely on foreign state media outlets to fill in those holes. Instead, we must create our own.

The truth is we can’t continue to wait for the oligarchy to give us a media that represents “we the people.” It’s time that we unite on a broader front of non-partisanship that holds the elite accountable – in the spirit that journalism was intended by our First Amendment – to revive the fourth estate and create our very own media that goes Behind The Headlines.

It’s time that we put our money where our mouth is because our First Amendment and its free press, and free speech principles are on life support.

But to help us build this project we will need your support. We need to raise $400,000 in the next year, so we’re creating our first phase fundraiser to be stated for $200,000. This two-month campaign will support:

  • Lee Camp’s new weekly political comedy show ‘The Most Censored News with Lee Camp’
  • Production of four documentaries by Dan Cohen:
    • Endgame Apocalypse: Inside Israel’s Temple Mount movement and its plans to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque [Trailer coming soon]
    • Israel’s May 2021 assault on Gaza and the armed resistance that won the war [Trailer coming soon]
    • Inside Colombia’s narco-state and plot between the DEA and the Colombian government to plunge the country into a state of civil war
    • A three-part series on Haiti’s rising resistance movement against neoliberalism and occupation and how the U.S. is trying to quash it
  • A monthly Behind The Headlines Report, an investigative video project with Dan Cohen covering the military-industrial complex, how propaganda works and much more.
  • Weekly Video Podcast interview series with Mnar Adley

The funds for this campaign will help us cover all the production and editing costs, social media, and travel costs associated with creating high-quality video content and documentaries. In addition to this, the funds will help us cover the costs of launching our website. I hope you’ll join us today on Indiegogo! 

 

Mnar Adley

Director of Behind The Headlines and MintPress News 

 

The post Say No To Censorship: Here’s How We’re Rebuilding Alternative Media  appeared first on MintPress News.

Western Civilization Is Being Organized Around Winning US Infowars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/05/2022 - 11:03am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/25d8099df1dd7b33cd6394086432b2f2/href

The US-centralized empire’s use of propaganda, censorship and Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation is the single most urgent issue of our time, because it’s what prevents attention from being drawn to all other issues. And all signs indicate it’s set to get much, much worse.

I feel the need to reiterate once again that the censorship we’re seeing about Ukraine is of a whole new kind than anything we’ve seen before. There’s no pretense that it’s done to save lives or protect democracy this time around, it’s just “We need to control the thoughts that people think about this war.”

Once it was accepted that disinformation and misinformation must be curtailed from above, government and tech institutions took that as license to decide what’s true and false on our behalf. We know this because now they’re just openly propagandizing and censoring us about a war.

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You didn’t know that you were granting government and tech institutions authority to decide what’s true and false on your behalf when you agreed that it’s fine for them to work together to censor and sanctify Official Narratives about Covid, but it turns out that’s what was happening.

It looks pretty obvious in retrospect now though, doesn’t it? You can’t regulate “disinformation” and “misinformation” without first determining what it is, and you can’t determine what it is without assigning someone the authority to make those distinctions. There are no benefecent, impartial and omniscient entities who can be trusted to become objective arbiters of absolute reality on our behalf. There are only flawed human beings who act in their own interest, which is why we’re now being censored and propagandized about a war.

In literally the very next instant after being given the authority to decide what’s true and false on our behalf regarding Covid, those same government, media and tech institutions launched into World War II levels of propaganda and censorship over a war we’re not even officially in. It was like they all said “Oh good, we get to do that now, finally.” The consensus that it was fine to launch into a shocking information lockdown about Ukraine was already formed and prepped for roll-out the day Russia invaded. It was taken as a given that they had that authority.

Over the last two years you’d get called an “anti-vaxxer” and worse if you said you didn’t think government-tied monopolistic megacorporations should be restricting speech about Covid measures that affect everyone, but it turns out those who issued these warnings were 100 percent correct.

It is clear now, as we see what we are becoming, that granting these powerful institutions authority to sort out fact from fiction on our behalf is far more dangerous than misinformation about a virus ever was. Now here we are, with the empire setting up “disinformation” boards while it escalates aggressions with Russia by the day and prepares to do the same with China in the not-too distant future. Our whole civilization is being organized around winning US propaganda wars.

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Censorship is bad because free speech is how society orients itself toward truth, course-corrects when it’s going astray, and holds power to account. This is true whether censorship is by the government or by tech oligarchs. Only morons act like this is some weird right wing thing.

People say, “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of reach!”

And the answer to this is always, yes it does you idiot. If people who support status quo power have access to all the largest voice amplification platforms while critics of status quo power don’t, this kills the very purpose of free speech protections. Free speech protections are enshrined exactly because unrestricted speech puts a check on power. If critics of status quo power structures are being banned from the platforms where people get their voices heard, this function has been nullified.

You can’t say your society has free speech if critics of status quo orthodoxies aren’t free to speak where they will be heard, for exactly the same reason you can’t say people have free speech in Saudi Arabia as long as nobody hears their criticisms of the government.

