Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Keeping with its Crackdown on Alternative Voices, Google Deletes Press TV from YouTube

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | January 15, 2020

Without warning, tech giant Google “permanently removed” Iranian government-owned media channel Press TV UK’s YouTube channel Monday night amid increasing American hostility to Iran.

“This attack on the freedom of speech of Press TV’s journalists seems to be part of an anti-Iran purge as the West sets its sights on regime change in Iran,” Press TV said. Its content, in its own words, focuses on “anti-imperialism, anti-racism, and covers aspects of the news which the mainstream corporate media in the United Kingdom have refused to air.”

The London-based outlet had over 28,000 subscribers on its YouTube account at the time of its deletion.

British-Sudanese journalist Ahmed Kaballo accused Google of acting like the “judge jury and executioner” for his employer’s channel, expressing his great disappointment that his journalistic output is now gone and his worry at “what this really represents” for alternative media that “show a different perspective and holds a critical lens” on war and empire.

MintPress News reached out to Kaballo for comment. “The actions of Google in the last 24 hours has made me lose hope in the idea of free press and free speech,” he said. “Journalism is about pushing the boundaries and being fearless in our reporting but in this climate where they can do this to us in this fashion, it’s clear that our perspective. which is overtly anti-imperialist, is, in the eyes of Google, simply not allowed.”

After online pushback, by Wednesday morning UK time, Google had reversed its decision. However, just as Press TV was celebrating its reinstatement, it was again taken off the air. YouTube sent a message to Press TV UK claiming that they had received a complaint about the channel and decided that it violates their terms of service. Kaballo described the political hokey pokey his organization was under as “psychological warfare.”

Press TV says the move is “part of an anti-Iran purge as the West sets its sights on regime change in Iran.” It comes in the context of the Trump administration’s assassination of Lt. General Qassem Soleimani January 3, while he was in Iraq attending peace talks. In response, Iran launched dozens of ballistic missiles at U.S.-occupied military bases in Iraq, although it was careful to warn the U.S. of the attack beforehand. As a result, there were no deaths. The Iraqi parliament also immediately voted to expel all American troops from the country. However, the U.S. refused to leave.

While the threat of a hot war with the Iran appears to have subsided, an intense, online propaganda war rages between the two countries. During his funeral, the hashtag #IraniansDetestSoleimani trended across American Twitter. But analysis showed that it was not Iranians, but organized Trump supporters who were boosting the message, supporting, as 47 percent of Americans did, their president’s decision to kill him.

Last Friday, Facebook announced that it felt compelled to delete all positive posts about the deceased general from its platform and its subsidiary Instagram. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its leadership,” it said, explaining that Trump’s new sanctions made supporting Iran online on any American website essentially illegal. Instagram had already closed Soleimani’s account in April last year, following Trump’s designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group. Just after Facebook’s decision, Twitter suspended Ayatollah Khamenei’s account for “unusual activity.” Instagram is extremely popular in Iran, with around one in three people owning an account, almost as popular as Soleimani, who over 80 percent view positively or very positively. Thus, the U.S. government has, through pressuring monopolistic Silicon Valley giants, effectively banned a majority opinion being shared by Iranians to Iranians, in Iran.

This is not the first occasion that the U.S. government has used the American monopoly over the means of communication online to shut down alternative voices from other countries. Facebook has previously de-platformed Venezuela-based outlets TeleSUR English and Venezuelanalysis, both of which offered differing opinions and analysis of the U.S. government’s actions in Venezuela and Latin America. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has forced RT journalists to register as “foreign agents,” under a rule originally set up to deal with Nazis during World War Two.

Press TV, too, has had a history of poor treatment at the hands of the U.S. state. In January last year, the FBI illegally detained Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi for ten days. She was never charged and was deprived of Halal food and a hijab during her detention. While the network is still reachable directly on its website, the fact that the U.S. government can unilaterally decide what the world sees, hears or reads, zapping British based Iranian networks from universal social media giants the entire world uses raises questions about freedom of information in the digital age.

January 18, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 3 Comments

After US killing of Iran’s Soleimani, narrative control on social media is getting worse

By Eva Bartlett | RT |  January 17, 2020

Twitter has been on a narrative-control rampage, removing or censoring legitimate accounts that are critical of US-led wars, propaganda and lies. Facebook and Instagram have increased their Big Brother policing, too.

Attempts by American-based social media behemoths to silence or censor voices critical of the establishment-approved narrative is nothing new, but this trend seems to have intensified lately.

Just in the past several days, following the criminal US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Instagram and Facebook have been removing posts supportive of Soleimani, even profile photos honouring the general, allegedly to comply with US sanctions, a truly absurd explanation for the narrative control.

