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Amazon’s proposed employee chat app has a list of banned words: “union,” “slave labor,” and more

By Christina Maas | Reclaim The Net | April 5, 2022

Amazon will not allow employees to use phrases that highlight the company’s shortcomings in a planned chat app, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The app would have an automatic filter to block terms such as “slave labor,” “union,” “pay raise,” and even “restrooms,” probably due to reports of employees using bottles instead of restrooms to meet deadlines.

A source for The Intercept said that in November, the company’s executives met to discuss plans for an employee chat app. The main feature of the app would be posts called “Shout-outs,” which would allow employees to applaud other employees for good performance.

The “Shout-outs,” would be integrated with a gamified reward system, which would allow employees to be rewarded with virtual badges and stars for achieving objectives that “add direct business value,” according to the documents.

However, the executives noted “the dark side of social media,” with the solution being to closely monitor posts to maintain a “positive community.” The head of worldwide consumer business, Dave Clark, suggested that the app should be one-on-one, like dating apps, not forum-based like Twitter and Facebook.

The executives also agreed that the app should have an “auto bad word monitor.” The filter would flag offensive and inappropriate phrases. However, it would also prevent employees from terms that could be used to criticize the company or those that could be used to organize a union.

“With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers,” a document summarizing the program states. “We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”

According to The Intercept, terms that would be banned include “Union,” “this is concerning,” “slave,” “slave labor,” “prison,” “unite,” “committee,” “restrooms,” “grievance,” and “injustice.”

“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” said Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait. “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.

“If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words you’re calling out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team.”

April 5, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

David V Goliath: Amazon Turns The Screw

By David Sedgwick | March 16, 2022

It’s tough being a writer. It’s even tougher when your work is being actively suppressed by the world’s biggest market place for books: Amazon.

Reputed to account for 80% of world book sales, for an author there’s no getting away from the online giant, no escaping its tentacles.

My problems with Amazon began when I had the audacity to publish a couple of BBC critiques; birds of a feather stick together and the broadcaster wasn’t too happy about these exposes of mine.

In normal times, they’d just have to suck it up. But these are not normal times. McCarthyism lives again only this time, co-ordinated by Big Tech. It’s a far more frightening prospect than it ever was in the 1950s.

Anyway, I’d said what I wanted viz the BBC and moved on to a new project: solving a mystery which had occurred in Provence in 1973, the savage murder of a British headmaster and former intelligence agent, John Cartland.

In a vain attempt to escape censure for my previous ‘crimes’ I even adopted a nom de plume: ‘Stockton Heath’. Almost two years later the task was complete: the mystery had been solved!

As an independent project there was no alternative but to publish via Amazon. While Amazon will plug certain books linking them to other books and ensuring their visibility on its platform, my little effort had no such benefits and duly dropped off the radar.

Reviews were hard to come by. On one occasion I noticed a positive review and my heart leapt only to find it had mysteriously vanished the next day.

How many more reviews have been deleted without my knowledge?

All was not lost. In France the crime is still referred to and remains one of that country’s most perplexing mysteries. Would I have better luck there?

After paying a French contact to assist with translation and six months after starting what became a long and complicated process, ‘Imaginer Un Meurtre: L’affaire Cartland Revistee’ was finally completed in February this year.

Initially all went well. It seems like my hunch had been right: the book sold relatively well during its first week on Amazon France. And then, nothing.

Just over a week ago sales stopped dead. More Amazon antics? It looked that way. I had started to receive a few emails from associates in France: ‘Where was the book? Hadn’t I published after all?’

I checked Amazon France: searching for the book’s title ‘Imaginer Un Meurtre’ auto-corrected to ‘Imagier Un Meurtre’.

The word ‘imagier’ in French means ‘colouring book’ and so instead of my book I was presented with children’s colouring books.

It soon became apparent that unless customers typed in the full title of the book + sub-title + author’s name, henceforth it would be effectively invisible to browsers of Amazon France.

Having spent hours on the telephone to Amazon reps is enough to drive one to distraction: they deny everything, even when viewing actual proof captured on film which shows how the Amazon website is subverting searches for the book. (Video can be viewed below)

It’s all due to the “algorithm” and that is that. Have a nice day.

So what happened? I have a theory: having suddenly become aware that I had published on Amazon’s French platform and the book in question was doing ok, Amazon stepped in to subvert the book’s visibility by ‘tweaking’ its searchability.

And it worked too: the book is now headed the same way as the English language version: to oblivion.

Once you’ve upset the establishment that’s your card marked, or so it seems. MSM (BBC) and Big tech is crossed at one’s peril.

This amalgamation of political parties/politicians with mainstream media and Big Tech into one immoral and corrupt uni-party was predicted by Orwell in 1984.

Orwell’s world is one of fear and paranoia where citizens are subjected to 24-hour surveillance by a brutal authoritarian police state – just the kind of society warned about by the so-called anti-fascist busily taking Orwell’s dystopia for their ‘Build Back Better’ blueprint.

Where does one go from here? Having resisted the lies for so long, the hero of 1984 finally submits to the Party orthodoxy at the end of the novel.

While he was right about everything else from The Thought Police to Big State propaganda channelled through ubiquitous tellyscreens, let’s hope that as far as his ending was concerned, Orwell got one thing wrong.

David Sedgwick is a writer and bon viveur based in Malaga and Split with occasional visits back to Liverpool. He writes about a wide range of topics from F1 and film to true crime and travel. http://www.stocktonheath.net

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Activists complain bipartisan antitrust law proposal could make online censorship more difficult

The challenge comes from “free press” groups

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim The Net | January 24, 2022

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act that is currently making its way through Senate committees before being put up for the final vote, is attracting attention both from those who support it and Big Tech’s lobbyists, who earlier reports said had already launched a broad campaign against it.

The bill that has so far received bipartisan support, aims to significantly limit the way Apple, Amazon, and Google use their monopolistic business practices to undermine competition and antitrust laws.

Either by design or coincidence, it isn’t just openly lobbying firms who are attacking the bill from various angles; they are joined by organizations like Free Press, which claims it is nonpartisan and fighting “for your right to connect and communicate.”

However, in the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, Free Press sees a “flaw” that would, essentially, make connecting and communicating easier – and doesn’t like it. Namely, the bill, if passed, they argue, could prevent censorship, specifically of what’s labeled as “hate speech or misinformation.”

