Censorship Is What Happens When Powerful People Get Scared

Michael Krieger — Liberty BlitzKrieg Aug 13, 2018

“Only the weak hit the fly with a hammer.”

– Bangambiki Habyarimana

Anyone who tells you the recent escalation of censorship by U.S. tech giants is merely a reflection of private companies making independent decisions is either lying or dangerously ignorant.

In the case of Facebook, the road from pseudo-platform to willing and enthusiastic tool of establishment power players is fairly straightforward. It really got going earlier this year when issues surrounding egregious privacy violations in the case of Cambridge Analytica (stuff that had been going on for years) could finally be linked to the Trump campaign.  It was at this point that powerful and nefarious forces spotted an opportunity to leverage the company’s gigantic influence in distributing news and opinion for their own ends. Rather than hold executives to account and break up the company, the choice was made to commandeer and weaponize the platform. This is where we stand today.

Let’s not whitewash history though. These tech companies have been compliant, out of control government snitches for a long time. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we’re aware of the deep and longstanding cooperation between these lackeys and U.S. intelligence agencies in the realm of mass surveillance. As such, the most recent transformation of these companies into full-fledged information gatekeepers should be seen in its proper context; merely as a dangerous continuation and expansion of an already entrenched reality.

But it’s all out in the open now. Facebook isn’t even hiding the fact that it’s outsourcing much of its “fake news” analysis to the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by NATO, Gulf States and defence contractors. As reported by Reuters:

Facebook began looking for outside help amid criticism for failing to rein in Russian propaganda ahead of the 2016 presidential elections…

With scores of its own cybersecurity professionals and $40 billion in annual revenue in 2017, Facebook might not seem in need of outside help.

It doesn’t need outside help, it needs political cover, which is the real driver behind this.

But the lab and Atlantic Council bring geopolitical expertise and allow Facebook to distance itself from sensitive pronouncements. On last week’s call with reporters, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, said the company should not be expected to identify or blame specific governments for all the campaigns it detects.

“Companies like ours don’t have the necessary information to evaluate the relationship between political motivations that we infer about an adversary and the political goals of a nation-state,” said Stamos, who is leaving the company this month for a post at Stanford University. Instead, he said Facebook would stick to amassing digital evidence and turning it over to authorities and researchers.

It would also be awkward for Facebook to accuse a government of wrongdoing when the company is trying to enter or expand in a market under that government’s control.

Facebook donated an undisclosed amount to the lab in May that was enough, said Graham Brookie, who runs the lab, to vault the company to the top of the Atlantic Council’s donor list, alongside the British government.

Facebook employees said privately over the past several months that Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wants to outsource many of the most sensitive political decisions, leaving fact-checking to media groups and geopolitics to think tanks. The more he succeeds, the fewer complications for Facebook’s expansion, the smaller its payroll, and the more plausible its positioning as a neutral platform. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

With that in mind go ahead and check out the Atlantic Council’s donor list and all the shady characters on its board.

Now that it’s been established that Facebook is in fact censoring based on advice provided by former spooks and other assorted establishment charlatans, let’s talk about what this means. I think there are two major takeaways.

First and foremost, the entire push to make arbitrary de-platforming by tech giants the new norm proves the establishment is scared to death. The very powerful folks accustomed to manipulating and shaping the world via narrative creation aren’t terrified about what Alex Jones says, they’re terrified that it’s popular. The establishment “elites” are in such denial about the consequences of the world they created, all they can do is spastically attack symptoms. Trump didn’t divide U.S. society and Alex Jones didn’t cause our widespread (and entirely justifiably) distrust in institutions; the status quo system did that via its spectacular failures. Trump’s election and Alex Jones’ popularity are merely symptoms of an incredibly corrupt and failed status quo paradigm, the stewards of which continually refuse to take a look in the mirror, accept blame and reform.

The way I see it, two key events of the 21st century directly led to the situation we find ourselves in currently. The launching of the Iraq war based on false evidence spread by intelligence agencies, politicians and the media, and the decision to bail out bankers and protect them from jail in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Combined, these two things created an environment of anger and distrust in which nearly anything becomes possible politically and socially. Trump and Alex Jones are symptoms of a failing society, not the root causes of it.

If I’m right about this, censorship of such voices by Silicon Valley billionaires will backfire spectacularly. Alex Jones has now been made a martyr by tech oligarchs and deep state think tanks, which gives him more street cred than he had before. De-platforming does nothing to the demand side of the equation when it comes to his content, as we saw with his Infowars app soaring in the charts soon after the purge. If people want to find Alex Jones and Infowars, they will find it. Moreover, other communities are beginning to wake up to how dangerous all of this is. For example, last week we witnessed a growing number of Bitcoiners create accounts at decentralized Twitter-alternative Mastodon in case Jack Dorsey decides to step up censorship there.

Ultimately, it’s safer for society to have open public forums where all ideas — whether you consider them dangerous and crazy or not — can be openly expressed alongside each other. That way we can see what’s out there and debate or debunk them in front of large and diverse audiences.

This is 2018 and de-platforming popular content won’t make it go away. It’ll just shift it over into areas of the internet you can’t see, where it’ll fester and grow stronger over time in even more intense and radicalized echo chambers. You’ll think it’s gone from society because it’s been safely cleansed from your corporate-government Facebook timeline, but it may grow even stronger in the shadows. This is particularly the case in a nation dominated by an entrenched, corrupt and unaccountable elitist class. One that refuses to confront the reality of its monumental failures, and instead chooses to self-interestedly obsess over what are just symptoms of a decadent empire in decline.

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