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Tag Archives: Censorship


Facebook Wiped A Conservative Wisconsin News Page After Wrongfully Censoring It For Months

‘Every American should be deeply concerned by the fact that a few unaccountable big tech companies are controlling the free flow of information.’

By Jordan BoydThe Federalist

Facebook
PEXELS

Facebook obliterated an award-winning conservative Wisconsin news page and cut off thousands of its followers without warning this week after wrongfully censoring it for months.

The Silicon Valley giant censored Wisconsin Right Now after the popular news site posted a story from The Australian to its Facebook feed that compared a picture of the infamous “Falling Man” from 9/11 to the horrific footage of Afghans falling from planes following President Joe Biden’s disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.https://fd234f0003ecc424d4282e89fd3ef1ef.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Facebook quickly hid the post and slapped it with a community standards violation for “content related to suicide or self-injury.”

WRN appealed the violation, noting that the article did not advocate for self-harm, and Facebook reversed its decision but still unpublished WRN’s page.

A message from Facebook claimed that WRN “violates Facebook Pages terms” but did not specify why. The Big Tech company claimed that WRN could appeal if the unpublishing seemed to be a mistake but the link given by Facebook’s support team is broken.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

“Every American should be deeply concerned by the fact that a few unaccountable big tech companies are controlling the free flow of information in our democracy, and that the decisions they make are often arbitrary and unfair,” Jim Piwowarczyk, WRN owner and contributor, told The Federalist. “What has happened to us is a very troubling example of this, and we call on Facebook to reverse its decision.”

Even before Facebook nuked WRN’s main page, the social media company restricted the page’s ability to invite new followers to “like” the page and live-stream videos for simply reporting the news.

Even though WRN won numerous awards for its airtight coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Facebook limited the news site’s ability to share articles about the young gunman.

“We led coverage on this case, going to the scene, interviewing witnesses a half-hour after it happened, uncovering missing ballistics evidence mentioned during the trial, and more,” Piwowarczyk explained.

Facebook still suppressed WRN’s coverage even after the media company published an analysis stating the firearm charge against Rittenhouse wouldn’t stand under Wisconsin gun laws, something the judge presiding over the case publicly ruled one day later.

“Facebook then did not remove the violations when Rittenhouse was acquitted,” Piwowarczyk said.

Facebook also enlisted the help of its fake “fact-checkers” to censor reposts about Hillary Clinton’s role in promoting the Russian collusion hoax and a meme about Rittenhouse playing video games with his judge.

“We have reported many stories the mainstream media will not, and it is highly questionable and troubling that Facebook would seek to prevent Wisconsin voters in a key battleground state (where Facebook-traced money was involved in elections) from learning all sides of the equation in the political debate and other news stories, especially as the midterm elections loom,” Piwowarczyk said.


If Congress Doesn’t Rein In Big Tech, Censors Will Eliminate The Right From Public Discourse

This week Twitter revealed it will not tolerate dissent from trans ideology. But that will be just the beginning.

By John Daniel DavidsonThe Federalist

Rachel Levine
GOVERNOR TOM WOLF

Something both convoluted and disturbing happened on Twitter this week that illustrates why it’s not enough for lawmakers in Washington to haul Big Tech executives before congressional committees every now and then and give them a good talking to.

Congress actually has to do something about this. Regulating social media giants like Twitter and Facebook as common carriers, prohibiting them from censoring under the absurd pretext that speech they don’t like is “harmful” or “abusive,” would be a good place to start. If that doesn’t happen, Twitter will eventually ban every conservative voice and every media outlet that dares to challenge left-wing pieties about race, gender, and a host of other issues.

Here’s what happened. On Wednesday evening, around the time Twitter began censoring Federalist articles by appending a warning they “may be unsafe” and their contents could be “violent or misleading,” I got a notice from Twitter support letting me know that someone had complained about a tweet of mine noting that Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, is a man.

As a result, my tweet would be banned, but only in Germany, where, according to Twitter’s explanation of what it calls, “country withheld content,” an “authorized entity” issued a “valid legal demand” to block my tweet. 

I had written the tweet in response to news this week that Twitter locked the account of Charlie Kirk for saying Levine is a man. Banning Kirk made no sense, I wrote, because Levine “is obviously a man — a man who dresses like a woman, but a man nonetheless.”

To be clear, Levine is a 64-year-old man who spent the first 54 years of his life “presenting” or living publicly as a man. He was married and fathered two children. In 2011, he decided to “transition” and began dressing and presenting as a woman, changing his name to Rachel Levine (previously, he went by Richard, his given name). He divorced his wife of 25 years in 2013.

Levine is and will always be a man. His story is a sad one, and far from mocking or berating him, conservatives should pray for him and hope that he gets the help he obviously needs.

But none of this is really about Levine. It’s about Twitter. Twitter locked Kirk’s account after it locked the account of The Babylon Bee earlier this week for posting an article headlined, “The Babylon Bee’s Man of the Year is Rachel Levine,” riffing on an actual USA Today piece naming Levine as one of its 2022 women of the year, despite the fact that Levine is a man.

After Twitter locked out the Bee, which is a satirical publication, its Editor in Chief Kyle Mann tweeted, “Maybe they’ll let us back into our @TheBabylonBee Twitter account if we throw a few thousand Uighurs in a concentration camp,” which prompted Twitter to lock Mann’s account for “hatful conduct.” Later, the Bee’s founder Adam Ford was locked out of Twitter for retweeting Mann. 

While all this was going on, articles at The Federalist suddenly started getting blocked by Twitter. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the handful of articles that were blocked, but it started with an article by Libby Emmons published Wednesday morning entitled, “Everybody Knows Rachel Levine Is Truly A Man, Including Rachel Levine.”

When my colleague Tristan Justice asked Twitter about it, a spokesperson told him, “the URLs referenced were mistakenly marked under our unsafe links policy — this action has been reversed.” Nothing to see here, it was all just a big mistake! 

But we all know it wasn’t. It was no more a mistake than my tweet getting flagged in Germany, of all places, or Kirk and Mann and Ford and the Bee all getting locked out of their accounts. This kind of behavior from social media companies has become all too common for anyone to believe that getting locked out of your account or getting an article taken down is ever a mistake, and certainly not when the tweet or article in question is asserting the plain truth that a man does not become a woman simply by growing his hair out and putting on a skirt. When you’re account is locked over that, it’s on purpose, and the point is to shut you up.

And it’s not just Twitter. This week, YouTube removed a bunch of videos from the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, including a speech by J.D. Vance and a panel discussion with Federalist CEO Sean Davis, Rachel Bovard, and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. — a panel discussion that happened to be about the harms of Big Tech and how federal law protects them from liability.

It’s obvious that these firms will eventually silence everyone who dissents from their woke ideology. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. If you say that Rachel Levine is a man, or that Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer who just won an NCAA Division I national championship, is a man, they will come after you. It doesn’t matter that Levine and Thomas are in fact men. Truth is no defense against censorship by Big Tech.

So until Congress — under what would have to be a Republican majority, given Democrats’ enthusiasm for online censorship — acts to put an end to this, it will continue. And the list of things you can’t say will grow. Before long, you won’t be able to say, for example, that abortion is the taking of a human life, that gay marriage is not the same as marriage between a man and a woman, or that children should not be taught that America is systemically racist.

In such an environment, the only way to ensure the censors don’t come after you is to follow the extraordinary example of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was asked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on Tuesday during the confirmation hearing to define the word “woman.” Jackson replied, infamously, “I’m not a biologist.”


Babylon Bee Censorship Shows Why Fifth Circuit Should Uphold Texas’ Social Media Law

By Clare MorellThe Federalist

twitter

Earlier this week, Twitter locked the account of The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning parody site, after it awarded Rachel Levine, a transgender Biden administration official, the title of “man of the year” in reaction to USA Today naming Levine one of its “women of the year” last week. This is just the most recent example in a long train of Big Tech censorship actions.

Taking a stand against Big Tech censorship, the state of Texas passed an anti-discrimination social media law (HB 20) last September. It seeks to limit Big Tech companies’ power to silence viewpoints they don’t like.

The law does so by prohibiting social media platforms with more than 50 million active monthly users in the United States from censoring users or their expressions based on the viewpoint expressed. Along with explicitly prohibiting viewpoint discrimination by social-media companies, the law enables censored users to seek declaratory and injunctive relief in court.

