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NSW Declared Most Livable State For Those Named John Barilaro

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 8:00am in

Free Loader magazine has this week declared that the Australian state of NSW is the most livable state in the World for those with the name John Barilaro.

”If you are named John Barilaro then the state of NSW is the place to be,” declared Free Loader journalist Fee Lunch. ”I mean where else can a man prone to temper tantrums and no real qualifications waltz their way to deputy Premier and when that fails get offered a plum job in New York.”

”Sure, the New York thing fell through but you know something else will pop up soon for John. No need for him to ICAC himself.”

When asked why the likes of Barilaro seemingly had things handed to them on a silver platter, Free Loader journalist Fee Lunch said: ”Some are born with luck and others just happen to have a collection of compromising photos that help them get what they want.”

”Not sure which of the above describes John but I do know that he is an avid photographer.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and meet with my publishers to try and find space in the magazine for a new column to be penned by John Barilaro.”

”Hopefully this will tide him over till a new position can be made up for him by Perrotet.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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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.

More Escalations In Online Censorship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 10:42pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/05b0f1a420dc0b4a5e3a6c5fa167ad93/href

YouTube has been deleting videos disputing the US government narrative about Russian war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine, validating concerns we’ve discussed previously that Silicon Valley platforms would begin censoring anyone who challenges the authorized version of events in this war.

“By the way, my video ‘Bucha: More Lies’ has been deleted [by] YouTube’s censors,” reads a recent tweet by Gonzalo Lira.

“My stream last night on RBN was censored on Youtube after debunking the Bucha Massacre narrative,” Revolutionary Blackout Network reports.

It would seem that this clears up what YouTube meant when it said last month, “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.”

There has as yet been no investigation into what happened in Bucha by any international body and there are plenty of arguments to be made questioning aspects of the Official Story that westerners are being aggressively force fed by the narrative control machine of the US-centralized empire. Which would mean that YouTube is defining “well-documented” as “unproven assertions by the US government.”

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YouTube is also demonetizing content that is more broadly critical of the US/NATO/Ukraine side of the war.

“Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war,” a notice that’s being sent to users reads. “This pause 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.”

And can I just add here that as a survivor of rape and abuse it makes me want to scream my fucking throat out to see phrases like “victim blaming” used to suppress speech criticizing the unipolarist geostrategic agendas of the most powerful and destructive government on earth. It’s extremely obnoxious how common this disgusting power-serving line has become.

It’s probably also worth noting at this point that YouTube is owned by Google, which is a US military contractor and which has been inseparably intertwined with US intelligence agencies from its very inception.

The radius of what these government-tied oligarchic Silicon Valley megacorporations deem worthy of censorship has been getting wider and wider with every major news story: from eliminating Russian trolls, to thwarting domestic extremists, to protecting election integrity, to stopping Covid misinformation. Now they’re just openly saying they’re censoring those who disagree with the world’s most powerful government about a war. The excuses change from day to day, but the only constant is that we’re always told the solution is more internet censorship.

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The Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch has also jumped aboard this latest censorship escalation, banning multiple accounts for voicing wrongthink about Ukraine in response to an inquiry by Financial Times as to why it’s permitting “pro-Kremlin falsehoods” on the platform. The Financial Times inquiry followed a report tattling on those accounts by the Soros and Omidyar-funded Tech Transparency Project.

Financial Times writes the following:

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Twitch said it would move to “prohibit harmful misinformation actors from using our service”. But a report from the Tech Transparency Project detailed multiple accounts pushing pro-Kremlin falsehoods, such as claims the invasion was “de-Nazifying” Ukraine and a Russian “special operation”. Other streams peddled falsehoods about “biolabs” being set up in the war-torn country.

Twitch banned several accounts cited in the report and was investigating several more, it said, after being presented with the findings on Wednesday.

Twitter, another massive platform with ties to the US government, has also seized the moment as an opportunity to ratchet up the censorship of empire critics. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been banned from the platform for simply tweeting criticisms of the establishment Bucha narrative; his account was suspended for one such criticism, the suspension was reversed upon review by Twitter, and then his account was again shut down for another such criticism he’d made days earlier. Journalist Pepe Escobar, who has been openly sympathetic to the Russian side of the conflict, was banned for saying that Azov neo-Nazis would be be “disinfected” with a “certified highway to hell thermobaric flamethrower.”

This dramatic uptick in censorship of political speech is happening against the backdrop of Elon Musk’s shenanigans about potentially buying Twitter in full, which has sent mainstream liberals into a tizzy over fears that speech on the platform would become less restricted due to statements Musk has made about opposing online censorship. I have a hard time imagining that the richest man in the world would actually do anything to protect free speech, but the horror with which imperial narrative managers are reacting to the faintest hint of that possibility is very revealing:

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I might not necessarily agree with everything that’s been said by everyone who’s had their voices silenced in this latest ramp-up of online censorship, but I do strongly believe that only the worst and/or most deluded among us support their silencing. Under no possible framing is suppressing criticism of the mightiest power structure of all time a reasonable or acceptable thing to do.

I mean we’re already at a point here where the arguments for censorship don’t even make sense, when you look at them. When we were told people like Alex Jones and conspiracy circles like QAnon needed to be censored because they incite violence and harassment I didn’t agree with it, but at least the arguments about the need to prevent violence technically made sense. When we were told Covid skeptics need to be censored I didn’t agree with it, but at least the argument that people were dying as a result of being misinformed about a deadly virus technically made sense.

But what exactly is the argument for censoring wrongthink about the Ukraine war? Even if we pretend that everything they’re saying is 100% false and completely immoral, so what? What harm is being done? Does a Ukrainian drop dead every time someone says they don’t believe Russia committed war crimes in Bucha or Mariupol? Does Putin get magic murder powers if enough social media users say they support his war? Do liberal faces melt off their skulls if they accidentally see an RT headline?

Of course not. There’s no sensible argument that this new escalation in censorship is saving lives or that it’s being done for the good of the public. It’s being done to protect the interests of the powerful, plain and simple. It’s being done to prevent people from thinking unauthorized thoughts about a proxy war that was deliberately provoked to advance US strategic interests. And it’s being done to expand the radius of internet censorship for its own sake.

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It’s not healthy to seek control over what people say and think. Free speech is important not because it makes people sad when they don’t get to say what they want, but because the free exchange of ideas and information is how we collectively bring awareness to problems, change minds, stir the zeitgeist, and, if necessary, organize mass resistance.

And that’s exactly why the powerful work to prevent the free exchange of ideas and information. If people are permitted to stand at the center of a digital public square and send an unauthorized idea or piece of information viral if it resonates with others, that is a direct threat to status quo power structures. It’s not about saving Ukrainians, ending Covid misinformation, preventing violence, or any of the other excuses they’ve been rolling out since 2016. It’s about censoring the internet.

The advent of the internet gave the powerful the ability to propagandize the public far more rapidly and efficiently than they previously could, but it also brought on the risk of a democratized information space where the public can collectively figure out together that they’re being subjected to tyranny and deceit and decide to put an end to it. Herding the public onto these giant monopolistic platforms that are working in greater and greater intimacy with the empire is how our rulers have chosen to address this dilemma.

The idea is to keep the vast propagandizing power of the internet open while forcing its democratizing power closed, thereby keeping the balance of power tilted far toward the empire managers while manipulating us into believing this is all happening for our own good. But that’s all it is: manipulation. Psychological manipulation at mass scale, for the benefit of the powerful. That’s all this has ever been.

____________________

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.

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Project Nimbus: How Amazon and Google and Amazon Made Billions From Israel’s Occupation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/03/2022 - 6:34am in

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — “We are anonymous because we fear retaliation.” This sentence was part of a letter signed by 500 Google employees last October, in which they decried their company’s direct support for the Israeli government and military.

In their letter, the signatories protested a $1.2 billion contract between Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Israeli government which provides cloud services for the Israeli military and government that “allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land”.

This is called Project Nimbus. The project was announced in 2018 and went into effect in May 2021, in the first week of the Israeli war on besieged Gaza, which killed over 250 Palestinians and wounded many more.

The Google employees were not only disturbed by the fact that, by entering into this agreement with Israel, their company became directly involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but were equally outraged by the “disturbing pattern of militarization” that saw similar contracts between Google – Amazon, Microsoft and other tech giants – with the US military, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other policing agencies.

In an article published in The Nation magazine in June, three respected US academics have revealed the financial component of Amazon’s decision to get involved in such an immoral business, arguing that such military-linked contracts have “become a major source of profit for Amazon.” It is estimated, according to the article, that AWS alone was responsible for 63 percent of Amazon’s profits in 2020.

The slogan ‘people before profit’ cannot be any more appropriate than in the Palestinian context, and neither Google nor Amazon can claim ignorance. The Israeli occupation of Palestine has been in place for decades, and numerous United Nations resolutions have condemned Israel for its occupation, colonial expansion and violence against Palestinians. If all of that was not enough to wane the enthusiasm of Google and Amazon to engage in projects that specifically aimed at protecting Israel’s ‘national security’ – read: continued occupation of Palestine – a damning report by Israel’s largest human rights group, B’tselem should have served as that wake up call.

B’tselem declared Israel an apartheid state in January 2021. The international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) followed suit in April, also denouncing the Israeli apartheid state. That was only a few weeks before Project Nimbus was declared. It was as if Google and Amazon were purposely declaring their support of apartheid. The fact that the project was signed during the Israeli war on Gaza speaks volumes about the two tech giants’ complete disregard of international law, human rights and the very freedom of the Palestinian people.

It gets worse. On March 15, hundreds of Google workers signed a petition protesting the firing of one of their colleagues, Ariel Koren, who was active in generating the October letter in protest of Project Nimbus. Koren was the product marketing manager at Google for Education, and has worked for the company for six years. However, she was the kind of employee who was not welcomed by the likes of Google, as the company is now directly involved with various military and security projects.

“For me, as a Jewish employee of Google, I feel a deep sense of intense moral responsibility,” she said in a statement last October. “When you work in a company, you have the right to be accountable and responsible for the way that your labor is actually being used,” she added.

Google quickly retaliated to that seemingly outrageous statement. The following month, Koren’s manager “presented her with an ultimatum: move to Brazil or lose her position.” Eventually, she was driven out of the company.

Koren was not the first Google – or Amazon – employee to be fired for standing up for a good cause, nor would, sadly, be the last. In this age of militarism, surveillance, unwarranted facial recognition and censorship, speaking one’s mind and daring to fight for human rights and other basic freedoms is no longer an option.

Amazon’s warehouses can be as bad, or even worse than a typical sweatshop. Last March, and after a brief denial, Amazon apologized for forcing its workers to pee in water bottles – and worse – so that their managers may fulfill their required quotas. The apology followed direct evidence provided by the investigative journalism website, The Intercept. However, the company which stands accused of numerous violations of worker rights – including its engagement in ‘union busting’ – is not expected to reverse course any time soon, especially when so much profits are at stake.

But profits generated from market monopoly, mistreatment of workers or other misconducts are different from profits generated from contributing directly to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Though human rights violations should be shunned everywhere, regardless of their context, Israel’s war on the Palestinian people, now with the direct help of such companies, remains one of the gravest injustices that continue to scar the consciousness of humankind. No amount of Google justification or Amazon rationalization can change the fact that they are facilitating Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

To be more precise, according to the Nation, the Google-Amazon cloud service will help Israel expand its illegal Jewish settlements by “supporting data for the Israel Land Authority (ILA), the government agency that manages and allocates state land.” These settlements, which are repeatedly condemned by the international community, are built on Palestinian land and are directly linked to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Project Nimbus is the “most lucrative tender issued by Israel in recent years.” The Project, which has ignited a “secretive war” involving top Israeli army generals – all vying for a share in the profit – has also whetted the appetite of many other international tech companies, all wanting to be part of Israel’s technology drive, with the ultimate aim of keeping Palestinians entrapped, occupied and oppressed.

This is precisely why the Palestinian boycott movement is absolutely critical as it targets these international companies, which are migrating to Israel in search for profits. Israel, on the contrary, should be boycotted, not enabled; sanctioned and not rewarded. While profit generation is understandably the main goal of companies like Google and Amazon, this goal can be achieved without necessarily requiring the subjugation of a whole people, who are currently the victims of the world’s last remaining apartheid regime.

Feature photo | MintPress News

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Project Nimbus: How Amazon and Google and Amazon Made Billions From Israel’s Occupation appeared first on MintPress News.

2022 State Legislative Preview

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/01/2022 - 6:23am in

Legislative sessions in most states either started recently or will start soon, so it seems like a good time to take stock of what’s happening at the state level and what I’ll be paying attention to in the coming year when it comes to corporate subsidies and the larger effort to rein in corporate power—which has gained a lot of momentum in the last couple of years, hence the length of this post. Exciting!...

Read More

Censorship By Algorithm Does Far More Damage Than Conventional Censorship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/01/2022 - 12:12am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/4035bef2d9a73006608e78fe4dffeb48/href

Journalist Jonathan Cook has a new blog post out on his experience with being throttled into invisibility by Silicon Valley algorithmic suppression that will ring all too familiar for any online content creators who’ve been sufficiently critical of official western narratives over the last few years.

“My blog posts once attracted tens of thousands of shares,” Cook writes. “Then, as the algorithms tightened, it became thousands. Now, as they throttle me further, shares can often be counted in the hundreds. ‘Going viral’ is a distant memory.”

“I won’t be banned,” he adds. “I will fade incrementally, like a small star in the night sky — one among millions — gradually eclipsed as its neighbouring suns grow ever bigger and brighter. I will disappear from view so slowly you won’t even notice.”

Cook says this began after the 2016 US election, which was when a major narrative push began for Silicon Valley corporations to eliminate “fake news” from their platforms and soon saw tech executives brought before the US Senate and told that they must “quell information rebellions” and come up with a mission statement expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord” online.

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Arguably the most significant political moment in the United States since 9/11 and its immediate aftermath was when Democrats and their allied institutions concluded that Donald Trump’s election was a failure not of establishment politics but of establishment narrative control. From that point onwards, any online media creator who consistently disputes the narratives promoted by the same news outlets who’ve lied to us about every war has seen their view counts and new follows slashed.

By mid-2017 independent media outlets were already reporting across ideological lines that algorithm changes from important sources of viewership like Google had suddenly begun hiding their content from people who were searching for the subjects they reported on.

“In case anyone wants to know how Facebook suppression works — I have 330,000 followers there but they’ve stopped showing my posts to many people,” Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp tweeted in January 2018. “I used to gain 6,000 followers a week. I now gain 500 and FB unsubscribes people without their knowledge — so my total number never increases.”

I saw my own shares and view counts rapidly diminish in 2017 as well, and saw my new Facebook page follows suddenly slow to a virtual standstill. It wasn’t until I started using mailing lists and giving indie media outlets blanket permission to republish all my content that I was able to grow my audience at all.

And Silicon Valley did eventually admit that it was in fact actively censoring voices who fall outside the mainstream consensus. In order to disprove the false right-wing narrative that Google only censors rightist voices, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet admitted in 2020 to algorithmically throttling World Socialist Website. Last year the CEO of Google-owned YouTube acknowledged that the platform uses algorithms to elevate “authoritative sources” while suppressing “borderline content” not considered authoritative, which apparently even includes just marginally establishment-critical left-of-center voices like Kyle Kulinski. 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.”

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People make a big deal any time a controversial famous person gets removed from a major social media platform, and rightly so; we cannot allow such brazen acts of censorship to become normalized. The goal is to normalize internet censorship on every front, and the powerful will push for that normalization to be expanded at every opportunity. Whether you dislike the controversial figure being deplatformed on a given day is entirely irrelevant; it’s not about them, it’s about expanding and normalizing internet censorship protocols on monopolistic government-tied speech platforms.

But far, far more consequential than overt censorship of individuals is censorship by algorithm. No individual being silenced does as much real-world damage to free expression and free thought as the way ideas and information which aren’t authorized by the powerful are being actively hidden from public view, while material which serves the interests of the powerful is the first thing they see in their search results. It ensures that public consciousness remains chained to the establishment narrative matrix.

It doesn’t matter that you have free speech if nobody ever hears you speak. Even in the most overtly totalitarian regimes on earth you can say whatever you want alone in a soundproof room.

That’s the biggest loophole the so-called free democracies of the western world have found in their quest to regulate online speech. By allowing these monopolistic megacorporations to become the sources everyone goes to for information (and even actively helping them along that path as in for example Google’s research grants from the CIA and NSA), it’s possible to tweak algorithms in such a way that dissident information exists online, but nobody ever sees it.

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You’ve probably noticed this if you’ve tried to search YouTube for videos which don’t align with the official narratives of western governments and media lately. That search function used to work like magic; like it was reading your mind. Now it’s almost impossible to find the information you’re looking for unless you’re trying to find out what the US State Department wants you to think. It’s the same with Google searches and Facebook, and because those giant platforms dictate what information gets seen by the general public, that wild information bias toward establishment narratives bleeds into other common areas of interaction like Twitter as well.

The idea is to let most people freely share dissident ideas and information about empire, war, capitalism, authoritarianism and propaganda, but to make it increasingly difficult for them to get their content seen and heard by people, and to make their going viral altogether impossible. To avoid the loud controversies and uncomfortable public scrutiny brought on by acts of overt censorship as much as possible while silently sweeping unauthorized speech behind the curtain. To make noncompliant voices “disappear from view so slowly you won’t even notice,” as Cook put it.

The status quo is not working. Our ecosystem is dying, we appear to be rapidly approaching a high risk of direct military confrontation between nuclear-armed nations, and our world is rife with injustice, inequality, oppression and exploitation. None of this is going to change until the public begins awakening to the problems with the current status quo so we can begin organizing a mass-scale push toward healthier systems. And that’s never going to happen as long as information is locked down in the way that it is.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. And as more and more people get their information about what’s happening in the world from online sources, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation has already become one of the most consequential forms of narrative control.

____________________

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.

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Labour’s John McDonnell on Google and tax avoidance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/01/2016 - 6:20am in

I wrote this post yesterday about the recent news about a tax deal reached between HMRC and Google. In the comments a reader alerted me to an interview on Channel 4 News with Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. He’s almost very good in it. As seems usual these days, no Government Minister was willing to … Continue reading Labour’s John McDonnell on Google and tax avoidance

The blind alley that is tax avoidance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2016 - 5:52am in

In the last few days, HMRC reached a deal with Google who agreed to pay £130m in corporation tax to cover the last 10 years. George Osborne called announced this on Twitter, saying: Good to see #Google paying more tax on past profits. We want successful businesses in UK – but they should pay their … Continue reading The blind alley that is tax avoidance

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 - 2:06pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 19/01/2016 - 2:06pm in

Seriously?

"Attention poor person! Google means you no harm! You may proceed across the street using the legacy technology of perambulation. This act of courtesy is sponsored by…"

(via Atrios)

Google Cultural Institute Launches

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2015 - 9:55am in