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Because free speech is designed to put a check on status quo power, it is exactly the voices who criticize the status quo that must be protected. Some of these voices will be unpalatable, but the alternative is permitting a Ministry of Truth to decide what dissent is permissible, an authority that’s certain to be abused.

Speech isn’t free if it isn’t free in all the areas where people congregate to speak. If only mainstream supporters of the status quo have free access to all platforms, then free speech isn’t happening, and power has a lot more ability to do what it likes unchecked by the public. Saying it’s fine because people are still free to go to Gab or Truth Social to voice their criticisms of establishment Ukraine narratives or whatever is the same as saying it’s fine because people can still speak their criticisms of the government into a hole in the ground. Free speech is not happening.

Consent for this was given when we allowed these powers to assume complete narrative authority over what constitutes “misinformation”. It’s never too late to revoke consent, though. It just means the fight to pry our voices out of the hands of our rulers is going to be a tough slog.

___________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Oh God It’s Going To Get SO Much Worse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/04/2022 - 11:26pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/8b2bdfe0f05ad73a9801d53fe75b61da/href

Rightists have spent the last couple of days freaking out and invoking Orwell’s 1984 in response to something their political enemies are doing in America, and for once it’s for a pretty good reason. The Department of Homeland Security has secretly set up a “Disinformation Governance Board”, only informing the public about its plans for the institution after it had already been established.

The disinformation board, which critics have understandably been calling a “Ministry of Truth”, purportedly exists to fight disinformation coming out of Russia as well as misleading messages about the US-Mexico border. We may be certain that the emphasis in the board’s establishment has been on the Russia angle, however.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in her patented “You’re such a crazy idiot for questioning me about the White House” manner, dismissed alarmed questions about what specific functions this strange new DHS entity was going to be performing and what its authority will look like.

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“It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure who opposes that effort.”

The answer to the question of “who opposes that effort” is of course “anyone with functioning gray matter between their ears.” No government entity has any business appointing itself the authority to sort information from disinformation on behalf of the public, because government entities are not impartial and omniscient deities who can be entrusted to serve the public as objective arbiters of absolute reality. They would with absolute certainty wind up drawing distinctions between information, misinformation and disinformation in whatever way serves their interests, regardless of what’s true, exactly as any authoritarian regime would do.

I mean, is anyone honestly more afraid of Russian disinformation than they are of their own government appointing itself the authority to decide what counts as disinformation?

This important point has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle due to the utterly hypnotic ridiculousness of the person who has been appointed to run the Disinformation Governance Board. Nina Jankowicz, a carefully groomed swamp creature who has worked in Kyiv as a communications advisor to the Ukrainian government as part of a Fulbright fellowship, is being widely criticized by pundits and social media users for her virulent Russiagating and whatever the hell this is:

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Because of this person’s embarrassing cartoonishness, a lot more commentary lately has been going into discussing the fact that the Department of Homeland Security’s Ministry of Truth is run by a kooky liberal than the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has a fucking Ministry of Truth.

Which is really to miss the forest for the trees, in my opinion. Would it really be any better if the “Disinformation Governance Board” was run by a chill dude you wouldn’t mind having a beer with? Especially when we know the ideological leanings of this department are going to bounce back and forth between elections and will always act in service of US empire narrative control regardless of who is in office? I don’t think so.

The real issue at hand is the fact that this new institution will almost certainly play a role in bridging the ever-narrowing gap between government censorship and Silicon Valley censorship. The creation of the DHS disinformation board is a far more shocking and frightening development than last year’s scandalous revelation that the White House was advising social media platforms about accounts it determined were circulating censorship-worthy Covid misinformation, which was itself a drastic leap in the direction toward direct government censorship from what had previously been considered normal.

We should probably talk more about how as soon as people accepted that it was fine for government, media and Silicon Valley institutions to work together to censor misinformation and rally public support around an Official Narrative about a virus, the ruling power establishment immediately took that as license to do that with a war and a foreign government as well.

Like, immediately immediately. We went from a massive narrative control campaign about a virus, which people accepted because they wanted to contain a deadly pandemic, straight into a massive narrative control campaign about Russia and Ukraine. Without skipping a beat. Like openly manipulating everyone’s understanding of world events is just what we do now. Now we’re seeing increasingly brazen censorship of political dissent about a fucking war that could easily end up getting us all killed in a nuclear holocaust, and a portion of the Biden administration’s whopping $33 billion Ukraine package is going toward funding “independent media” (read: war propaganda).

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We should probably talk more about this. We should probably talk more about how insane it is that all mainstream western institutions immediately accepted it as a given that World War II levels of censorship and propaganda must be implemented over a faraway war that our governments are not even officially a part of.

It started as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, without any public discussion whatsoever. Like the groundwork had already been laid and everyone had already agreed that that’s what would happen. The public had no say in whether we want to be propagandized and censored to help the US win some kind of weird infowar to ensure its continued unipolar domination of the planet. It just happened.