After the narrative has been built for months if not years of “misinformation” being the most serious evil on the internet (despite it only being subjectively defined, unlike the clear and clearly damaging Big Tech antitrust behaviors), it makes sense that in order to discredit anything, reaching for the “misinformation” label is now a good idea.

Free Press writes in a blog post that the bill would provide an avenue to businesses hurt by Google and others purposefully downranking them in search results to launch legal battles against such decisions.

The bill is meant to prevent Big Tech from manipulating the all-important search results and listings as these giants promote their own products and services over those of competitors – but could also provide a way to those hit by censorship and obscured from view by the same technology to have a chance of fighting back. And that, Free Press believes, should not be allowed.

The same argument is being made by another group, this one openly close to the tech industry, TechFreedom. “If a majority of FTC Commissioners were bent on a partisan agenda — e.g., forcing mainstream platforms to carry Parler — it would be significantly easier for them to use the administrative litigation process to do so,” this group said. Coordinated or not, Parler was also mentioned in the blog post published by Free Press.

January 24, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Google, Amazon staff protest ties to Israel spy network

MEMO | October 13, 2021

Employees of the tech giants, Google and Amazon, have condemned the companies for their contract with the Israeli military to develop cloud-based cybersecurity services, and have called on their employers to cut their ties with the occupation forces.

As part of the major $1.2 billion contracts signed with the Israeli military in May, following a bid in which it beat other giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon are to provide cloud services technology to Tel Aviv and its armed forces.

In an article published yesterday in the Guardian newspaper, however, hundreds of anonymous employees of the companies, who described themselves as “employees of conscience from diverse backgrounds”, condemned the program named ‘Project Nimbus.’

Referencing their belief “that the technology we build should work to serve and uplift people everywhere,” the employees stated that “we are morally obligated to speak out against violations of these core values.”

They wrote that “we are compelled to call on the leaders of Amazon and Google to pull out of Project Nimbus and cut all ties with the Israeli military,” revealing that the signatories of the letter-number over 90 at Google and over 300 at Amazon.

The employees, who confirmed that they “are anonymous because we fear retaliation,” acknowledged that “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes, and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

If Google and Amazon continue with the project which would “sell dangerous technology to the Israeli military and government”, then it would only enable the “further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitate the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.”

Aside from urging the companies to abandon the project and their ties with Israel’s occupation forces, the employees also “call on global technology workers and the international community to join with us in building a world where technology promotes safety and dignity for all.”

October 13, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Biden Administration Wants to Partner with Criminals to Spy on You

By Thomas Knapp | CounterPunch | May 6, 2021

“The Biden administration,” CNN reports, “is considering using outside firms to track extremist chatter by Americans online.”

Federal law enforcement agencies are legally and constitutionally forbidden to monitor the private activities of citizens without first getting warrants based on probable cause to believe those citizens have committed, or are committing, crimes. The feds can browse public social media posts and so forth, but secretly trawling private groups and hacking encrypted chats is off-limits.

Private companies and nonprofit civic organizations, not being government entities, don’t need warrants or probable cause to access those private discussion areas. The administration’s bright idea is that through partnership with these non-government entities, they can get around legal and constitutional barriers: “WE didn’t collect the information. THEY collected the information, then gave it to us.”

There are several flies in that ointment. Here’s a big one:

It’s entirely understandable that — to use an entirely hypothetical example — someone with the Southern Poverty Law Center might impersonate a fictional white supremacist to get into a private Ku Klux Klan chat room and see what those people are up to.

But the US Department of Justice says it’s illegal  (under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) to evade terms of service with false identities.

A government partnership with an organization that gathers information in that way is no different than the government partnering with a burglar to find out what you have in your house, without the bother of convincing a judge there’s probable cause to issue a search warrant. It is, quite simply, criminal conspiracy.

As with so many political and social issues arising in the Internet age, we’re coming up against a big question that urgently needs answering:

At what point does “working with” government amount to “being part of” government?

Much of the “private” tech sector makes big money on government contracts. NBC News reports, based on  a 2020 Tech Inquiry expose, that Microsoft enjoys thousands of subcontracts with the US Department of Defense and federal law enforcement. Amazon has more than 350 such subcontracts with agencies like ICE and the FBI. Google, more than 250.

What about the “nonprofit” sector? According to the National Council of NonProfits, 31.8% of nonprofit revenues are tied to government grants and contracts.

When  these entities do things FOR government, they should be held to the same standards and limits AS government. And those standards and limits should put our freedom and privacy first.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

May 9, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | 2 Comments

SKY News Pressures Waterstones & Amazon To Ban Anti-vaccine Books

By Richie Allen | March 5, 2021

SKY News is pressuring booksellers to stop selling books written by medical experts. In a segment running hourly today, SKY claims that Waterstones, Amazon and Foyles are selling books which contain anti-vaccine medical misinformation.

The report references a book written by Dr. Vernon Coleman entitled; Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe And Effective Is Lying.

The book has received hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon’s website. Dr. Vernon Coleman is a medical expert.

His books have topped best-seller lists around the world and he was a national newspaper columnist for many years. SKY asked the booksellers to explain why they were not “providing annotations” to suggest that Vernon’s book contains disputed claims.

SKY’s report doesn’t provide a single example of a “disputed claim” in Dr. Vernon Coleman’s book.

Labour’s shadow health minister Alex Norris appears in the segment. He says that “getting the population vaccinated is a massive priority” and that he hopes “retailers would act responsibly and have a look at whether they want to be associated with such products.”

The reporter doesn’t ask Norris if he even read Vernon Coleman’s book, even though he is calling for a so-called “health warning” to be slapped on it.

This is propaganda, not news. SKY doesn’t report the news anymore, it manufactures it. It’s important to understand this. SKY is not following up concerns by parents, teachers or other doctors. SKY created this story.

A reporter at SKY News, took screenshots of the covers of books written by Dr. Vernon Coleman and Dr Joseph Mercola. He/she then forwarded the screenshots to Alex Norris in an email and asked him to respond. Norris has not read any of the books, but that doesn’t matter. He says that something must be done about them and the reporter has a story.

Look at how it appears on the SKY News website. The opening paragraph reads:

Anti-vaccination books are being sold on Amazon and the websites of Waterstones and Foyles – amid calls for warnings on items to combat the spread of misinformation.

