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Brownstone Institute

The Facebook Files Show Brazen and Aggressive Censorship

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6 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Justin HartJUSTIN HART

Representative Jim Jordan came out with a series of released and unredacted emails provided to a Congressional committee from Facebook, showing the massive pressure the White House and other entities put on the social media giant during the pandemic. The purpose was to quash narratives and even memes that the White House took umbrage with. This has become all too familiar. My lawsuit is still pending, and I expect this will help my case.

THE FACEBOOK FILES, PART 1: SMOKING-GUN DOCS PROVE FACEBOOK CENSORED AMERICANS BECAUSE OF BIDEN WHITE HOUSE PRESSURE

Thread:


Never-before-released internal documents subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee PROVE that Facebook and Instagram censored posts and changed their content moderation policies because of unconstitutional pressure from the Biden White House.

During the first half of 2021, social media companies like Facebook faced tremendous pressure from the Biden White House—both publicly and privately—to crack down on alleged “misinformation.”

In April 2021, a Facebook employee circulated an email for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, writing: “We are facing continued pressure from external stakeholders, including the [Biden] White House” to remove posts.

ImageIn another April 2021 email, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s president for global affairs, informed his team at Facebook that Andy Slavitt, a Senior Advisor to President Biden, was “outraged . . . that [Facebook] did not remove” a particular post.
ImageWhat did the Biden White House want removed? A meme. That’s right, even memes weren’t spared from the Biden White House’s censorship efforts.
ImageWhen Clegg “countered that removing content like that would represent a significant incursion into traditional boundaries of free expression in the US,” Slavitt disregarded the warning and the First Amendment.
ImageWhat happened next? Facebook panicked. In another April 2021 email, Brian Rice, Facebook’s VP of public policy, raised the concern that Slavitt’s challenge felt “very much like a crossroads for us with the [Biden] White House in these early days.”
ImageBut Facebook wanted to repair its relationship with the White House to avoid adverse action: “Given what is at stake here, it would also be a good idea if we could regroup and take stock of where we are in our relations with the [White House], and our internal methods too.”
ImageThis wasn’t the first time that the Biden White House was angry that Facebook didn’t censor more. According to these documents, the Biden White House demanded to know why Facebook had not censored a video from @TuckerCarlson

So, Facebook prepped its response.

To appease the Biden White House, talking points were drafted for Clegg. Facebook was ready to tell the White House that it had demoted a video posted by Tucker Carlson by 50 percent in response to the White House’s demands, even though the post didn’t violate any policies.

ImagePublic pressure mounted as well. In July 2021, President Biden publicly denounced Facebook and other social media platforms, claiming they were “killing people” by not censoring alleged “misinformation.”

On August 2, 2021, Facebook admitted it was going to change its policies because of pressure from the Biden White House.

August 2, 2021: “[Facebook’s] Leadership asked Misinfo Policy . . . to brainstorm some additional policy levers we can pull to be more aggressive against . . . misinformation. This is stemming from the continued criticism of our approach from the [Biden] administration.”

ImageBut it wasn’t just the White House. Facebook also changed its policies in direct response to pressure from Biden’s Surgeon General, censoring members of the “disinformation dozen.”
ImageThese documents, AND OTHERS that were just produced to the Committee, prove that the Biden administration abused its powers to coerce Facebook into censoring Americans, preventing free and open discourse on issues of critical public importance.

Only after the Committee announced its intention to hold Mark Zuckerberg in contempt did Facebook produce ANY internal documents to the Committee, including these documents, which PROVE that government pressure was directly responsible for censorship on Facebook.

Based on Facebook’s newfound commitment to fully cooperate with the Committee’s investigation, the Committee has decided to hold contempt in abeyance. For now. To be clear, contempt is still on the table and WILL be used if Facebook fails to cooperate in FULL.

Reposted from RationalGround

Author

  • Justin Hart

    Justin Hart is an executive consultant with over 25 years experience creating data-driven solutions for Fortune 500 companies and Presidential campaigns alike. Mr. Hart is the Chief Data Analyst and founder of RationalGround.com which helps companies, public policy officials, and even parents gauge the impact of COVID-19 across the country. The team at RationalGround.com offers alternative solutions on how to move forward during this challenging pandemic.

Brownstone Institute

Conspiracy Theory Debunker Finds Real Conspiracies

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Doran HowittDORAN HOWITT  

The first genuine conspiracy he describes involved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manipulating data in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The second involved a newspaper editor-in-chief refusing to report about vaccine side effects observed by a hospital

The 2023 book Misbelief by Dan Ariely belongs to a genre I would label “debunking Covid conspiracy theories.” The book is meant to explore the thought process of people who subscribe to conspiracy theories, especially about Covid and the Covid vaccines.

Thus I was surprised to encounter in the book two stories in which the author uncovered real conspiracies to hide information about Covid from the public.

Ariely, a professor of psychology at Duke University, played a bit part in promoting Covid lockdowns around the world. By his own description, he worked

…on projects related to Covid-19 with the Israeli government and a bit with the British, Dutch, and Brazilian governments as well…I was mostly working to try to get the police to use rewards to incentivize good mask-wearing behavior and observance of social distancing instead of using fines… (p. 4)

The first genuine conspiracy he describes involved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manipulating data in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The second involved a newspaper editor-in-chief refusing to report about vaccine side effects observed by a hospital. The author reports these situations matter-of-factly, and even gives the conspirators the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe they did the right thing!

Let’s look at the VAERS conspiracy (recounted on pp. 274-276). Ariely says he got this information directly from a person who works “in the information technology department of the FDA.” The agency, according to the story, determined that:

…foreign powers, mostly Russian and Iranian, had found a way to spread disinformation using VAERS. So when the FDA identified cases that had clearly come from such sources, it removed them from the system…

Not only did it delete this data, but it did so silently. Ariely only found out by accident: Parents of vaccine-injured children maintained their own copy of the VAERS data, downloaded from the FDA site. They noticed that cases appearing in their downloaded data later disappeared from the government copy of the database, and they told Ariely about this.

Supposedly the FDA tried to keep these actions secret because it “did not want to announce to the foreign powers that it was onto them,” the FDA employee told him. But to anyone reasonably well-versed in information technology, keeping such acts secret is an obvious mistake. The bad guys will figure out what is going on; the folks we are trying to protect are left in the dark about possible mischief affecting data they rely on. And that’s the most charitable assessment of their actions. It could be worse: the FDA might have removed valid information inadvertently (putting aside possible nefarious intentions at this point). How might that come about?

Since we don’t have details as to how the FDA found this bad data, we need to speculate. Here is the easiest scenario to imagine. A straightforward way to detect computer sessions originating in Russia or Iran is by IP (internet protocol) address. Did the FDA personnel identify the supposedly bogus entries by this method?

But there’s a flaw in that approach. Many computer users obfuscate their IP address for privacy reasons. Some popular browsers such as Tor and Brave do that automatically: each browser page gets detoured through servers in different locations. Those servers are located worldwide, including in Russia. Thus if a US-based individual using the Tor browser added an entry to VAERS, and the session was routed through Russia, the FDA might well have identified this incorrectly as misinformation.

Compare how the world of open-source software deals with malware. These software publishers routinely make information about vulnerabilities public, so that user organizations can both protect themselves and evaluate what damage might have been done. A publisher may wait a few days or weeks while they fix a bug and get it distributed, but then they disseminate the details.

A variety of US laws and regulations even require corporations to promptly reveal data breaches that happen to them. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission mandates that public companies report “cybersecurity incidents” within four days of determining that the incident has a “material” effect on a company’s business.

VAERS is supposed to be a public resource. If FDA has a policy to remove entries, it should be transparent about its criteria, and make the data available for audit. Or it could just as easily have flagged the entries as “suspicious origin” and left them in the database. Then others could review their judgment and either confirm or dispute the classifications.

Let’s look at the second conspiracy Ariely recounts (pp. 277-280):

I was speaking with a doctor from a large health care organization…I couldn’t resist asking her what she thought about all the online chatter about unreported vaccine side effects. To my surprise, she agreed there was a problem. She said that she had observed a lot of side effects in her clinic that had not been reported and had been collecting such data from her patients…

Ariely at that point decided this was newsworthy. He met with the editor-in-chief of “a large newspaper,” told the editor about the situation, and suggested the editor get the doctor’s data and report about it. The reaction:

The editor told me he suspected that I was correct about the underreported side effects. However, he had no intention of publishing anything about them…because he suspected that the misbelievers would use the published information in an unethical way and distort it…I was disappointed that he did not publish the story, but I could see his point.

Ariely spends a few sentences philosophizing about what is the true responsibility of a newspaper – is it just to publish true information, or is it “to do this cost-benefit analysis for the society…?” But apparently he let the matter lie, acquiescing in real censorship of real information.

The debunker has debunked his own debunking project.

Author

  • Doran Howitt

    Doran Howitt is a semi-retired marketing executive and former financial journalist. He blogs as “Occasional Economist” on LinkedIn.

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Brownstone Institute

The WHO and Phony International Law

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Bruce PardyBRUCE PARDY 

A new pandemic treaty is in the works. Countries are negotiating its terms, along with amendments to international health regulations. If ready in time, the World Health Assembly will approve them in May. The deal may give the WHO power to declare global health emergencies. Countries will promise to follow WHO directives. Lockdowns, vaccine mandates, travel restrictions, and more will be in the works. Critics say that the agreements will override national sovereignty because their provisions will be binding. But international law is the art of the Big Pretend.

You drive down Main Street. Cars are parked everywhere. The signs say “No Parking” but they also say, “The City does not enforce parking restrictions.” In effect there’s no rule against parking. Laws are commands imposed with the force of the state. Rules without sanctions are mere suggestions. Some people may honor the request, but others won’t. Those who disagree with the rule can safely ignore it. In domestic law, “enforceable” and “binding” are synonyms.

But not in international law, where promises are called “binding” even if they are unenforceable. In the international sphere, countries are the highest authority. Nothing stands above them with the power to enforce their promises. No such courts exist. The International Court of Justice depends on the consent of the countries involved. No international police enforce its orders. The UN is a sprawling bureaucracy, but in the end, it is merely a place for countries to gather. The WHO is a branch of the UN whose mandate countries negotiate amongst themselves.

In the proposed pandemic treaty, parties are to settle disputes through negotiation. They may agree to be subject to the International Court of Justice or to arbitration. But they cannot be required to.

Yet international law jurists insist that unenforceable treaty promises can be binding. “The binding character of a norm does not depend on whether there is any court or tribunal with jurisdiction to apply it,” Daniel Bodansky, a professor of international law at Arizona State University, wrote in a 2016 analysis of the Paris climate agreement. “Enforcement is not a necessary condition for an instrument or norm to be legally binding.” Without this Big Pretend, international law would collapse like a house of cards on a windy beach.

All countries are sovereign. They are free to retaliate against each other for perceived wrongs, including breaches of treaty promises. They can seek to have other countries censured or expelled from the international regime. They can impose trade sanctions. They can expel ambassadors. But retaliation is not “enforcement.” Moreover, international relations are a delicate business. Aggrieved countries are more likely to express their disappointment in carefully crafted diplomatic language than to burn bridges.

The threat from WHO proposals come not from outside but from within. We live in a managerial age, run by a technocratic elite. Over time, they have acquired for themselves the discretion to direct society for the common good, as they declare it to be.

As journalist David Samuels puts it, “Americans now find themselves living in an oligarchy administered day-to-day by institutional bureaucracies that move in lock-step with each other, enforcing a set of ideologically-driven top-down imperatives that seemingly change from week-to-week and cover nearly every subject under the sun.” These bureaucracies regulate, license, expropriate, subsidize, track, censor, prescribe, plan, incentivize, and inspect. Pandemics and public health are the most recent justifications for yet more control.

Domestic governments, not international bodies, will impose WHO recommendations on their citizens. They will pass laws and policies that incorporate those directives. Even an exasperated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said so in a briefing this week. “There are those who claim that the pandemic agreement and [amended regulations] will cede sovereignty…and give the WHO Secretariat the power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries…These claims are completely false…the agreement is negotiated by countries for countries and will be implemented in countries in accordance with your own national laws.”

Ghebreyesus is correct. Local and national authorities will not give up their powers. To what extent international commitments will be “binding” on a country depends not on international law but on that country’s own domestic laws and courts. Article VI of the US Constitution, for example, provides that the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties together “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” That does not mean that treaties supersede the Constitution or federal laws. Domestic legislation and policy will be required for the proposed pandemic treaty and WHO directives to be enforced on American soil. Such legislation is an exercise of sovereignty, not a repudiation of it.

The proposals are not benign. Domestic authorities seek cover for their own autocratic measures. Their promises will be called “binding” even though they are not. Local officials will justify restrictions by citing international obligations. Binding WHO recommendations leave them no choice, they will say. The WHO will coordinate their imperatives as the face of global public health.

The WHO is not taking over. Instead, it will be the handmaiden for a coordinated global biomedical state. Managers hate straight lines. Diffuse, discretionary powers avoid accountability and the rule of law. The global health regime will be a tangled web. It is meant to be.

Author

  • Bruce Pardy

    Bruce Pardy is executive director of Rights Probe and professor of law at Queen’s University.

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