No reason was given to the public as to why this must occur, and there was no public debate as to whether it should. This was by design, because propaganda only works when you don’t know it’s happening to you.

The choice was made for us that information is too important to be left in the hands of the people. It became set in stone that we are to be a propaganda-based society rather than a truth-based society. No discussion was offered, and no debate was allowed.

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And as bad as it is, it’s on track to get much, much worse. They’re already setting up “disinformation” regulation in the government which presides over Silicon Valley, the proxy war between the US and Ukraine is escalating by the day, and aggressions are ramping up against China over both the Solomon Islands and Taiwan. If you think imperial narrative management is intense now, wait until the US empire’s struggle to secure global hegemony really gets going.

Do you consent to this? Do you? It’s something you kind of have to take a position on, because its implications have a direct effect on our lives as individuals and on our trajectory as a society. How much are we willing to sacrifice to help the US win an infowar against Russia?

The question of whether we should abandon all hope of ever becoming a truth-based society and committing instead to winning propaganda wars for a globe-spanning empire is perhaps the most consequential decision we’ve ever had to make as a species. Which is why we weren’t given a choice. It’s just been foisted upon us.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. By taking our control of information out of our hands without asking our permission and determining for us that we are to be a propaganda-based civilization for the foreseeable future, they have stolen something sacred from us. Something they had no right to take.

Nothing about the state of the world tells us that the people who run things are doing a good job. Nothing about our current situation suggests they should be given more control, rather than having control taken away from them and given to the people. We are going in exactly the wrong direction.

____________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

PayPal Blocks Multiple Alternative Media Figures Critical Of US Empire Narratives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 11:44am in

Tags 

News, Media, censorship

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/cb9e22e955736012ac00afd0daf73ff2/href

In what appears to be yet another escalation in Silicon Valley’s redoubled efforts to quash dissident voices since the beginning of the Ukraine war, PayPal has just blocked the accounts of multiple alternative media voices who’ve been speaking critically against official US empire narratives. These include journalist and speaker Caleb Maupin, and Mnar Adley and Alan MacLeod of MintPress News.

Just the other day MintPress published an excellent article by MacLeod titled “An Intellectual No-Fly Zone: Online Censorship of Ukraine Dissent Is Becoming the New Norm” documenting the many ways skepticism of the US government’s version of events in this war is being suppressed by Silicon Valley megacorporations, including financial censorship via the demonetization of YouTube videos that don’t regurgitate the imperial line on Ukraine.

Today, both MintPress and MacLeod have been banned from using the payment service that many online content creators have come to rely on to help crowdfund their work.

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MintPress News happens to have published critical journalism about PayPal itself in the past, like the articles it published in 2018 by Whitney Webb documenting the way shady PayPal-linked billionaires Peter Thiel and Pierre Omidyar have advanced the interests of the US empire and facilitated imperial narrative control, or this one from 2016 on how the company blocks Palestinians from opening accounts while showing no such bias against illegal Israeli settlers.

I asked MintPress News Executive Director Mnar Adley for comment on PayPal’s move. Here is her response in full:

“Paypal banning myself and MintPress is blatant censorship of dissenting journalists & outlets. For the past decade MintPress has been unapologetically working as a watchdog journalism outlet to expose the profiteers of the permanent war state from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan to Apartheid Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen to regime change operations in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela where US weapons have flooded these nations to plunge them into devastating civil wars.

“In the era of a declining US empire, censorship has become the last resort of an unpopular regime and its forever wars to make the truth disappear and critical thinking all but dead. With the war in Ukraine raging on, we’ve entered war time and Big Tech giants, including Paypal, are working hand in hand with the New Cold War architects themselves to sanction dissenting journalists. If you read the board of any of these tech giants from Google, Twitter, Facebook and Paypal, they read like a rogues’ gallery of war mongers and their agenda is clear: To control the free flow of information and target the bank accounts of anyone who dares question the official narrative of the Pentagon or State Department.

“It is outrageous to be told that tech giants, which are run by those who directly profit from the New Cold war including the crisis in Ukraine, could limit any journalist’s ability to fund their work. Can you imagine if this was the norm in Russia, China or Iran? Our media would be screaming about free speech and first amendment rights. Yet, when we do it’s ok because it’s under the guise of fighting ‘Russian propaganda’.

“We’re living in an intellectual No-Fly Zone where online censorship of dissenting journalism has become the new norm. The US sanctions regime that is trying to starve Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Iran and over 25% of the world’s population is now targeting its own citizens with its maximum pressure campaign so we are forced to toe the official government line in order to survive as a journalist in alternative media today.

“No matter the war waged against us, we refuse to be backed into a corner and bullied by tech giants who have a deep relationship with weapons manufacturers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin and who work hand in hand with NATO that profit off the blood of millions of people around the world. The only way forward is for people to unite on a broader front of non-partisanship and fund our own media because there are more of us than there are of them.”

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PayPal has also banned Caleb Maupin, an American speaker and journalist whose work has already seen his personal Twitter account branded “Russia state-affiliated media” by the US state-affiliated platform.

