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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

Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor

By Glenn Greenwald | October 5, 2021

Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week’s anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a “whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.

The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen’s star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook’s dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.

There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. Their control over multiple huge platforms that they purchased enables them to punish and even destroy competitors, as we saw when Apple, Google and Amazon united to remove Parler from the internet forty-eight hours after leading Democrats demanded that action, right as Parler became the most-downloaded app in the country, or as Google suppresses Rumble videos in its dominant search feature as punishment for competing with Google’s YouTube platform. Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden’s business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.

But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers. Congress has taken no steps to curb the influence of these Silicon Valley giants because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform. With the exception of a few stalwarts, neither party’s ruling wing really has any objection to this monopolistic power as long as it is exercised to advance their own interests.

And that is Facebook’s only real political problem: not that they are too powerful but that they are not using that power to censor enough content from the internet that offends the sensibilities and beliefs of Democratic Party leaders and their liberal followers, who now control the White House, the entire executive branch and both houses of Congress. Haugen herself, now guided by long-time Obama operative Bill Burton, has made explicitly clear that her grievance with her former employer is its refusal to censor more of what she regards as “hate, violence and misinformation.” In a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday night, Haugen summarized her complaint about CEO Mark Zuckerberg this way: he “has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful and polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.” Haugen, gushed The New York Times’ censorship-desperate tech unit as she testified on Tuesday, is “calling for regulation of the technology and business model that amplifies hate and she’s not shy about comparing Facebook to tobacco.”

Agitating for more online censorship has been a leading priority for the Democratic Party ever since they blamed social media platforms (along with WikiLeaks, Russia, Jill Stein, James Comey, The New York Times, and Bernie Bros) for the 2016 defeat of the rightful heir to the White House throne, Hillary Clinton. And this craving for censorship has been elevated into an even more urgent priority for their corporate media allies, due to the same belief that Facebook helped elect Trump but also because free speech on social media prevents them from maintaining a stranglehold on the flow of information by allowing ordinary, uncredentialed serfs to challenge, question and dispute their decrees or build a large audience that they cannot control. Destroying alternatives to their failing platforms is thus a means of self-preservation: realizing that they cannot convince audiences to trust their work or pay attention to it, they seek instead to create captive audiences by destroying or at least controlling any competitors to their pieties.

As I have been reporting for more than a year, Democrats do not make any secret of their intent to co-opt Silicon Valley power to police political discourse and silence their enemies. Congressional Democrats have summoned the CEO’s of Google, Facebook and Twitter four times in the last year to demand they censor more political speech. At the last Congressional inquisition in March, one Democrat after the next explicitly threatened the companies with legal and regulatory reprisals if they did not immediately start censoring more.

Pew survey from August shows that Democrats now overwhelmingly support internet censorship not only by tech giants but also by the government which their party now controls. In the name of “restricting misinformation,” more than 3/4 of Democrats want tech companies “to restrict false info online, even if it limits freedom of information,” and just under 2/3 of Democrats want the U.S. Government to control that flow of information over the internet:

The prevailing pro-censorship mindset of the Democratic Party is reflected not only by that definitive polling data but also by the increasingly brash and explicit statements of their leaders. At the end of 2020, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), newly elected after young leftist activists worked tirelessly on his behalf to fend off a primary challenge from the more centrist Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), told Facebook’s Zuckerberg exactly what the Democratic Party wanted. In sum, they demand more censorship:

This, and this alone, is the sole reason why there is so much adoration being constructed around the cult of this new disgruntled Facebook employee. What she provides, above all else, is a telegenic and seemingly informed “insider” face to tell Americans that Facebook is destroying their country and their world by allowing too much content to go uncensored, by permitting too many conversations among ordinary people that are, in the immortal worlds of the NYT‘s tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, “unfettered.”

When Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Silicon Valley social media companies were created, they did not set out to become the nation’s discourse police. Indeed, they affirmatively wanted not to do that. Their desire to avoid that role was due in part to the prevailing libertarian ideology of a free internet in that sub-culture. But it was also due to self-interest: the last thing social media companies wanted to be doing is looking for ways to remove and block people from using their product and, worse, inserting themselves into the middle of inflammatory political controversies. Corporations seek to avoid angering potential customers and users over political stances, not courting that anger.