That’s disingenuous in the extreme. The “calls for warnings” were manufactured by SKY’s reporter. It’s wretched and it’s anti-journalism, but sadly it’s all too common.

Every claim made by Dr. Vernon Coleman in his book Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe And Effective Is Lying is backed up by hard evidence. I can say that because I’ve actually read it. I can’t speak for Mercola’s book or the others mentioned in SKY’s hit-piece because I haven’t read them.

A national news channel is promoting book burning and dressing it up as news. It’s seeking to discredit medical experts by throwing around terms like misinformation and disputed claims, without referencing a single paragraph from the books in question.

SKY is banking on it’s viewers being too lazy to ask for the evidence or to know the difference between news reporting and news manufacturing.

For more on Dr. Vernon Coleman visit http://www.vernoncoleman.com

March 7, 2021 Posted by | Book Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Trump’s been deleted from internet, and any one of us could be next

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | January 14, 2021

Donald Trump has been deleted from the internet. He hasn’t been put behind a warning or had his followers reduced, or been forced to switch platforms. He’s gone.
Snapchat. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Google. Amazon. Instagram. Shopify. Twitch. Tiktok. Gone.

And he’s the President of the United States. If they can do it to him, they can do it to anyone.

Indeed, that’s the message being sent. It’s an intimidation move, designed to frighten people into policing themselves.

Many people have picked up on this already.

But unfortunately, many more are still lost in what they falsely believe to be the heady scent of victory. They’ll realise their mistake eventually, but it may be too late for us all by then.

It didn’t even stop at Trump, either. Tens of thousands of other people were banned in the following days.

For years the refrain from people defending censorship on social media – ironically, people who would usually identify as “socialists” – has been that private companies have the right to police their platforms as they see fit, and if you don’t like it you can switch to another social network.

… but now those other social networks are being shut down too.

It started with Gab a few years ago, but the recent assault on Parler was even stronger. Gab survived, Parler has not. The tech giants got together and stamped the life out of a smaller competitor. (Pretty sure antitrust laws are there to prevent exactly that scenario, but nevermind.)

The whole week since the “Capitol Hill Riot” has been one long display of dominance. A peacock fanning its tail or a silverback banging on tree trunks.

They are telling us who’s in charge, but some people are refusing to listen.

A common meme doing the rounds among “liberal” voices – who are these days well-schooled in missing the point – goes something like this: “If he’s too dangerous to have a twitter account, why does he have the nuclear codes?”

But, of course, the real question is – if they don’t even let him have a Twitter account, do you honestly think they let him anywhere near the nuclear codes?

Do you really think he has, or had, any power at all? Do you think Joe Biden does?

Do you think the same architecture that just publically castrated the “most powerful man on Earth” and the “leader of the free world” will suddenly start doing what it’s told when a “progressive” voice is in charge?

If they don’t bow to the will of the people now, why should they ever?

They won’t. They never have.

We’ve been told, in very clear terms, who has the power. And it is certainly not us, nor is it our elected representatives.

In fact, it’s not anyone with either democratic mandate or legal accountability, but rather a series of nameless executives, faceless bureaucrats and a succession of tech-billionaires forming a new breed of royalty.

Deleting Donald Trump wasn’t just a “panic response” to the “violence” on Capitol Hill, and it wasn’t a punishment for the man himself – It was a calculated display of honesty. A declaration of intent.

A notification of the limitations we’re all going to face as the increasingly dystopian new normal shapes a different kind of society.

It’s all been clearly co-ordinated. The Deep State and big business and the media working together. Police are instructed to create unrest on Capitol Hill, allow “rioters” into the building. The media report it as an “attempted coup”, while the social networks remove all of Trump’s denunciations so he can be blamed for “inciting violence”.

They created the lie. They spread the lie. They silenced anyone who would gainsay the lie. They have, as Karl Rove would put it, “created reality”, and now we’re here analysing it.

It was a big lie, this time, because it had to be. Because the man – or rather the office – was big. But for Joe Bloggs it can be a small lie. “he posted child porn” or “he was spreading hate” or “he was denying the pandemic”.

The precedent has been created. They can ban anyone they want and make up the reasons later.

Frank Zappa famously said:

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.

Well, we’ve been shown the wall, and we’re being encouraged to cheer because the first person to run into it was Donald Trump. Rather predictably, millions have fallen for it.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler

In the last three months, tech giants have censored political speech and journalism to manipulate U.S. politics, while liberals, with virtual unanimity, have cheered.

By Glenn Greenwald | January 12, 2021

Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should.

The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company.

As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.

It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules.

But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country.

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.


The united Silicon Valley attack began on January 8, when Apple emailed Parler and gave them 24 hours to prove they had changed their moderation practices or else face removal from their App Store. The letter claimed: “We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 that led (among other things) to loss of life, numerous injuries, and the destruction of property.” It ended with this warning:

To ensure there is no interruption of the availability of your app on the App Store, please submit an update and the requested moderation improvement plan within 24 hours of the date of this message. If we do not receive an update compliant with the App Store Review Guidelines and the requested moderation improvement plan in writing within 24 hours, your app will be removed from the App Store.

The 24-hour letter was an obvious pretext and purely performative. Removal was a fait accompli no matter what Parler did. To begin with, the letter was immediately leaked to Buzzfeed, which published it in full. A Parler executive detailed the company’s unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Apple. “They basically ghosted us,” he told me. The next day, Apple notified Parler of its removal from App Store. “We won’t distribute apps that present dangerous and harmful content,” said the world’s richest company, and thus: “We have now rejected your app for the App Store.”

It is hard to overstate the harm to a platform from being removed from the App Store. Users of iPhones are barred from downloading apps onto their devices from the internet. If an app is not on the App Store, it cannot be used on the iPhone. Even iPhone users who have already downloaded Parler will lose the ability to receive updates, which will shortly render the platform both unmanageable and unsafe.

In October, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law issued a 425-page report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google all possess monopoly power and are using that power anti-competitively. For Apple, they emphasized the company’s control over iPhones through its control of access to the App Store. As Ars Technica put it when highlighting the report’s key findings:

Apple controls about 45 percent of the US smartphone market and 20 percent of the global smartphone market, the committee found, and is projected to sell its 2 billionth iPhone in 2021. It is correct that, in the smartphone handset market, Apple is not a monopoly. Instead, iOS and Android hold an effective duopoly in mobile operating systems.

