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Birth of the Digital Oligarchy: The Trump Ban and the Social Media Ruse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 6:08am in

On January 6, as the events unfolding at the U.S. Capitol were discussed on Twitter, the barrage of opinions predictably accumulated on one side of the political spectrum. Outrage over what mainstream pundits characterized as the desecration of the symbols of democracy and similar bleeding heart liberal rhetoric was far more prevalent than the opposing camp’s tendency to side with the so-called “insurrectionists” or tweets in support of the made-for-social media putsch.

Evidence of straight forward collusion between elements of law enforcement and the Trump loyalists who stormed the Congressional building began to emerge throughout the evening, giving a measure of credence to the emerging narrative of a purported “coup” attempt by the sitting president. Simultaneously, members of Congress with large followings started calling for impeachment and other retaliatory measures against fellow members of Congress, who seemed to be implicated in the tawdry affair.

 

Two days later, after tensions continued to simmer among its most vocal user base, the famously left-leaning social media platform carried out a coup of their own by permanently banning Donald Trump’s Twitter account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” and proceeded to execute a mass purge ­of 70,000 accounts, which ran afoul of their revamped rules targeting “extremist” behavior.

The ban was celebrated by a number of left-leaning media outlets like The Verge and Raw Story; the former publishing an article detailing all the ways in which Twitter’s actions and those of other social media networks were justified as a “desperate response to a desperate situation,” incongruously disparaging any comparisons to the real-life purges of Stalinist Russia, while citing “the facts on the ground” as a legitimate excuse for the virtual takedowns.

Predictably, conservative publications like Fox News decried the measures as a power grab by Big Tech and protestations came as far away from Europe, where German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – whose disdain for Donald Trump has never been a secret – called the decision to deplatform a head of state “problematic,” an opinion shared by France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Marie, who warned of a “digital oligarchy” usurping the powers of the state.

Missing in the salacious back-and-forth conversation between ideological factions and absent from the argument that they are private corporations, which have the legal authority to ban or deplatform anybody they wish, is the fact that Twitter, Facebook, and all the other major social media platforms are organs of the state to begin with, and that nothing they do falls outside of the ultimate designs of the powers they serve. 

Examples abound of how these platforms regularly engage in cyber reconnaissance missions for American and Atlanticist interests in violation of their own terms of service, such as when NATO commanders made use of coordinates provided by Twitter users in order to select missile strike targets in their war against Libya in 2011. 

 

Facebook’s recently created oversight board includes Emi Palmor, who was directly responsible for the removal of thousands of Palestinian posts from the social media giant during her tenure as Director of Israel’s Ministry of Justice. She, along with other individuals with clear sympathies to American interests, now sit on an official body tasked with emitting the last word on any disputes regarding issues of deplatforming on the global social network. 

 

Following you since 1972

In Yasha Levine’s seminal work, “Surveillance Valley,” the military origins of the Internet and the close relationship of social media companies to federal and local law enforcement are made patently clear. Since their creation, Twitter, Facebook, and other Silicon Valley behemoths have worked hand in hand with law enforcement agencies to augment their capacity for mass tracking and surveillance.

From facial recognition technologies to aggregated user post history, these platforms have been a crucial component in the development of the pervasive surveillance state we now live in. In the book’s prologue, Levine details the attempted creation of a citywide police surveillance hub in Oakland, California called the “Domain Awareness Center” (DAC), which drew intense opposition from the local citizenry and privacy advocates who were quick to undress city officials who were trying to hide the proposed center’s insidious links to the NSA, CIA and military contractors.

Among other capabilities, the control hub would be able to “plug in” social media feeds to track individuals or groups that posed any kind of threat to the establishment. While the DAC project was successfully defeated by an engaged public, similar initiatives were quickly implemented throughout law enforcement agencies across the country and continue to be perfected in order to not only track, but infiltrate political groups deemed problematic. 

 

From the early 1970s, when the Internet’s precursor ARPANET was used to spy on anti-war protestors, the vast machinery that constitutes our present-day technological ecosystem has not deviated from the original intentions of its creators and has reached a level of sophistication most of us can barely comprehend.

The seemingly innocuous ad-targeting algorithms that generate bespoke advertisements based on our surveilled lives via social media conceals a far more sinister architecture of control, which includes direct influence over people’s political opinions through micro-targeted messaging and even more insidious methods that are powerful enough to influence people’s actual behavior.

 

Amateur honeypots and the victory of the surveillance state 

One of the biggest misconceptions we have about social media is that platforms like Twitter and Facebook represent the voice of the people and that they are the new “public square” where anybody can get on and voice their opinion. While this perception holds some water on the surface, a closer examination reveals that – on the contrary – these platforms are simply propaganda tools brilliantly disguised as vox populi.

According to a Pew Research study from 2019, 80% of all tweets are created by just 10% of Twitter users. Most people who have an account on the ostensibly left-leaning social media platform rarely tweet at all. In addition, a majority of the content is created by accounts with very large followings and, in most cases, verified accounts that mainly represent established mainstream media personalities. 

 

Given that the politics espoused by this minuscule portion of the social network’s user base are amplified by the platform’s own algorithms, which have been shown to contain biases as all algorithms do, the perception that these platforms represent some kind of public opinion is revealed to be a very dangerous assumption.

A case in point is disturbingly reflected in a meme that ostensibly developed in yet another social media platform and rapidly spread on Twitter as a result of the incident on Capitol Hill. A tweet posted the day after on January 7 claimed that a woman in Washington D.C. was changing her profile preference on the Bumble dating app to “conservative” in order to entrap “insurrectionists” looking to hook up while visiting the nation’s capital by forwarding their photos to the FBI.

The tweet received hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’ and was retweeted thousands of times. The comments expressed overwhelming support for what amounts to an ostensibly spontaneous snitching operation by regular American citizens against other American citizens. In such a case, whether the meme itself is true has no bearing on the fact that Twitter, Facebook and any other platform where it was disseminated has the ultimate effect of normalizing and generating consent for the idea of self-monitoring and bringing the designs of the surveillance state full circle.

Feature photo | Ben Heine | Shutterstock

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Birth of the Digital Oligarchy: The Trump Ban and the Social Media Ruse appeared first on MintPress News.

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

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

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

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

 

Palestinian Facebook pages see 50% drop in reach

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Facebook working with Israel to suppress content

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Not just Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Social Media Giants Ban Trump, but the Real Censorship is of Palestinians appeared first on MintPress News.

In 2021 let’s do institutional academic social media better.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 7:01pm in

Chances are you dutifully follow a number of poorly managed institutional academic social media accounts, producing infrequent, unengaging and perhaps occasionally important content. In this post, Andy Tattersall, provides advice on how to approach institutional academic social media in a more productive way and makes the case for its vital role in keeping academia connected … Continued

 A Nation Imploding: Digital Tyranny, Insurrection and Martial Law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 3:18am in

“In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. [Y]ou can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization…filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort … to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love… What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”

— Robert F. Kennedy on the assassination of Martin Luther King

This is what we have been reduced to: A violent mob. A nation on the brink of martial law. A populace under house arrest. A techno-corporate state wielding its power to immobilize huge swaths of the country. And a Constitution in tatters.

We are imploding on multiple fronts, all at once.

This is what happens when ego, greed and power are allowed to take precedence over liberty, equality and justice. 

Just to be clear, however: this is not a revolution. 

This is a ticking time bomb.

There is absolutely no excuse for the violence that took place at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. 

Yet no matter which way you look at it, the fallout from this attempted coup could make this worrisome state of affairs even worse.

First, you’ve got the president, who has been accused of inciting a riot and now faces a second impeachment and a scandal that could permanently mar his legacy. While the impeachment process itself is a political beast, the question of whether President Trump incited his followers to riot is one that has even the best legal experts debating. Yet as First Amendment scholar David Hudson Jr. explains, for Trump’s rhetoric to be stripped of its free speech protections, “The speaker must intend to and actually use words that rally people to take illegal action. The danger must be imminent—not in the indefinite future. And the words must be uttered in a situation in which violence is likely to happen.” 

At a minimum, Trump’s actions and words—unstatesmanlike and reckless, by any standards—over the course of his presidency and on Jan. 6 helped cause a simmering pot to boil over.

Second, there were the so-called “patriots” who took to the streets because the jailer of their choice didn’t get chosen to knock heads for another four years. Those “Stop the Steal” protesters may have deluded themselves (or been deluded) into believing they were standing for freedom when they stormed the Capitol. However, all they really did was give the Deep State and its corporate partners a chance to pull back the curtain and reveal how little freedom we really have. There is nothing that can be said to justify the actions of those who, armed with metal pipes, chemical irritants, stun guns, and other types of weapons, assaulted and stampeded those in their path.

There are limits to what can be done in the so-called name of liberty, and this level of violence—no matter who wields it or what brand of politics or zealotry motivate them—crossed the line.

Third, you’ve got the tech giants, who meted out their own version of social justice by way of digital tyranny and corporate censorship. Yet there can be no freedom of speech if social media giants can muzzle whomever they want, whenever they want, on whatever pretext they want in the absence of any real due process, review or appeal. As Edward Snowden warned, whether it was warranted or not, the social media ban on President Trump signaled a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech. And that is exactly what is playing out as users, including those who have no ties to the Capitol riots, begin to experience lock outs, suspensions and even deletions of their social media accounts

Remember, the First Amendment is a steam valve. It allows people to peacefully air viewpoints, vent frustrations, debate and disagree, and generally work through the problems of self-governance. Without that safety mechanism in place, self-censorship increases, discontent festers, foment brews, and violence becomes the default response for resolving disputes, whether with the government or each other. At a minimum, we need more robust protections in place to protect digital expression and a formalized process for challenging digital censorship.

Unfortunately, digital censorship is just the beginning. Once you start using social media scores coupled with surveillance capitalism to determine who is worthy enough to be part of society, anything goes. In China, which has been traveling this road for years now, millions of individuals and businesses, blacklisted as “unworthy” based on social media credit scores that grade them based on whether they are “good” citizens, have been banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train.

Fourth, you’ve got the police, who normally exceed the constitutional limits restraining them from brutality, surveillance and other excesses. Only this time, despite intelligence indicating that some of the rioters were planning for mayhem, police were outnumbered and ill prepared to deal with the incursion. Investigations underway suggest that some police may even have colluded with the rioters.

 

Certainly, the lack of protocols adopted by the Capitol Police bear an unnerving resemblance to the lack of protocols in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when police who were supposed to uphold the law and prevent violence failed to do either. In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.” Incredibly, when the first signs of open violence broke out, it was reported that the police chief allegedly instructed his staff to “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”

There’s a pattern emerging if you pay close enough attention: Instead of restoring order, local police stand down. Without fail, what should be an exercise in how to peacefully disagree turns ugly the moment looting, vandalism, violence, intimidation tactics and rioting are introduced into the equation. Tensions rise, violence escalates, and federal armies move in. 

All that was missing on Jan. 6 was a declaration of martial law.

Which brings us to the fifth point, martial law. Given that the nation has been dancing around the fringes of martial law with each national crisis, it won’t take much more to push the country over the edge to a declaration and military lockdown. The rumblings of armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., will only serve to heighten tensions, double down on the government’s military response, and light a match to a powder keg state of affairs. With tens of thousands of National Guard troops and federal law enforcement personnel mobilized to lock down Washington, DC, in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots and in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration, this could be the largest military show-of-force in recent years. 

So where do we go from here?

That all of these events are coming to a head around Martin Luther King Jr. Day is telling.

More than 50 years after King was assassinated, America has become a ticking time bomb of racial unrest and injustice, police militarization, surveillance, government corruption and ineptitude, the blowback from a battlefield mindset and endless wars abroad, and a growing economic inequality between the haves and have nots.

Making matters worse, modern America has compounded the evils of racism, materialism and militarism with ignorance, intolerance and fear. 

Callousness, cruelty, meanness, immorality, ignorance, hatred, intolerance and injustice have become hallmarks of our modern age, magnified by an echo chamber of nasty tweets and government-sanctioned brutality. 

“Despite efforts to curb hate speech, eradicate bullying and extend tolerance, a culture of nastiness has metastasized in which meanness is routinely rewarded, and common decency and civility are brushed aside,” observed Teddy Wayne in a New York Times piece on “The Culture of Nastiness.” 

Every time I read a news headline or flip on the television or open up an email or glance at social media, I run headlong into people consumed with back-biting, partisan politics, sniping, toxic hate, meanness and materialism. Donald Trump is, in many ways, the embodiment of this culture of meanness. Yet as Wayne points out, “Trump is less enabler in chief than a symptom of a free-for-all environment that prizes cutting smears… Social media has normalized casual cruelty.”

Whether it’s unfriending or blocking someone on Facebook, tweeting taunts and barbs on Twitter, or merely using cyberspace to bully someone or peddle in gossip, we have become masters in the art of meanness.

This culture of meanness has come to characterize many aspects of the nation’s governmental and social policies. “Meanness today is a state of mind,” writes professor Nicolaus Mills in his book The Triumph of Meanness, “the product of a culture of spite and cruelty that has had an enormous impact on us.” 

This casual cruelty is made possible by a growing polarization within the populace that emphasizes what divides us—race, religion, economic status, sexuality, ancestry, politics, etc.—rather than what unites us: we are all human.

This is what writer Anna Quindlen refers to as “the politics of exclusion, what might be thought of as the cult of otherness… It divides the country as surely as the Mason-Dixon line once did. And it makes for mean-spirited and punitive politics and social policy.”

This is more than meanness, however.

This is the psychopathic mindset adopted by the architects of the Deep State, and it applies equally whether you’re talking about Democrats or Republicans. 

Beware, because this kind of psychopathology can spread like a virus among the populace. 

As an academic study into pathocracy concluded, “[T]yranny does not flourish because perpetuators are helpless and ignorant of their actions. It flourishes because they actively identify with those who promote vicious acts as virtuous.”

People don’t simply line up and salute. It is through one’s own personal identification with a given leader, party or social order that they become agents of good or evil. To this end, “we the people” have become “we the police state.” 

 

By failing to actively take a stand for good, we become agents of evil. It’s not the person in charge who is solely to blame for the carnage. It’s the populace that looks away from the injustice, that empowers the totalitarian regime, that welcomes the building blocks of tyranny.

This realization hit me full-force a few years ago. I had stopped into a bookstore and was struck by all of the books on Hitler, everywhere I turned. Yet had there been no Hitler, there still would have been a Nazi regime. There still would have been gas chambers and concentration camps and a Holocaust. 

Hitler wasn’t the architect of the Holocaust. He was merely the figurehead. Same goes for the American police state: had there been no Trump or Obama or Bush, there still would have been a police state. There still would have been police shootings and private prisons and endless wars and government pathocracy.

Why? Because “we the people” have paved the way for this tyranny to prevail.

By turning Hitler into a super-villain who singlehandedly terrorized the world—not so different from how Trump is often depicted—historians have given Hitler’s accomplices (the German government, the citizens that opted for security and order over liberty, the religious institutions that failed to speak out against evil, the individuals who followed orders even when it meant a death sentence for their fellow citizens) a free pass.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

None of us who remain silent and impassive in the face of evil, racism, extreme materialism, meanness, intolerance, cruelty, injustice and ignorance get a free pass.

Those among us who follow figureheads without question, who turn a blind eye to injustice and turn their backs on need, who march in lockstep with tyrants and bigots, who allow politics to trump principle, who give in to meanness and greed, and who fail to be outraged by the many wrongs being perpetrated in our midst, it is these individuals who must shoulder the blame when the darkness wins.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” Martin Luther King Jr. sermonized.

The darkness is winning.

It’s not just on the world stage we must worry about the darkness winning.

The darkness is winning in our communities. It’s winning in our homes, our neighborhoods, our churches and synagogues, and our government bodies. It’s winning in the hearts of men and women the world over who are embracing hatred over love. It’s winning in every new generation that is being raised to care only for themselves, without any sense of moral or civic duty to stand for freedom.

John F. Kennedy, killed by an assassin’s bullet five years before King would be similarly executed, spoke of a torch that had been “passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

Once again, a torch is being passed to a new generation, but this torch is setting the world on fire, burning down the foundations put in place by our ancestors, and igniting all of the ugliest sentiments in our hearts. 

This fire is not liberating; it is destroying.

We are teaching our children all the wrong things: we are teaching them to hate, teaching them to worship false idols (materialism, celebrity, technology, politics), teaching them to prize vain pursuits and superficial ideals over kindness, goodness and depth.

We are on the wrong side of the revolution.

“If we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution,” advised King, “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.

Freedom demands responsibility. 

Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or at the very least, Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr. dared to dream of a world in which all Americans “would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

He didn’t live to see that dream become a reality. It’s still not a reality. We haven’t dared to dream that dream in such a long time.

But imagine… 

Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to stand up—united—for freedom…

Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to speak out—with one voice—against injustice…

Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to push back—with the full force of our collective numbers—against the evils of government despotism.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, tyranny wouldn’t stand a chance.

Feature photo | Broken glass from last week’s confrontation with a pro-Trump mob is seen in the door to the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 12, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book Battlefield America: The War on the American People is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

The post  A Nation Imploding: Digital Tyranny, Insurrection and Martial Law appeared first on MintPress News.

Craig Kelly Appoints Himself Australia’s Minister For Science PM Does Not Dispute The Claim

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 7:00am in

The Member for Hughes Craig Kelly has taken to the Facebook to announce that he has appointed himself Australia’s Minister for Science. In the week since posting the announcement Australia’s PM, Scotty from marketing has not disputed the claim.

”The Liberal party is a broad church with many people with many different opinions,” said a Liberal party Insider. ”If Craig wants to be the Minister for Science then who are we to get in his way.”

”Besides, he’s very popular online you know.”

When asked whether this now meant that members of the Government could seemingly appoint themselves to whatever portfolio they wished, the Insider said: ”Within reason sure. I mean George Christensen is the Minister for Manilla and Craig’s got Science.”

”We do draw the line however, I mean Dutton did call shotgun on being PM after Malcolm was knifed but were not stupid.”

”I mean could you imagine going to an election with Dutton in charge, the Australian people will swallow a lot of crap but not crap with crushed up glass in it.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy some methylated spirits and leeches, Craig Kelly said it works a treat for gout.”

When asked if

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Non-MAGA Activists Caught in Social Media War as Twitter Begins Purge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 3:43am in

Few could have predicted the huge fallout from the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C. that saw the president of the United States banned from virtually every social media platform, including his favorite, Twitter. 

In solidarity with Trump, tens of thousands of conservative users appear to be deleting their accounts and moving over to pro-Trump Twitter clone Parler. Celebrities, politicians, and social media figures — particularly conservative ones — have registered losing tens of thousands of followers in a matter of hours. Twitter’s share price plunged by 7% this morning, knocking around $2.5 billion off its market value in one fell swoop. 

While the massive publicity generated would normally be positive news for Parler, which brands itself as a “free speech app,” it seems to have suffered a far worse fate than Twitter. The app was deleted by Google and Apple from their app stores over the weekend. But it was Amazon’s decision early this morning that proved a more fatal blow. The company, whose cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, hosts the app and website, decided to pull it, effective immediately. “We cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” Amazon said in a statement.

Before it was taken offline, however, activists and researchers had begun a project to download and archive vast quantities of information, totaling over 70 terabytes, including deleted posts, videos, and users’ location data. They intend to use it as evidence to find and prosecute those individuals involved in the storming of the Capitol Building last Wednesday, an action that led to Congress and the Senate being evacuated and five people dying. Those leading the action allegedly used Parler to plan and organize the events and to communicate with each other during the violence. 

The president himself encouraged the crowds to go to the building and “fight like hell” to stop what he regards as a “stolen election,” where he was the legitimate winner. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” he added. 

In response, a host of popular social media platforms, including Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat froze Trump’s accounts on the grounds that he was directly inciting violence. Discord and Reddit also banned popular Trump forums. 

 

While many who opposed the president celebrated, whistleblower and internet freedom advocate Edward Snowden warned that allowing social media companies to set a precedent where they could effectively ban whoever they want from their services set a chilling precedent. “I know a lot of folks in the comments [who] read this are like ‘YAAAAS,’ which, like — I get it. But imagine for a moment a world that exists for more than the next 13 days, and this becomes a milestone that will endure,” he wrote on Twitter.

Almost immediately, a number of non-Trump accounts began to face problems, with pro-Assange journalist Suzie Dawson locked out of her account, educational file sharing website Sci Hub’s account suspended, and the Red Scare podcast’s profile deleted. Other figures began to demand that the accounts associated with the Venezuelan and Chinese government be removed from social media platforms as well. 

 

If Parler can find a way past its massive data hack and a company to host it, it still faces a number of huge problems, including rampant racism and false information predominating its platform. There are also large numbers of fake accounts purporting to represent public figures. The company has also broken its free speech absolutism promise as well, deleting incendiary tweets from Trump-supporting lawyer Lin Wood calling for Mike Pence’s head. 

Perhaps more ominous for America, however, is a media reality where different groups of people become completely insulated from one another on the basis of political identification. Already, algorithms have split us off from others who think differently, showing wildly contrasting news and views to us based on our prior actions. However, until now, this was at least happening on the same platform, meaning there was some overlap. If, however, liberals and conservatives are using entirely different social media websites, any chance for inter party debate is lost. 

The storming of the Capitol Building on Wednesday was a prime example of what can happen when one group of Americans lives in an entirely alternative reality. Further disintegration of media will only accelerate this trend, making incidents like this more likely in the future. 

Feature photo | Shutterstock

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Non-MAGA Activists Caught in Social Media War as Twitter Begins Purge appeared first on MintPress News.

“This Will Be Remembered as a Turning Point”: Snowden Warns Against Trump Social Media Ban

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 3:56am in

NSA whistleblower and internet freedom advocate Edward Snowden has cautioned the public against celebrating President Trump’s recent social media ban. “I know a lot of folks in the comments [who] read this are like ‘YAAAAS,’ which, like — I get it. But imagine for a moment a world that exists for more than the next 13 days, and this becomes a milestone that will endure,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Both Facebook and Twitter announced they would prevent the president from using their services in the light of his incitement of the storming of the Capitol Building on Wednesday. Twitter has since reversed its decision. However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was adamant that Trump would not be allowed to use his platform. “The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power,” he announced, adding that his company,

Believe[s] the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Many were elated at the news of the decision, while still others urged big tech companies to go further. “Ban Donald Trump’s Twitter account – for good,” wrote Sarah Manavis in The New Statesman. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was of a similar opinion, stating that,

Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior — and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation’s leaders to fuel insurrection.”

Of course, senior U.S. government figures use social media all the time to incite insurrection — against enemy countries like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, or China, but these do not trigger calls for deplatforming. Indeed, many government figures (including President Maduro of Venezuela and Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran) in those countries have their accounts suspended or removed, not for incitement, but for simply existing. Last year, Facebook also announced that it would also delete any posts that presented recently-slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a positive light. 

Journalist and press freedom proponent Glenn Greenwald strongly opposed Obama’s call for social media giants to get tough on Trump, warning of the consequences of such an action. 

A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal. Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, “after yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus,” the co-founding editor of The Intercept lamented. 

The latest edition of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report notes that 63% of Americans (over 200 million people) use Facebook, and 29% use Twitter (95 million people). Both platforms have become key gateways and distributors of news around the world. Facebook in particular is by far and away the most widely used news source in the United States. And both have extensive and deepening ties to the U.S. government, relying on semi-governmental organizations to curate news feeds, deciding what sources to promote and what to de-rank, de-list or even delete.

It is doubtful that any new bans will stop at only the president, however. Indeed, after the 2016 election and the dubious accusations that Russia had taken over social media, swinging the result for Trump, big tech platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Bing changed their algorithms, supposedly to promote more trustworthy sources and demote unreliable ones. The instant effect, however, was a collapse in traffic for high-quality alternative media sites. Overnight, Consortium News’ Google traffic fell by 47%, Common Dreams’ by 37%, Democracy Now! By 36% and The Intercept by 19%. MintPress News suffered similar, unrecoverable losses. 

Late last year, it was also revealed that Facebook had intentionally choked traffic to the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones because of its political orientation, despite personal assurances to its bosses that it was doing no such thing. Partially as a result, conservatives and the far-right dominate Facebook, with figures like Ben Shapiro amassing fortunes and massive followings, despite his well-known and well-documented constant violation of the platform’s terms of service. Perhaps his personal relationship with Zuckerberg, who reportedly enjoys listening and debating with him, helps. In contrast, anti-war voices are constantly throttled far more aggressively than even Mother Jones, if not banned outright. 

Big tech representatives have argued that they cannot hold the right to the same hate-speech standards as the left, because, as one Twitter employee told Motherboard, many Republican politicians would immediately have to be banned for spreading white supremacist hate. “Content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda,” he reportedly said. 

In 2013, Snowden was employed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton but became increasingly disillusioned with his job after trying to report to management his grave concerns about what the NSA was doing. He took the decision to blow the whistle on the NSA’s enormous spying operation, collecting data on virtually every U.S. citizen while eavesdropping on foreign leaders. Greenwald published his revelations in The Guardian. Since then, Snowden has been trapped in Russia, unable to return to his country of birth for fear of meeting a similar fate to incarcerated whistleblowers Chelsea Manning or Reality Winner. There had been growing calls from both left and right for President Trump to pardon him. However, Trump instead decided to continue his tradition of pardoning military members convicted of gross war crimes.

“For better or worse, this [Trump’s social media ban] will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech,” Snowden warned

Feature photo | Donald Trump meets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sept. 19, 2019, in the Oval Office. Joyce N. Boghosian | White House

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post “This Will Be Remembered as a Turning Point”: Snowden Warns Against Trump Social Media Ban appeared first on MintPress News.

New Workshop Series To Bring More Philosophy to Philosophy Twitter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2021 - 1:50am in

The “Cogtweeto Philosophy Workshop Series” aims to bring together philosophers who are active on Twitter (a growing group—see below) to discuss their philosophical work in contexts more suitable for doing so than Twitter.

The series will take place on Saturdays, once every six to eight weeks, over Zoom. In the first, taking place on January 30th, “Philosophy Twitter will teach us about a philosopher or philosophical tradition that most of us (probably) don’t know—but should.” It will have three different kinds of sessions. The first is similar to a traditional brief conference talk with a commentator, the second is an informal hour-long “coffee hour” talk about a work in progress or idea in development, and the third is an hour long lecture presentation followed by discussion.

The workshop series is organized by Jennifer Foster (@philoso_foster), a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Southern California, and Cassie Finley (@Angry_Cassie), a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Iowa.

I asked them about the motivation for the workshop and how the idea developed. They wrote:

Twitter has become a thriving community for philosophers to interact and get to know one another, but it’s been largely limited to social interaction. Scholarship is more or less limited to the occasional link to a published paper, as opposed to more serious engagement. Jen Foster had the idea to host a Twitter philosophy conference so we could expand the scope of the Twitter-philosophy community’s interaction to incorporate more scholarly activity. Part of the motivation is to expand access to conferences to philosophers who, for myriad reasons, do not have easy access to philosophy conferences, to help graduate students get experience in a low-pressure conference environment, and to encourage philosophers who already know one another to engage not just socially but philosophically with one another’s work.

Cassie Finley volunteered to help Jen with the organization, at which point it became apparent that a workshop series with multiple styles of presentations would better facilitate those ends than a traditional or workshop-style conference. We opted for a series of workshops, held on a Saturday every 6-8 weeks, each surrounding a particular theme, with three different talks per workshop.

The sessions will be hosted over Zoom. Because these are intended to be opportunities to practice in a lower-pressure environment than the usual academic conference, we’ve decided not to record the sessions. Part of the reason for this is that recording can add an additional layer of stress which may discourage individuals from sharing their ideas in the questioning periods, and it may discourage others from submitting to present in the first place. Similarly, because we want this to support students and early-career scholars, having a recorded presentation on the internet for all to see raises the stakes and could have further reach than the more comfortable, discussion-based environment we want to promote.

We also realized that for many people, and for many different reasons, traditional conferences can be inaccessible—but philosophy can, and should, be done in so many other spaces. For instance, even in the traditional conference setting, often some of the best conversations are had after APA talks because someone saw another’s talk and is able to speak with them afterwards in a more comfortable, social setting. The built-in social dimension of Twitter allows for that social interaction; but without a venue of some kind to present work to one another, philosophers on Twitter seems to be missing out on the opportunity to interact with one another’s work.

Our hope is that this workshop series can be a platform for expanding networking and feedback opportunities for those who may not have access or experience doing so. That being said, Cogtweeto workshop attendance is not limited to those who are already on Twitter. We built the conference around Twitter because there is already lively engagement between philosophers in a social setting, so building from that seemed pretty natural. As it stands, because we want the close integration of social interaction and philosophical engagement, we’ve decided to limit submissions to those who are on Twitter.

Philosophy Twitter has seen an acceleration in growth over the past two years, according to Kelly Truelove (@TrueSciPhi), who, among other things, tracks Twitter- information related to philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians at his site, TrueSciPhi. He recently noted that there are now more accounts with over 10,000 followers than there were accounts with over 1,000 followers when he began tracking this information in 2013:

You can see Dr. Truelove’s list, Philosophers on Twitter, here.

For those interested, Ms. Foster and Ms. Finley provided some additional information about the types of sessions:

The first talk is a traditional ‘APA-style’ talk, which requires a 3,500-word paper submission and will include a commentary on the paper. This session is intended for graduate and advanced undergraduate students, post-grads, independent scholars, and early career faculty. Our hope is for attendees to see what an APA-style talk is like, since many undergraduates and graduates have not had, and potentially do not have, the opportunity to attend the APA, while also giving the presenter an opportunity to practice giving that form of talk with a commentator and audience, as that setting is not easily experienced otherwise. The second talk, the ‘coffee hour’ talk, is more workshop-style; as we describe it on the website, we hope that it is more like a conversation among participants about a paper in progress than a traditional-style “talk.” Grad students, adjuncts, early career faculty, and independent scholars are encouraged to submit to this session as it’s more geared towards workshopping the early stages of an idea and getting feedback from others. The last ‘colloquium’ talk is geared primarily towards late-stage graduate students, post-docs, and adjuncts, as it’s intended to be a practice opportunity for an hour-long job talk. Many grad students enter the academic job market with little-to-no experience preparing for, let alone actually giving, such a long presentation. There are also few opportunities in grad school to practice fielding an hour-long Q&A. While this will be the most formal of the three talks, we hope that it still feels fun and “low-stakes.”

The deadline for submissions for the first workshop is January 10th. You can learn more about it here.

Related: Visualization of Philosophers’ Twitter Networks. Daily Nous/Justin Weinberg on Twitter.

The post New Workshop Series To Bring More Philosophy to Philosophy Twitter appeared first on Daily Nous.

Son Fears Christmas Card Not Really Written By Parents’ Cat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 10:16am in

tabby cat

A shire man suspects that a Christmas present and card that he received today from his mum and dad’s cat may not actually have been bought, wrapped up and written by the pet.

“Mittens is a pretty smart cat, like he can open the back door by himself, but I just think that the whole process of going to the shops and buying me a gift and choosing a card is beyond his capabilities,” said Bangor accountant Craig Bypass. “I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even in the room when I mentioned how much I’d like a Garfield calendar.”

While unable to obtain an example of Mittens’s handwriting for comparison purposes, the writing on the card did contain several similarities to the writing on a note that Craig’s mother left telling him that she and his dad were going to be home late and that his dinner was in the oven.

“It’s always possible that Mittens might have dictated the thoughts he wished to express in the card to my mum,” said Bypass as he examined a tabby coloured hair that was stuck to a piece of sticky tape used in the wrapping. “He thanked me for all the pats and cuddles which I’d given him over the past year, which is exactly the kind of sentiment I’d expect him to convey.”

Bypass is now considering asking the family budgie Tweety if he wants to go halves in a present for his dad for next Fathers Day.

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Scotty From Marketing Tells The Team To Tag Xi Jinping In His Next Daggy Dad Facebook Post

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 8:23am in

Australia’s Prime Minister Scotty from marketing has told his 1,000 plus media team to tag in Chinese’s General Secretary Xi Jinping in his next daggy Dad photoshoot post in an effort to bring calm between the two nations.

“Scotty really knows how to sell a message so I have no doubt that this idea will work,” said a Government Insider. ”I mean what harm can tagging Xi Jinping into 150 photos of the PM building a cubby really do?”

“Are they going to put a tariff on Facebook shit posting?”

When asked why the PM sought to engage China publicly rather than through diplomatic channels, the Government Insider said: ”It’s hard to engage with someone when they don’t answer the phone.”

”Besides, this isn’t about China it’s about the PM seeming strong to those that really matter, the Australian voters.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, the PM has called an emergency cabinet meeting at Engadine Maccas.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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