This censorship role was not one they so much sought as one that was foisted on them. It was not really until the 2016 election, when Democrats were obsessed with blaming social media giants (and pretty much everyone else except themselves) for their humiliating defeat, that pressure began escalating on these executives to start deleting content liberals deemed dangerous or false and banning their adversaries from using the platforms at all. As it always does, the censorship began by targeting widely disliked figures — Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones and others deemed “dangerous” — so that few complained (and those who did could be vilified as sympathizers of the early offenders). Once entrenched, the censorship net then predictably and rapidly spread inward (as it invariably does) to encompass all sorts of anti-establishment dissidents on the right, the left, and everything in between. And no matter how much it widens, the complaints that it is not enough intensify. For those with the mentality of a censor, there can never be enough repression of dissent. And this plot to escalate censorship pressures found the perfect vessel in this stunningly brave and noble Facebook heretic who emerged this week from the shadows into the glaring spotlight. She became a cudgel that Washington politicians and their media allies could use to beat Facebook into submission to their censorship demands.

In this dynamic we find what the tech and culture writer Curtis Yarvin calls “power leak.” This is a crucial concept for understanding how power is exercised in American oligarchy, and Yarvin’s brilliant essay illuminates this reality as well as it can be described. Hyperbolically arguing that “Mark Zuckerberg has no power at all,” Yarvin points out that it may appear that the billionaire Facebook CEO is powerful because he can decide what will and will not be heard on the largest information distribution platform in the world. But in reality, Zuckerberg is no more powerful than the low-paid content moderators whom Facebook employs to hit the “delete” or “ban” button, since it is neither the Facebook moderators nor Zuckerberg himself who is truly making these decisions. They are just censoring as they are told, in obedience to rules handed down from on high. It is the corporate press and powerful Washington elites who are coercing Facebook and Google to censor in accordance with their wishes and ideology upon pain of punishment in the form of shame, stigma and even official legal and regulatory retaliation. Yarvin puts it this way:

However, if Zuck is subject to some kind of oligarchic power, he is in exactly the same position as his own moderators. He exercises power, but it is not his power, because it is not his will. The power does not flow from him; it flows through him. This is why we can say honestly and seriously that he has no power. It is not his, but someone else’s. . . .

Zuck doesn’t want to do any of this. Nor do his users particularly want it. Rather, he is doing it because he is under pressure from the press. Duh. He cannot even admit that he is under duress—or his Vietcong guards might just snap, and shoot him like the Western running-dog capitalist he is….

And what grants the press this terrifying power? The pure and beautiful power of the logos? What distinguishes a well-written post, like this one, from an equally well-written Times op-ed? Nothing at all but prestige. In normal times, every sane CEO will comply unhesitatingly with the slightest whim of the legitimate press, just as they will comply unhesitatingly with a court order. That’s just how it is. To not call this power government is—just playing with words.

As I have written before, this problem — whereby the government coerces private actors to censor for them — is not one that Yarvin was the first to recognize. The U.S. Supreme Court has held, since at least 1963, that the First Amendment’s “free speech” clause is violated when state officials issue enough threats and other forms of pressure that essentially leave the private actor with no real choice but to censor in accordance with the demands of state officials. Whether we are legally at the point where that constitutional line has been crossed by the increasingly blunt bullying tactics of Democratic lawmakers and executive branch officials is a question likely to be resolved in the courts. But whatever else is true, this pressure is very real and stark and reveals that the real goal of Democrats is not to weaken Facebook but to capture its vast power for their own nefarious ends.

There is another issue raised by this week’s events that requires ample caution as well. The canonized Facebook whistleblower and her journalist supporters are claiming that what Facebook fears most is repeal or reform of Section 230, the legislative provision that provides immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users. That section means that if a Facebook user or YouTube host publishes legally actionable content, the social media companies themselves cannot be held liable. There may be ways to reform Section 230 that can reduce the incentive to impose censorship, such as denying that valuable protection to any platform that censors, instead making it available only to those who truly allow an unmoderated platform to thrive. But such a proposal has little support in Washington. What is far more likely is that Section 230 will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on all social media companies.

Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry. Any legal scheme that requires every post and comment to be moderated would demand enormous resources — gigantic teams of paid experts and consultants to assess “misinformation” and “hate speech” and veritable armies of employees to carry out their decrees. Only the established giants such as Facebook and Google would be able to comply with such a regimen, while other competitors — including large but still-smaller ones such as Twitter — would drown in those requirements. And still-smaller challengers to the hegemony of Facebook and Google, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive. In other words, any attempt by Congress to impose greater content moderation obligations — which is exactly what they are threatening — would destroy whatever possibility remains for competitors to arise and would, in particular, destroy any platforms seeking to protect free discourse. That would be the consequence by design, which is why one should be very wary of any attempt to pretend that Facebook and Google fear such legislative adjustments.

There are real dangers posed by allowing companies such as Facebook and Google to amass the power they have now consolidated. But very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power. It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests. The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing. Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia will take ‘zero tolerance’ approach to US tech giant YouTube’s ‘censorship’ of RT’s German-language channels

RT | September 29, 2021

YouTube has violated Russian law by taking down two German-language channels run by RT, the Kremlin has insisted, cautioning that the American tech giant will face serious consequences unless it urgently reinstates the accounts.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary said that “there are of course signs that Russian law has been broken” after the platform moved to ban RT DE and Der Fehlende Part from its site. “In fact, it has been broken very brazenly,” Dmitry Peskov added. “Because of this, it is a case of censorship, and of obstructing the dissemination of information by the media, and so on.”

Peskov added that “there must be zero tolerance for such violations of the law,” insisting that “if our regulators deem this is a violation of legislation then we can’t exclude the possibility we will take measures to force this network to comply with the law.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Moscow’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, published a letter sent to YouTube’s parent company, Google, demanding all restrictions be lifted from RT’s channels. The purportedly permanent deletion was imposed after the German-language broadcaster allegedly attempted to circumvent a ‘community guidelines’ strike, handed down for ‘medical misinformation’ in four videos. The details of the purported breach are not yet clear, but RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, has said that it amounts to “a declaration of media war against Russia by Germany.”

Roskomnadzor went on to tell Google that, if the site does not comply with the order, “legislation allows us to take measures including completely or partially blocking access to it.”

Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has also announced that it is considering taking steps against German news outlets in retaliation over the decision. “Adopting reciprocal measures against the German media in Russia which, by the way, has been repeatedly shown to have interfered in our country’s internal affairs, seems not only appropriate but necessary,” it said in a statement.

Officials went on to say that such restrictions are “the only possible way to focus our partners’ attention on a constructive and meaningful dialogue around this unacceptable situation.” According to the diplomats, YouTube acted not out of adherence to its community policies but with the “obvious connivance, if not the insistence,” of German authorities.

Berlin has denied involvement in the decision and insists that the matter is one for YouTube alone.

September 29, 2021 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Vaccine effectiveness drops further in the over – 40s, to as low as minus 53%: New PHE report

And That’s a Fact

By Will Jones | The Daily Sceptic | September 24, 2021

It’s official: I am spouting misinformation about the Covid vaccines. Full Fact – the Google, Facebook and George Soros-funded outfit that Ofcom has said it relies on to tell it what to censor regarding COVID-19 – has ‘fact checked‘ my recent piece on PHE data showing negative vaccine effectiveness in August and branded it “incorrect”.

Writer Leo Benedictus – henceforth to be known as the Oracle – takes particular issue with the headline, which he says “falsely claims that a report from Public Health England (PHE) shows the COVID-19 vaccines having ‘negative effectiveness’ in the over-40s”.

“This is not true about the COVID-19 vaccines – nor is it true that the PHE report shows this,” the Oracle declares. Except it is. The data contained in the report is completely clear, and the calculation of unadjusted vaccine effectiveness from that data is straightforward.

According to the Oracle, however, this is not a valid way of estimating vaccine effectiveness. Benedictus quotes the PHE report stating as much – “The vaccination status of cases, inpatients and deaths is not the most appropriate method to assess vaccine effectiveness and there is a high risk of misinterpretation” – and notes that I too quote this. What he fails to acknowledge, though, is that I also examine the reason PHE gives for this claim and counter it.

The only substantive reason PHE gives that vaccine effectiveness might be underestimated in its data is that “vaccination has been prioritised in individuals who are more susceptible or more at risk of severe disease”. In other words, the high-risk are over-represented in the vaccinated and this skews the sample. I countered that the large majority of the older age groups are now vaccinated so this bias should be very much reduced. Of course, we also need to ask why, if this is supposedly the key confounder of the data presented, we are not also provided with the necessary data on risk categories so that it can be duly quantified and accounted for.

Benedictus reiterates PHE’s claim that vaccine effectiveness should only be estimated via the published studies. However, as I noted in my article, these studies are riddled with serious problems and inconsistencies that bring their findings into question. They are also out of date since they don’t cover the Delta surge, which is the first time the vaccines have really been stress-tested in the U.K.

Benedictus spends half the ‘fact check’ in a bizarre attempt to argue that my vaccine effectiveness calculation is wrong because I used the data PHE itself used for the size of the unvaccinated population. He points out it is different to the ONS figures on this. Er, take that one up with PHE, Leo.

It does seem at times that Benedictus is fact-checking the PHE report rather than my article. At one point he takes the report to task because one of its charts sowed confusion as it “seemed to show for the month in question (August 9th to September 5th) that people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s were more likely to test positive for Covid if they had been vaccinated than if they hadn’t”.

Except the chart didn’t ‘seem’ to show that; it did show that. Again though we are told that this data does “not give a reliable estimate of vaccine effectiveness” because of biases in the samples.

But who defines what makes an estimate of vaccine effectiveness ‘reliable’ enough to be permitted without being labelled false? All vaccine efficacy estimates have limitations arising from the limitations of the data, including those produced by PHE. I was careful to acknowledge the limitations of the estimates I was making, saying they were unadjusted for risk factors – though argued that this shouldn’t matter so much anymore given high coverage. There’s also the point that being high-risk may affect the risk of serious disease and death but there’s no reason to think it will have an impact on infection rates (save for the small number of immuno-compromised).

The unmistakable impression here is of a gatekeeping exercise by the Government and its outriders to ensure it controls the concept of vaccine effectiveness and no one unauthorised is allowed to make an estimate of it. Thus the availability of the data is carefully controlled and we only get a month at a time and without the additional data that would allow us to control for the supposed biases that the report tells us the data includes and which ‘invalidate’ any attempt to make an unauthorised calculation of vaccine effectiveness.

None of this concept-policing does anything to alter the facts, however. In recent weeks reported infection rates have been higher in the double vaccinated than in the unvaccinated for the over-40s. That means that, for this period, (unadjusted) vaccine effectiveness is negative in those age groups.

PHE has published two new reports since my article and in each the unadjusted vaccine efficacy has declined further. Here is the table using data from the latest report, covering August 23rd to September 19th (the related chart from the report itself is above).

It shows that in the two weeks since my article the vaccine effectiveness has dropped further, with unadjusted vaccine effectiveness in the over-40s now hitting as low as minus-53% among people in their 60s. This means that, on this data for this age group, the double vaccinated experienced a 53% higher reported infection rate than the unvaccinated in the past month. And that’s a fact.

Stop Press: Professor Norman Fenton and Professor Martin Neil on the Probability and Risk site have used age-adjusted all-cause mortality to estimate vaccine effectiveness and found that mortality rates are currently higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.

Stop Press 2: Professor David Paton has produced a good Twitter thread responding to one of the more well-informed critics of this (and other) pieces citing the PHE data.

September 25, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Biden administration demands Facebook hands over data on “misinformation” and vaccine skeptics

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim The Net | August 21, 2021

The Biden administration continues to pressure Facebook to collaborate and help it achieve its goals, one of them being to counter COVID vaccine skepticism and get more people in the US vaccinated.

After Biden shockingly denounced Facebook and others as “killing people” because they are allegedly letting COVID misinformation run rampant on their platforms, that pressure now continues in media reports, like the one The Washington Post published, citing three anonymous administration sources.

According to them, The White House and Facebook have had a series of meetings whose aim was to get the social media giant to turn over massive amounts of user data to the government, apparently as a “good will gesture” – since there doesn’t seem to be any legal ground for such a request.

Instead, the “tense” meetings saw the administration’s COVID crew “begging” Facebook to give them access to data showing how many people on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp see content branded as coronavirus misinformation, how many are still undecided whether to get the jab, and also the efficiency of Facebook’s censorship algorithms, i.e., how many people still get to see content that it aims to block.

It’s not obvious why the officials quoted by the article thought Facebook was under obligation to do this, but they accused the company of “hiding, filibustering and deflecting” – while at the same time commending Google and Twitter for apparently being much more accommodating in similar meetings around the same subject.

Although it is clear that these meetings are initiated and the data sought by the government, the criticism of Facebook in this matter conflates the notions of government and the public, saying it was the latter that “needs to understand” the scale of COVID misinformation and how to “potentially” fight this real or perceived problem.

The data Facebook has collected from its billions of users is described as “singular” and so complex and fine-grained that it can reveal people’s behavior and position on issues – clearly this is where the belief that the data would show the Biden administration how many users are still undecided on the vaccine comes from.

“It’s not that they wouldn’t provide data. It’s that they wouldn’t provide meaningful data, and you end up with a lot of information that doesn’t necessarily have value,” Andy Slavitt, who represented The White House in the meetings, said.

August 24, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Google sues Germany over “hate speech” laws

By Cindy Harper | Reclaim the Net | July 28, 2021

Google has announced legal action against new provisions in Germany’s hate speech law, which the tech giant claims violates its users’ privacy rights. The law mandates online platforms to provide law enforcement with the personal details of the person(s) behind accounts accused of posting or sharing hateful content.

Google announced the legal action through YouTube’s blog. The company is taking issue with new provisions in Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), which took effect in April this year.

The NetzDG was introduced in early 2018 to protect Germans from so-called online “hate speech.” The law requires social media platforms to be responsible for monitoring “hateful” content, and share regular updates of their compliance.

Earlier this year, Germany’s parliament expanded the law to introduce new provisions. Now, online platforms are required to reveal the details of individuals accused of sharing hateful content with federal law enforcement.

The law has not only been criticized by social media companies, but also opposition political parties and the European Commission.

“In our opinion, this massive interference with the rights of our users is not only in conflict with data protection, but also with the German constitution and European law,” Sabine Frank, YouTube’s regional head of public policy, wrote in the blog post.

Per the blog post, Google feels that sharing the personal data of its users with the police “is only possible after a detailed examination by a court and a judicial confirmation.”

Frank added: “For us, the protection of our users’ data is a central concern. We have therefore decided to have the relevant obligations of the legislative package examined by the Cologne Administrative Court as part of a declaratory action.”

Elsewhere in the European region, UK’s media regulator Ofcom announced on Tuesday the appointment of Anna-Sophie Harling for the position of online safety principal. She would be responsible for tackling misinformation and harmful content on online platforms.

Harling holds the position of Europe region’s managing director at NewsGuard Technologies, a company that specializes in auditing the accuracy of online news publishers. Her appointment comes in anticipation of the approval of the Online Safety Bill, which will give Ofcom authority to police content on online platforms.

July 28, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

White House admits US government works with Facebook to censor free-speech

Press Secretary says Biden admin is “flagging disinformation” which social media giant then removes

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | July 24, 2021

Government agencies are flagging posts as “misinformation” for Facebook. Essentially telling internet companies who to censor. We’ve always suspected as much, but now they’ve actually admitted it.

Jen Psaki, Biden’s Press Secretary, said as much in a press briefing last week:

We are flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation”

If true – and that’s never a given when Psaki is talking – it’s a frank admission that the White House is actively breaching the first amendment rights of US citizens (and potentially the human rights of foreign nationals too).

The issue of censorship on the internet is one we have discussed at length at OffG. It has been slowly and steadily increasing for over a decade, with marked acceleration after the Ukraine conflict kicked it to the top of the to-do list in 2015.

Every act of terrorism, every controversy, every election… every “pandemic” is new excuse to place fresh restrictions on who is allowed to say what, where.

This culminated in every single social media and internet platform coordinating to completely remove the incumbent President of the United States from the internet.

News that X celebrity, journalist or Z website has been deleted or demonetized or de-platformed is an everyday occurrence now. The internet, or at least the mainstream internet, has become a quasi-police state. The digital Gestapo knock on doors in the middle of the night and *poof*… the dissident voice is quieted.

The mainstream media is, of course, fine with this. They outright refuse to talk about “censorship”. Instead choosing to talk about “free speech having consequences”, or arguing that “free speech needs a new definition in the age of social media”.

The “liberal” or “progressive” stance has always been that free speech is only about state suppression, not about private companies or individuals.

The argument has always been that Facebook/Twitter/Google etc. are private companies that have every right to decide what appears on their platforms. Of course, if the state is actively instructing the private companies on what to remove… that argument crumbles to dust.

Psaki’s casual revelation means this sophistry is no longer simply logically flawed, it is now inherently dishonest.

It also confirms that the pantomime of government vs social media is just that…, a pantomime. Every time a politician rails against Facebook for allowing hate speech, or bemoans the lack of regulations for internet giants, they are lying.

It’s a false conflict. A constructed PR exercise designed to hide a basic truth – The government tells Facebook what to remove, and Facebook removes it.

They said it, and they can’t unsay it… but they’ll probably try to stop us repeating it.

July 25, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Governments are using credit card purchase data as “contact tracing’ COVID surveillance

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim the Net | July 16, 2021

The ongoing “war on cash” that far preceded the pandemic, whose goal is to steer people towards using traceable forms of payment, is coming in very handy in the COVID era precisely for the reason the policy is criticized in the first place – it makes it easy for authorities to keep tabs on individuals who use card transactions.

Reports now mention instances of Australian residents receiving a mandate to quarantine after using their credit card to pay at an establishment, where somebody known to be infected with the virus had stayed.

Credit card receipts led back to the person that was then forced to self-isolate (although they did not have coronavirus) – and apparently led the person to consider what, if anything, is left of their privacy in a world where more and more people leave long “data trails” behind them.

Stop-gap measures like switching to alternative browsers etc (while probably running it on Windows) aside – the takeaway is that the only way to regain some privacy in the world of mass surveillance and tracking is to turn to alternatives – but do it consistently, and be prepared to pay for the privilege of removing oneself from the closed ecosystems like those ruled with an iron fist by Google, Apple, or Microsoft.

As for using card transactions to do COVID contact tracing, Australia is far from being the only country that is doing it. In fact, those lauded as most successful in even getting their contact tracing efforts off the ground, like South Korea, pioneered the practice. Data surveillance, reports said, was used by authorities there to make sure that people who were either unable or unwilling to share their every move are eventually forced into doing it.

Australia has “distinguished” itself for being willing to jeopardize people’s privacy with a series of COVID surveillance and control measures over the past 18 months, and last November, the National Contact Tracing Review, whose chair is Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, recommended using consumer credit card data for track and trace purposes.

But what about privacy? Privacy rules will apply – until they don’t, seems to be the gist of it.

“Privacy rules will apply,” the Review said, but then added, “and in some jurisdictions legislative change may be required.”

July 16, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Google and Wikipedia Brainwash You

Internet giants cover-up for Big Pharma, suppress alternative medicine and bury inconvenient facts.

By Ryan Matters | OffGuardian | July 12, 2021

According to research done by We Are Social, the average internet user spends over 6 and half hours online every day.

The internet is both a blessing as a curse. On the one hand, it gives us access to knowledge and technology that improves our lives, but on the other hand, it’s an addictive and dangerous mind-control tool that can be exploited to influence your choices and manipulate your thinking.

The COVID pseudopandemic has seen internet censorship rise to an unprecedented level. The controllers and their minions are scrambling to silence anyone who dares to question the efficacy of vaccines or the existence of Sars-Cov-2.

Let’s recap: In the space of a few months, thousands of YouTube channels and millions of Facebook posts have been deleted. The former president of the United States’ Twitter account was removed, and, Greenmedinfo, a site that aggregates research on natural remedies, had both their Facebook and Instagram accounts deleted losing over half a million followers.

LinkedIn also joined in on the action by deleting the account of Dr. Robert Malone after he questioned the safety of the mRNA vaccines, the technology for which he himself played a huge part in creating.

Parler was removed from the internet and so was the website of America’s Frontline Doctors after they endorsed non-agenda-approved treatments to combat COVID-19. More recently, in a move that’s disturbing yet predictable, Facebook has begun sending users creepy messages relating to “extremist content”.

So content that goes against the mainstream agenda is either censored or outright deleted. We know that. But what about the content that goes against corporate interests but isn’t quite insidious enough to be removed? What does Google, the largest search engine in the world, processing over 40,000 search requests per second, do about such content?

The first thing to understand about Google is that it’s more than just a search engine. Google develops and maintains a network of applications that all work together to collect, analyze, and leverage your data. Each application feeds data into the next, forming a global chain of information exchange.

For example, Google’s driverless car initiative powers Google Maps, which in turn powers Google’s local listings. It is this network effect that has made Google such a powerful and unrivaled force in the search engine space.

As a search engine, Google decides what information you see and what information you don’t. It goes without saying, but any tool with such power needs to be responsibly managed and repeatedly scrutinized.

Anyone who chooses to use such a tool should also be aware that they are seeing the internet through a lens created by Google’s mysterious algorithms and the information they’re receiving doesn’t necessarily come from an objective or neutral source.

Google’s ability to affect people’s thinking was demonstrated by the work of Dr. Robert Epstein when his team found that Google was profoundly influencing the results of elections. Epstein writes that:

Our research leaves a little doubt about whether Google has the ability to control voters. In laboratory and online experiments conducted in the United States, we were able to boost the proportion of people who favored any candidates by between 37 and 63 percent after just one search session. […] Whether or not Google executive see it this way, the employees who constantly adjust the search giants algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day.”

It would also appear that Google is inherently biased towards pro-drug, pro-vaccine, Big Pharma medicine. In 2019, the search engine made an update to its algorithm that just so happened to shadow-ban health websites not affiliated with billion-dollar corporates.

The websites affected included GreenMedInfo, SelfHacked, and Mercola.com. Some of these sites lost over 90% of their organic traffic, overnight.

When searching for most health-related topics on Google, the first page is almost always filled with content from websites like WebMD, whose history is filled with conflicts of interest and open collaborations with Monsanto, Merck, and other corporates.

In 2017, the search engine blacklisted naturalnews.com, a natural health advocacy organization that reports on controversial health topics including vaccine safety, GMOs, and pharmaceutical experiments, de-indexing over 140,000 of their webpages.

In a 2019 article, the founder of NaturalNews, Mike Adams, had this to say about Google (emphasis in original):

Make no mistake: Google is pro-pharma, pro-Monsanto, pro-glyphosate, pro-pesticides, pro-chemotherapy, pro-fluoride, pro-5G, pro-geoengineering and fully supports every other toxic poison that endangers humankind.”

Google’s ties to Big Pharma are well-known. In 2016, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, partnered with GlaxoSmithKline to create a new company focused on research into bioelectronics – a branch of medical science aimed at fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body. GSK also works directly with Google thanks to a deal between the two companies that allows GSK full control over the data that they use. What data? Whose data? That isn’t disclosed.

Alphabet is also heavily invested in Vaccitech, a UK-based vaccine company founded by researchers at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, the Vatican (vaxxican?) of vaccine research.

Finally, it has recently come to light that Google’s charity arm, Google.org, provided funding for research and studies carried out by Peter Daszak and his charity, EcoHealth Alliance – the same charity that previously worked with the Wuhan lab involved in so-called ‘gain of function’ research.

These conflicts of interest alone should call into question the search engine’s ability to provide an unbiased view of health content on the internet.

Google’s “autocomplete” algorithm is another source of manipulation that works to affect people’s perceptions about the danger of vaccines and the efficacy of natural treatments.

For example, if you type “vaccines cause” into Google, the top suggestion is “vaccines cause adults”. I mean, seriously? In contrast, if you search “Chiropractic is”, the top suggestions are “quackery”, “pseudoscience” and “dangerous”.

Autocomplete is supposedly based on data collected from real Google searches, especially common and trending ones. However, data from Google trends clearly show that ever since 2004, “vaccines cause autism” has been searched far more times than “vaccines cause adults”, and “Chiropractic is good” has received a far higher popularity score than “Chiropractic is quackery”, the top suggestion.

A similar trend can be observed for terms such as “supplements are”“GMOs are”“glyphosate is”“organic is”, “homeopathy is”, and “holistic medicine is”.

Looking at the way Google favours Big Pharma content, it’s reasonable to suspect that their “data lakes” are being poisoned. In fact, this was confirmed in 2019 when former Google software engineer, Zack Vorheis, leaked 950 pages of internal company documents providing evidence that Google was shaping election results, implementing stealth censorship programmes, and maintaining undisclosed blacklists.

Google’s algorithms are shrouded in mystery, based on black-box machine learning models that few people understand.

Machine learning models must be “trained” and as long as Google feeds them data to say “non-drug medicine is bad, Big Pharma is good”, the algorithms will continue to re-bias the internet in that direction, altering people’s perceptions of natural health and presenting drug-based medicine as the shining light in a dark world filled with invisible enemies.

When it comes to psychological manipulation, Google’s “partner in crime” is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.

If you’ve ever searched for anything on the internet, you’ve likely seen Wikipedia show up towards the top of the search results. When it comes to questions without any commercial impact, such as “What’s the capital of Turkey?”, Wikipedia does a pretty good job.

But when it comes to multibillion-dollar industries, things get a little murky. Big corporates have big pockets and they aren’t opposed to the concept of “pay-to-play”. This was highlighted in 2012 when British PR firm, Bell Pottinger, was exposed for its involvement in manipulating Wikipedia entries for paying clients.

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is no saint, either. In 2008 he used the platform as his personal relationship break-up tool by updating his relationship status on his Wiki entry before telling his girlfriend. And in 2010, he was embroiled in a Wikipedia pornography-removal scandal that saw him “voluntarily” relinquish certain editing and admin privileges.