However, the report concludes, Apple does have a monopolistic hold over what you can do with an iPhone. You can only put apps on your phone through the Apple App Store, and Apple has total gatekeeper control over that App Store—that’s what Epic is suing the company over. . . .

The committee found internal documents showing that company leadership, including former CEO Steve Jobs, “acknowledged that IAP requirement would stifle competition and limit the apps available to Apple’s customers.” The report concludes that Apple has also unfairly used its control over APIs, search rankings, and default apps to limit competitors’ access to iPhone users.

Shortly thereafter, Parler learned that Google, without warning, had also “suspended” it from its Play Store, severely limiting the ability of users to download Parler onto Android phones. Google’s actions also meant that those using Parler on their Android phones would no longer receive necessary functionality and security updates.

It was precisely Google’s abuse of its power to control its app device that was at issue “when the European Commission deemed Google LLC as the dominant undertaking in the app stores for the Android mobile operating system (i.e. Google Play Store) and hit the online search and advertisement giant with €4.34 billion for its anti-competitive practices to strengthen its position in various of other markets through its dominance in the app store market.”

The day after a united Apple and Google acted against Parler, Amazon delivered the fatal blow. The company founded and run by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, used virtually identical language as Apple to inform Parler that its web hosting service (AWS) was terminating Parler’s ability to have AWS host its site: “Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.” Because Amazon is such a dominant force in web hosting, Parler has thus far not found a hosting service for its platform, which is why it has disappeared not only from app stores and phones but also from the internet.

On Thursday, Parler was the most popular app in the United States. By Monday, three of the four Silicon Valley monopolies united to destroy it.


With virtual unanimity, leading U.S. liberals celebrated this use of Silicon Valley monopoly power to shut down Parler, just as they overwhelmingly cheered the prior two extraordinary assertions of tech power to control U.S. political discourse: censorship of The New York Post’s reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the banning of the U.S. President from major platforms. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a single national liberal-left politician even expressing concerns about any of this, let alone opposing it.

Not only did leading left-wing politicians not object but some of them were the ones who pleaded with Silicon Valley to use their power this way. After the internet-policing site Sleeping Giants flagged several Parler posts that called for violence, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked: “What are @Apple and @GooglePlay doing about this?” Once Apple responded by removing Parler from its App Store — a move that House Democrats just three months earlier warned was dangerous anti-trust behavior — she praised Apple and then demanded to know: “Good to see this development from @Apple. @GooglePlay what are you going to do about apps being used to organize violence on your platform?”

The liberal New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg pronounced herself “disturbed by just how awesome [tech giants’] power is” and added that “it’s dangerous to have a handful of callow young tech titans in charge of who has a megaphone and who does not.” She nonetheless praised these “young tech titans” for using their “dangerous” power to ban Trump and destroy Parler. In other words, liberals like Goldberg are concerned only that Silicon Valley censorship powers might one day be used against people like them, but are perfectly happy as long as it is their adversaries being deplatformed and silenced (Facebook and other platforms have for years banned marginalized people like Palestinians at Israel’s behest, but that is of no concern to U.S. liberals).

That is because the dominant strain of American liberalism is not economic socialism but political authoritarianism. Liberals now want to use the force of corporate power to silence those with different ideologies. They are eager for tech monopolies not just to ban accounts they dislike but to remove entire platforms from the internet. They want to imprison people they believe helped their party lose elections, such as Julian Assange, even if it means creating precedents to criminalize journalism.

World leaders have vocally condemned the power Silicon Valley has amassed to police political discourse, and were particularly indignant over the banning of the U.S. President. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, various French ministers, and especially Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador all denounced the banning of Trump and other acts of censorship by tech monopolies on the ground that they were anointing themselves “a world media power.” The warnings from López Obrador were particularly eloquent:

Even the ACLU — which has rapidly transformed from a civil liberties organization into a liberal activist group since Trump’s election — found the assertion of Silicon Valley’s power to destroy Parler deeply alarming. One of that organization’s most stalwart defenders of civil liberties, lawyer Ben Wizner, told The New York Times that the destruction of Parler was more “troubling” than the deletion of posts or whole accounts: “I think we should recognize the importance of neutrality when we’re talking about the infrastructure of the internet.”

Yet American liberals swoon for this authoritarianism. And they are now calling for the use of the most repressive War on Terror measures against their domestic opponents. On Tuesday, House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) urged that GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley “be put on the no-fly list,” while The Wall Street Journal reported that “Biden has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, and he has been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increasing funding to combat them.”

So much of this liberal support for the attempted destruction of Parler is based in utter ignorance about that platform, and about basic principles of free speech. I’d be very surprised if more than a tiny fraction of liberals cheering Parler’s removal from the internet have ever used the platform or know anything about it other than the snippets they have been shown by those seeking to justify its destruction and to depict it as some neo-Nazi stronghold.

Parler was not founded, nor is it run, by pro-Trump, MAGA supporters. The platform was created based in libertarian values of privacy, anti-surveillance, anti-data collection, and free speech. Most of the key executives are more associated with the politics of Ron Paul and the CATO Institute than Steve Bannon or the Trump family. One is a Never Trump Republican, while another is the former campaign manager of Ron Paul and Rand Paul. Among the few MAGA-affiliated figures is Dan Bongino, an investor. One of the key original investors was Rebekah Mercer.

The platform’s design is intended to foster privacy and free speech, not a particular ideology. They minimize the amount of data they collect on users to prevent advertiser monetization or algorithmic targeting. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, they do not assess a user’s preferences in order to decide what they should see. And they were principally borne out of a reaction to increasingly restrictive rules on the major Silicon Valley platforms regarding what could and could not be said.

Of course large numbers of Trump supporters ended up on Parler. That’s not because Parler is a pro-Trump outlet, but because those are among the people who were censored by the tech monopolies or who were angered enough by that censorship to seek refuge elsewhere.

It is true that one can find postings on Parler that explicitly advocate violence or are otherwise grotesque. But that is even more true of Facebook, Google-owned YouTube, and Twitter. And contrary to what many have been led to believe, Parler’s Terms of Service includes a ban on explicit advocacy of violence, and they employ a team of paid, trained moderators who delete such postings. Those deletions do not happen perfectly or instantaneously — which is why one can find postings that violate those rules — but the same is true of every major Silicon Valley platform.

