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Censorship Industrial Complex

Now We Are Supposed to Cheer Government Surveillance?

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

The powers that be are leading us from the Declaration of Internet Freedom from simpler times (2012), to the  Declaration on the Future of the Internet. Do we need to say more than the word “freedom” has been left out of the future?

They are wearing us down with shocking headlines and opinions. They come daily these days, with increasingly implausible claims that leave your jaw on the floor. The rest of the text is perfunctory. The headline is the takeaway, and the part designed to demoralize, deconstruct, and disorient.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times told us that “As It Turns Out, the Deep State Is Pretty Awesome.” These are the same people who claim that Trump is trying to get rid of democracy. The Deep State is the opposite of democracy, unelected and unaccountable in every way, impervious to elections and the will of the people. Now we have the NYT celebrating this.

And the latest bears notice too: “Government Surveillance Keeps Us Safe.” The authors are classic Deep Staters associated with Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush. They assure us that having an Orwellian state is good for us. You can trust them, promise. The rest of the content of the article doesn’t matter much. The message is in the headline.

Amazing isn’t it? You have to check your memory and your sanity. These are the people who have rightly warned about government infringements on privacy and free speech for many decades dating way back.

And now we have aggressive and open advocacy of exactly that, mainly because the Biden administration is in charge and has only months to put the final touches on the revolution in law and liberty that has come to America. They want to make it all permanent and are working furiously to make it so.

Along with routine warrantless surveillance, not only of possible bad guys but everyone, comes of course censorship. A few years ago, this seemed to be intermittent, like the biased and arbitrary actions of rogue executives. We objected and denounced but generally assumed that it was aberrant and going away over time.

Back then, we had no idea of the scale and the ambition of the censors. The more information that is coming out, the more the full goal is coming into view. The power elite want the Internet to operate like the controlled media of the 1970s. Any opinion that runs contrary to regime priorities will be blocked. Websites that distribute alternative outlooks will be lucky to survive at all.

To understand what’s going on, see the White House document called Declaration on the Future of the Internet. Freedom is barely a footnote, and free speech is not part of it. Instead it is to be a “rules-based digital economy” governed “through the multistakeholder approach, whereby governments and relevant authorities partner with academics, civil society, the private sector, technical community and others.”

This whole document is an Orwellian replacement of the Declaration of Internet Freedom from 2012, which was signed by Amnesty International, the ACLU, and major corporations and banks. The first principle of this Declaration was free speech: don’t censor the Internet. That was 12 years ago and the principle is long forgotten. Even the original website has been dead since 2018. It is now replaced with one word: “Forbidden.”

Yes, that’s chilling but it is also perfectly descriptive. In all mainline Internet venues, from search to shopping to social, freedom is no longer the practice. Censorship has been normalized. And it is taking place with the direct involvement of the federal government and third-party organizations and research centers paid for by tax dollars. This is very clearly a violation of the First Amendment but the new orthodoxy in elite circles is that the First Amendment simply does not apply to the Internet.

This issue is making its way through litigation. There was a time when the decision would not be in question. No more. Several or more Supreme Court Justices do not seem to understand even the meaning of free speech.

The Prime Minister of Australia made the new view clear in his statement in defense of fining Elon Musk. He said that social media has a “social responsibility.” In today’s parlance, this means they must obey the government, which is the only proper interpreter of the public interest. In this view, you simply cannot allow people to post and say things that are contrary to regime priorities.

If the regime cannot manage public culture, and manipulate the public mind, what’s it there for? If it cannot control the Internet, its managers believe, it will lose control of the whole of society.

The crackdown is intensifying by the day. Representative Thomas Massie shot a video after the Ukraine vote for a total foreign aid package of an astonishing $95 billion. Vast numbers of Democrats on the House floor waved Ukrainian flags, which you might suppose smacks of treason. The Sergeant-at-Arms wrote Massey directly to tell him to take down the video or get a $500 fine.

True, the rules say you cannot film in a way that “impairs decorum,” but he simply took out his phone. The decorum was disturbed by masses of lawmakers waving a foreign flag. So Massie refused. After all, the entire disgraceful scene was on C-SPAN but the presumption is that no one watches that but everyone reads X, which is probably true.

Clearly, GOP speaker Mike Johnson doesn’t want his perfidy this well-advertised. After all, it was he who shepherded the authorization of spying on the American people using Section 702 of FISA, which 99 percent of GOP voters opposed. Just who do these people think they are there to represent?

It’s actually astonishing to do a conjectural history in which Elon did not buy Twitter. The regime monopoly on social media today would be 99.5 percent. Then the handful of alternative venues could be shut down one by one, just as with Parler a few years ago. Under this scenario, closing the social end of the Internet would not be that difficult. The domains are another matter but those could be banned gradually over time.

But with X rising in a meteoric way since Elon’s takeover, that is now far more difficult. He has made it his mission to remind the world of core principles. This is why he told the boycotting advertisers to jump in a lake and why he refused to comply with every dictate by the despotic head of the Brazilian Supreme Court. Daily he is showing what it means to stand up for principle in extremely hard times.

Glenn Beck puts it well: “What Elon Musk is doing in both Brazil and Australia is this: He is simply standing where the Free world used to stand. They have moved, not him. They are the radicals not him. HAVE THE COURAGE to remain standing, unmovable in the truth that can never change and you will be targeted and eventually change the world.”

Censorship is not an end unto itself. The purpose is control of the people. That is also the purpose of surveillance. It is not, rather obviously, to protect the public. It is to protect the state and its industrial partners against the people. Of course, just as in every dystopian film, they always pretend otherwise.

Somehow – call me naive – I just didn’t expect the New York Times to be all-in on the immediate establishment of the surveillance state and universal censorship by the “awesome” Deep State. But think of this. If the NYT can be fully captured by this ideology, and probably captured by the money that goes with it, so can any other institution. You have probably noticed a similar editorial line being pushed by WiredMother JonesRolling StoneSalonSlate, and other venues, including the entire suite of publications owned by Conde Nast including Vogue and GQ magazine.

“Don’t bother me with your crazed conspiracy theory, Tucker.”

I get the point. What is your explanation?

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Censorship Industrial Complex

Australia passes digital ID bill, raising fears of government surveillance without accountability

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From LifeSiteNews

By David James

Critics argue the legislation, enacted under the guise of increased security, ramps up government surveillance and control, with no accountability mechanisms for public sector misuse.

The Australian Parliament has passed the Digital ID Bill 2024 and Digital ID (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2024 which, it claims, will provide “certainty” for the expansion of the existing Australian government digital ID system.

The move is being presented as a way to improve “privacy and security” for people when interacting online by “verifying” users’ identities. The government claims that the legislation will reduce fraud and other malpractice by private actors, but the bill says nothing about the public actors, the government. The implication is that that the public sector will never do anything wrong with its increased powers, raising the suspicion that it is yet another move by state and federal governments to increase surveillance and control over the lives of citizens.

Australia is a paternalistic society and there is no mechanism to hold the executive branch of government accountable – indeed the possibility is rarely raised. There is thus nothing to stop more intrusions into people’s privacy by the government.

Commenting on the passing of the bill, Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts from the One Nation Party said that, while the voluntary system has been presented as a measure for security and convenience it could lead to significant privacy breaches, cyber-attacks, and government overreach. He described it as a potential attack on Australians’ “freedom, privacy, and way of life,” especially if it eventually becomes mandatory.

Roberts pointed to the Digital ID bill, the Online Safety Act, the Identity Services Verification Act, and the Misinformation and Disinformation Bill as elements of what looks like a coordinated plan by the federal government “to identify, punish and imprison anyone who resists this slide back into serfdom.” In the initial inquiry into the Digital ID bill, he said, the Human Rights Commission “drew attention to the lack of protection of privacy and human rights in the bill,” but it was ignored. Roberts added that the bill is very similar to legislation being implemented in other Western nations.

A significant proportion of the Australian population has concluded that politicians and the public sector cannot be trusted and that they fail to scrutinize their own actions. As if to underline this unaccountability, the Digital ID bill was passed using “tricks used to stifle debate and public discussion,” according to former federal senator Craig Kelly. He said on X (formerly Twitter) that the way the bill was passed was “contrary to precedent, the spirit of the Constitution and [the] Westminster tradition.”

“Labor introduced the Digital ID in the Senate (the House of review) instead of the House of Representatives,” Kelly wrote. “Then they guillotined debate in the Senate. And in House of Representatives, Labor shifted debate to the Federation Chamber where the Liberals put up token resistance with only one Liberal MP and two National MP’s bothering to speak on the Bill – and they didn’t even try any amendments to protect privacy or to try and safeguard against it being made compulsory.”

The government mendacity continues – at a time when federal laws against “disinformation and misinformation” are being debated. There is constant propaganda in government-funded media outlets about what an effective job was done against the “pandemic” by pursuing lockdowns and mass vaccination. It is false; there was no pandemic. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 2020 and 2021 had the lowest number of deaths from respiratory diseases since records have been kept.

The federal government, in a statement, is giving the impression that the move is merely a way to protect vulnerable Australians, to give certainty for providers and services, and to provide transparency in order “to build public trust.” But what is not said is more important than what is said. There is no mechanism for Australians to redress wrongs committed by the government.

What should happen is something that has never existed in Australia: the establishment of a way for Australians to hold the public sector accountable and stop their governments becoming a menace, as occurred during the “pandemic.” Unless public servants are at risk of being penalized, or at least of having their actions constrained, there is a strong likelihood that fears about the Digital ID Bill will ultimately be realized.

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Censorship Industrial Complex

Jim Jordan Exposes Biden’s Censorship-Industrial Complex

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By TOM HEBERT

 

“Internal talking points prepared by Amazon,” says the report, “included the question: ‘Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both).’”

High-ranking Biden White House operatives coerced Big Tech companies into censoring posts critical of the Biden administration or those that spread so-called “misinformation” about COVID-19. A blockbuster new report from the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, exposes how the Biden administration weaponized Big Tech against conservatives.

“The report,” the committee said when it released it, “details the months-long campaign by the Biden White House to coerce large companies, namely Facebook, Google, and Amazon, to censor books, videos, posts, and other content online. By the end of 2021, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon changed their content moderation policies in ways that were directly responsive to criticism from the Biden Administration.”

This report is the result of a multi-year investigation by the Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The evidence, including tens of thousands of emails and other non-public documents, shows a disturbing pattern of Biden officials pressuring Big Tech companies into censoring Americans online.

Shortly after Biden’s inauguration in 2021, then-White House Digital Director Rob Flaherty began haranguing top Facebook officials for more detail on their policies for taking down COVID-19 related posts. “In February 2021,” says the report, “Facebook increased its censorship of anti-vaccine content as well as the lab leak theory of the origin of the virus because of ‘tense conversations with the new [Biden] Administration’ and as part of an effort to be responsive to the Biden White House’s exhortations to ‘do more’ to combat alleged misinformation.”

As 2021 progressed, the White House demanded to know what Facebook was doing to censor “borderline content,” posts that did not violate Facebook’s content moderation policies but were nevertheless objectionable to Biden officials. “Facebook would meet again with the Biden White House on March 12, 2021, to discuss how it was approaching ‘borderline content,’ that is, content that did not violate its policies,” says the report.

“Facebook walked through its policies and enforcement practices for violative and borderline content,” it says. “But call notes reveal that throughout the meeting, Flaherty continued to ask about the removal and reduction of content above all else.”

Unsatisfied with Facebook’s unwillingness to “play ball,” Flaherty and the White House played hard ball. On July 16, 2021, a reporter asked Biden: “On Covid misinformation, what’s your message to platforms like Facebook?” Biden responded: “They’re killing people.”

In response to the intense pressure from the White House, Facebook went on to change their content moderation policies and censored posts about vaccine hesitancy and the lab-leak theory.

Facebook was not the only social media platform that Biden officials pressured. In April 2021, Flaherty reached out to YouTube with a litany of questions about YouTube’s efforts to censor borderline content. “Flaherty’s email was particularly focused on how YouTube handled non-violative ‘borderline’ content,” says the report. “These requests were prefaced by stating the Biden White House wanted ‘to be sure that you have a handle on vaccine hesitancy generally and are working toward making the problem better’ and that this ‘is a concern that is shared at the highest (and I mean highest) level of the [White House].’”

After Flaherty succeeded in making YouTube change its content moderation policies “to remove content that questioned the safety or efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines,” other Biden bureaucrats started to pester YouTube employees to clamp down on other content. In March 2022, according to the committee report, former Biden advisor Tim Wu asked for a meeting with Google employees to discuss “Russian misinformation/disinformation” and “airline competition.”

Another staffer communicated with YouTube about abortion-related content. “On July 14, 2022, YouTube Government Affairs staff contacted White House personnel to brief them on ‘updates related to addressing reproductive health misinformation on YouTube,’ to which White House staff responded, saying that they were ‘specifically interested in abortion,’” said the report.

Biden officials clearly sought to censor content they perceived as politically damaging to Biden.

The report also shows the White House’s obsession suppressing books that they disagreed with. In March 2021, the Biden White House emailed an Amazon executive “asking to have a discussion regarding the ‘high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation at Amazon.’”

“Internal talking points prepared by Amazon,” says the report, “included the question: ‘Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both).’”

There are two important takeaways from this report.

One, the Biden administration sought to impose a censorship regime through Big Tech to benefit the president politically.

Two, Congress should act to prevent future government-directed censorship of American speech. There are numerous bills that would address this problem. The House passed the “Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act” last year, legislation that would ban bureaucrats from advocating for censorship of viewpoints. The “Free Speech Protection Act” imposes penalties on bureaucrats who censor speech, and the “Censorship Accountability Act” would allow  Americans to sue bureaucrats who violate their First Amendment rights.

The Biden administration has displayed an appalling amount of contempt for American free speech. Exposing Biden’s censorship-industrial complex is an important first step toward ensuring that unelected bureaucrats do not have a veto over what we say online.

Tom Hebert is Director of Competition and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Open Competition Center.

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