On January 7, it was reported that Twitter had suspended numerous Venezuelan accounts, including those of the central bank, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, public media, political leaders, the Finance & Oil ministries.

At the end of last year, Italy’s Rai News conducted an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but then decided not to air it. Days later, as the interview was being aired instead by the Syrian Presidency, its respective Twitter account was inexplicably and suddenly restricted.

It returned to normal some days later but, at the start of January, the account was again no longer available. Admin used a backup account with a dramatically smaller following and, although after about a week—and many Twitter protests later—the account was again restored, it has not since tweeted and thus appears to be restricted.

In mid-2019, the account of the Russian embassy in Syria disappeared not long after tweeting about the White Helmets, terrorists, and war propaganda. This, again, begged the question of what ‘Twitter rules’ had been violated.

These aren’t some isolated incidents, they’re part of a systematic purging by the NATO-aligned social media corporations who bleat about alleged “Russian propaganda” but are themselves the (transparently poor) masters of propaganda.

Many anti-war voices have been scrubbed from Twitter and Facebook, including the prominent anti-war voice of Daniel McAdams – Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity– who was banned from Twitter for using the word “retarded” to describe a Fox News host, something I’m sure many people would think an insufficient and mild description of such corporate media entities…

Accounts Calling For Genocide A-Okay on Twitter

While accounts like McAdams’ are taken down allegedly for reasons of political correctness, other accounts can call for genocide and destruction with no repercussions.

Take the rather no-name lobbyist Jack Burkman, who, after the US assassination of Iran’s beloved General Soleimani, tweeted about the “need to burn every major Iranian city to the ground.” His tweet actually included “Load up the [chemical weapon] napalm.” On several more occasions, Burkman tweeted about destroying Iran, including his tweet on the firebombing of Dresden and his desire to “replicate the campaign against Iran.” Some of those tweets have been removed, but his account remains active, without restrictions, as though he hadn’t violated Twitter rules on multiple occasions.

Then there is the President of the United States, who, after having General Soleimani illegally assassinated, went on to threaten to destroy 52 Iranian cultural sites. That tweet remains up on Twitter, in spite of surely violating rules on threatening violence (and not only against a person but a nation). I mean, most normal people consider threatening to destroy places somewhat violent.

On the other hand, allegations about genocide risk being censored, as happened to Mint Press News’ editor in chief, Mnar Muhawesh, whose video on the US-Saudi led war on Yemen was deemed “child nudity” by Facebook.

Muhawesh protested: “This is false. Images show skeleton, dying children wearing diapers.”

Terrorist Accounts, Exploited Children, And More Twitter Restrictions

Accounts abound on Twitter and Facebook that are openly supportive of suicide bombers, ISIS and al-Qaeda. I’ve found Western corporate journalists citing terrorist-supporting accounts as “media activists” in areas militarily surrounded by the Syrian army, as was the case when eastern Ghouta was being liberated, although the ‘activists’ allegiance to Jaysh al-Islam and al-Qaeda was easily identified.

And there are accounts representing the terrorists themselves, whose graphic content certainly ought to be deemed violations of Twitter’s rules, yet so many of these accounts remain intact.

Twitter serves as a platform for war propaganda, that’s fairly clear. But there’s a point that some people might not know about Twitter and Syria: Twitter doesn’t recognize the Syrian country code, thus you’d need a non-Syrian phone number to open an account.

So how do all these poster children like Bana al-Abed (one of the chief faces of war propaganda in the lead-up to the liberation of Aleppo in late 2016) and those which popped up later in eastern Ghouta and then in Idlib get accounts?

Keep that in mind when the war propaganda again resurges around Idlib and the children holding English posters and hashtagging #SaveIdlib pop into your feed. More exploitation of kids, and Twitter the perfect platform.

In researching for this piece last week, I came across a recent article announcing a new feature Twitter would test, in its valiant efforts to quash trolls: limiting who may reply to tweets before sending a tweet.

This smacks not of cutting out trolls, but of making echo chambers more impenetrable, so war propagandists can back-slap one another without allowing intelligent voices to poke holes in their lies.

But in the end, perhaps even that doesn’t matter, because at any moment your account can be zapped. Nestled in Twitter’s terms of service is this line: “We may suspend or terminate your account…for any or no reason…” This means any protest over suspended accounts is thus a waste of time after all.

This is total narrative control, and it’s only getting worse.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

January 17, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Facebook censors explainer clip recalling when western media liked Soleimani – and demonetizes popular account for sharing it

RT | January 15, 2020

Facebook is doubling down on censorship of anything less than villification of slain Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, deleting a clip showing his history of fighting terrorism – and demonetizing the account posting it.