Indeed, a Parler executive told me that of the thirteen people arrested as of Monday for the breach at the Capitol, none appear to be active users of Parler. The Capitol breach was planned far more on Facebook and YouTube. As Recode reported, while some protesters participated in both Parler and Gab, many of the calls to attend the Capitol were from YouTube videos, while many of the key planners “have continued to use mainstream platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.” The article quoted Fadi Quran, campaign director at the human rights group Avaaz, as saying: “In DC, we saw QAnon conspiracists and other militias that would never have grown to this size without being turbo-charged by Facebook and Twitter.”

And that’s to say nothing of the endless number of hypocrisies with Silicon Valley giants feigning opposition to violent rhetoric or political extremism. Amazon, for instance, is one of the CIA’s most profitable partners, with a $600 million contract to provide services to the agency, and it is constantly bidding for more. On Facebook and Twitter, one finds official accounts from the most repressive and violent regimes on earth, including Saudi Arabia, and pages devoted to propaganda on behalf of the Egyptian regime. Does anyone think these tech giants have a genuine concern about violence and extremism?

So why did Democratic politicians and journalists focus on Parler rather than Facebook and YouTube? Why did Amazon, Google and Apple make a flamboyant showing of removing Parler from the internet while leaving much larger platforms with far more extremism and advocacy of violence flowing on a daily basis?

In part it is because these Silicon Valley giants — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple — donate enormous sums of money to the Democratic Party and their leaders, so of course Democrats will cheer them rather than call for punishment or their removal from the internet. Part of it is because Parler is an upstart, a much easier target to try to destroy than Facebook or Google. And in part it is because the Democrats are about to control the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress, leaving Silicon Valley giants eager to please them by silencing their adversaries. This corrupt motive was made expressly clear by long-time Clinton operative Jennifer Palmieri:

The nature of monopolistic power is that anti-competitive entities engage in anti-trust illegalities to destroy rising competitors. Parler is associated with the wrong political ideology. It is a small and new enough platform such that it can be made an example of. Its head can be placed on a pike to make clear that no attempt to compete with existing Silicon Valley monopolies is possible. And its destruction preserves the unchallengeable power of a tiny handful of tech oligarchs over the political discourse not just of the United States but democracies worldwide (which is why Germany, France and Mexico are raising their voices in protest).

No authoritarians believe they are authoritarians. No matter how repressive are the measures they support — censorship, monopoly power, no-fly lists for American citizens without due process — they tell themselves that those they are silencing and attacking are so evil, are terrorists, that anything done against them is noble and benevolent, not despotic and repressive. That is how American liberals currently think, as they fortify the control of Silicon Valley monopolies over our political lives, exemplified by the overnight destruction of a new and popular competitor.

January 12, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senior House Republican Says Parler Shutdown by Rivals Breaks Monopoly Laws

By James Tweedie – Sputnik – 11.01.2021

Attempts by Big Tech to muzzle US President Donald Trump and his supporters have had mixed results. While conservative social media site Parler has been shut down, Twitter shares lost $5 billion in value on Monday following the deletion of Trump’s hugely-popular account.

California Congressman Devin Nunes has accused Big tech firms of breaching anti-trust, civil rights and racketeering law by banning social media site Parler.

Nunes, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Amazon, Apple and Google committed a “clear violation” of laws when they banned the ‘free speech’ social media platform popular with conservatives.

“There should be a racketeering investigation on all the people that coordinated this attack on not only a company, but on all of those like us,” Nunes told Fox News on Sunday. “I have 3 million followers on Parler. Tonight I will no longer be able to communicate with those people and they’re Americans.”

Tech giant Amazon shut down Parler just after midnight US Pacific time (08:00 GMT) when it evicted the site from its rented servers. Google and Apple had earlier blocked access to the Parler mobile phone app, although tech-savvy users were still able to download and install it after changing the security settings on their devices.

“The effect of this is that there is no longer a free and open social media company or site for any American to get on any longer,” Nunes said. “Poof, it’s gone.”

Amazon claimed Parler was “unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” posing “a very real risk to public safety”. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Parler does not aggressively moderate users’ posts according to a set of “community guidelines”.

Unintended Consequences

On Friday Parler stormed to the number one spot on Apple’s app store after Twitter deleted President Donald Trump’s account — which had some 88 million followers — in the wake of last Wednesday’s occupation of the US Capitol building in Washington DC by protesters attempting to disrupt the confirmation of Democratic candidate Joe Biden as president-elect by Congress.

Twitter shares tumbled by 12 per cent on the stock markets on Monday, losing $5 billion in value after Trump supporters left the site in droves. One pro-Trump ‘channel’ on Russian-founded messaging app Telegram had gained almost 44,000 subscribers by Monday afternoon, just two days after it was created.

Republicans and conservative media figures raised the alarm last week after tens of thousands of their Twitter followers mysteriously disappeared. House Democrats claimed those followers were “neo-Nazis”, “insurrectionists” and “terrorists” who Twitter had purged. But left-wing British broadcaster and former MP George Galloway experienced the same phenomenon.

“Republicans have no way to communicate,” Nunes said, “and it doesn’t even matter if you’re a Republican or conservative.”

Sunday’s New York Post editorial declared: “Big Tech is a cartel, and must be regulated.”

Blanket Ban

Parler CEO John Matze revealed on Sunday not only had the three tech leviathans united to shut down his company, but every firm providing services to the site had abandoned it.

“They made an attempt to not only kill the app, but to actually destroy the entire company,” Matze said. “And it’s not just these three companies. Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day.”

January 11, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , | Leave a comment

Parler CEO Speaks Out After Amazon Boots From AWS, Vows To Rebuild ‘From Scratch’

“This Was A Coordinated Attack”

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – January 9, 2021

Update (2210 ET): Parler CEO John Matze has issued a statement (emphasis ours):

Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch. We prepared for events like this by never relying on amazons proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products.

We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we have many competing for our business, however Amazon, Google and Apple purposefully did this as a coordinated effort knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies.

This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.

#speakfreely

* * *

Update (2130 ET): And so the hammer has come down late on Saturday, when Amazon officially kicked Parler off its cloud Web hosting service, AWS according to Buzzfeed. The suspension means that once the ban takes effect on Sunday, the website – which as of this moment is still up – will be offline until it finds someone else to host it.

* * *

Update (2100 ET): As expected, Apple removed Parler permanently from its app store on Saturday. “[T]here is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” the iPhone maker said, according to CNN which adds that Apple notified Parler of its decision in a message that said it had violated the company’s app store terms.