Texas’ law was cause for hope for many nationwide who want the giant social media platforms to be held accountable for their suppression of free speech. Unfortunately, Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, in early December enjoined the Texas non-discrimination social media law from going into effect.

But those who want a fair and democratic public discourse need not despair yet. That lower court decision was appealed, and soon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments on this appeal.

A wide range of distinguished amici have argued to the court that it should uphold the Texas statute and thereby protect Americans from censorship. The briefs include a profound story by David Mamet, an eminent doctor’s account of how even privatized suppression threatens science, and an exploration of the thought of John Stuart Mill by Columbia students against censorship.

Texas’ Law Doesn’t Intrude on Free Speech

What may need more explanation here is why the protection against tech censorship does not intrude on the tech company’s own free speech. As argued in an amicus brief filed by the Center for Renewing America and the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, there are good First Amendment reasons for upholding the Texas law and reversing Judge Pitman’s flawed and biased order.

First, the appellate court should correctly recognize that the First Amendment applies differently to speakers than to those who host or transmit speech. While the government forcing a person or group to speak a particular message raises First Amendment concerns, regulating the terms under which entities host or transmit others’ speech complies with the Constitution.

For instance, for centuries courts have required common carriers, industries that play a central role in economic, social, and political life, such as telephones, utilities, and airlines, to treat customers without discrimination. The numerous legal requirements have never raised First Amendment concerns. HB 20’s protection of Texans against social media’s discriminatory viewpoint censorship falls within this general rule, allowing for government regulation of hosting or transmitting speech to ensure such channels of communication are open to all comers.

Social Media Censorship Isn’t ‘Editorial Discretion’

Pitman’s opinion errs by treating social media’s discriminatory censorship as “editorial discretion” that expresses a coherent “message” worthy of First Amendment protection like a newspaper op-ed page or a parade.

Unlike a newspaper editor or parade organizer, however, social media companies do not review all content they host; they review only a tiny fraction. A newspaper op-ed page or parade expresses the judgment of its editors and organizers with every article or marcher it includes, as well as with the newspaper or parade as a whole. By necessity, a newspaper or parade, given its limited size, exercises powerful editorial control over its content.

In contrast, a social media firm is a passive conduit. It rarely edits, and its infinite bandwidth gives it no need to edit. Moreover, platforms cannot express themselves in the billions of posts they cannot review. Nor can the platforms’ stealthy, inconsistent, and often hidden acts of content moderation constitute a coherent “message,” let alone an expression worthy of First Amendment protection.

Finally, non-discrimination requirements to refrain from discriminatory censorship of others do not burden the platform’s own speech because social media platforms are free to tweet or post as much as they’d like.

Social Media Platforms Are Common Carriers

Secondly, the court should recognize that Texas can lawfully regulate social media because the platforms are common carriers. For centuries, common carrier laws have required certain industries that hold themselves out to the public to serve all without discrimination. Communications networks have always operated under these non-discrimination requirements. The Texas social media law simply applies these historical precedents to the modern public square: social media platforms. 

Pitman ignores the centuries of cases in which courts and regulatory agencies imposed non-discrimination requirements on railroads, telephones, and internet firms and simply asserts that “this Court starts from the premise that social media platforms are not common carriers.”

The opinion justifies this finding with no precedent, but with circular reasoning that because social media companies currently discriminate, they cannot be regulated as common carriers. By Pitman’s reasoning, then, if a telephone company started to discriminate, the state of Texas could no longer regulate it as a common carrier. 

Left’s Disturbing Protection of Big Tech

Undermining the power of the state to regulate is indeed a strange move for liberals like Pitman, who generally welcome government power into every aspect of our lives. Pitman’s ruling reveals the left’s disturbing protectiveness of Big Tech and a preference for a public discourse controlled by content moderators.

Furthermore, in recognizing Big Tech’s deplatforming and censoring as a First Amendment-protected exercise of “editorial discretion,” the lower court is jeopardizing the bodies of civil rights and common carriage law by essentially asserting that discrimination is expression worthy of First Amendment protection.

Pitman and others on the left incorrectly view the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees as protecting Big Tech’s censorship, rather than preserving Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous concept of the vigorous marketplace of ideas.

It is long past time for states to impose non-discrimination requirements on Big Tech and to hold these companies accountable for their viewpoint censorship. The Fifth Circuit should recognize the substantial government interest in doing so and reverse the lower court’s error-ridden decision. The Texas law would serve the nation as a model for restoring our cherished principles of free speech.


DirecTV’s Attempt To Cancel Right-Leaning News Network OAN Provokes Lawsuit

DirecTV announced in January the digital satellite service would no longer carry One America News Network (OAN).

By Tristan JusticeThe Federalist

DirecTV
JALEXARTIS PHOTOGRAPHY / FLICKR

DirecTV announced in January the digital satellite service would no longer carry One America News Network (OAN), owned by Herring Networks. The decision prompted a lawsuit by OAN in response Tuesday, arguing that DirecTV’s refusal to carry OAN could shut it down entirely.

“We informed Herring Networks that, following a routine internal review, we do not plan to enter into a new contract when our current agreement expires,” the company told USA Today two months ago, without expanding on its definition of an “internal review.”

The decision to drop the channel by OAN’s largest distributor is expected to take OAN off DirecTV airwaves by the end of April and threatens the outlet’s ability to operate in a crowded media environment. It’s essentially canceling the network from cable. Six Republican attorneys general last week issued a letter asking DirecTV to reverse its decision to cancel OAN.

The move also signals a sharp escalation of the weaponizing private market power to silence political dissidents. Silicon Valley has already engaged in rampant censorship, complete with a routine purge of those who don’t propagate the party lines.

Former President Donald Trump, who was banned from Twitter and Facebook at the end of his presidency while the Kremlin remains active on both, condemned the corporate censorship on Monday after calling for a boycott of DirectTV last month if the company owned by AT&T follows through on its decision.

“Time Warner, the owner of Fake News CNN, has just announced that they will be terminating a very popular and wonderful news network (OAN),” Trump said in a statement. “Between heavily indebted Time Warner, and Radical Left comcast, which runs Xfinity, there is a virtual monopoly on news, thereby making what you hear from the LameStream Media largely FAKE, hence the name FAKE NEWS!”

Trump may have confused Time Warner and DirecTV. While DirecTV made its plans clear, no reporting as of this writing suggests Time Warner is planning to follow suit. Neither Time Warner nor representatives for OAN responded to The Federalist’s inquiries.

Corporate collusion to strip a network off the airwaves, beginning with DirecTV’s crusade against OAN, would set a dangerous precedent. The left’s strategy to ban its way to a monopoly on discourse includes opposition silencing and self-righteous fact-checking. Never mind strict standards of censoring disinformation would have kicked every leftist news network off air years ago from endless amplification of the Russian collusion hoax alone.

Today it’s OAN. Tomorrow it could be Newsmax, and eventually Fox News, a more likely predicament if the network didn’t make satellite distributors so much money.

But what’s behind DirecTV’s decision to target OAN? As of now, its rival conservative networks remain untouched.

The move ostensibly comes from sealed findings in the corporate powerhouse’s “internal review” of its relationship with OAN. A spokesperson told NPR in January rising programming costs was driving the decision. The review is likely a smokescreen for executives dissatisfied with the network’s narratives, especially its reporting on the 2020 election.

Three days after Election Day in 2020, AT&T, the majority owner of DirecTV, announced that William Kennard, an alum of both the Clinton and Obama administrations, would chair AT&T’s board of directors. Kennard is also listed as an executive board member of the global equity firm Staple Street Capital. In 2018, Staple Street Capital acquired Dominion Voting Systems, the electoral tabulation company that came under fire after the 2020 election.

Fox News and Newsmax retracted their networks’ reporting on Dominion Voting Systems in the aftermath of the 2020 contest. OAN has not.

Is DirecTV’s move to cancel OAN a business decision for the satellite provider? Or is it a political decision? Regardless, the cancellation of entire news networks by satellite providers is a new level of private censorship against non-leftist views.


Two Years After Lockdowns, The West’s Troubles Aren’t Ending — They’re Just Beginning

The lockdowns mark the start of a ride we can’t get off.

By Christopher BedordThe Federalist

Sunet over the Statue of Liberty. Daniel Perez Sutil/Flickr.

Two years ago this week, the United States shut down. Churches, schools and businesses went dark. Weddings, funerals, and birthdays went silent. City streets stood empty, with an eeriness closer resembling occupied Paris than the bustling hubs they’d been just days before.

Two years later, as the last of the mask mandates for school children falter and crack, it’s tempting to believe our nightmare is finally over. Just as the disease is going to haunt us a long while, however, so too will the effects of how we tried to fight it.

Americans’ relationships with our politicians, bureaucrats, schools, media, police, and churches are fundamentally altered. Indeed, the entire West’s relationships with these major segments of society are forever remade. As we look out on the wreckage of two years of Covid policies, as well as our spiking fuel prices, rocketing inflation, a contested election, a Chinese Olympics, and a land war in Europe, it’s increasingly clear that, far from standing at the end of a dark era, our civilization teeters unsteadily at the very beginning of one.

It’s hard to notice at first. The modern West has become so accustomed to a slow, steady decline — the kind Merle Haggard sang about, and Ronald Reagan ran against — that complaining about it has become cliché; like the angry old man waving his cane.

More than that, it’s very tempting to view the past two years as separate from our other major problems. But just as Black Tuesday began an era marked by the Depression, the Dust Bowl, the New Deal, the Second World War, and a fundamental reshaping of the American life, so too will the Lockdowns mark the start of a ride we can’t get off.

The Damage Is Done

Even in states that have long since shrugged off the bureaucrats’ Covid demands, trust is broken. The people had believed in March 2020 that if they did their parts, all would soon be well. As President Calvin Coolidge famously said, “The chief ideal of the American people is idealism… [and] the chief business of the American people is business.”

Neither Americans’ idealism nor our industry were rewarded, however. From March 2020 on, ours was rule not by people, but by bureaucratic diktat.

Our politicians betrayed us: flying abroad, getting haircuts, going maskless, holding parties, and dining out while also closing schools, forbidding gatherings, banning amenities, and demonizing all who resisted — or even questioned — their orders.

Our corporate media betrayed us: propping up liars and fools, tearing down all who spoke against their champions, and spreading fear and hatred of dissent as far and wide as their words would carry.

Our teachers betrayed us: using Covid to gain a grab bag of vacation time, control over parents, wage hikes, and other unrelated perks, all while punishing school children with years of masks, separation — and the educational and developmental retardation those rules cost.

Even our much-vaunted hospital workers betrayed us: keeping dying husbands from their dying wives, grown children from their elderly parents, brothers from their sisters, and babies from their mothers — all to ensure “Covid safety.”

As hard as it seems, much of this might be good. Not that our politicians, media, teachers, and health care are broken — as the most important essay of 2021 laid bare — but that Americans now recognize just how broken they all are.

Other betrayals, however, are fresher. While corruption among our most powerful religious leaders is older than the Bible itself, when our government declared religion a disposable pastime, many of our religious leaders publicly obeyed. When they bowed before the bureaucrats, a trust was broken, and America was left with one more central civil institution weakened when we needed it strengthened.

The family — the political unit as old as the body politic itself — also suffered greatly. While American political fights have frayed blood relations since Benjamin Franklin fought his loyalist son, the past two years have seen so marked an increase in familial destruction that few of us are left untouched.

This past Christmas, for example, people across the country told their relatives they would not be welcome if they hadn’t taken the vaccine. You probably know more people this hurt than you realize; many of them, sad and embarrassed, hid it, claiming they simply couldn’t make the trip this year.

Then there are the grandparents across the country who have never seen their grandchildren. In the past month alone, I’ve met two different couples seeing theirs for the first time ever — provided they quarantined for two weeks first, and then took a test.

The kind of fear and intolerance it takes to bar your mother from your children extends to broader society, too. Cops, hospital workers, and many others have lost their jobs over refusals to take the shot, while corporate media and its viewers loudly cheered for even harsher penalties. Confronting and reporting on businesses and people who break Covid restrictions is actively encouraged by both government and media.

Our inability to dissent from the latest Covid decree penetrates our society so deeply, liberal comedy show “Saturday Night Live” is now openly mocking how closely American liberals have had to monitor even their private conversations with friends.

We’re now so comfortable with the concept of censoring “disinformation,” it’s extended well beyond Covid. These days, it’s not surprising to see the hosts of a daytime TV show for women casually call for the investigation (and possible imprisonment) of journalists and politicians who express opposition to something they support — in this case, an American war in Ukraine.

This sort of thing has become actually monotonous: Censorship, investigation, and even arrest are offered daily as solutions to problems as mundane as political or medical disagreements. Has the phrase “We’re all in this together” ever rung so hollow?

The Start Of Our Troubles

As in past eras of marked trouble, struggle, and decline, not all our problems are plainly linked; but they coalesce in their effects.

We find ourselves more divided than we’ve been in 150 years, and so less able to handle what comes our way. Many of our civil institutions — long sick — now seem terminally ill. Distrust and enmity run high, and why shouldn’t they?

The result of these divisions: As we plunge into the next series of crises — rapid inflation, destabilized fuel prices, the real prospect of world war in Europe — we have fewer tools to handle them, less willingness to try, and more suspicion of our fellow Americans than any time in over a century.

Taking it all in, we know that we’re weaker than when we began 2020. Taking it all in, we know that far from returning to normalcy, we’re entering a period of deadly turmoil, with enemies foreign and domestic intent on taking advantage of our divisions, our distrust, and our dangerously unsteady economic situation.

We’ve been challenged before, even in modern times. The Sept. 11 attacks rocked us like we hadn’t seen since Pearl Harbor, yet we soldiered on. What’s finally missing, however, is that general feeling of confidence.

We no longer share an understanding that no matter the monsters we’d face — and we face many, here and abroad — that everything would be OK; that the American Way will go on.

“Overriding everything else,” Walter Lord wrote in his 1955 book on the sinking of the HMS Titanic, “the [disaster] also marked the end of a general feeling of confidence.”

“Until then men felt they had found the answer to a steady, orderly, civilized life. For 100 years the Western world had been at peace. For 100 years technology had steadily improved. For 100 years the benefits of peace and industry seemed to be filtering satisfactorily through society.”

“In retrospect,” he continued, “there may seem less grounds for confidence, but at the time most articulate people felt life was all right. The Titanic woke them up. Never again would they be quite so sure of themselves.”

Within two years of the sinking, the First World War began. By its end, its hubris, violence, and indifference to personal suffering destroyed a generation — and cut our civilization so deeply, the damage inflicted is still seen written on our world today.

The men who, in relative peacetime, placed supreme confidence in their steel ship against the great blue sea might only chuckle at the hubris of their successors, who had supreme confidence they could master a disease they didn’t know.

We in the West, though, can be confident of one thing only: These past two years have cut us deeply, and will haunt us for many more to come.

What’s not yet written is whether we overcome. That will be up to us, and God.

Pray for America.


Grassley: We Wouldn’t Have Such a Censorship Problem ‘If More Journalists Did Their Job’

‘Simply put we deserve better than woke monopolists and their liberal lapdogs deciding what we can discuss.’

By Kylee ZempelThe Federalist

Chuck Grassley

IMAGE CREDIT U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION/FLICKR

Some things never change. The corrupt media peddles false narratives, Big Tech censors conservatives for “disinformation,” and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley absolutely takes them to town for it.

That’s what happened during a floor speech on Thursday when the Iowa lawmaker tore into tech companies and the corporate media for colluding to censor conservative viewpoints, especially those that threaten Democrat narratives such as the Russia collusion hoax. Grassley was personally irked after Facebook flagged one of his posts linking to a Fox News article as “false information.”

It was an article about new allegations against the Hillary Clinton campaign and its associates that were brought to light in Special Counsel John Durham’s Feb. 11 federal court filing. It cited Durham’s filing directly, as well as a former chief congressional investigator who became acutely knowledgeable about the situation while working on the Trump-Russia probe for the House Intelligence Committee under California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.

“Why does Facebook and one of its third-party fact-checker partners get to make the decision that this news article is considered false information?” Grassley asked. “That decision should be made by the American people who should be able to view that content and decide for themselves. It shouldn’t be decided by our Big Tech overlords who seem to only find fault with content that is conservative or goes against the liberal narrative.”

Though useful idiots will retort that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like don’t single out conservatives for censorship, the evidence suggests otherwise. Just this week, Twitter allowed the private information of people who had donated to the Canadian Freedom Convoy to spread on its site after a leftist hacked GiveSendGo and doxxed them. Yet Twitter cited its hacked materials policy as the justification for censoring the bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story right before the 2020 election, despite no evidence of hacking.

As Grassley mentioned, these are also the same tech and media companies that amplified the Steele dossier and broader fake Russia collusion narrative for years, and that are now “doing the bidding for the Clinton camp.”

“Why are they so afraid of reporting that exposes the Russia collusion hoax?” Grassley asked the question to which we already know the answer. It’s the massive hoax they staked their reputations and careers on and which has since unraveled piece by piece.

“This wouldn’t be an issue today if more journalists did their job of being the police of our society and reported on all investigations not just ones that appeal to a certain political party,” Grassley said. “What kind of message does this censorship send to a reporter who does take on the new allegations against the Clinton campaign and its associates and its labeled disinformation?”

It’s time to rethink Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Grassley prescribed, referring to the provision that grants tech monopolies immunity regarding its users’ content. Big Tech has weaponized the provision, however, using it in its ideological purges of what it calls “misinformation” and “dangerous” content.

“It has become increasingly clear that these dominant platforms controlling discussion and dialogue are more beholden to cancel culture and not to the fundamental free speech principles that this country was founded upon,” Grassley said. “…Simply put we deserve better than woke monopolists and their liberal lapdogs deciding what we can discuss.”


Shareholders Press Google and YouTube To Disclose White House Requests To Scrub COVID-19 Videos

Big Tech under fire for removing content that questions Biden administration COVID policies

By Alana GoodmanThe Washington Free Beacon

Shareholders in Google and YouTube are pressing the tech giants to disclose any requests they have received from the Biden administration to scrub politically “problematic” information from the platforms, according to a copy of a shareholder proposal obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group that holds a voting stake in Google and YouTube’s parent corporation Alphabet, submitted the shareholder proposal to the company this week, following a string of controversies over Google and YouTube’s removal of videos that question the Biden administration’s COVID-19 policies.

The proposed disclosure requirement could shed light on whether the administration has directed tech companies to remove information that it deems misleading, a scenario that raises concerns about government censorship. In July, the White House said it was “in regular touch” with social media platforms to discuss ways to combat “misinformation” online.

“The case for this kind of disclosure is double barreled. All citizens should be aware when the government engages in censorship, even if it is through a private-sector company, and shareholders of that company should know when they become a party to it,” said NLPC chairman Peter Flaherty.

“The administration keeps labeling certain information about the pandemic ‘disinformation,’ and gets it yanked off social media, only to later embrace the same information. Alphabet should not be contributing to such a farce.”

If the proposal is approved by a shareholder vote—a significant hurdle since the company’s voting shares are largely controlled by its founders and insiders—Alphabet would be required to “provide a report, published on the company’s website and updated semi-annually—and omitting proprietary information and at reasonable cost—that specifies the Company’s policy in responding to requests to remove or take down material from its platforms by the Executive Office of the President, Centers for Disease Control, or any other agency or entity of the United States Government,” according to a copy of the NLPC’s submission.

Alphabet would also have to disclose “an itemized listing of such take-down requests, including the name and title of the official making the request, the nature and scope of the request, the date of the request, the outcome of the request, and a reason or rationale for the Company’s response, or lack thereof.”

The NLPC said coordination between Alphabet and the Biden administration could amount to “unconstitutional censorship, opening the Company to liability claims by victims,” citing Supreme Court rulings “that private entities may not engage in suppression of speech at the behest of government, as it has the same effect as direct government censorship.”

YouTube faced criticism this week after deleting a controversial but widely shared video of Joe Rogan’s interview with virologist Robert Malone that criticized the COVID-19 vaccine. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R., N.Y.) have blasted Google and YouTube for scrubbing their videos that questioned certain Democratic policies, such as mask mandates and vaccine passports.

Google has also acknowledged manipulating its autofill feature to discourage users from searching for claims that COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan—a theory that was later determined to be credible by intelligence officials.

In July, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration was “in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team, given, as [Surgeon General] Dr. [Vivek] Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic.”

Psaki said the administration flagged “problematic” posts for social media companies and urged the platforms to “take faster action against harmful posts.”

Alphabet is likely to seek a waiver from the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid bringing up the NLPC’s proposal for consideration. Under the Biden administration, the SEC has taken a supportive stance toward left-leaning activist shareholders. In November, the administration expanded the type of proposals that companies are required to consider to include “certain proposals that raise significant social policy issues.”

In 2021, progressive shareholder activists successfully installed three fossil fuel opponents on the Exxon Mobil board, after forcing the company to disclose its impact on carbon emissions in 2017. The past year also saw a record number of corporate board diversity proposals from activist shareholders.


Facebook Quietly Admits Its Third-Party ‘Fact-Checks’ Are ‘Opinions’

By Jordan BoydThe Federalist

Facebook Quietly Admits Its Third-Party ‘Fact-Checks’ Are ‘Opinions’

Facebook admitted that its so-called “fact-checking” program is actually cranking out opinions used to censor certain viewpoints.

In its latest legal battle with TV journalist John Stossel over a post about the origins of the deadly 2020 California forest fires, Facebook, now rebranded and referred to as “Meta,” claims that its “fact-checking” program should not be the target of a defamation suit because its attempts to regulate content are done by third-party organizations who are entitled to their “opinion.”

Stossel’s original complaint questioned whether “Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made?” Facebook, however, claimed that the counter article authored by Climate Feedback is not necessarily the tech giant’s responsibility.

Facebook went on to complain that Stossel’s problem isn’t with the Silicon Valley giants’ “labels” on his content but with the obscure organizations that Facebook employs to do its “fact-checking” dirty work.

“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion,” Facebook admitted. “And even if Stossel could attribute Climate Feedback’s separate webpages to Meta, the challenged statements on those pages are likewise neither false nor defamatory. Any of these failures would doom Stossel’s complaint, but the combination makes any amendment futile.

It’s no secret that Facebook uses its “fact-checking” program to curb information that it wants to be censored, and this November lawsuit gives more insight into the Big Tech company’s methods and twisted rationale.

“The independence of the fact checkers is a deliberate feature of Meta’s fact-checking program, designed to ensure that Meta does not become the arbiter of truth on its platforms,” the lawsuit stated before admitting that “Meta identifies potential misinformation for fact-checkers to review and rate. … [I]t leaves the ultimate determination whether information is false or misleading to the fact-checkers. And though Meta has designed its platforms so that fact-checker ratings appear next to content that the fact-checkers have reviewed and rated, it does not contribute to the substance of those ratings.”


Big Tech’s Immunity in Jeopardy

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States via Wikimedia Commons

A federal appellate court’s decision to rehear a case in which a controversial provision of 1996’s Communications Decency Act protecting Big Tech firms from civil suits because they are “distributors of content” rather than “publishers” is giving people hope the recent wave of Internet censorship may soon end. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second said July 16 it would rehear the arguments “en banc” following a ruling by a three-judge panel that upheld a lower court’s decision in Dorman v Vimeo, in which it was argued the tech platform was insulated from liability after it terminated the video streaming feed of a group posting videos of individuals saying they’d abandoned homosexuality to pursue a Christian way of living. 

Vimeo, the Epoch Times reported, argued successfully its terms of service agreement prohibited the streaming of materials promoting “conversion therapy,” a controversial technique legislators in several blue states are currently trying to ban, especially for children under the age of 18.  Others including the plaintiff argue however that the tech firm’s action is censorship and is damaging in both the legal and common sense of the word.

Robert Tyler, general counsel for the Advocates for Faith & Freedom said the decision to have the appeal reargued in front of the entire court puts the immunity provision of Section 230 “in the crosshairs of judicial review.” 

“Section 230 was not intended to give Big Tech the right to exclude persons from their platform just because the customer is black, Muslim, white, Christian, homosexual, or formerly homosexual. That is plain invidious discrimination,” Tyler said.

The case is important because the digital age has moved the public square from inside the local community to well out into cyberspace. Facebook and Twitter are now the host of the national conversation, fueled by information people gather by using search engines like Google. This is a new reality, leaving more than a few conservatives fearful their opinions and publications and websites are being censored by the “woke” individuals inside the Big tech companies that make decisions about search engine rankings and what can be seen. 

The appellate court’s latest action suggests Section 230, which many of its critics believe is the legal justification for online censorship, may not long survive. It is rare for an entire appellate court to rehear a case just to reaffirm a three-judge panel’s decision. Even if it doesn’t, however, those who follow tech platforms and the laws that govern them say there is no guarantee the censoring of individual messages, the de-platforming of people like former President Donald J. Trump, or the termination of services would come to an end if this one part of the CDA is ruled unconstitutional. 

Without Section 230 protection – or something like it – platforms and Internet service companies might someday be held responsible for what appears on screens and servers in much the same way the publishers of newspapers are responsible for what appears in print. Not that it would get anyone very far. The bar for proving damages in cases where libel or defamation are alleged was high even before the United States Supreme Court sent it into the stratosphere in its 1964’s Times v Sullivan decision.

Now, the standard of proof in such cases is so rigorous it is rarely met and, even if it is, the requirements involved in proving damage are so onerous as to hardly be a deterrent to sloppy reporting, deliberate maligning, and censorship. 

Trump’s recently announced class-action suit against Big Tech CEOs over his de-platforming may be another matter. He contends his first amendment rights were violated following the disruption inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by these companies acting as agents of the federal government. If he can prove that to be the case, it invokes constitutional scrutiny and potentially tilts the outcome in Trump’s favor. 

Ultimately, the court will probably rule in a way that protects the most speech for the most people. The first amendment is an American absolute, not necessarily applicable in all cases – the government can’t imprison me over what I tell my children – but we generally believe as a country that even private institutions should give the amendment due deference. If Big Tech can be shown to have failed in this regard, the consequences could be interesting. 


Big Tech Charged with Continuing to Censor Trump, Conservatives

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

NASA/Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons

Big Tech is not fighting fair in its push back against former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to prevent it from censoring conservative opinions and opinion leaders, the American Conservative Union said, citing the recent suspension of its network on YouTube, an internet platform used for video sharing as a prime example of its misconduct. 

The ACU, which is the primary sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference called the recent removal by YouTube of a recent episode of its “America UnCanceled” posted on its CPAC NOW page censorship.

“YouTube censored CPAC because we stood with former President Donald Trump on his lawsuit against Big Tech,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a release, calling the action “another example of Big Tech censoring content with which they disagree in order to promote the political positions they favor.”

The episode in question included coverage of the former president’s attempt to mount a class action suit against tech platforms including Google, YouTube’s parent company. The ACU is a party to the suit, which is being brought on the former president’s behalf by the America First Policy Institute, a group he formed shortly after he left office. 

Trump spoke Sunday in Dallas, Texas to the most recent CPAC gathering. That speech also could not be seen on the CPAC NOW YouTube page due to a one-week ban on posting the platform imposed on the organization when it removed the program, the ACU said.

When imposing the ban, the ACU said YouTube cited “medical misinformation” related to COVID-19 conveyed by the program as the reason for it but did not state specifically what the so-called misinformation was.  In a statement, the group said it believed Trump’s reference to the possible therapeutic value of hydroxychloroquine as documented in what the ACU described as “sound medical research conducted by the Smith Center for Infectious Diseases & Urban Health and Saint Barnabas Medical Center” may have prompted the internet platform to take the action it did.

The use of hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus, which Trump often promoted while president, is controversial in many political, editorial, and medical circles. 

“It is clear that YouTube censored CPAC because we stood with former President Donald Trump on his lawsuit against Big Tech,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “This is yet another example of Big Tech censoring content with which they disagree in order to promote the political positions they favor.”

In his remarks to the Dallas confab, Trump called the way Big Tech handles free speech issues, particularly expressions of opinion that conflict with the values of the founders of the major tech platforms “unlawful,” “unconstitutional” and “completely un-American.”

Trump used the speech to continue as well his crusade for an audit of the 2020 presidential election results which, he maintains, was tainted by fraudulent ballots. “The truth was covered up, and it had a giant impact on the election,” he said. “This must never happen to another party’s presidential candidate again. We are the laughingstock of the world.”


Is Big Business Now A Greater Threat To Free Speech Than Government?

By resisting censorship from the government, corporations, or cancel mobs, we reaffirm the value of the freedoms won and cherished in centuries past.

By Kyile SamminThe Federalist

Is Big Business Now A Greater Threat To Free Speech Than Government?

As I wrote in a preceding essay, the First Amendment was written to limit the government’s power. In the 18th century, only the state was conceived as possibly wielding the power to keep free people from speaking their minds. Thus, if maintaining a free people requires free speech, it followed that the government must be kept from controlling speech. For a long time, no more was necessary, but that would change.

As the United States grew in population and prosperity, there was very little agitation against business. There did not need to be. Most businesses were small affairs, owned by one man or one family, employing a handful of workers. Relations between labor and management were dealt with between individuals.

n 1854, Abraham Lincoln summarized this small-scale economy, speaking of a system in which a man “may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.”

Yet as corporations grew in size and power, that “true system” changed. Instead of one apprentice negotiating with an owner, a company that employed thousands would tell workers what they would get: take it or leave it.

In response, workers began to join together in trade unions, leveling the playing field, although diminishing their own independence. The balance between workers and management was restored, but the growing power of corporations still overpowered that of individual consumers.

Antitrust and utility laws were the response, but none of this much affected the realm of free speech. There was no news monopoly — newspapers were more plentiful than today — and restrictions on the new technology of radio came from the government, not the station owners. The biggest threat to the practice of free speech remained the state.

The Foresight of Justice Louis Brandeis

Although the two streams of jurisprudence here — anti-monopoly and free speech — did not much overlap in the early twentieth century, some of the same great thinkers were doing work in both. Foremost among these was Louis Brandeis, who joined the Supreme Court in 1916.

Brandeis was a progressive who saw Big Government and Big Business as equally threatening to the average American. Although he focused more on the growth of corporate power in his days as a private lawyer, Brandeis saw the danger in the government becoming too powerful. His solution was to resist consolidation in both regards — keep businesses small and local, and the government could stay small, too.

In regards to free speech, Brandeis also led the resistance to censorship, although often unsuccessfully. While American citizens were the freest in the world in their right to speak and publish, limits remained.

The so-called “Red Scare” that followed communist revolutions in Europe led governments to clamp down on people’s right to advocate socialist ideas in America. In Whitney v. California in 1924, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to one such law. Brandeis was in the minority, but Whitney soon became one of the rare cases more famous for the dissent than for the opinion of the court. Brandeis wrote:

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.

Brandeis’s words remain one of the great summaries of the custom and law of free speech in America and follows the line of thinking started by Milton and Locke. In 1969, the Supreme Court adopted Brandeis’s ideas and overturned Whitney.

Since then, the government’s attempts to restrict free speech have mostly been rebuffed. Some efforts, like the censorship at issue in the 2010 case of Citizens United v. FEC, nearly succeeded, but most failed and failed quickly. The struggle for free speech in law trends toward greater liberty.

Threats to Free Speech From a New Foe

Today, however, something novel is happening in America: private actors have become a greater threat to free speech than the government is. Part of that comes from a laudable achievement — we have tamed free speech’s historical foe, the state. But part also comes from the rise of new means of communication that not only displace the old but are uniquely susceptible to monopolization in a way the old media were not.

That means that for the first time, corporate power might be a greater threat to our rights — especially our right to free speech — than the power wielded by the state. This accounts in part for the recent resurgence in antitrust advocacy.

Not long ago, there was considerable diversity not only in the sources of news and entertainment but also in the distribution of such things. Not only have the sources of news been subject to consolidation, but they have become separated from the methods by which they reach us. This vertical dis-integration might be seen as an antitrust success, except that the distribution methods are even more consolidated than the news sources.

The “distribution sources” in question are the social media giants of Facebook and Twitter, along with less powerful players in the field like Reddit and LinkedIn. Instagram and WhatsApp are also cited as delivery methods for news, but it does little good to mention them since they are both owned by Facebook. Consolidation across Silicon Valley has narrowed the real players in Big Tech to about half a dozen: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft among them.