The social media behemoth didn’t just remove independent journalist Dan Cohen’s ‘In the Now’ segment, “How ‘good guy’ Soleimani became US media’s ‘bad guy,” from the show’s page on Tuesday – it demonetized In the Now entirely, citing the typical unspecified violations of “community standards.” The move comes amid an alarming escalation in the platform’s crackdown on political speech that runs contrary to US foreign policy, a wave of censorship that has not been limited to Facebook.

Cohen’s video calmly and accurately explains how Soleimani “saved the region from falling to ISIS,” fighting the terrorist group alongside the US and its Kurdish allies before he was recast posthumously by a complicit western media as “actually a huge terrorist and a ticking time bomb who was born to kill Americans.” The video exposes the ideological inconsistency of the outlets currently depicting the Quds Force commander as the devil incarnate, showcasing clips from those same outlets in recent years praising Soleimani’s battlefield performance.

Rania Khalek, who runs In the Now, tweeted in shock that a video merely stating facts about Soleimani had gotten her page demonetized, asking “where is the outrage” now that Facebook was so explicitly deleting material for ideological reasons.

Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram have come under fire from independent journalists and media organizations like the International Federation of Journalists for embarking on a wholesale campaign to deplatform all support for Soleimani in the weeks following the US airstrike that killed him. The company has claimed the extensive US sanctions placed on Iran, including the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, require it to censor such posts, though even legal experts quoted by CNN took a dim view of that rationale.

Facebook and Instagram not only remove accounts run by or for sanctioned individuals or groups, but also posts that (they claim) praise or seek to assist the people in question – making sanctions a convenient excuse for mass-deplatforming any user who holds a political view the US government has deemed heresy.

Iranians saw insult added to injury when over a dozen Iranian journalists, several state-run media organizations, and countless ordinary individuals and activists’ Instagram accounts were yanked entirely in the days following Soleimani’s assassination. Many more saw pro-Soleimani posts removed, even when they carefully avoided saying his name – one Lebanese researcher praised “Q*ssem S*leim*ni” for protecting Christians from ISIS and al-Qaeda, only to have his video removed anyway.

The rank ideological discrimination not only left them unable to publicly mourn for a leader beloved by the lion’s share of the people, but allowed pro-regime-change trolls to dominate the narrative. Facebook has recently taken flack from the US political establishment for refusing to “fact-check” political ads, but non-advertising content is more tightly controlled than ever.

Facebook and Instagram are far from alone in clamping down on the speech of Iranian users, however – YouTube briefly deleted state-backed PressTV’s channel earlier this week, only to reactivate it after an outpouring of popular support.

Twitter removed state-backed media outlet Al-Alam News’ account, as well as that of the popular Iran-backed Spanish-language media outlet HispanTV, only reinstating the latter after a massive public backlash. Dozens of individual Iranians who supported their government were also deplatformed on Twitter, while anti-government users – many linked to notorious exile terror group Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK) – were allowed to continue slinging hate against Soleimani and his supporters. Twitter even dished out a ban to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but restored the account after a few days.

January 15, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 6 Comments

Twitter Shutters Dozens of Venezuelan Government-Linked Accounts

By Morgan Artyukhina | Sputnik | 08.01.2020

Dozens of Twitter accounts for figures and institutions related to the Venezuelan government, including military branches, political leaders and journalists, were suddenly suspended without explanation on Tuesday, a day after Washington condemned the National Assembly for failing to re-elect presidential claimant Juan Guaido.

The social media giant has suspended the accounts of numerous Venezuelan government institutions, including the country’s Army, Navy, National Guard, Air Force, Central Bank, Finance Ministry, Oil Ministry, National Center for Information Technology (CNTI) and National Commission for Information Technology.

The accounts of government figures like Victor Clark, the governor of Venezuela’s Falcon state; former Bolivarian National Army Forces General Commander Jesus Suarez; and Freddy Bernal, the coordinator of the country’s subsidized food distribution program, the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP), were also shut down.

Still other accounts shuttered include Red Radio Venezuela, the presidential press office and the press office for the mayor of Caracas.

According to TeleSur, no explanation has been given for the suspensions, just a notice that the accounts had ostensibly violated Twitter’s terms of use.

While a few of the accounts have since been unlocked, such as Bernal’s and the Finance Ministry’s, most remain locked.

Toeing the State Department Line

TeleSur noted that according to Twitter’s rules, an account can be closed if it’s being used for spam, has been hacked, participates in abusive or bellicose behavior or impersonates another account – but the closed accounts haven’t violated any of these rules.

The crackdown mirrors one by the social media giant in September that targeted numerous Cuban news outlets and journalists. As Sputnik reported, dozens of Cuban accounts were shut down just moments before Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel addressed the nation about a chronic fuel shortage caused by US sanctions and collective methods of coping with the shortages.

