Planet of the Censoring Humans

Taibbi, Matt
Date Written:  2020-05-29
Year Published:  2020
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX24123

The campaign to remove Michael Moore’s new documentary from the Internet -- led by Moore's erstwhile progressive "allies" -- is a significant advance in the censorship revolution.



One problem is the so-called "reputable" fact-checking authorities many platforms are relying upon have terrible factual histories themselves. There's an implication that "misinformation" by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate. We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.

Moreover, despite widespread propaganda to the contrary, the new movement to regulate speech on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is, actually, censorship. In the United States, high-ranking politicians in both parties have held congressional hearings and threatened these tech companies with tighter regulation and taxation if they do not develop policies for combating the "fomenting of discord."

In response, these companies –--which as recently as four or five years ago were disavowing editorial responsibilities, in the case of Facebook going so far as to deny being a media company at all -- are now instituting vast new controls. It's a clear symbiosis: governments permit mining of lucrative markets in exchange for access to the platforms' monitoring powers.

"That’s censorship," says Andre Damon of the World Socialist Web Site. "That's a First Amendment issue."

Throughout the last four years, it's mainly been left to people affected by these new policies to point out the obvious, that relying on star-chambers of corporate gatekeepers to oversee information flow will have dramatic consequences. These voices seem to be the only ones interested in sticking up for the rights of political opponents.

"I don’t think anyone can confuse me for a supporter of Donald Trump, but I see the danger of celebration of Twitter fact-checking him, because that's going to be the model for all of us," says Ali Abuminah, author and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, which has extensively covered the suppression of speech in Palestine by Facebook, including the recent removals.

"It's always presented as, 'We're going to crack down on white supremacists and anti-vaxxers,'" says Damon. "But the practical impact of speech controls is always to advance the interests of the ruling class."

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