As far as free speech is concerned, some of these players are more dangerous than others, but the interaction among them is also a problem. Six big technological competitors might look like a healthy industry, but it is an illusion. While they clash at times, these Big Six have divided up the tech world much as the 19th-century colonial powers divided up the globe. Spheres of influence are mutually respected and the political aims of each align with the others.

The Monopolization of Speech

First, the social media giants established monopolies in their respective fields. As companies grow in power, they exert control over their marketplaces. They evaded detection in doing so because their monopolies are different from those of the past.

What they monopolize is not a commercial product like Standard Oil’s monopoly on kerosene. Their monopoly is on access to a thing they created and that, outside of their network, cannot exist. As I wrote in the Washington Examiner last year:

There is no place to tweet except Twitter; there is no way to create Facebook posts outside Facebook. If Facebook or Twitter delete your posts or restrict your account, that network is closed to you, and each is a network that increasingly dominates the exchange of ideas. Even beyond the market for news and commentary, access to social media for businesses (especially Facebook) can be a make-or-break proposition.

The monopoly is on each social media company’s network, and the danger is in our increasing reliance on those networks to convey ideas. By 2019, a majority of Americans said they often or sometimes got their news over social media, and the number increases every year.

Unlike old-fashioned monopolies, social media companies use their power not only to exclude competitors but also to exclude customers with whom they disagree. AT&T wanted to control all telephony, but at least they only wanted your money. Facebook and Twitter also want to limit what you say, the equivalent of a telephone operator breaking in to shut down phone calls that their bosses find distasteful.

The Department of Justice shattered AT&T’s monopoly in the 1980s, breaking the company into several “Baby Bells.” The result was cheaper, better telephone service for everyone.

But that precise solution will not work for social media. No one is concerned about the price of a service that is given away for free, and the quality of the apps was never the problem. This network, and equal access to it, is the issue. Destroying that network would make service worse, not better. Moreover, it misses the point.

The intersection of monopoly power with free speech is something new. Even beyond the threat of exclusion from a social media company’s network, the collusion among the networks further stifles free expression. Consider the treatment of a rival social network.

In reaction to Twitter shutting down accounts with whose content it disagreed, two entrepreneurs launched an alternative site, Gab, in 2016. It went public in 2017 and seemed to offer the traditional alternative for dissatisfaction with a business: taking your business elsewhere. If the dispute with Twitter had been a traditional one, such as price or quality, that would have solved the problem.

But the nature of Twitter’s monopoly worked against Gab. Twitter users who had not been banned were reluctant to leave the network, because as unhappy as they were with it, it still offered the best forum for reaching a mass audience. Some maintained accounts at both sites, but only the banned — those who had no other option — were active users at Gab. Google decided it was a hate forum and removed it from their Play Store. Apple had never allowed it in the first place.

Gab was then restricted only to people extremely motivated to seek it out, and it became a deeply unpleasant echo chamber. When it emerged that the perpetrator of the 2018 mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue was an active Gab user, the site was forever known as the home of murderous extremists. The providers that hosted them terminated their arrangements, forcing it further underground. The same process played out with Parler in 2020, and it will play out again for the next would-be Twitter competitor.

Mainstream opinion is unbothered. Few had heard of Gab or Parler, which they could not find in their phone’s app stores, and many who were aware of it associated it with Nazis. Shutting them down was good riddance to bad rubbish.

Those few who raised free speech concerns were told to read the law, as though that is all there is to our ancient liberty. Recent episodes of tech censorship have involved a larger combination of tech companies and taken in a larger swath of users — including a former American president.

Resisting Censorship Regardless of the Source

The drive to stifle speech is not limited to social media. Other tech monopolies have flexed their muscles. Amazon, which controls a majority of book sales in the United States, has started deciding which kinds of books it will allow. Anything that explores sexual orientation or gender dysphoria as mental illnesses is now forbidden. Tweets and Facebook posts on the subject are also likely to be censored if they voice the “wrong” opinions.

If free speech is necessary to enable individuals to discover virtue and choose their leaders, then monopoly censorship is just as harmful as government censorship. Even beyond the specific harm of stifling free expression, it does harm to the idea of free speech itself.

Legalistic denials from Big Tech supporters — “it’s not censorship if it’s not the government!” — miss the point. By allowing continued monopolies over segments of the public square and acquiescing in a restriction of free thought there, we erode the principle of free speech while piously upholding the laws that do nothing against this new threat.

The People Are the Guarantor of Their Liberties

As long as people believe in free speech, it will endure. According to a 2020 poll by Pew, a majority of Americans see the social media threat for what it is: censorship. That is good news. People are not distracted by the distinction of government and non-government; they see a powerful force trying to muzzle them and do not like it. The people understand that this right belongs to them and will resist anyone who tries to take it away.

The bad news is that such sentiments are declining. Americans, especially the young, increasingly are intolerant of speech that they hate. Instead of the liberty and courage that Brandeis extolled, they seek to decide public questions with private force. Milton and Locke would recognize the methods from their own times, although the actors and questions debated have changed.

That same 2020 Pew poll showed a majority of Democrats endorsing social media companies’ labeling of “inaccurate” tweets and posts. Polling by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that same year finds that significant percentages of college students support suppressing unpopular speech through heckler’s veto (27 percent) or blocking entry to an event (11 percent). Only 4 percent of those surveyed claimed that it was acceptable to use violence to suppress offensive speech, but that is still too many.

We all have reason to doubt the accuracy of polling after the failures of the last few years, but there can be no doubt that the principle of free expression is under renewed threat. Looking at that threat requires reacquainting ourselves with the history of free speech and monopolies. Our forefathers fought censorship and fought monopolistic abuses, but political battles are rarely won for all time. These two are back, joined up in novel fashion, but no different than what came before.

The lessons of Milton, Locke, Bastiat, Lincoln, and Brandeis must guide a new generation to protect our ancient freedoms. If we fail, those freedoms will fade from memory and their protection in law will fade with them. We may vote for legislators, but few of us will ever directly influence the words of a law.

In the custom that underpins the law, though, we all have a role to play. By resisting censorship from the government, corporations, or cancel mobs, we remind the world of the value of the freedoms won and cherished in centuries past, and further reinforce them for the challenges to yet come.


New Colorado Senate Bill Establishes Government Ministry Of Truth

By Tristan JusticeThe Federalist

New Colorado Senate Bill Establishes Government Ministry Of Truth
Photo A.Davey / Flickr

A new Democratic-sponsored Colorado Senate bill is raising eyebrows with the proposed establishment of a state-run ministry of truth to regulate online speech.

The bill, titled “Digital Communications Regulation,” seeks the creation of a digital communications division under the state department of regulatory agencies to regulate online content available in the state. The division will be run by a new commission to serve as government-blessed arbiters of truth.

Under the legislation, proposed by Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan, the new commission is tasked with the authority to investigate and hold hearings on claims filed with the division that accuse a particular platform of engaging in what the government declares unlawful conduct. Such conduct under the proposal ranges from promoting “hate speech” to “disinformation,” “fake news,” and “conspiracy theories,” or content the commission determines is meant to “undermine election integrity.” The idea for a similar proposal at the federal level was floated by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in January.

The bill puts government force behind an already-implemented progressive purge pursued by Silicon Valley tech giants wielding unprecedented power over the digital public square, with many of the same rules already in place. Such rules, however, which have become more stringently enforced to justify censorship of conservatives and reporting unfavorable to progressive interests, have been applied with remarkable inconsistency.

“We all know from experience at other places where such rules are in place, they’re not applied equally,” Joshua Sharf, a senior fellow in fiscal policy at the Denver libertarian think tank Independence Institute, told The Federalist. “They’re actually impossible to apply equally.”

The contrast between the four-year conspiracy alleging President Donald Trump was a Russian agent and the online suppression of blockbuster revelations published by the New York Post last fall, which implicated then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in his son’s potentially criminal overseas business ventures, illustrates how rules governing online content are arbitrarily enforced for political purposes. There is no shortage of examples highlighting Silicon Valley’s double-standards.

“Realistically, we all know what the intent here is,” Sharf, who runs his own online blog, warned. “The intent here is to limit what Sen. Donovan considers conservative speech.”

Donovan did not respond to The Federalist’s request for an interview.

Under the senator’s legislation, communications-oriented online businesses, including social media platforms and media-sharing platforms with services offered to Colorado residents, would be forced to register with the new government ministry of truth. Failure to do so would classify as a class-two misdemeanor with up to a $5,000 fine each day until they comply.

Republican Colorado Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who sits on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee where the bill was introduced, railed against the proposal as unconstitutional and shared no faith that the independent commission appointed by the governor would dictate online content fairly.

“I have no confidence whatsoever that if the commission was formed it would be somewhat politically diverse,” Sonnenberg told The Federalist. “It’s almost like a giant commission just like Facebook to determine what posts are accurate and what are not.”

Republicans in the state’s upper chamber have already pledged their opposition, though Democrats control both houses of the Colorado legislature.

“Nobody wants an unelected commission of wannabe authoritarians deciding what is and is not ‘fake news’ and what we can and cannot read on the internet,” Colorado Senate Republican spokesman Sage Naumann told The Federalist. “We’re hopeful this bill never makes it to the floor.”

Sonnenberg said he saw no momentum for that happening, even as Democrats hold the majority.

“Anybody with a reasonable mind would look at this bill and go, ‘This doesn’t make sense.’ This indeed is a violation of our First Amendment, a blatant violation,” Sonnenberg told The Federalist. “If this is a party-line vote and it gets out of committee, we have bigger problems in our country.”


The tech supremacy: Silicon Valley can no longer conceal its power

By Niall FergusonThe Spectator

‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,’ George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is ‘quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously’. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that ‘for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective’.

Last week provided a near-perfect analogy. For years before the 2020 election, nearly all American conservatives were in favour of standing up to big tech: the majority of them were also against changing the laws and regulations enough to make such a stand effective. The difference is that, unlike the German threat, which was geographically remote, the threat from Silicon Valley was literally in front of our noses, day and night: on our mobile phones, our tablets and our laptops. 

Writing in this magazine more than three years ago, I warned of a coming collision between Donald Trump and Silicon Valley. ‘Social media helped Donald Trump take the White House,’ I wrote. ‘Silicon Valley won’t let it happen again.’ The conclusion of my book The Square and the Tower was that the new online network platforms represented a new kind of power that posed a fundamental challenge to the traditional hierarchical power of the state.

By the network platforms, I mean Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and Apple, or FATGA for short — companies that have established a dominance over the public sphere not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. FATGA had humble enough origins in garages and dorm rooms. As recently as 2008, not one of them could be found among the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation. Today, they occupy first, third, fourth and fifth places in the market cap league table, just above their Chinese counterparts, Tencent and Alibaba. 

What happened was that the network platforms turned the originally decentralised worldwide web into an oligarchically organised and hierarchical public sphere from which they made money and to which they controlled access. That the original, superficially libertarian inclinations of these companies’ founders would rapidly crumble under political pressure from the left was also perfectly obvious, if one bothered to look a little beyond one’s proboscis. 

Following the violent far-right rally at Charlottesville in August 2017, Matthew Prince, chief executive of the internet service provider Cloudflare, described how he had responded: ‘Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.’ On the basis that ‘the people behind the [white supremacist magazine] Daily Stormer are assholes’, he denied their website access to the internet. ‘No one should have that power,’ he admitted. ‘We need to have a discussion around this with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and … Mark [Zuckerberg] shouldn’t be what determines what should be online.’

But that discussion had barely begun in 2017. Indeed, many Republicans at that time still believed the notion that FATGA were champions of the free market that required only the lightest regulation. They know better now. After last year’s election Twitter attached health warnings to Trump’s tweets when he claimed that he had in fact beaten Joe Biden. Then, in the wake of the storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, Twitter and Facebook began shutting down multiple accounts — including that of the President himself, now ‘permanently suspended’ from tweeting. When Trump loyalists declared their intention to move their conversations from Twitter to rival Parler — in effect, Twitter with minimal content moderation — Google and Apple deleted Parler from their app stores. Then Amazon kicked Parler off its ‘cloud’ service, effectively deleting it from the internet altogether. It was a stunning demonstration of power.

It is only a slight overstatement to say that, while the mob’s coup against Congress ignominiously failed, big tech’s coup against Trump triumphantly succeeded. It is not merely that Trump has been abruptly denied access to the channels he has used throughout his presidency to communicate with voters. It is the fact that he is being excluded from a domain the courts have for some time recognised as a public forum. 

Various lawsuits over the years have conferred on big tech an unusual status: a public good, held in private hands. In 2018 the Southern District of New York ruled that the right to reply to Trump’s tweets is protected ‘under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court’. So it was wrong for the President to ‘block’ people — i.e. stop them reading his tweets — because they were critical of him. Censoring Twitter users ‘because of their expressed political views’ represents ‘viewpoint discrimination [that] violates the First Amendment’.

In Packingham vs North Carolina (2017), Justice Anthony Kennedy likened internet platforms to ‘the modern public square’, arguing that it was therefore unconstitutional to prevent sex offenders from accessing, and expressing opinions on, social network platforms. ‘While in the past there may have been difficulty in identifying the most important places (in a spatial sense) for the exchange of views,’ Justice Kennedy wrote, ‘today the answer is clear. It is cyberspace —the “vast democratic forums of the internet” in general … and social media in particular.’

In other words, as President of the United States, Trump could not block Twitter users from seeing his tweets, but Twitter is apparently within its rights to delete the President’s account altogether. Sex offenders have a right of access to online social networks; but the President does not. These companies have a dominance not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church

This is not to condone Trump’s increasingly deranged attempts to overturn November’s election result. Before last week’s riots, he egged on the mob; he later said he ‘loved’ them, despite what they had done. Nor is there any denying that a number of Trump’s most fervent supporters pose a threat of further violence. Considering the bombs and firearms some of them brought to Washington, the marvel is how few people lost their lives during the occupation of the Capitol.

Yet the correct response to that threat is not to delegate to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and their peers the power to remove from the public square anyone they deem to be sympathetic to insurrection or otherwise suspect. The correct response is for the FBI and the relevant police departments to pursue any would-be Trumpist terrorists, just as they have quite successfully pursued would-be Islamist terrorists over the past two decades.

The key to understanding what has happened lies in an obscure piece of legislation, almost a quarter of a century old, enacted after a New York court held online service provider Prodigy liable for a user’s defamatory posts. Congress then stepped in with the 1996 Telecommunications Act and in particular Section 230, which was written to encourage nascent firms to protect users and prevent illegal activity without incurring massive content management costs. It states: 1. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.2. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of … any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.

In essence, Section 230 gives websites immunity from liability for what their users post if it is in any way harmful, but also entitles websites to take down with equal impunity any content that they don’t like the look of. The surely unintended result of this legislation, drafted for a fledgling internet, is that some of the biggest companies in the world enjoy a protection reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Try to hold them responsible as publishers, and they will say they are platforms. Demand access to their platforms and they will insist that they are publishers.

This might have been a tolerable state of affairs if America’s network platforms had been subject to something like the old Fairness Doctrine, which required the big three terrestrial TV networks to give airtime to opposing views. But that was something the Republican party killed off in the 1980s, seeing the potential of allowing more slanted coverage on cable news. What goes around comes around. The network platforms long ago abandoned any pretence of being neutral. Even before Charlottesville, their senior executives and many of their employees had made it clear that they were appalled by Trump’s election victory (especially as both Facebook and Twitter had facilitated it). Increasingly, they interpreted the words ‘otherwise objectionable’ in Section 230 to mean ‘objectionable to liberals’.

Throughout the summer of last year, numerous supporters of Black Lives Matter used social media, as well as mainstream liberal media, to express their support for protests that in many places escalated into violence and destruction considerably worse than occurred in the Capitol last week. One looked in vain for health warnings, much less account suspensions, though Facebook says it has removed accounts that promote violence. 

Compare, for example, the language Trump used in his 6 January speech and the language Kamala Harris used in support of BLM on Stephen Colbert’s show on 18 June. Neither explicitly condoned violence. Trump exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol, but he told them to ‘peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard’. Harris condemned ‘looting and… acts of violence’, but said of the BLM protestors: ‘They’re not going to stop. They’re not. This is a movement. I’m telling you. They’re not going to stop, and everyone, beware. Because they’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop before election day in November, and they are not going to stop after election day. And everyone should take note of that on both levels.’ What exactly was the significance of that ‘beware’? 

Earlier, on 1 June, Harris had used Twitter to solicit donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which posted bail for people charged with rioting in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. It would be easy to cite other examples. ‘Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,’ Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times told CBS in early June, at a time when multiple cities were being swept by arson and vandalism. Her Twitter account is still going strong.

The double standard was equally apparent when the New York Post broke the story of Biden’s son Hunter’s dubious business dealings in China. Both Twitter and Facebook immediately prevented users from posting links to the article — something they had never done with stories damaging to Trump. 

You don’t need to be a Trump supporter to find all this alarming. Conservatives of many different stripes — and indeed some bemused liberals — have experienced the new censorship for themselves, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has emboldened tech companies to police content more overtly. In the UK, TalkRadio briefly vanished from YouTube for airing anti–lockdown views that violated the company’s ‘community guidelines’. A recording of Lionel Shriver reading one of her Spectator columns on the pandemic was taken down for similar reasons. Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, two Oxford academics, fell foul of Facebook’s censors when they wrote for this magazine about a briefly controversial paper on the efficacy of masks in Denmark.

You might think that FATGA have finally gone too far with their fatwa against a sitting president of the United States. You might think a red line really has been crossed when both Alexei Navalny and Angela Merkel express disquiet at big tech’s overreach. But no. To an extent that is remarkable, American liberals have mostly welcomed (and in some cases encouraged) this surge of censorship — with the honourable exception of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

True, during last year’s campaign the Biden team occasionally talked tough, especially about Facebook. However, it is increasingly clear that the most big tech has to fear from the Biden-Harris administration is protracted antitrust actions focused on their alleged undermining of competition which, if history is any guide, will likely end with whimpers rather than bangs. Either way, the issue of censorship will not be addressed by antitrust lawsuits. 

It is tempting to complain that Democrats are hypocrites — that they would be screaming blue murder if the boot were on the other foot and it was Kamala Harris whose Twitter account had been cancelled. But if that were the case, how many Republicans would now be complaining? Not many. No, the correct conclusion to be drawn is that the Republicans had their chance to address the problem of over-mighty big tech and completely flunked it. 

Only too late did they realise that Section 230 was Silicon Valley’s Achilles heel. Only too late did they begin drafting legislation to repeal or modify it. Only too late did Section 230 start to feature in Trump’s speeches. Even now it seems to me that very few Republicans really understand that, by itself, repealing 230 would not have sufficed. Without some kind of First Amendment for the internet, repeal would probably just have restricted free speech further.

As Orwell rightly observed, ‘we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality.’ 

Those words sum up quite a lot that has gone on inside the Republican party over the past four years. There it was, right in front of their noses: Trump would lead the party to defeat. And he would behave in the most discreditable way when beaten. Those things were predictable. But what was also foreseeable was that FATGA — the ‘new governors’, as a 2018 Harvard Law Review article called them — would be the true victors of the 2020 election.


How the new feudalism will happen

Will the unholy alliance prevail ?

By Larry Fedewa Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

The events of last week showed us how the new oligarchy will work. The tip-off was the censorship of the New York Post story about the corruption of the Biden family.

As this column presented the findings of the U.S. Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security concerning the activities of Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his Vice President father’s influence on behalf of foreign countries for billions of dollars. The Post story presented in convincing detail a collaboration of the Senate Report.

The Tweeter note of this story was taken down by the Alphabet Corporation, which owns Google, and quickly followed by Facebook – both owned by billionaires who have signed on to the Biden campaign.

Social media, in the form of these two companies plus Microsoft, LinkedIn, and several others, have become the major source of new for much of the country and the world. For example, You Tube (also owned by Alphabet) is the primary source of news for 26% of the American population. That is more than any broadcast programming in America.

In order to understand this situation, we will approach its various aspects separately as 1) the basis of this attempt to set the USA on the road to socialism; 2) the National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country; 3) the unholy alliance and how it works; 4) the fallout from the crisis.

1)   The basis of this attempt to take over the Government is the familiar problem of contemporary America, namely the wealth gap which now exists. In summary, the 80% of the country’s wealth will soon be controlled by 1% of the population.

The results of this disparity are potentially catastrophic to America because it means that the buying power of the middle class is fast disappearing in an economy which depends (68%) on consumer spending.

Secondly, it means that most of the population will depend on a few billionaires, who will employ most of these individuals.

Thirdly, all that has to be done is for these billionaires to band together in support of the politicians who are indebted to them for their financing and whose votes are therefore controlled by the oligarchs.

There are only three ways to rectify the wealth gap: the (rising water rises all ships – called the Reagan economy – which is also the Trump economy, which has never worked in re-distributing the wealth; give the extra money to the government through taxes, which then distributes it to the 68%, usually through welfare, thus turning independent citizens into an ever expanding welfare class, totally dependent on government.

The third way is a free market re-distribution of wealth. This is a recent movement which is based on a re-definition of capitalism, best exemplified by a new movement called Conscious Capitalism.

2) The National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country

This is the crisis concerning Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his father’s influence to foreign countries and individuals for billions of dollars.

This past week provided a treasure trove of emails and pictures from the younger Biden’s computer hard drive, which clearly identified the work which Hunter Biden was engaged in as well as evidence in his father’s complicit role in this corruption.

Since China was the biggest source of the Biden family take, it is clear that the Democrat nominee is unfit to serve as the Chief Executive of the United States. If true, he is a traitor to his country.

3)  The unholy alliance and how it works

The next act in this drama was the withdrawal of the New York Post tweet announcing its story on the Biden’s, soon followed by Facebook. This incident brought to light these firms and the immense power they have accumulated by abusing the federal law exempting them from libel laws.

This was the identification of the final players in the unholy alliance. The observation has been made that the takeover by the new oligarchs will be a soft coup d’ tat, this without violence or bloody revolution.

It will be done though automation. With the communications of the entire nation subject to the control of the billionaires, the people cannot communicate except though “Big Brother” as George Orwell predicted in his book 1984 (he may have been off in his timing, but his description of ordinary life was vey revealing).

So, this is the way it works: The billionaires (player #1) unite to supply and direct the press (player #2), use high technology to control all personal communications (player #3), buy a political party (player #4), fund all its candidates ( player #5) which in turn funds the Deep State (player #6) and BINGO! The Socialist America is born.

Most of this scenario has already taken place. The 2016 election was a trial run for the future. They believe the mistakes of 2016 have been analyzed and corrected, they believe. The only obstacle is Donald J. Trump. He should have been one of the oligarchs but instead chose to defy the entire alliance. So they tested their system by using the presss to neutralize him with a hate campaign, use of the bought House to impeach him based on the enlistment of the Deep State to provide false evidence.

They came within one Senate vote of succeeding.

But still he stands – between total power of the unholy alliance and secondary status. He had better beware – if he wins the pending election, He may be walking around with a target on his back.

4)  The fallout from the crisis.

a. The FBI held the Hunter Biden evidence for a whole year, including exculpatory evidence which would have proven that the president was innocent prima facie Leads to the probability that the Deep Sate is still active in the FBI.

b. The Justice Department has filed suite against Twitter and Facebook for obstructing justice (The grounds for the lawsuit are not yet public knowledge.)

The table is set by the unholy alliance to take over the country. All that is lacking is a Biden victory in the coming election. The only force standing in the way is Donald J. Trump.Unless we stand with him.


Meet The New Censors: Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Dorsey And YouTube’s Wojcicki

Investor’s Business Daily

We can remember when the left used to accuse conservatives of being prudish censors. Now it’s the left that appears determined to censor speech it doesn’t like. And they appear to have three incredibly powerful allies in their quest: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The CEO’s of those tech giants — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki — routinely describe their services as neutral platforms, fiercely committed to openness and free expression.

“Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey once declared. Twitter’s general manager in the U.K. once called it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

YouTube parent Google claims that “the flow of ideas and open access to information on the web helps communities grow and nations prosper.”

Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Facebook is “a platform for all ideas.” Continue reading


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