Twitter has steadily treaded closer to the US State Department’s line in recent years, adopting the same bellicose stance against accounts associated with governments targeted by Washington, including those of Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China. Under the guise of combating disinformation, Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, have closed down accounts spreading information and news that run counter to the US government’s official line on events such as the Guaido’s declaration of his own interim presidency and the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong. However, in the recent crackdowns on Cuban and Venezuelan accounts, Twitter has not even attempted to offer a veil of justification.

Washington Decries Guaido’s Ouster

On Sunday, Guaido failed to secure re-election as the speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly, a post he received in January 2019 amid rotating leadership of the legislature by the country’s opposition parties. Instead, 81 of the 150 lawmakers chose Luis Parra, an independent opposition member representing Yaracuy State.

Parra recently left the centrist opposition party Primero Justicia, the party of Henrique Capriles, who challenged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the 2013 presidential election.

Unsure if he would win re-election, Guaido postured as if he had been barred entry to the legislature, attempting to scale the fences outside on Sunday. However, there’s no evidence Guaido was actually prevented from entering the building in a normal way, especially since Guaido loyalists like William Davila entered without trouble.

Video footage later emerged showing Guaido refusing to enter unless in the company of several lawmakers whose parliamentary immunity has been revoked for alleged criminal offenses, Venezuelanalysis noted.

After opposition members failed to convince Guaido to enter, he and they later met at the headquarters of anti-government newspaper El Nacional, declaring the parliament’s vote void and re-electing Guaido as speaker, with several figures standing in for legislators who had left the country.

Washington quickly denounced the events in the National Assembly, with US Vice President Mike Pence declaring Guaido the country’s “only legitimate president” and US Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams promising new sanctions against Maduro.

Guaido’s claim to be interim president is recognized by roughly 50 countries, mostly European and US-allied nations, while Maduro, who won reelection in 2018, remains recognized as the president of Venezuela by roughly 75% of the world’s nations. Since January 23, 2019, Guaido has launched four attempted coups d’etat, each of which has gained less traction than the last.

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Blocks State-run Radio Pakistan’s Live Streaming for Highlighting Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – December 30, 2019

For four months, the Pakistani government has been accusing Twitter of suspending hundreds of accounts of Pakistanis for raising issue related to Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The communication blockade entered its 148th day in Kashmir since the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by Modi’s government.

Pakistan’s government has criticised the American social media giant Facebook for blocking the live streaming of news bulletins run by state-run Radio Pakistan, terming it a violation of basic human rights.

Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Ministry Firdous Ashiq Awan said that government will “make efforts for the restoration of the live streaming of Radio Pakistan’s news on Facebook”.

The minister said every time the state-run radio service tries to highlight “human rights violations” in Kashmir on social media platforms, “the accounts are suspended”.Earlier in the day, Radio Pakistan said its live streaming service of news bulletins was blocked for highlighting “Indian atrocities in Kashmir”.

The news coverage exposing “continued atrocities, curfew and military lockdown” led to the blockage, the statement read.

Radio Pakistan has also shared a screenshot message reportedly sent by Facebook in which the American firm claimed that “your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”.

A huge number of Pakistani nationals have been venting their ire on social media since the Indian parliament revoked the decades-old temporary special status of Jammu and Kashmir State on 5 August and bifurcated it later into two federally-administered Union Territories.

A number of accounts of Pakistani journalists, activists and even some of government officials were suspended in August, triggering outrage among the people.

The Kashmir region has been a bone of contention for India and Pakistan. Both the nuclear-armed neighbours claim Kashmir in full but rule only part of the region.

December 30, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent

Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.

By Mnar Muhawesh – MintPress News – November 14, 2019

It’s an open secret. The deep state is working hand in hand with Silicon Valley social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google to control the flow of information. That includes suppressing, censoring and sometimes outright purging dissenting voices – all under the guise of fighting fake news and Russian propaganda.

Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York Times, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.

But for those paying attention and for those who have been following MintPress News extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:

What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the US and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote,

This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.

Alternative voices not welcome

The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.”

Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture, for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built.

As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue.

The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.

One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe.

McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “retarded,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.

Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.

I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.

November 15, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Only thing clear about the new Transparency Act is that US senators are about to let Google keep manipulating your search results

By Michael Rectenwald | RT | November 10, 2019

In June, whistleblower Zach Vorhies dumped internal Google documents exposing the company’s shady practices and political agenda. Rather than investigate, US lawmakers are offering Big Tech political cover and a legislative decoy.

Internal documents and secret recordings continue to make abundantly clear what many already knew and others strongly suspected about Google and other digital goliaths; that Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and others manipulate their content and their users.

Stepping into the fray, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) has boasted that his new bill – the Filter Bubble Transparency Act – is the silver bullet for bursting user information filter bubbles, the predictable information dead ends that reinforce users’ pre-existing perspectives. He would have us believe that the use of personal user data by search engine algorithms is the real problem with the internet.

But this issue is the least of the problems that users face online. The bill’s co-sponsors hope we’ve forgotten – or never knew – that Google and the rest are not the unbiased, politically neutral information sources or social media platforms that they (so poorly) pretend to be. Far from it.

Google blacklists sources and prevents them from appearing in news results or featured links. Google’s blacklist is a manually curated file including over 500 websites that are excluded from news results.

Google applies fringe ranking to sites, downgrading those sites – but not The New York Times and The Washington Post – that promote “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.” Fringe ranking involves the manual grading of sites, although only those whose conspiracy theories or fake news stories fail to meet Google’s criteria for credible, plausible narratives are downgraded.

Google and YouTube use “hate speech” labeling, downgrading sites and videos they believe contain “hate speech.” YouTube scoring is apparently based solely on whether videos express “supremacism.”

Google and YouTube use “authoritativeness” scoring to rank sites and videos. The authoritativeness score is necessarily based on whether a news site or video conforms to Google or YouTube’s notions of credible and respectable views.

Last is the little-known fact that Google ranks websites against Wikipedia pages, treating Wikipedia as an unbiased and authoritative source. As Zach Vorhies told me in a private chat, “the core issue is that sites are not being ranked according to user data, they are being ranked against Wikipedia.” Websites are downgraded if Wikipedia pages contain negative information about them. Yet, as information age philosopher Jaron Lanier has noted, Wikipedia is notorious for its left-leaning political bias and its overwriting of known facts to suit its agenda. The issue has been addressed on Wikipedia itself.

Together, Google’s site-ranking methods favor liberal and left-leaning sites – but Google goes even further by steering voters toward preferred candidates and, in an insider video, the company made clear that it intends to intervene in the 2020 presidential election.

The Big Tech giants manipulate data and users and under questionable pretences and using highly subjective criteria. And they’ve done most of these things, or so they hoped, without our knowledge or permission.

The proposed legislation doesn’t even mention –let alone address– these practices. Instead, it pretends to talk tough. Google, Facebook, and other major search and social media platforms would be required to give users an option to use “input-transparent algorithms” that don’t incorporate user data in search results. Platform providers would have to disclose when they use “opaque algorithms” that use such user-connected data. Whoopee.

While it may be true that, as Sen. Thune suggests, the new internet bill was written to give users “more control over what they see online,” it leaves that control by and large in the hands of Google and other digital giants. The proposed bill deflects attention from the basis of this control – the manipulation of search results and use of other data-meddling and scoring tactics by big digital players. Whether intentionally or not, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act serves as a diversionary device, allowing Big Tech to hide in plain sight.

Michael Rectenwald is the author of nine books, including the most recent, Google Archipelago.

November 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Will Guard the Guards? Facebook Launches Programme to Stop Misinformation and Election Meddling

Sputnik – November 8, 2019

The company was repeatedly accused of not investing enough time and effort to stop the flow of fake news and prevent meddling during the 2016 presidential elections. At the same time, numerous media and politicians have raised concerns that new policies, meant to fight against misinformation could be used to suppress “unwanted” opinions.

Facebook has activated its project aimed at shielding the next presidential elections in the United States from meddling via the internet, the tech giant announced late Thursday.

“Today, we’re launching Facebook Protect to further secure the accounts of elected officials, candidates, their staff and others who may be particularly vulnerable to targeting by hackers and foreign adversaries. As we’ve seen in past elections, they can be targets of malicious activity”, the official statement read.

The corporation attempted to stop the spread of misinformation, noting that beginning next month, Instagram will make “accounts that repeatedly post misinformation harder to find”, while Facebook will filter them to exclude fakes from the news feed.

The system will also label “content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker”, Facebook added, without providing details on the said organisation or how the process will work.

According to the company, the new system will also let Facebook and Instagram users protect themselves from hacking and cyberattacks by using two-factor authentication.

“Participants will be required to turn on two-factor authentication, and their accounts will be monitored for hacking, such as login attempts from unusual locations or unverified devices. And, if we discover an attack against one account, we can review and protect other accounts affiliated with that same organisation that are enrolled in our programme”, Facebook stated.

The statement also echoes the opinion of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claimed in October that Russia and Iran attempted to hack the 2016 elections – which Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied over the past three years, stressing there is no evidence to support the allegations.

Washington has even imposed sanctions against Russia over its alleged meddling in American elections in 2016 and 2018, while investigators were searching for possible connections between the Kremlin and US President Donald Trump or his campaign. However, after a two-year probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated there was no evidence of such collusion.

November 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Don’t Make Mark Zuckerberg America’s Political Truth Czar

By Thomas L. Knapp – The Garrison Center – October 29, 2019

Politicians lie.

Not all of them. Not every time. But most of them, from both “major” political parties, lie. A lot.

It’s not always easy to tell when they’re lying. It’s not always easy to prove they’re lying. Often, it’s not even easy to tell if they’re just lying to us or to themselves as well.

Some politicians want Facebook to stop politicians from lying. They phrase that desire as a request for Facebook to “fact check” content posted by politicians, especially political advertising.

Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I’m not sure it’s  coincidence that the examples politicians offer tend to be drawn from content posted by their political opponents.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is a notable exception. She asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook would let her target Republican politicians by running ads falsely accusing them of voting for her “Green New Deal” proposal (Zuckerberg said he couldn’t answer “off the top of his head”).

On the other hand, AOC’s own take seems  a bit naive.  “So you will take down lies or you won’t take down lies?” she asked Zuckerberg.  “I think this is a pretty simple yes or no.”

It isn’t.

Let’s use the Green New Deal as an example.

If a Facebook employee has to “fact check” an ad asserting that the proposal would “tank the American economy,” how should that employee evaluate the truth or falsehood of the claim?

What criteria should that employee use for deciding what “tank” means? Is slow economic growth “tanking?” Or would it take a recession or depression to meet the threshold?

Should that employee rely on analyses from the Heritage Foundation? Or perhaps from People for the American Way? Or the Congressional Budget Office? Or the Office of Management and Budget? Four sources, likely four wildly conflicting sets of claims and projections.

For a conflicting ad claiming the Green New Deal would “boost the American economy,” should that employee “fact check” the ad using the same sources as for the original ad, or different sources? Would 1% growth of GDP constitute a boost? If not, what number, applied to what metric, would?

What if both ads fail the “fact check?” Should the public just flip a coin and vote accordingly, since the two sides are forbidden to offer us their takes to  evaluate and decide between for ourselves?

Politics consists of conflicting narratives. No two opposing narratives can both be true. In fact, both could be false (Spoiler: Both are probably at least partially false, intentionally or not; personal biases affect politicians’ beliefs, and ours, at least as much as facts do).

The question is not whether politicians’ claims should be fact checked. The question is who should do the checking.

In an even remotely free society, the only answer is “all of us.”

Yes, some of us will  fail to accurately distinguish truth from falsehood. Some of us will get things wrong.

That’s better than one centralized “fact checking” operation getting them wrong for all of us.

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

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Facebook’s False Fact Check

There’s no guarantee scientific research is credible or accurate just because it has been peer-reviewed. Why is Facebook promoting this lie?

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | October 23, 2019

Much of what we read, online and elsewhere, is incorrect. That’s life. But Facebook, a platform that helps people socialize, thinks it’s in the business of setting the record straight. It calls this process fact checking, but its fact checkers don’t know what they’re talking about.

A story from NaturalNews.com recently appeared in my Facebook feed. I don’t consider that website a reliable source of information, but that’s beside the point. The story was titled Climate change hoax COLLAPSES as new science finds human activity has virtually zero impact on global temperatures. It begins by talking about a paper written by two Finish academics who say there’s “no experimental evidence” for the idea that humanity significantly affects the climate.

Facebook inserted two “related articles” directly after that Natural News story in my feed, describing it as “incorrect” and “false” (see the screengrab at the top of this post). The first was from ClimateFeedback.org, which talks loftily about accurate information being “the foundation of a functioning democracy.”

According to ClimateFeedback,

Some news outlets are publishing articles stating that this claim is based on a new study. In reality, there is no new published study. The claim comes from a six-page document uploaded to arXiv, a website traditionally used by scientists to make manuscripts available before publication. [my italics]

Ideas exist independently of whether or not they’ve been published somewhere. They exist even if people dismiss them as a six-page document. Peter Ratcliffe, one of three individuals who shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine, had his research rejected because a reviewer didn’t think his findings were sufficiently significant.

click to enlarge

Was his Nobel-quality research wrong just because Nature chose not to publish it? Of course not.

ClimateFeedback neglects to mention that the availability of the Finnish research on ArXiv.org is a good sign. That platform is used by mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and others who are seeking feedback from the wider community. People post their work there specifically so that others can help them strengthen and sharpen it prior to submission to a scientific journal.

ClimateFeedback carries on:

This means that this article has not been peer-reviewed, so there is no guarantee to its credibility. [my bold]

I’m sure they intended to say there’s no guarantee of its accuracy. But either formulation is nonsense. I recently wrote about research that navigated the peer review process and got published in Nature. A mere 19 days later, the authors conceded it contained multiple errors. It has since been fully and formally retracted.

RetractionWatch.org provides ongoing coverage of faulty and fraudulent research that nevertheless made it through the peer review process. In other words: PEER REVIEW IS NOT A GUARANTEE. Not of credibility. And not of accuracy. Fact checkers who say otherwise are profoundly misleading the public.

Facebook labels the Natural News article false – and then promulgates a gigantic falsehood of its own.

But since we’re on the topic of unpublished research, this is a good time to recall that, when James Hansen delivered his famous global warming testimony back in 1988, he cited unpublished research. The larger scientific community had been given no opportunity to scrutinize his work, to decide if it was brilliant or bollocks. It had been accepted by a journal, but it hadn’t yet appeared.

Similarly, the anti-aerosol movement was kick-started by a 1974 New York Times front page story. It quoted a Harvard scientist who claimed aerosol products were destroying the Earth’s ozone layer. Lots of people apparently didn’t notice the sentence that said no one had yet taken “a hard look at the Harvard calculations,” since the research was still in the process of being submitted to a scientific journal.

Then there’s the world’s most influential climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It has long relied on unpublished research when writing its reports (see here, here, here, here, and here).

There is a history, in other words, of taking research findings seriously before they’ve been published in scientific journals. But this only seems to apply when people are preaching doom, gloom, and alarm.

According to Facebook and ClimateFeedback.org, those Finns are just too audacious. No one should pay them the slightest attention. Heavens, their work is still unpublished!

October 23, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 2 Comments

The War on Truth: How Israel’s social media trolls conquered Facebook

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | October 20, 2019

On October 9, the social media platform, Facebook, deleted the page of the popular Palestinian news website, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC). This act, which was carried out without even contacting the page administrators, confirms that Facebook’s war on pro-Palestine voices is continuing unabated.

PIC had nearly five million followers on Facebook, a testament to its popularity and credibility among a large cross section of Palestinians and their supporters internationally. For Israel’s trolls on social media, PIC was simply too effective to be allowed to spread its message. As usual, Facebook obliged.

This oft-repeated scenario – where pro-Israeli social media trolls zoom in on a Palestinian media platform while working closely with Facebook management to censor content, bar individuals, or delete whole pages – is now the norm. Palestinian views on Facebook are simply unwanted, and the margin of what is allowed is rapidly shrinking.

Sue, a Facebook user, told me that she had been warned by the platform for alleged “hate speech/bullying” for claiming that “Israelis are militarized in their psychology”, and that the “perceived threat of and real hatred for the Palestinians (are) kept alive by the (Israeli) government.”

‘Sue’ is, of course, correct in her assessment, a claim that has been made numerous times even by the Israeli president himself. On October 14, 2014, President Reuven Rivlin, said that “the time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment.” Moreover, the fact that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been stoking the fire of fear, hatred and racism to win a few votes in the Israeli elections has made headlines around the world.

It is unclear where exactly ‘Sue’ had gone wrong, and what portion of her comment constituted “hate speech” and “bullying”.

I asked others to share their experiences with Facebook as a result of their pro-Palestinian speech. The responses I received indicated the unmistakable pattern that Facebook is indeed targeting, not hate speech, but criticism of Israeli war, siege, racism and apartheid.

For example, ‘José’ was censored for writing, in Spanish, that “there is nothing more cowardly than attacking or killing a child.”

“Damned coward army, assassins of Palestinian children, this is not a war, this is a genocide,” he commented.

Meanwhile, ‘Derek’ has been suspended from using Facebook for 30 days, “many times” in the past on “various charges.” He told me that “all it takes is a certain number of reports by trolls who have secret groups on who to target.”

The same pattern was repeated with ‘Anissa’, ‘Debbie’, Erika’, ‘Layla’, ‘Olivia’, ‘Rich’, ‘Eddy’ and countless others.

But who are these “trolls” and what are the roots of Facebook’s unrelenting targeting for Palestinians and their supporters?

The Trolls

According to a document obtained by the Electronic Intifada, the Israeli government has funded a “global influence campaign” with a massive budget with the sole aim of influencing foreign publics and combating the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Writing in EI, Asa Winstanley, reported on a “troll army of thousands” that is “partly funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs”.

“To conceal its involvement, the ministry has admitted to working through front groups that ‘do not want to expose their connection with the state,’” Winstanley wrote.

One such troll group estimated to include 15,000 active members, is Act.IL.

Writing in Jacobin Magazine website, Michael Bueckert describes the main function of Act.IL app users:

“With the mobile application and online platform Act.IL, Israel aims to recruit a mob of slacktivists and trolls to join their war against the most insidious forms of violence: pro-Palestinian tweets and Facebook posts.”

Act.IL is only the tip of the iceberg of a massive, centralized effort led by the Israeli government and involving legions of supporters around the world. However, Israel would never have achieved its objectives were it not for the fact that Facebook has officially joined the Israeli government in its social media “war” on Palestinians.

In 2014, Sohaib Zahda was reportedly the first Palestinian to be arrested by the Israeli army for his social media post, in a new strategy of cracking down on what Israel sees as “incitement”. The arrest campaign since then has expanded to include hundreds of Palestinians – mostly young artists, poets, and student activists.

But Israel only started monitoring Facebook in earnest in 2015, according to the Intercept.

“The arrests of Palestinians for Facebook posts open(ed) a window into the practices of Israel’s surveillance state and reveal social media’s darker side,” Alex Kane wrote. “What was once seen as a weapon of the weak has turned into the perfect place to ferret out potential resistance.”

Israel quickly manufactured a legal basis for the arrests (155 cases were opened in 2015 alone), thus providing a legal cover that was used in its subsequent agreement with Facebook. The Israeli Penal Code of 1977, art. 144 D.2 was repeatedly unleashed to counter a social media phenomenon that was established much more recently, all in the name of cracking down on “incitement to violence and terror”.

The Israeli strategy began with a massive hasbara (propaganda) campaign aimed at creating public and media pressure on Facebook. The Israeli government activated its then-nascent troll army to build a global narrative centered on the purported notion that Facebook has become a platform for violent ideas, which Palestinians are utilising on the ground.

The Facebook-Israel Team

When, in September 2016, the Israeli government announced its willingness to work with Facebook to “tackle incitement”, the social media giant was ready to reach an understanding, even if that meant violating the very basic freedom of expression it has repeatedly vowed to respect.

During that period, the Israeli government and Facebook agreed to “determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network,” according to the Associated Press citing top Israeli officials.

The agreement was the outcome of two days of discussions involving the Israeli interior minister, Gilad Erdan, and justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, among others.

Erdan’s office said in a statement that, “they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content.”

In essence, this meant that any content related to Palestine and Israel is now filtered, not only by Facebook’s own editors, but by Israeli officials as well.

For Palestinians, the outcome has been devastating as numerous pages, like that of PIC, have been deleted and countless users have been banned, temporarily or indefinitely.

Quite often, the process of targeting Palestinians and their supporters follows the same logic:

  • Pro-Israel trolls fan out, monitoring and commenting on Palestinian posts.
  • The trolls report allegedly offensive individuals and content to the Facebook/Israeli “team”.
  • Facebook carries out recommendations regarding accounts that have been flagged for censorship.
  • The accounts of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian pages and individuals are deleted or banned.

While PIC did not receive any warning before their popular account was axed, chances are the decision followed the same pattern as above.

When social media was first introduced, many saw in it an opportunity to present ideas and advocate causes that have been, for one reason or another, shunned by mainstream media.

Palestine suddenly found a new, welcoming media platform; one that is not influenced by wealthy owners and paid advertisers, but by ordinary individuals – millions of them.

Israel, however, may have found a way to circumvent the influence of Facebook on the discussions pertaining to Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation.

When exposing apartheid, condemning child killers and discussing the fear-mentality pervading in Israel become “hate speech” and “bullying”, one should then ponder what has become of social media’s promise of freedom and popular democracy.

While Facebook has done much more to discredit itself in recent years, no other act is as sinister as censoring the voices of those who dare challenge state-sponsored violence, racism and apartheid, anywhere, with Palestine remaining the prime example thereof.

Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer and editor, contributed to this article.

Watch: Campaign launched to end Facebook’s attack on Palestinian content

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

Twitter editorial executive is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier – report

RT | September 30, 2019

A high-level Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time British Army officer in their psychological warfare unit, according to a report.

The Middle East Eye (MEE) claim that Gordon MacMillan, head of editorial for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), also serves with the 77th Brigade, a unit set up in 2015 in order to find “non-lethal” ways of waging war.

The 77th Brigade is an ‘information warfare’ operation that utilizes social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to develop “behavioral change” projects in regions such as the Middle East.

It brings together a variety of military units such as Media Operations and the 15 Psychological Operations Group. The group, before it was absorbed into the 77th Brigade, deployed commanders in the provision of psychological operations in operational and tactical environments.

Detailing his army background on LinkedIn, MacMillan wrote that he had trained at Sandhurst, the prestigious British military academy and that he is “a reserve officer in the British Army serving in 77th Brigade, which specializes in non-lethal engagement.”

The MEE report that his page has recently been edited and that all references to MacMillan’s service with the 77th Brigade have been deleted.

At its launch in front of the UK media four years ago, the new Brigade was billed as a unit of 1,500 “Facebook warriors,” consisting of both regular soldiers and reservists. According to the Middle East Eye, in recent months the army has approached British journalists to join the unit as reservists.

Twitter has responded by insisting that they “encourage all our employees to pursue external interests.” The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) claim that the 77th Brigade has no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication, according to the MEE.

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment