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Book Burning Goes Digital

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Brownstone InstituteBROWNSTONE INSTITUTE

In March 2021, the Biden White House initiated a brazenly unconstitutional censorship campaign to prevent Americans from buying politically unfavorable books from Amazon.

The effort, spearheaded by White House censors including Andy Slavitt and Rob Flaherty, began on March 2, 2021, when Slavitt emailed Amazon demanding to speak to an executive about the site’s “high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation.”

Their subsequent discussions remain unknown, but recently released emails from the House Judiciary Committee reveal that the censors achieved their intended result. Within a week, Amazon adopted a shadow ban policy.

Company officials wrote in internal emails, “The impetus for this request is criticism from the Biden administration about sensitive books we’re giving prominent placement to, and should be handled urgently.” They further clarified that the policy was “due to criticism from the Biden people,” presumably meaning Slavitt and Flaherty.

At the time, “vaccine misinformation” was parlance for inconvenient truths. Five months after the Amazon censorship crusade, Twitter banned Alex Berenson at the Government’s behest for noting that the shots do not prevent infection or transmission. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) favorably cited his Twitter ban in a September 2021 letter to Amazon  calling for increased censorship of books.

A similar process occurred at Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg wrote in internal emails that the platform decided to ban claims related to the lab-leak theory in February 2021 after “tense conversations with the new Administration.” Facebook executive Nick Clegg similarly wrote that the censorship was due to “pressure from the [Biden] administration and others to do more.” Another internal Facebook email from August 2021 wrote that the company had implemented new “misinformation” policies “stemming from the continued criticism of our approach from the [Biden] administration.”

Not only does the Biden regime’s call for de facto book bans lead to the suppression of true information regarding lockdowns, vaccine injuries, and the lab-leak theory; it was also a clear violation of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court weighed in on a nearly identical case over sixty years ago.

In 1956, the Rhode Island legislature created a “Rhode Island Commission to Encourage Morality in Youth.” Like “public health” or “inclusivity,” the innocuous language was a Trojan Horse for censorship.

The Commission sent notices to bookshops and book dealers that potentially violated Rhode Island’s obscenity laws. The book dealers challenged the constitutionality of the Commission, and the case made its way to the Supreme Court in Bantam Books v. Sullivan.

The New York Times’ description of the case from 1962 could be transposed to a modern article on the Amazon Files, but The Gray Lady has deemed the news unfit to print and has ignored the revelations entirely.

The challengers argued that the Commission acted “as a censor” while the Government “contended that its purpose was only to educate people,” the Times explained. The Government, desperate to maintain its benevolent facade, insisted its “hope [was] that the dealer would ‘cooperate’ by not selling the branded books and magazines.”

But the Government’s call for “cooperation” was a thinly veiled threat. The Commission did not just notify the booksellers; they also sent copies of the notices to the local police, who “always called dealers within 10 days of the notice to see whether the offending items had been withdrawn,” according to the book dealers.

“This procedure produced the desired effect of frightening off sale of the books deemed objectionable,” a book dealer told The Times. They complied, “not wanting to tangle with the law.”

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the Committee’s reports violated the Constitutional rights of the book dealers. Justice William O. Douglas wrote in a concurring opinion: “This is censorship in the raw; and in my view the censor and First Amendment rights are incompatible.”

Here, we again see censorship in the raw; bureaucratic thugs, using the power of the US federal government, call for the suppression of information that they find politically inconvenient. They hide behind the innocuous language of “public health” and “public-private partnerships,” but the Leviathan’s “requests” carry an implicit threat.

As we wrote in “The Censors’ Henchmen,” the censorship demands from White House lackeys Rob Flaherty and Andy Slavitt are like mobsters’ interrogations. Just months after the Amazon demands, Flaherty wrote to Facebook, “We are gravely concerned that your service is one of the top drivers of vaccine hesitancy – period.” Then came the demands: “We want to know that you’re trying, we want to know how we can help, and we want to know that you’re not playing a shell game…This would all be a lot easier if you would just be straight with us.”

In other words, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Nice company you have here – it would be a shame if something happened to it.

When companies refused to comply, Biden’s henchmen responded with scorn. Facebook ignored one censorship request, and Flaherty exploded: “Are you guys fucking serious? I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.”

Failure to comply would threaten Amazon’s substantial government contracting operations. In April 2022, Amazon received a $10 billion contract from the NSA. Later that year, the US Navy granted Amazon a $724 million cloud computing contract, and the Pentagon awarded Amazon an additional $9 billion in contracts. Amazon also has ongoing contracts with the CIA that could be worth “tens of billions” of dollars.

“Cooperation” is a prerequisite for these lucrative agreements. Sixty years ago, the Court recognized the threat that Government demands for “cooperation” posed to liberty in Bantam Books. Ten years later, the Court held in Norwood v. Harrison that it is “axiomatic that a state may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.”

Since then, skyrocketing government spending and public-private partnerships have further blurred the line between state and private persons at the cost of our liberties.

The recent Amazon revelations add to the censors’ parade of horribles that have been uncovered in recent years. The Supreme Court will rule on the crux of the battle between free speech and Biden’s cosa nostra next month in Murthy v. Missouri.

Meanwhile, the revelations keep pouring in, adding to what we know but still concealing the fullness of what might actually have been happening. Adding to the difficulty is that the revelations themselves are not being widely reported, raising serious questions concerning just how much in the way of independent media remains following this brutal crackdown on free speech that took place with no legislation and no public oversight.

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  • Brownstone Institute

    Brownstone Institute is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

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Assange and the Whistleblowers That Could’ve Been

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From the Brownstone Institute

By BILL RICE  

“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

In the last four years of our Orwellian New Abnormal, the following thoughts occurred to me countless times:

What the world desperately needs is far more brave whistleblowers. What we need is an active and robust WikiLeaks…or far more organizations that perform the vital work of WikiLeaks.

The reasons this has not occurred are, of course, obvious.

The main reason is that the people who could disclose important information about government or Deep State crimes are simply terrified to do this.

They are afraid to do this because they, quite correctly, know they’d suffer deeply unpleasant consequences if they did disclose “inconvenient truths” that expose how corrupt the world’s most important organizations have now become.

Another reason: Organizations that might actually publish the claims of important whistleblowers, largely, do not exist. The entrepreneurs who might create and try to run these organizations have clearly noted the undeniable message the Establishment sent to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

That message? If you do publish documents or testimony that embarrasses or threatens us, THIS is what will happen to you.

Truth Bombs That Never Detonated

It’s true WikiLeaks continued to exist while its founder was imprisoned on bogus charges. However, the significant work product of WikiLeaks effectively disappeared while Assange was “dealt with” by the State.

With a few lower-profile exceptions, no organizations assumed the risks of performing the dangerous work of WikiLeaks.

Because of this, many narrative-changing “truth bombs” never detonated…at a time when the world needed Real Truth more than ever.

While Assange is no longer in a British prison—and won’t have to serve the rest of his life in an American Maximum Security prison—the Intimidation State largely achieved its primary goal of taking proactive measures to ensure no one would expose their crimes.

Even today, 100 shocking scandals—genuine “crimes against humanity”—could be definitively exposed if more whistleblowers came forward…and if the information provided by these whistleblowers was disseminated to the mass public.

These Revelations That Never Happened are all “unknown unknowables.” The public will never know things it might otherwise have learned about our society’s real rulers.

It is surely not a coincidence that in the 12 years Assange was either in prison or seeking refuge in an embassy, the Censorship Industrial Complex transitioned from non-existent to the largest growth industry in the bureaucratic state.

Whether it’s NewsGuard, Media Matters, or the Stanford “Virality Project,” scores of anti-disinformation organizations now exist to shut down or deamplify dissenting voices. These well-funded and coordinated organizations eagerly do the bidding of governments that fear and despise “free speech” and a “search for the truth.”

If Julian Assange was trying to warn the world that Big Brother was going to get much bigger (and he was sending this warning), he was clearly proven right.

A Few Details of the Assange Saga Should Not Be Forgotten

Before writing this story, I refreshed my memory regarding the details of the Assange saga.

I was reminded that Mike Pompeo, the former US Secretary of State and CIA director, once seriously considered a plot to assassinate Assange.

So did Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

According to this Substack review, “Hillary Clinton, one of the worst warmongers in the history of America, proposed to use Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama’s favorite illicit assassination method for Assange.

“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

Hillary was no fan of Assange because it was WikiLeaks that revealed her sycophants conspired with the Democratic Party (via Clintonian “dirty tricks”) to ensure her nomination.

WikiLeaks went a Leak Too Far when the organization published videos showing that US Army helicopters killed many innocent Iraqi civilians—including several International journalists—in one of our nation’s wars to “protect democracy.”

The organization also published reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners and documented revelations showing how the massive US Intelligence Community was spying on, potentially, millions of citizens.

I Get Why Most Americans Don’t Want to Think about Assange

I think I understand why many Americans view Assange as either a villain or simply prefer to not think about what’s been done to this man.

Every WikiLeak revelation supports the conclusion that America might not be the force for “freedom” most Americans grew up thinking our nation was.

For most people, the thought that “Maybe we aren’t the Good Guys after all” is intolerable medicine.

Still, the national consensus should have been that it was the country’s leaders—and government entities—who are acting as tyrants. That is, it wasn’t everyday Janes and Joes who were mimicking North Korea; it was our government and all the organizations that wanted to stay on the safer side of this 900-pound gorilla.

The message that’s yet to resonate with enough people is that “We the People” could easily get rid of these Bad Actors who are trying to rebrand the “American Way.”

Portrayed as Enemy No. 1 by our government, Julian Assange was simply trying to provide citizens the knowledge we needed to self-correct and purge these actors before they became too powerful to stop.

Let Us Not Forget Who Was Fine with Assange’s Imprisonment

As some of us celebrate Assange’s release, we should also reflect on the powerful institutions and influential citizens who never rallied to his defense.

Surreally, chief among these groups is the vast majority of members of the mainstream media “watchdog” press.

The Washington Post tells us that “Democracy dies in darkness” and yet the Post was more than content with Julian Assange languishing in a dark prison cell for the rest of his life. That is, the Post never used its considerable editorial influence to free the man who had shed the most light on the true nature of our leadership organizations.

Ninety-nine point-nine percent of the country’s activist celebrities were conspicuously silent about the deplorable treatment of Julian Assange (or Ed Snowden or Chelsey Manning or any person who disagreed with Anthony Fauci).

The best-known defenders of Julian Assange were the conceptual leader of Pink Floyd and an actress who once starred in Baywatch.

One has to ask where Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bono, Jane Fonda, and Robert DeNiro were when Assange was in a British prison? They certainly weren’t outside his prison cell protesting.

Assange Has Not Received ‘justice’

Some are now saying that “justice” has been served for Assange. As Caitlin Johnstone reminds us, Assange hasn’t gotten any “justice.”

“So while Assange may be free, we cannot rightly say that justice has been done.

“Justice would look like Assange being granted a full and unconditional pardon and receiving millions of dollars in compensation from the US government for the torment they put him through by his imprisonment in Belmarsh beginning in 2019, his de facto imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy beginning in 2012, and his jailing and house arrest beginning in 2010.

“Justice would look like the US making concrete legal and policy changes guaranteeing that Washington could never again use its globe-spanning power and influence to destroy the life of a foreign journalist for reporting inconvenient facts about it, and issuing a formal apology to Julian Assange and his family.

Justice would look like the arrest and prosecution of the people whose war crimes Assange exposedand the arrest and prosecution of everyone who helped ruin his life for exposing those crimes. This would include a whole host of government operatives and officials across numerous countries, and multiple US presidents …”


On the occasion of last year’s World Freedom Day, “President” Joe Biden said, “Today—and every day—we must all stand with journalists around the world. We must all speak out against those who wish to silence them.”

Does anyone remember Joe Biden speaking out—even one time—against those who “silenced” Julian Assange?

And, for the record, who silenced him?

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Bill Rice, Jr. is a freelance journalist in Troy, Alabama.

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Brownstone Institute

Karma Catches Up to the Stanford Internet Observatory

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From the Brownstone Institute

By ANDREW LOWENTHAL 

Karma has caught up with the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), which will be scaled back to just three staff, according to the Washington Post. The contracts of its leading protagonists, Alex Stamos and Renee DiResta, have not been renewed. It was former CIA fellow Renee DiResta who led SIO’s signature initiatives, the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) and the Virality Project (VP).

SIO’s demise is a result of a string of efforts including those of RacketPublic, the Murthy v. Missouri plaintiffs, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, the Disinformation Chronicle, the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and many more. Network Affects also contributed original research.

Founded with a $5 million donation from Craig Newmark, SIO took countering “misinformation” to new heights; the Virality Project advised its Big Tech partners to consider “true stories” to be “misinformation:”

I unearthed that document while assisting Matt Taibbi with Twitter Files research, just in time for his and Michael Shellenberger’s testimony before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It is perhaps the most egregious example of the internet research and digital rights fields 180°– an inorganic flip that undermined a decades-long commitment to free expression.

Inorganic because the EIP and VP were not “research initiatives” as is often claimed; they were seeded by the security state, namely the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as demonstrated by emails released by the House Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Below the Atlantic Council’s Graham Brookie (an EIP/VP project partner) explains that “we just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA:”

The Atlantic Council is essentially NATO’s think tank and its board includes Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary General of NATO the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson, former US Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Goldman Sachs Secretary of the Board John F. W. Rogers, and many, many more.

As Taibbi further demonstrated, Twitter was aware of EIP’s links to the intelligence community:

So when content takedown recommendations came onto Twitter, they knew they were more than just serving suggestions.

The content of those requests was made clear after SIO was forced to release details of their internal flagging system. This again, via Taibbi’s reporting:

Furthermore, VP was in close contact with the White House and hosted Surgeon General Murphy for a discussion on health “misinformation.”

They also had pipeline-level access to more than 50 million Covid-related tweets per day:

This was in no way an insignificant research project.

VP pushed to censor other academics, such as Martin Kuldorff, a former Harvard Professor of Epidemiology and former member of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Subgroup. As Alex Gutentag and I reported, VP  “played a major role” in censoring Kuldorff. On March 15, 2021, Kulldorff tweeted, “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”

VP flagged the tweet to Twitter and it was subsequently labelled as “misleading” and Kuldorff was temporarily suspended from the platform.” VP also marked him as a “repeat offender.”

However many outlets describe SIO’s demise as the result of “sustained right-wing campaign” by “conservative outlets” and ignore the corruption at the heart of the project. Predictably Stanford, DiResta, Stamos, and their supporters shout “Everything is right-wing” as they scramble to come up with a narrative that deflects accountability for their actions.

The truth is just that SIO was doing something egregiously wrong and was targeting people regardless of ideology. Those reporters could easily find that out – the lead tweet of Taibbi’s House testimony has been viewed more than 40 million times:

Stamos and DiResta will of course find other work. Stamos already has, starting a company with former CISA head Chris Krebs. Meanwhile, DiResta has a new book out – endorsed surprisingly by Jonathan Haidt, who was also among the top signatories of the Westminster Declaration. Despite SIO crumbling accountability still appears to be sorely lacking. DiResta appeared top of the bill at a recent Yale conference on propaganda.

It should never have gone this far; a properly self-regulating anti-disinformation field would have sniffed out bad actors early, but the conversation and the ecosystem are broken. SIO shouldn’t be the last center to be shut down or see leadership changes. Breaking basic research ethics, hiding your relationship with government and intelligence agencies, protecting corporate products from proper scrutiny, and pushing for the censorship of other academics is not “free academic inquiry” or “free speech;” it is corruption.

My non-profit, liber-net, will be strengthening our efforts over the coming months to bring accountability to other leading civil society censorship initiatives.

Meanwhile, SIO leaves a malign legacy, having damaged the reputation of the anti-disinformation field, and academia more broadly. The question is, will the anti-disinformation field clean house, or continue to ignore the corruption within its ranks?

Links to my past Stanford Internet Observatory and Virality Project-related content can be found below.

Stanford’s Virality Project pushed to censor the vaccine-injured

The Virality Project was a government front to coordinate censorship

Stanford Group Helped US Government Censor Covid Dissidents and Then Lied About It, New Documents Show

Twitter Files Extra: How the World’s “No-Kidding Decision Makers” Got Organized

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Andrew Lowenthal is a Brownstone Institute fellow, journalist, and the founder and CEO of liber-net, a digital civil liberties initiative. He was co-founder and Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific digital rights non-profit EngageMedia for almost eighteen years, and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

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