“Why should something as basic as cash transactions be subject to political censorship?” said Maupin when asked for comment. “The economic war on independent countries is turning into a war on free speech. Writers and journalists must be able to eat.”

Indeed, a very effective way to silence unauthorized media voices is to make it difficult for them to earn a living making their voices heard. Speaking from experience I know for a fact I couldn’t put out a fraction of the content I put out if I was forced to work a 9–5 job in some office rather than having the freedom to put all my time and mental energy into this work thanks to the generous support of my readers. Cutting me off from that funding would be the same as censoring me directly, because there’s no way I could continue the kind of work I do.

We are at a profoundly dangerous and frightening point in human history. The US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is escalating by the day and the drums of war are beating ever louder against China over the Solomon Islands and Taiwan. If you think censorship is bad now, wait until this global power grab really gets going.

____________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Siding With The US Empire Is Always Wrong: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 10:31am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/46d5ea83f3586da368c442c5e8861dc1/href

If you get the feeling that all this Ukraine flag-waving is one more vapid mainstream propaganda initiative used to manufacture consent for an agenda that has nothing to do with what you’re being told, it’s because that’s exactly what is happening.

In this war Russia has killed many Ukrainians and Ukraine has killed many Russians and the US empire has killed many Ukrainians and Russians.

It’s nuts that there are still grown adults who think Putin invaded Ukraine for no other reason than because he is evil and hates freedom.

Focus less on the Azov Battalion and more on the fact that the US deliberately provoked this war with the goal of toppling Moscow and is threatening all our lives with increasingly reckless brinkmanship against a nuclear superpower.

People who promote a US/NATO war with Russia are more dangerous and depraved than racists, homophobes, transphobes and antisemites, and they should be treated accordingly. They are the most dangerous extremists on earth. This should be completely uncontroversial and obvious to literally everyone.

More Americans know Marge Simpson’s sisters’ favorite TV show than know their government is waging a deliberately provoked and profoundly dangerous proxy war against a nuclear superpower. This is because mainstream western media — all of it — is propaganda.

Everyone should be able to say whatever the fuck they want about a proxy war instigated by the world’s most powerful government that could very easily end up sparking a nuclear war.

If you’re on the side of the US empire on any issue you are on the wrong side. This doesn’t mean the other side is always necessarily in the right, it just means a globe-spanning empire that’s held together by lies, murder and tyranny will always be in the wrong. Yes, it is that simple.

It must be the most soul-destroying thing in the world to go to journalism school, study hard, graduate in front of your whole family, work your ass off building up a resume, get a steady job, and then find yourself writing hit pieces about disobedient Youtubers for The Daily Beast.

Twitter is nature’s way of dispelling the common misconception that liberals are smart.

If I was the world’s biggest narcissist, I’d probably try to become the richest person on earth, and do everything I can to make sure everyone’s always talking about me, and convince everyone that I’m going to save the world with my technology so I get a weird cult to worship me.

Twitter being biased in favor of one nation’s government is vastly more consequential than Twitter being biased in favor of one US political party. So far we’re only seeing emphasis on the latter, indicating that Twitter will continue functioning as a US propaganda/censorship apparatus. It should probably get more attention that it’s effectively impossible to have any kind of major media company in the US and not have it be absorbed into the US propaganda machine.

The Assange case is very simple: the most powerful government in the world is trying to criminalize journalism about its nefarious behavior anywhere in the world. You can sum it up in a breath. It’s only narrative spin and smears that make it seem like some big complicated thing.

Empires haven’t disappeared as the world grows more conscious of the evils of empire, they’ve just gotten sneakier and bitchier. They used to nail you to a piece of wood in public if you defied them, now they’ve got to go through this whole deceitful lawfare process just to kill one journalist.

Empires used to just openly conquer foreign territories because they want to own them. Then it became about “civilizing” them. Now they pretend it’s about “freedom and democracy”, and they don’t even make you change your flag to theirs.

Empires used to exterminate entire towns who dared to disobey them, now they have to launch these giant bitchy propaganda operations to psychologically manipulate populations into hating their enemies.

Empires are just really sneaky, bitchy, gossippy, backstabby versions of what they’ve always been. They’re just as oppressive and violent, but the fact that there are more eyes on their behavior means they have to be so much more manipulative and covert about what they do.

The more visible things become, the more hard work and cleverness is required to run an empire. That’s why they’re working so hard to make things less visible via censorship, propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, and the criminalization of journalism.

The biggest mistake you can make is to trust that your leaders’ actions would seem more sensible and appropriate if you knew what they know and understood what they understand. The wars really are as horrific and as pointless as they appear. The escalations in tyranny really are as bad as they seem. It’s not that you don’t understand what you’re looking at, it’s that you’re not a sociopath.

Your thoughts and opinions matter. Know how you can tell? Because every single day the world’s most powerful people pour an immense amount of wealth and energy into trying to manipulate them.

When a loved one is very self-destructive you can’t control their fate; at some point you’ve just got to let them make their mistakes and hope something in them wakes up before they wind up dead. That’s pretty much how you’ve got to be with the entire human species at this point.

_________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Billionaires Only Come To The Rescue In Movies And Comic Books

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 11:39am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/ada8925e9cf76d48e8df798ddd2d722a/href

Twitter has done an about-face and sold the company to the richest person in the world for $44 billion.

Rightists are having a merry old time making fun of the melodramatic reactions from high-profile liberals who fear Elon Musk’s purchase will lead to more free speech on the platform for people who don’t align with them politically, and many of the blue-checkmarked commentariat who live on Twitter and can’t go five minutes without checking their notifications are making a big show of pretending they’re about to leave.

Many critics on the left are responding to the news by ringing alarm bells about a powerful oligarch controlling an influential social media platform, as though Twitter was anything besides oligarch-controlled before today and as though billionaires buying up media is some shocking new development. Some anti-imperialists have expressed tentative hope that this new development may lead to some rollback of the jarring escalations in censorship we’ve been seeing on the platform in defense of US empire narratives, due to the plutocrat’s comments on the importance of free speech.

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From what I can see, though, the overwhelming majority of excitement on Twitter about Musk’s purchase is coming not from those who challenge power in any meaningful way but from those who want Donald Trump’s account restored and want to be able to say mean things to trans people. And I suspect that says a lot about what we’re looking at here.

This important distinction was summed up by journalist Michael Tracey, who tweeted, “The biggest test for Elon Musk will not be whether he rolls back the most obvious ‘woke’ content policies — that should be a given — but whether he continues to let Twitter be used as a vehicle for the US national security state to ‘counter’ official enemies like Russia and China.”

Speaking for myself I won’t be surprised if we do see some of the former, but I will be absolutely astonished if we see the latter.

You don’t get to be a billionaire, much less a billionaire with massively influential media ownership, unless you collaborate with existing power structures. Musk has certainly been collaborating with the oligarchic empire very nicely up until this point, and it’s a safe bet that his purchase would not be happening if the empire felt its narrative control machine was in any way threatened by it.

Believing Elon Musk is going to save Twitter is as naive as believing Joe Biden was going to save America. Arguing over which oligarchs should control the media is as silly and undignified as arguing over which oligarch-owned politicians should run the government.

Billionaires coming to the rescue only happens in movies and comic books. You’re as likely to be saved by Elon Musk as you are by Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark.

How many times are people going to fall for this “a billionaire is about to stick it to the man and save us all” schtick? It’s very sad that we’re at a point where speech is being throttled so severely that people are hoping an eccentric billionaire will swoop in and rescue them from oppression. Real life is like a dumber, more boring version of Gotham City, except Batman is working with the bad guys.

I’ll start paying attention to Musk’s talk about free speech if and when Twitter stops censoring Russian media and unbans people like Scott Ritter who were removed from the platform for questioning official empire narratives about what’s happening in Ukraine. Until then I’m going to assume he’s at most only interested in protecting speech that doesn’t threaten the powerful like Republican partisan bullshit and hate speech against marginalized groups.

The billionaires are not coming to save us. The idea that they might is a carefully constructed propaganda narrative that we’ve been sold for generations. The leaders of the capitalist class are not going to overturn the systems of oppression and exploitation which form the very foundation of capitalism. Superhero stories are designed to prevent us from realizing that only we the people have the power to rescue ourselves.

___________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to 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. 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. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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An Intellectual No-Fly Zone: Online Censorship of Ukraine Dissent Is Becoming the New Norm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 6:00am in

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA – Google has sent a warning shot across the world, ominously informing media outlets, bloggers, and content creators that it will no longer tolerate certain opinions when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Google AdSense sent a message to a myriad of publishers, including MintPress News, informing us that, “Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war.” This content, it went on to say, “includes, but is not limited to, claims that imply victims are responsible for their own tragedy or similar instances of victim-blaming, such as claims that Ukraine is committing genocide or deliberately attacking its own citizens.”

This builds on a similar message Google’s subsidiary YouTube released last month, stating, “Our Community Guidelines prohibit content denying, minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent events. We are now removing content about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine that violates this policy.” YouTube went on to say that it had already permanently banned more than a thousand channels and 15,000 videos on these grounds.

Journalist and filmmaker Abby Martin was deeply troubled by the news. “It is really disturbing that this is the trend that we are on,” she told MintPress, adding:

It is a preposterous declaration considering that the victim is whoever we are told by our foreign policy establishment. It really is outrageous to be told by these tech giants that taking the wrong side of a conflict that is quite complicated will now hurt your views, derank you on social media or limit your ability to fund your work. So you have to toe the line in order to survive as a journalist in alternative media today.”

The most prominent victim of the recent banning spate has been Russian state media such as RT America, whose entire catalog has been blocked throughout most of the world. RT America was also blocked from broadcasting across the U.S., leading to the network’s sudden closure.