“The processes Parler has put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content have proved insufficient,” Apple told Parler. “Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action in violation of Guideline 1.1 – Safety – Objectionable Content.”

Apple’s notice said Parler’s responses to an earlier warning were inadequate, including Parler’s defense that it had been taking violent rhetoric on its platform “very seriously for weeks” and that it had a moderation plan “for the time being,” according to Apple.

A search for the Parler app as of 8pm showed that the app was no longer there, with the search query returning recommended substitutes:

“Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety,” Apple said in a statement to CNN Business. “We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.”

Apple’s decision follows a similar move by Google to drop Parler from the Google Play Store, and after Amazon (AMZN) has come under pressure by its own employees to stop hosting Parler’s website on Amazon Web Services.

John Matze, Parler’s CEO, wrote in a message on his platform that Apple “will be banning Parler until we give up free speech, institute broad and invasive policies like Twitter and Facebook and we become a surveillance platform by pursuing guilt of those who use Parler before innocence.”

“They claim it is due to violence on the platform,” Matze wrote of Apple, whom he also accused of being a “software monopoly,” a particularly relevant attack right now given an ongoing antitrust suit against Apple from Fortnite maker Epic Games. “The community disagrees as we hit number 1 on their store today.”

Matze promised to share “more details about our next plans coming soon as we have many options.”

* * *

Earlier:

A coalition of Amazon corporate employees have demanded that the Seattle-based megacorp kick Parler off the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform unless ‘posts inciting violence’ are removed, which would force the Trump-friendly Twitter competitor to find another host.

According to CNBC, an employee advocacy group – Amazon Employees for Climate Justice – said in a Saturday tweet that AWS should “deny Parler services until it removes posts inciting violence, including at the Presidential inauguration.”

More via CNBC:

Pressure has been mounting for Amazon to stop hosting Parler on AWS after other tech giants took action against the social media app in the wake of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot earlier this week. Google on Friday removed Parler from its app store for Android users, Google Play Store. BuzzFeed News reported on Friday that Apple has threatened to pull Parler from its App Store.

Parler, which launched in 2018, has emerged as a popular platform for President Trump’s allies in the last year by billing itself as a free speech alternative to mainstream social media services like Twitter and Facebook. –CNBC

To justify censoring Parler, critics have pointed to posts calling for ‘firing squads’ – like one from attorney Lin Wood (who some say handed the Senate to the Democrats by openly calling for Georgians not to vote in the runoff election unless the GOP candidates backed Trump’s election fraud claims).

In 2019, Amazon pulled the plug on their AWS partnership with Twitter alternative GAB over user posts. CEO Andrew Torba essentially blamed the CIA – claiming that a “PSYOP campaign started back in early December” in which newly created accounts were “popping up out of nowhere and making threats of violence.”

Torba’s letter continues:

After this week, it’s clear why this PSYOP was started: to take down alt-tech platforms and frame them for the January 6th protests that ended with the police killing an unarmed woman.

Almost instantly after police allowed protestors into the Capitol the New York Times started a baseless narrative that this protest was organized on alt-tech sites, and in particular on Gab, without offering any proof, screenshots, usernames, or evidence to back these baseless claims. I’ve recorded a video highlighting how this all played out. I hope you’ll take some time to watch it to learn how the CIA Mockingbird Media complex operates. The way we fight back is with truth and by speaking truth to their power, which is quickly fading.

Meanwhile, Parler has jumped to the #1 app in Apple’s app store.

Parler saw approximately 210,000 installs globally on Friday 1/8, up 281% from approximately 55,000 on 1/7, according to data from the analytics service Sensor Tower. “In the U.S., the app saw approximately 182,000 first-time downloads on 1/8, up 355% from about 40,000 installs on 1/7. Since Wednesday, the app has seen approximately 268,000 installs from across U.S. app stores,” a press rep from Sensor Tower wrote in an email. -TechCrunch

And as conservatives scramble to download the app before it’s deplatformed at yet another social media giant, we now have to wonder if they’ll even be able to find a new home among a collusive constellation of big-tech – at least one of which used to value the phrase ‘think different.’

January 10, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

The Threat of Authoritarianism in the U.S. is Very Real, and Has Nothing To Do With Trump

The COVID-driven centralization of economic power and information control in the hands of a few corporate monopolies poses enduring threats to political freedom

By Glenn Greenwald | December 28, 2020

Asserting that Donald Trump is a fascist-like dictator threatening the previously sturdy foundations of U.S. democracy has been a virtual requirement over the last four years to obtain entrance to cable news Green Rooms, sinecures as mainstream newspaper columnists, and popularity in faculty lounges. Yet it has proven to be a preposterous farce.

In 2020 alone, Trump had two perfectly crafted opportunities to seize authoritarian power — a global health pandemic and sprawling protests and sustained riots throughout American cities — and yet did virtually nothing to exploit those opportunities. Actual would-be despots such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán quickly seized on the virus to declare martial law, while even prior U.S. presidents, to say nothing of foreign tyrants, have used the pretext of much less civil unrest than what we saw this summer to deploy the military in the streets to pacify their own citizenry.

But early in the pandemic, Trump was criticized, especially by Democrats, for failing to assert the draconian powers he had, such as commandeering the means of industrial production under the Defense Production Act of 1950, invoked by Truman to force industry to produce materials needed for the Korean War. In March, The Washington Post reported that “Governors, Democrats in Congress and some Senate Republicans have been urging Trump for at least a week to invoke the act, and his potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, came out in favor of it, too,” yet “Trump [gave] a variety of reasons for not doing so.” Rejecting demands to exploit a public health pandemic to assert extraordinary powers is not exactly what one expects from a striving dictator.

A similar dynamic prevailed during the sustained protests and riots that erupted after the killing of George Floyd. While conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), in his controversial New York Times op-ed, urged the mass deployment of the military to quell the protesters, and while Trump threatened to deploy them if governors failed to pacify the riots, Trump failed to order anything more than a few isolated, symbolic gestures such as having troops use tear gas to clear out protesters from Lafayette Park for his now-notorious walk to a church, provoking harsh criticism from the right, including Fox News, for failing to use more aggressive force to restore order.

Virtually every prediction expressed by those who pushed this doomsday narrative of Trump as a rising dictator — usually with great profit for themselves — never materialized. While Trump radically escalated bombing campaigns he inherited from Bush and Obama, he started no new wars. When his policies were declared by courts to be unconstitutional, he either revised them to comport with judicial requirements (as in the case of his “Muslim ban”) or withdrew them (as in the case of diverting Pentagon funds to build his wall). No journalists were jailed for criticizing or reporting negatively on Trump, let alone killed, as was endlessly predicted and sometimes even implied. Bashing Trump was far more likely to yield best-selling books, social media stardom and new contracts as cable news “analysts” than interment in gulags or state reprisals. There were no Proud Boy insurrections or right-wing militias waging civil war in U.S. cities. Boastful and bizarre tweets aside, Trump’s administration was for more a continuation of the U.S. political tradition than a radical departure from it.

The hysterical Trump-as-despot script was all melodrama, a ploy for profits and ratings, and, most of all, a potent instrument to distract from the neoliberal ideology that gave rise to Trump in the first place by causing so much wreckage. Positing Trump as a grand aberration from U.S. politics and as the prime author of America’s woes — rather than what he was: a perfectly predictable extension of U.S politics and a symptom of preexisting pathologies — enabled those who have so much blood and economic destruction on their hands not only to evade responsibility for what they did, but to rehabilitate themselves as the guardians of freedom and prosperity and, ultimately, catapult themselves back into power. As of January 20, that is exactly where they will reside.

The Trump administration was by no means free of authoritarianism: his Justice Department prosecuted journalists’ sources; his White House often refused basic transparency; War on Terror and immigration detentions continued without due process. But that is largely because, as I wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in late 2016, the U.S. Government itself is authoritarian after decades of bipartisan expansion of executive powers justified by a posture of endless war. With rare exception, the lawless and power-abusing acts over the last four years were ones that inhere in the U.S. Government and long preceded Trump, not ones invented by him. To the extent Trump was an authoritarian, he was one in the way that all U.S. presidents have been since the War on Terror began and, more accurately, since the start of the Cold War and advent of the permanent national security state.

The single most revealing episode exposing this narrative fraud was when journalists and political careerists, including former Obama aides, erupted in outrage on social media upon seeing a photo of immigrant children in cages at the border — only to discover that the photo was not from a Trump concentration camp but an Obama-era detention facility (they were unaccompanied children, not ones separated from their families, but “kids in cages” are “kids in cages” from a moral perspective). And tellingly, the single most actually authoritarian Trump-era event is one that has been largely ignored by the U.S. media: namely, the decision to prosecute Julian Assange under espionage laws (but that, too, is an extension of the unprecedented war on journalism unleashed by the Obama DOJ).

The last gasp for those clinging to the Trump-as-dictator fantasy (which was really hope masquerading as concern, since putting yourself on the front lines, bravely fighting domestic fascism, is more exciting and self-glorifying, not to mention more profitable, than the dreary, mediocre work of railing against an ordinary and largely weak one-term president) was the hysterical warning that Trump was mounting a coup in order to stay in office. Trump’s terrifying “coup” consisted of a series of failed court challenges based on claims of widespread voter fraud — virtually inevitable with new COVID-based voting rules never previously used — and lame attempts to persuade state officials to overturn certified vote totals. There was never a moment when it appeared even remotely plausible that it would succeed, let alone that he could secure the backing of the institutions he would need to do so, particularly senior military leaders.

Whether Trump secretly harbored despotic ambitions is both unknowable and irrelevant. If he did, he never exhibited the slightest ability to carry them out or orchestrate a sustained commitment to executing a democracy-subverting plot. And the most powerful U.S. institutions — the intelligence community and military brass, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the corporate media — opposed and subverted him from the start. In sum, U.S. democracy, in whatever form it existed when Trump ascended to the presidency, will endure more or less unchanged once he leaves office on January 20, 2021.

Whether the U.S. was a democracy in any meaningful sense prior to Trump had been the subject of substantial scholarly debate. A much-discussed 2014 study concluded that economic power has become so concentrated in the hands of such a small number of U.S. corporate giants and mega-billionaires, and that this concentration in economic power has ushered in virtually unchallengeable political power in their hands and virtually none in anyone else’s, that the U.S. more resembles oligarchy than anything else:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

The U.S. Founders most certainly did not envision or desire absolute economic egalitarianism, but many, probably most, feared — long before lobbyists and candidate dependence on corporate SuperPACs — that economic inequality could become so severe, wealth concentrated in the hands of so few, that it would contaminate the political realm, where those vast wealth disparities would be replicated, rendering political and legal equality illusory.

But the premises of pre-Trump debates over how grave a problem this is have been rendered utterly obsolete by the new realities of the COVID era. A combination of sustained lockdowns, massive state-mandated transfers of wealth to corporate elites in the name of legislative “COVID relief,” and a radically increased dependence on online activities has rendered corporate behemoths close to unchallengeable in terms of both economic and political power.

The lockdowns from the pandemic have ushered in a collapse of small businesses across the U.S. that has only further fortified the power of corporate giants. “Billionaires increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5%) at the height of the crisis from April to July, just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government schemes,” reported The Guardian in September. A study from July told part of the story:

The combined wealth of the world’s super-rich reached a new peak during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published by the consulting firm PwC and the Swiss bank UBC on Wednesday. The more than 2,000 billionaires around the world managed to amass fortunes totalling around $10.2 trillion (€8.69 trillion) by July, surpassing the previous record of $8.9 trillion reached in 2017.

Meanwhile, though exact numbers are unknown, “roughly one in five small businesses have closed,” AP notes, adding: “restaurants, bars, beauty shops and other retailers that involve face-to-face contact have been hardest hit at a time when Americans are trying to keep distance from one another.”

Employees are now almost completely at the mercy of a handful of corporate giants, far more trans-national than with any allegiance to the U.S., which are thriving. A Brookings Institution study this week — entitled “Amazon and Walmart have raked in billions in additional profits during the pandemic, and shared almost none of it with their workers” — found that “the COVID-19 pandemic has generated record profits for America’s biggest companies, as well as immense wealth for their founders and largest shareholders—but next to nothing for workers.”

These COVID “winners” are not the Randian victors in free market capitalism. Quite the contrary, they are the recipients of enormous amounts of largesse from the U.S. Government, which they control through armies of lobbyists and donations and which therefore constantly intervenes in the market for their benefit. This is not free market capitalism rewarding innovative titans, but rather crony capitalism that is abusing the power of the state to crush small competitors, lavish corporate giants with ever more wealth and power, and turn millions of Americans into vassals whose best case scenario is working multiple jobs at low hourly wages with no benefits, few rights, and even fewer options.

Those must disgusted by this outcome should not be socialists but capitalists: this is a classic merger of state and corporate power —- also known as a hallmark of fascism in its most formal expression — that abuses state interference in markets to consolidate and centralize authority in a small handful of actors in order to disempower everyone else. Those trends were already quite visible prior to Trump and the onset of the pandemic, but have accelerated beyond anyone’s dreams in the wake of mass lockdowns, shutdowns, prolonged isolation and corporate welfare thinly disguised as legislative “relief.”

What makes this most menacing of all is that the primary beneficiaries of these rapid changes are Silicon Valley giants, at least three of which — Facebook, Google, and Amazon — are now classic monopolies. That the wealth of their primary owners and executives — Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai — has skyrocketed during the pandemic is well-covered, but far more significant is the unprecedented power these companies exert over the dissemination of information and conduct of political debates, to say nothing of the immense data they possess about our lives by virtue of online surveillance.

Stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and social isolation have meant that we rely on Silicon Valley companies to conduct basic life functions more than ever before. We order online from Amazon rather than shop; we conduct meetings online rather than meet in offices; we use Google constantly to navigate and communicate; we rely on social media more than ever to receive information about the world. And exactly as a weakened population’s dependence on them has increased to unprecedented levels, their wealth and power has reached all new heights, as has their willingness to control and censor information and debate.

That Facebook, Google and Twitter are exerting more and more control over our political expression is hardly contestable. What is most remarkable, and alarming, is that they are not so much grabbing these powers as having them foisted on them, by a public — composed primarily of corporate media outlets and U.S. establishment liberals — who believe that the primary problem of social media is not excessive censorship but insufficient censorship. As Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told Mark Zuckerberg when four Silicon Valley CEOs appeared before the Senate: “The issue is not that the companies before us today is that they’re taking too many posts down. The issue is that they’re leaving too many dangerous posts up.”

As I told the online program Rising this week when asked what the worst media failings of 2020 are, I continue to view the brute censorship by Facebook of incriminating reporting about Joe Biden in the weeks before the election as one of the most significant, and menacing, political events of the last several years. That this censorship was announced by a Facebook corporate spokesman who had spent his career previously as a Democratic Party apparatchik provided the perfect symbolic expression of this evolving danger.

These tech companies are more powerful than ever, not only because of their newly amassed wealth at a time when the population is suffering, but also because they overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party candidate about to assume the presidency. Predictably, they are being rewarded with numerous key positions in his transition team and the same will ultimately be true of the new administration.

The Biden/Harris administration clearly intends to do a great deal for Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley is well-positioned to do a great deal for them in return, starting with their immense power over the flow of information and debate.

The dominant strain of U.S. neoliberalism — the ruling coalition that has now consolidated power again — is authoritarianism. They view those who oppose them and reject their pieties not as adversaries to be engaged but as enemies, domestic terrorists, bigots, extremists and violence-inciters to be fired, censored, and silenced. And they have on their side — beyond the bulk of the corporate media, and the intelligence community, and Wall Street — an unprecedentedly powerful consortium of tech monopolies willing and able to exert greater control over a population that has rarely, if ever, been so divided, drained, deprived and anemic.

All of these authoritarian powers will, ironically, be invoked and justified in the name of stopping authoritarianism — not from those who wield power but from the movement that was just removed from power. Those who spent four years shrieking to great profit about the dangers of lurking “fascism” will — without realizing the irony — now use this merger of state and corporate power to consolidate their own authority, control the contours of permissible debate, and silence those who challenge them even further. Those most vocally screaming about growing authoritarianism in the U.S. over the last four years were very right in their core warning, but very wrong about the real source of that danger.

December 28, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Economics, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amazon pulls ANOTHER book of Covid-19 dissident Berenson – and turns his title into a bestseller

RT | November 25, 2020

NY Times journalist-turned-Covid-19 skeptic Alex Berenson briefly had his latest anti-lockdown book pulled from Amazon along with its electronic version. By the time it returned, it was a top-10 bestseller on Apple Books.

First the paperback and then the electronic edition of “Unreported Truths about Covid-19 and Lockdowns – Part 3: Masks” were removed from Amazon on Tuesday, Berenson revealed in a series of tweets that same day.

The book attempts to debunk the hypothesis, favored by most governments but apparently lacking convincing scientific proof, that wearing even non-medical masks stops the spread of Covid-19.

However, Berenson had made a point of posting the new book on Barnes & Noble and Apple Books. His tweets about Amazon censorship apparently sent followers into the arms of Apple Books, where the title proceeded to soar to number nine within a few hours.

Nevertheless frustrated over Amazon’s censorship, Berenson pointed out that he had discussed the coming release of the third installment in his Covid-19 booklet series with Amazon Kindle personnel in an effort to avoid the supposedly automated deplatforming he’d experienced with the first book in the series.

“Unreported Truths about Covid-19 and Lockdowns – Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates” was briefly banned in June before a massive backlash against the move, spearheaded by Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, successfully convinced the tech giant to change its mind.

In addition to spuriously deleting Berenson’s book, Amazon hosted “several fakes” of the manuscript, the writer claimed, complaining the e-tailer “refused to pull them despite my repeated requests.”

However, Berenson’s complaints not only convinced Amazon to bring his book back online – they drove the e-book to #1 in the epidemiology section.

Berenson is far from the only Covid-19 skeptic to be mysteriously deplatformed from Amazon. Writer James Perloff was disturbed to find his book “Covid-19 and the Agendas to Come: Red Pilled” banned last month, echoing Berenson’s concerns about the absence of a concrete explanation for the sentence. Both writers protested that all their information was thoroughly researched and footnoted.

Fortunately for would-be corona-skeptic authors, it seems Amazon banning a book is the best free marketing campaign money can’t buy. Perloff reportedly sold more copies of his book independent of Amazon than he had in partnership with the platform, and gained an even wider readership when he offered to make the e-book edition available for free. This phenomenon, in which censorship backfires and increases the attention paid to an item, is known as the ‘Streisand Effect’ – and now Berenson is enjoying its fruits once again.

November 25, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment