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Elon Musk, Twitter, and the History of Media Oligarchs 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 9:58pm in

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In this episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki discuss Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter. Here are some links and references...

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Leave, Adapt, Resist – Time to rethink Academic Twitter?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 8:00pm in

As Twitter moves to become a private company owned by the billionaire Elon Musk, Mark Carrigan, reflects on the increasing importance academic social media and academic twitter has secured in universities for building academic communities and for public engagement and impact. Assessing what the acquisition might mean in terms of relations on the platform, he argues … Continued

Cartoon: The absolutist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/05/2022 - 10:00pm in

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As always, if you enjoy this work, please consider helping me keep it sustainable by joining my weekly newsletter, Sparky’s List!

Alternative social media open thread

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/05/2022 - 6:46pm in

Following Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, some progressive/left-leaning people have left, or are considering to leave. I haven’t left. So far Twitter has been very useful for me for (1) political activism, especially regarding Higher Education policies in my own country; (2) as a source of information – it’s partly a supplement to newspapers and other traditional media; (3) exchanging information with others, worldwide; (4) some debate and exchange of arguments, which sadly is probably part of the reason the blogosphere has been in decline over the last decade. Hence, there are still reasons not to leave, but obviously I am waiting to see how Twitter under Musk-rule will change.

Nevertheless, it’s high time to start looking seriously into the alternatives; this might make it easier/less costly to leave if we ever judge we have to. I’m at square zero concerning Twitter-alternatives, and surely I’m not the only one. Hence my question: what are your experiences on other social media platforms, and do you have any advice to offer to those considering to move to another place?

Palmer Puts In 45 Billion Dollar Bid For Myspace

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 8:01am in

Australia’s most annoying billionaire Clive ‘National Treasure’ Palmer has taken a break from spamming the country to announce that he has bid 45 billion dollars to buy antiquated social media site Myspace.

”Who says you can’t buy friends?” Asked Mr Palmer. ”I mean once I own Myspace I will have all the friends in the World,including that Tom bloke.”

”Politicians will do my bidding in an effort to make my top 8 friends list.”

When asked if this is a real thing or just another pie in the sky scheme like Titanic 2 or his many, many impossible election promises, Mr Palmer said: ”Titanic 2 is real and will be delivered at some stage in the next one or two hundred years.”

”As for Myspace, I shall be holding meetings and releasing press releases later this week.”

”Unless of course I think of something else more interesting to do before then.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I saw a dog down the road with a puffy tail, I might chase it, here puff, puff.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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

We’re also on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theunoz

The (un)Australian Live At The Newsagency Recorded live, to purchase click here:

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Doctor Who: Did Elon Musk Just Spoil Russell T Davies' Daleks Plan?!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 7:21am in

No, Elon Musk didn't spoil anything about Russell T. Davies' Doctor Who plans in any way... but it looks like he IS creating his own Daleks.

Billionaires Only Come To The Rescue In Movies And Comic Books

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

Listen to a reading of this article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Chris Hedges: American Commissars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/04/2022 - 4:14am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The ruling class, made up of the traditional elites that run the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, is employing draconian forms of censorship on its right-wing and left-wing critics in a desperate effort to cling to power. The traditional elites were discredited for pushing through a series of corporate assaults on workers, from deindustrialization to trade deals. They were unable to stem rising inflation, the looming economic crisis and the ecological emergency. They were incapable of carrying out significant social and political reform to ameliorate widespread suffering and refused to accept responsibility for two decades of military fiascos in the Middle East. And now they have launched a new and sophisticated McCarthyism. Character assassination. Algorithms. Shadowbanning. De-platforming.

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. The problem of Donald Trump is solved by censoring Donald Trump. The problem of left-wing critics, such as myself, is solved by censoring us. The result is a world of make-believe.

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. It called out the Democratic Party for its subservience to corporate power. It excoriated the crimes of the apartheid state of Israel. It covered Julian Assange in numerous episodes. It gave a voice to military critics, many of them combat veterans, who condemned US war crimes.

It no longer matters how prominent you are or how big a following you have. If you challenge power, you are at risk of being censored. Former British MP George Galloway detailed a similar experience during an April 15 panel organized by Consortium News in which I took part:

I have been threatened with travel restrictions were I to continue the television broadcast I had been doing for almost an entire decade. I have been stamped by the false label ‘Russian State Media,’ which I never had, by the way, when I was presenting a show on Russian state media. It was only given after I ceased to have a show on Russian state media, ceased because the government made it a crime for me to do so.

My 417,000 Twitter followers had been gaining a thousand a day, going like a runaway train, then suddenly it hit the buffers when the Elon Musk story emerged. I expressed the view that oligarch that he no doubt is, I prefer Elon Musk to the kings of Saudi Arabia, who it turns out are presently major shareholders in the Twitter company. As soon as I joined that fight, my numbers literally crashed to a halt, with shadow bans and all the rest of it…

All of this is happening before the consequences of the economic crash brought about by western policy and our misnamed leaders has really hit yet. When economies begin to not just slow down, not just hiccup, not just experience levels of inflation not seen for years, or decades, but becomes a crash, as well it might, there will be even more for the state to suppress, especially any alternative analysis as to how we got here and what we must do to get out of it.”

Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq and Marine Corp intelligence officer, called out the lie about weapons of mass destruction prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Recently, he was banned from Twitter for offering a counter-narrative about dozens of killings in the Kyiv western suburb of Bucha. Many of the victims in Bucha were found with gunshot wounds to the head and with their hands tied behind their back. International observers and eyewitnesses have blamed Russia for the killings. Ritter’s alternative analysis, right or wrong, saw him silenced.

Ritter lamented the Twitter ban at the forum:

It took me three years to get 4,000 followers on Twitter. I thought that was a big deal. Then this Ukraine thing comes up. It exploded. When I got suspended for the first time for questioning the narrative in Bucha my account had just gotten over 14,000. By the time my suspension was lifted I was up to 60,000. By the time they suspended me again I was close to 100,000. It was out of control, which is why I am convinced the algorithm said: You must delete. You must delete. And they did. The excuse they gave was absurd. I was abusive and I was harassing by telling what I thought was the truth.

I don’t have the same insight in the Ukraine I had in Iraq. Iraq, I was on the ground doing the job. But the techniques of observation and evaluation that you are trained as an intelligence officer to apply to any given set apply to Ukraine today. Simply looking at the available data set, you cannot help but draw the conclusion that it was Ukrainian national police, mainly because you have all the elements. You have motive. They don’t like Russian collaborators. How do I know? They said so on their website. You have the commander of the national police ordering his people to shoot people in Bucha on the day in question. You have the evidence. The dead bodies on the street with white armbands carrying Russian food packets. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. Could there be data out there I am not aware of? Absolutely. But it is not there. As an intelligence officer I take the available data. I access the available data. I provide assessments based on that available data. And Twitter found that objectionable.”

Two pivotal incidents contributed to this censorship. The first was the publication of classified documents by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The second was the election of Donald Trump. The ruling class was unprepared. The exposure of their war crimes, corruption, callous indifference to the plight of those they ruled, and extreme concentration of wealth shredded their credibility. The election of Trump, which they did not expect, made them afraid they would be supplanted. The Republican Party establishment and the Democratic Party establishment joined forces to demand greater and greater censorship from social media.

Even marginal critics suddenly became dangerous. They had to be silenced. Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2016, lost about half her social media following after mysteriously going offline for 12 hours during the campaign. The discredited Steele dossier, paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign, charged Stein, along with Trump, with being a Russian asset. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent three years investigating Stein, issuing five different reports before exonerating her.

Stein spoke of the threat to freedom of speech during the forum:

We are in an incredibly perilous moment.It’s not only freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but it is really democracy in all its dimensions that is under threat. There are all these draconian laws now against protest. There are 36 that have been passed that are as bad as a 10-year prison sentence for demonstrating on a sidewalk without a permit. They differ state by state. You need to know the laws in your state if you protest. Drivers have been given license to kill you if you are out in the street in some states as part of a protest.

The first indication that we were not only being marginalized – one accepts that if you defy established power and practice independent journalism, you will be marginalized – but censored came in November 2016. Craig Timberg, a technology reporter for the Washington Post, published a story headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”  It referred to some 200 websites, including Truthdig where I wrote a weekly column, as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”

Unnamed analysts, described as “a collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” from the anonymous “organization” PropOrNot, made the charges in the story. PropOrNot’s report drew up “the list” of 200 offending sites that included WikiLeaks, Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Naked Capitalism, Counterpunch, AntiWar.com, LewRockwell.com and the Ron Paul Institute. All these sites, they said, either wittingly or unwittingly functioned as Russian assets. No evidence was offered for the charges, since of course there was none. The only common denominator was that all were critics of the Democratic Party leadership.

When we challenged the story, PropOrNot tweeted out: “Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject – they’re so vewwy angwy!!”

We were blacklisted by anonymous trolls who sent out Twitter messages, later deleted, that sounded as if they were written by a gamer living in his parent’s basement.

Timberg did not contact any of us beforehand. He and the paper refused to reveal the identity of those behind PropOrNot. I taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. If one of my students had turned in Timberg’s story as a class assignment, he or she would have failed.

The established elites desperately needed a narrative to explain the defeat of Hillary Clinton and their own growing unpopularity. Russia fit. Fake news stories, they said, had been planted by Russians in social media to elect Trump. All critics, on the left and the right, became Russian Assets. Then the  fun began.

The outliers many of us find repugnant began to disappear. In 2018, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify deleted  the podcasts, pages and channels of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars website from their platforms. The precedent was set. Once they could do it to Jones, they could do it to anyone.

Twitter, Google, Facebook and Youtube used the charge of foreign influence to start employing algorithms and shadow banning to silence critics. Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal Al Saud, chair of the  Kingdom Holding Company, which dismissed Elon Musk’s recent offer to buy the social media platform, has a large stake in Twitter. It is hard to find a more despotic regime than Saudi Arabia, or one more hostile to the press, but I digress.

Sites that once attracted tens or hundreds of thousands of followers suddenly saw their numbers nosedive. Google’s “Project Owl,” designed to eradicate “fake news,” employed “algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content” and downgrade “offensive” material. Traffic fell for sites such as Alternet by 63%, Democracy Now by 36 %, Common Dreams by 37 %, Truthout by 25 %, The Intercept by 19% and Counterpunch by 21%. The World Socialist Web site saw its traffic fall by two-thirds. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were all but erased. Mother Jones editors in 2019 wrote that they suffered a sharp decline in its Facebook audience, which translated to an estimated loss of $600,000 over 18 months.

The IT people at Truthdig, where I had a weekly column at the time, found that impressions – specific words such as “imperialism” typed into Google that bring up recent stories including mine – now did not include my stories. Referrals to the site from impressions for my stories fell from over 700,000 to below 200,000 in a 12-month period.

But pushing us to the sidelines was not enough, especially with Democrats’ looming loss of Congress in the midterm elections and Joe Biden’s abysmal poll numbers. Now we must be erased. Dozens of lesser-known sites, writers and videographers are disappearing. Facebook, for example, removed a “No Unite The Right 2-DC” event connected to a page called “Resisters,” appearing to advertise a counter-rally on the anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Paul Jay, who runs a site called The Analysis, ran a video essay on February 7, 2021 called, “A Failed Coup Inside a Failed Coup.” YouTube banned the piece, saying it was “content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of the U.S presidential election is not allowed on YouTube.” Tulsi Gabbard, after posting on March 13 that the US funded bio labs in Ukraine and blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Biden’s foreign policy, said she was shadowbanned on Twitter. The “Russians with Attitude” podcast account was suspended on Twitter. It covered the information war in Ukraine and “cried foul” on the Ghost of Kiev. Social media platforms have been especially harsh on those questioning Covid policy, blocking websites and forcing users, social media platforms, or online outlets to delete posts.

These sites make billions of dollars by selling our personal information to corporations, advertising agencies and political public relations firms. They know everything about us. We know nothing about them. They cater to our proclivities, fears, habits and prejudices. And they will silence our voices if we do not conform.

Censorship will not halt America’s march towards Christian fascism. Weimar Germany attempted to thwart Nazi fascism by enforcing rigorous hate-speech laws. In the 1920s, it banned the Nazi party. Nazi leaders, including Joseph Goebbels, were prosecuted for hate speech. Julius Streicher, who ran the virulently anti-Semitic tabloid The Stormer (Der Stürmer), was fired from his teaching post, repeatedly fined and had his newspapers confiscated. He was taken to court numerous times for libel and served a series of jail sentences.

But like those serving sentences for the assault on the Capitol on January 6, or like Trump, the persecution of Nazi leaders only enhanced their stature the longer the German ruling class failed to address the economic and social misery.

There are many similarities to the 1930s, including the power of predatory international banks to consolidate wealth into the hands of a few oligarchs and impose punishing austerity measures on the global working class.

“More than anything else, the Nazis were a nationalist protest movement against globalization,” notes Benjamin Carter Hett in “The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and The Downfall of the Weimar Republic.”

Shutting down critics in a decayed and corrupt society is equivalent to turning off the oxygen on a seriously ill patient. It hastens mortality rather than delaying or preventing it. The convergence of a looming economic crisis, fear by a bankrupt ruling class that they will soon be banished from power, the growing ecological catastrophe and the inability to thwart self-destructive military adventurism against Russia and China, have set the stage for an American implosion.

Those of us who see it coming, and who desperately seek to prevent it, have become the enemy.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: American Commissars appeared first on MintPress News.

Twitter IS “State-Affiliated Media”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/04/2022 - 9:54pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/ac3177488009294945e3481a52e886b8/href

British politician and broadcaster George Galloway has made headlines in the UK with his threat to press legal action against Twitter for designating his account “Russia state-affiliated media”, a label which will now show up under his name every time he posts anything on the platform.

“Dear @TwitterSupport I am not ‘Russian State Affiliated media’,” reads a viral tweet by Galloway. “I work for NO Russian media. I have 400,000 followers. I’m the leader of a British political party and spent nearly 30 years in the British parliament. If you do not remove this designation I will take legal action.”

Galloway argues that while his broadcasts have previously been aired by Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik, because those outlets have been shut down in the UK by Ofcom and by European Union sanctions he can no longer be platformed by them even if he wants to. If you accept this argument, then it looks like Twitter is essentially using the “state-affiliated media” designation as a marker of who Galloway is as a person, rather than as a marker of what he actually does.

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Regardless of whether you agree with Galloway’s argument or not, this all overlooks the innate absurdity of a government-tied social media corporation like Twitter labeling other people “state-affiliated media”. Twitter is state-affiliated media. It has been working in steadily increasing intimacy with the United States government since the US empire began pressuring Silicon Valley platforms to regulate content in support of establishment power structures following the 2016 election.

In 2020 Twitter was one of the many Silicon Valley corporations who coordinated directly with US government agencies to determine what content should be censored in order to “secure” the presidential election. In 2021 Twitter announced that it was orchestrating mass purges of foreign accounts on the advice of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which receives funding from many government institutions including the US State Department.

“ASPI is the propaganda arm of the CIA and the U.S. government,” veteran Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh told Mintpress News earlier this year. “It is a mouthpiece for the Americans. It is funded by the American government and American arms manufacturers. Why it is allowed to sit at the center of the Australian government when it has so much foreign funding, I don’t know. If it were funded by anybody else, it would not be where it is at.”

Twitter has also coordinated its mass purges of accounts with a cybersecurity firm called FireEye, which this 2019 Sputnik article by journalist Morgan Artyukhina explains was “founded in 2004 with money from the CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel.”

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It has been an established pattern for years that whenever Twitter reports that it has purged thousands of accounts which it suspects of inauthentic behavior on behalf of foreign governments, you know it’s never going to be accounts from US-aligned countries like the UK, Israel or Australia, but consistently from US-targeted nations like Russia, China, Venezuela or Iran. You can choose to believe that’s because the US only aligns with saintly governments who would never dream of engaging in unethical online behavior, but that would be an infantile position which defies all known evidence.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Twitter has been aggressively boosting US narratives about the war by frequently showing users a Twitter Topic without their having subscribed to it which is full of imperial spinmeisters, including The Kyiv Independent with all its shady CIA-affiliated origins.

Twitter also promotes US narratives about the war by keeping a “War in Ukraine” section perpetually on the right-hand side of the screen for desktop users, which runs stories that are wildly biased toward the US/NATO/Ukraine alliance. There was a full day last month where any time I checked Twitter on my laptop I was informed that “Russia continues to strike civilian targets in Kyiv and across Ukraine.” The claim that Russia had been “targeting” civilians during that time was dismissed as nonsense shortly thereafter by US military experts speaking to Newsweek.

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When the invasion began Twitter also started actively minimizing the number of people who see Russian media content, saying that it is “reducing the content’s visibility” and “taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content on Twitter”. It also began placing warning labels on all Russia-backed media and delivering a pop-up message informing you that you are committing wrongthink if you try to share or even ‘like’ a post linking to such outlets on the platform.

Twitter also began placing the label “Russia state-affiliated media” on every tweet made by the personal accounts of employees of Russian media platforms, baselessly giving the impression that the dissident opinions tweeted by those accounts are paid Kremlin content and not simply their own legitimate perspectives. This labeling has led to complaints of online harassment as propaganda-addled dupes seek out targets to act out their media-instilled hatred of all things Russian.

As more and more people find themselves branded with the “Russia state-affiliated media” label, Twitter has concurrently announced that it will be hiding the visibility of any account that wears it, announcing on Tuesday that the platform “will not amplify or recommend government accounts belonging to states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict.” Which is a bit rich, considering the fact that the US does both of those things.

“This means these accounts won’t be amplified or recommended to people on Twitter, including across the Home Timeline, Explore, Search, and other places on the service. We will first apply this policy to government accounts belonging to Russia,” Twitter said.

This diminished visibility has been verified by people who’ve been slapped with the “Russia state-affiliated media” label. So you can understand why imperial narrative managers whose job is to quash dissent want that designation applied to as many critics of the US empire as possible.

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If you are curious why the “state-affiliated media” label has not been applied to Twitter accounts associated with government-funded outlets of the US and its allies like NPR and the BBC, it’s because Twitter has explicitly created a loophole to exclude those outlets from such a designation.

“State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy,” Twitter’s rules say.

Which is of course an absurd and arbitrary distinction. Whether you like George Galloway or not, I think anyone who’s familiar with his personality would agree that if anyone ever tried to take away his editorial independence and tell him what he is or isn’t permitted to say, it would take an entire team of surgeons to remove Galloway’s footwear from their personal anatomy. Many people who’ve worked with Russian media have said they’ve never been told what to say, and Galloway is surely one of them.

The audacity of a social media company which works hand-in-glove with the most powerful government on earth to go around branding people “state-affiliated media” is appalling. Twitter is state-affiliated media. It is an instrument of imperial narrative control, just like all the other billionaire Silicon Valley megacorporations of immense influence. Putin could only dream of having state media that effective.

_____________________

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