“Censorship is the last resort of desperate and unpopular regimes. It magically appears to make a crisis go away. It comforts the powerful with the narrative they want to hear, one fed back to them by courtiers in the media, government agencies, think tanks, and academia,” wrote journalist Chris Hedges, adding:

YouTube disappeared six years of my RT show, “On Contact,” although not one episode dealt with Russia. It is not a secret as to why my show vanished. It gave a voice to writers and dissidents, including Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, as well as activists from Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, third parties and the prison abolitionist movement.”

Smaller, independent creators have also been purged. “My stream last night on RBN was censored on Youtube after debunking the Bucha Massacre narrative… Unreal censorship going on right now,” wrote Nick from the Revolutionary Black Network. “My video ‘Bucha: More Lies’ has been deleted by YouTube’s censors. The Official Narrative is now: ‘Bucha was a Russian atrocity! No dissent allowed!’” Chilean-American journalist Gonzalo Lira added.

Other social media platforms have pursued similar policies. Twitter permanently suspended the account of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter over his comments on Bucha and journalist Pepe Escobar for his support for Russia’s invasion.

Googe Adsense Ukraine

A notice to MintPress from Google threatening demonetization

Those views are certainly currently in the minority, with testimonies from locals pointing the finger at Russian forces, who have carried out similar acts during other conflicts. Yet even the Pentagon has refused to categorically conclude Russian culpability without a full investigation.

Beyond Bucha, where the line is in terms of accepted speech is being kept vague, leading to confusion and consternation among independent media outlets and content creators. “This is going to limit reporting on the Ukraine crisis because people are going to be scared,” Martin said. “People [in alternative media] are going to opt to not publish or not report on something because of fear of retaliation. And once you start to get demonetized, the next fear is that your videos are going to get blanket banned,” she added.

While support for Russia has essentially been prohibited, glorification of even the most unsavory elements of Ukrainian society on social media is now all-but-promoted. In February, Facebook announced that it would not only reverse its ban on discussing the Azov Battalion, a Nazi paramilitary now formally incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, but also allow content praising and promoting the group – as long as it was in the context of killing Russians.

Facebook and Instagram also instituted a change in policy that allows users to call for harm or even the death of Russian and Belarussian soldiers and politicians. This rare allowance was also given in 2021 to those calling for the death of Iranian leaders. Needless to say, violent content directed at governments friendly to the U.S., such as Ukraine, is still strictly forbidden.

 

The media demands more censorship

Leading the campaign for more intense censorship has been corporate media itself. The Financial Times successfully lobbied Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch to delete a number of pro-Russian streamers. The Daily Beast attacked Gonzalo Lira, going so far as to contact the Ukrainian government to make them aware of Lira’s work. Lira confirmed that, after The Daily Beast’s article, he was arrested by the Ukrainian secret police.

Meanwhile, The New York Times published a hit piece on anti-war journalist Ben Norton, accusing him of spreading a “conspiracy theory” that the U.S. was involved in a coup in Ukraine in 2014, while claiming that he was helping promulgate Russian disinformation. This, despite the fact that the Times itself reported on the 2014 coup at the time in a not-too-dissimilar fashion, thereby incriminating its own previous reporting as Russian propaganda. If referencing The New York Times’s own previous reporting becomes grounds for suppression, then meaningful online discourse is under threat. As journalist Matt Taibbi wrote last week, the West is in danger of establishing an “intellectual no-fly zone,” where deviating from orthodoxy will no longer be tolerated.

An image shared in the NYT hit against Norton

An image shared in the NYT hit against Norton. Credit | Multipolarista

The invasion of Ukraine has also raised a number of troubling questions for Western anti-war figures: How to oppose Russian aggression without providing more political ammunition to NATO governments to further escalate the conflict? And how to critique and highlight our own governments’ roles in creating the crisis without appearing to justify the Kremlin’s actions? Yet this new perilous media environment raises a further quandary: How to express views online without being censored?

Google’s new updated rules are vaguely worded and open to interpretation. What constitutes “exploiting” or “condoning” the war? Does discussing NATO’s eastward expansion or Ukraine’s aggressive campaign against Russian-speaking minorities constitute victim blaming? And is referencing the seven-year-long civil war in the Donbas region, where the UN estimates that over 14,000 people have been killed, now illegal under Google’s policy of not allowing content about Ukraine attacking its own citizens?

For some, the answer to at least some of these questions should be an emphatic “yes.” On Thursday, journalist Hubert Smeets attacked longtime anti-war activist Noam Chomsky, explicitly accusing him of blaming President Zelensky and Ukraine for its fate. Chomsky has previously described Russian actions as incontestably “a major war crime, ranking alongside the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Hitler-Stalin invasion of Poland in September 1939.” Yet he has also for years warned that NATO actions in the region were likely to provoke a Russian response. If Google and other big-tech monopolies decide an intellectual giant like Chomsky’s voice must be suppressed, it will mark a new era of official censorship not seen since the decline of McCarthyism.

 

Old propaganda, new Cold War

The United States was allied with the Soviet Union during World War II. However, as the Cold War began to set in, so did attacks on dissenting voices. The postwar anti-communist push began in earnest in 1947, after President Harry S. Truman mandated a loyalty oath for all federal employees. As a result, the political beliefs of two million people were investigated, with authorities attempting to ascertain whether they belonged to any “subversive” political organizations.

Those in positions of influence were most aggressively vetted, leading to purges of academics, educators, and journalists. Many of the most celebrated individuals from the world of entertainment – including actor Charlie Chaplain, singer Paul Robeson, and writer Orson Welles – had their careers destroyed because of their political beliefs. “Socialism was canceled, dissent was canceled after World War Two,” Breakthrough News host Brian Becker recently said, warning that this new Cold War with Russia and China could usher in a new McCarthyist era.

The old Cold War against Russia ended in 1991. However, the new Cold War arguably started 25 years later with the electoral victory of Donald Trump. On November 8, 2016, the Clinton campaign alleged that the Kremlin had used social media to spread fake news and misleading information, leading to Trump’s victory. Despite the lack of hard evidence, corporate media immediately took up Clinton’s message. Only two weeks after the election, The Washington Post published a report claiming that hundreds of fake news websites had pushed Trump over the line and that a credible group of nonpartisan expert researchers had created an organization called “PropOrNot” to track this effort.

Using what it called sophisticated “internet analytics tools,” PropOrNot published a list of over 200 websites that they claimed were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” Included on the list were publisher WikiLeaks, Trump-supporting websites like The Drudge Report, libertarian ventures such as The Ron Paul Institute and Antiwar.com, as well as a host of left-wing websites like Truthout, Truthdig, and The Black Agenda Report. MintPress News was also featured on the list. While there were some obviously fake-news websites included, the political orientation of the list was obvious for all to see: this was a catalog of outlets – right- and left-wing – that was consistently critical of the centrist Washington establishment.

A sure sign that you are reading Russian propaganda, PropOrNot claimed, was if the source criticizes Obama, Clinton, NATO, the “mainstream media,” or expresses worry about a nuclear war with Russia. As PropOrNot explained, “Russian propaganda never suggests [conflict with Russia] would just result in a Cold War 2 and Russia’s eventual peaceful defeat, like the last time.”

Despite the blatantly shoddy list, one that even included the websites of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, The Washington Post’s article went viral, being shared millions of times. PropOrNot’s list was subsequently signal-boosted by hundreds of other outlets. And despite calling for McCarthyist investigation into and suppression of hundreds of outlets, PropOrNot categorically refused to reveal who they were, how they were funded, or any methodology whatsoever.

It is now almost certain that it was not a neutral, well-meaning independent organization but the creation of Michael Weiss, a non-resident senior fellow of NATO think tank The Atlantic Council. A scan of PropOrNot’s website showed that it was controlled by The Interpreter, a magazine of which Weiss is editor-in-chief. Furthermore, one investigator found dozens of examples of the Twitter accounts of PropOrNot and Weiss using the identical and very unusual turn of phrase, strongly suggesting they were one and the same. Thus, claims of a huge [foreign] state propaganda campaign were themselves state propaganda.

The reaction to this crude “propaganda about propaganda” campaign was both swift and wide-ranging. In early 2017, Google launched Project Owl, a massive overhaul of its algorithm. It claimed that it was purely a measure to stop foreign fake news from taking over the internet. The main outcome, however, was a catastrophic, overnight collapse in search traffic to high-quality alternative media outlets – drops from which they have never recovered. MintPress News lost nearly 90% of its organic Google search traffic and Truthout lost 25%. Websites that were not on PropOrNot’s list also suffered devastating losses. AlterNet experienced a 63% reduction, Common Dreams 37% and Democracy Now! 36%. Even liberal sources only moderately critical of the status quo, such as The Nation and Mother Jones, were penalized by the algorithm. Google search traffic to alternative media has never recovered and has, in many cases, gotten worse.


Credit | WSWS

This, for Martin, is a sign of the increasingly close relationship between Silicon Valley and the national security state. “Google willingly changed their algorithm to backpage all alternative media without even a law in place to mandate them to do so,” she said. Other social media juggernauts, such as Facebook and YouTube rolled out similar changes. All penalized alternative media and drove people back towards establishment sources like The Washington Post, CNN and Fox News.

The consequence of all this was to retighten the elite’s grip over the means of communication, a grip that had slipped owing to the rise of the internet as an alternative model.

 

The “nationalization” of social media

Since 2016, a number of other measures have been taken to bring social media under the wing of the national security state. This was foreseen by Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who wrote in 2013, “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first.” Since then, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have become integral parts of the state apparatus, signing multibillion-dollar contracts with the CIA and other organizations to provide them with intelligence, logistics and computing services. Schmidt himself was chairman of both the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, bodies created to help Silicon Valley assist the U.S. military with cyberweapons, further blurring the lines between big tech and big government.

Google’s current Global Head of Developer Product Policy, Ben Renda, has an even closer relationship with the national security state. From being a strategic planner and information management officer for NATO, he then moved to Google in 2008. In 2013, he began working for U.S. Cybercommand and in 2015 for the Defense Innovation Unit (both divisions of the Department of Defense). At the same time, he became a YouTube executive, rising to the rank of Director of Operations.

Defense Secretary James Mattis chats with Amazon founder and Washington Post owner, Jeff Bezos , during a visit to west coast tech and defense companies. Jeff Bezos | Twitter

Jeff Bezo meets with Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis during a visit to west coast tech and defense companies. Jeff Bezos | Twitter

Other platforms have similar relationships with Washington. In 2018, Facebook announced that it had entered a partnership with The Atlantic Council whereby the latter would help curate the news feeds of billions of users worldwide, deciding what was credible, trustworthy information, and what was fake news. As noted previously, The Atlantic Council is NATO’s brain-trust and is directly funded by the military alliance. Last year, Facebook also hired Atlantic Council senior fellow and former NATO spokesperson Ben Nimmo as its head of intelligence, thereby giving an enormous amount of control over its empire to current and former national security state officials.

The Atlantic Council has also worked its way into Reddit’s management. Jessica Ashooh went straight from being Deputy Director of Middle East Strategy at The Atlantic Council to Director of Policy at the popular news aggregation service – a surprising career move that drew few remarks at the time.

Also eliciting little comment was the unmasking of a senior Twitter executive as an active-duty officer in the British Army’s notorious 77th Brigade – a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. Twitter has since partnered with the U.S. government and weapons manufacturer-sponsored think tank ASPI to help police its platform. On ASPI’s orders, the social media platform has purged hundreds of thousands of accounts based out of China, Russia, and other countries that draw Washington’s ire.

Last year, Twitter also announced that it had deleted hundreds of user accounts for “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability” – a statement that drew widespread incredulity from those not closely following the company’s progression from one that championed open discussion to one closely controlled by the government.

 

The first casualty

Those in the halls of power well understand how important a weapon big-tech is in a global information war. This can be seen in a letter published last Monday written by a host of national security state officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA directors Michael Morell and Leon Panetta, and former director of the NSA Admiral Michael Rogers.

Together, they warn that regulating or breaking up the big-tech monopolies would “inadvertently hamper the ability of U.S. technology platforms to … push back on the Kremlin.” “The United States will need to rely on the power of its technology sector to ensure” that “the narrative of events” globally is shaped by the U.S. and “not by foreign adversaries,” they explain, concluding that Google, Facebook, Twitter are “increasingly integral to U.S. diplomatic and national security efforts.”

Commenting on the letter, journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote:

[B]y maintaining all power in the hands of the small coterie of tech monopolies which control the internet and which have long proven their loyalty to the U.S. security state, the ability of the U.S. national security state to maintain a closed propaganda system around questions of war and militarism is guaranteed.”

The U.S. has frequently leaned on social media in order to control the message and promote regime change in target countries. Just days before the Nicaraguan presidential election in November, Facebook deleted the accounts of hundreds of the country’s top news outlets, journalists and activists, all of whom supported the left-wing Sandinista government.

When those figures poured onto Twitter to protest the ban, recording videos of themselves and proving that they were not bots or “inauthentic” accounts, as Facebook Intelligence Chief Nimmo had claimed, their Twitter accounts were systematically banned as well, in what observers coined as a “double-tap strike.”

Meanwhile, in 2009, Twitter acquiesced to a U.S. request to delay scheduled maintenance of its app (which would have required taking it offline) because pro-U.S. activists in Iran were using the platform to foment anti-government demonstrations.

More than 10 years later, Facebook announced that it would be deleting all praise of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani from its many platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp. Soleimani – the most popular political figure in Iran – had recently been assassinated in a U.S. drone strike. The event sparked uproar and massive protests across the region. Yet because the Trump administration had declared Soleimani and his military group to be terrorists, Facebook explained, “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leadership.” This meant that Iranians could not share a majority viewpoint inside their own country – even in their own language – because of a decision made in Washington by a hostile government.

In this light, then, Google’s message to creators about victim-blaming Ukraine or trivializing and condoning violence is a threat: toe the line or face the consequences. While we continue to consider tech monopolies such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook to be private companies, their overwhelming size and their increasing proximity to the national security state means that their actions are tantamount to state censorship.

While fake news – including that emanating from Russia – continues to be a genuine problem, these new actions have far less to do with combatting disinformation or denial of war crimes and far more to do with reestablishing elite control over the field of communication. These new rules will not be applied to corporate media downplaying or justifying U.S. aggression abroad, denying American war crimes, or blaming oppressed peoples – such as Palestinians or Yemenis – for their own condition, but instead will be used as excuses to derank, demote, delist or even delete voices critical of war and imperialism. In war, they say, truth is always the first casualty.

Feature photo | Image by MintPresss 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 An Intellectual No-Fly Zone: Online Censorship of Ukraine Dissent Is Becoming the New Norm appeared first on MintPress News.

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