One of the industries where Wikipedia’s bias is most noticeable is healthcare. In an article for the Orthomolecular News Service, Howard Strauss, Grandson of Max Gerson, MD (the creator of the Gerson cancer therapy) states that:

This writer and many others in the field of alternative medicine and natural healing have experienced Wikipedia bias personally when contributing well-documented, carefully researched articles to the site, only to have them be radically altered and deleted, by anonymous “editors,” then being banned from further editing or contributions. This is impossible to reconcile with a free flow of information.”

And this can be verified as Wikipedia keeps a public record of all edits made to an article over time. He goes on to comment on the history of Wikipedia and states that:

At first, it was interesting to see uncensored information flow through the site, and even contribute to it. Then corporate America realized that Wikipedia, and similar sites, were distributing information they had carefully and thoroughly suppressed in the media, and set about correcting that omission. Soon, Wikipedia entries about natural healing, holistic medicine, and other subjects began to resemble publicity blurbs from Monsanto, or Merck, or the NIH. Contributors are supposed to be anonymous, “volunteer” editors were supposed to be both anonymous and neutral. But it was clear that for certain sensitive subjects, this was far from the case.”

If you want to see Wikipedia’s bias for yourself, just search for any medical discipline that isn’t drug-based. And if you want to make things really fun, take a shot of whiskey every time you see the word ‘pseudoscience’.

Here are real snippets from Wikipedia entries on alternative forms of medicine and natural healing, taken from the first few sentences of the entry…

  • Chiropractic: “Chiropractic is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine…”
  • Chinese medicine: “Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a branch of traditional medicine in China. It has been described as “fraught with pseudoscience.
  • Homeopathy: “Homeopathy or homoeopathy is a pseudoscientific system of alternative medicine.
  • Ayurveda: “The theory and practice of Ayurveda is pseudoscientific.
  • Acupuncture: “Acupuncture is a pseudoscience.
  • German New Medicine: “Germanic New Medicine (GNM), also formerly known as German New Medicine and New Medicine, a system of pseudo-medicine.
  • Functional Medicine: “Functional medicine is a form of alternative medicine that encompasses a number of unproven and disproven methods and treatments.

The editors display a shocking level of bias by cherry-picking references, many of which are not peer-reviewed or scientific, and make hollow claims which they portray as facts.

The entry on Functional Medicine is particularly difficult to get through. Functional Medicine is a form of medicine focused on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. It often involves treatments to correct nutritional imbalances and gut dysbiosis.

However, the author claims that functional medicine encompasses a number of ‘unproven’ and ‘disproven’ treatments and cites two articles on sciencebasedmedicine.org, a notorious ‘Skeptic’ publication, both written by the same author.

The articles, far from scientific or scholarly, read as opinion pieces written by an MD with a chip on his shoulder, who clearly has no understanding of what functional medicine really is. The author, Dr. Wallace Sampson, passed away in 2015. Here’s his author bio:

Retired hematologist/oncologist, presumptive analyzer of ideological and fraudulent medical claims, claimant to being founding editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, and to detecting quackery by smell.”

Incidentally, the Wikipedia entry for the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, says that it is a discontinued medical journal and that it was evaluated at least three times by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for indexing in MEDLINE, but rejected each time. What a shame.

Furthermore, in 2003, a California Appeals Court found Dr. Sampson “to be biased and unworthy of credibility.” Yet these are the kind of charlatans that Wikipedia endorses as “experts”.

Instead of citing ‘quackbuster’ publications written by biased, outdated, and nutritionally uneducated MDs, the editors would do well to dive into Alan Gaby’s Nutritional Medicine (over 16,000 scientific references), or Dr. Alex Vasquez’s Inflammation Mastery. That’s presuming they have the intelligence to read high-level, academic texts, based on real, unbiased science (not opinions).

If I were an editor at Wikipedia, I may choose to rewrite the article on chemotherapy, claiming it is a pseudoscience by citing this 2004 study which found the overall contribution of chemotherapy to cancer survival to be barely over 2%, or this study in Nature Medicine that found chemotherapy to increase tumour growth and survival.

Wikipedia made its stance on alternative health quite clear in 2014 when founder Jimmy Wales ridiculed an 8,000-signature petition on Change.org calling for a fairer discussion of alternative and complementary medicine on the encyclopedia. The petition stated that:

As gatekeepers for the status quo, they [Wikipedia] refuse discourse with leading-edge research scientists and clinicians or, for that matter, anyone with a different point of view”

Instead of recognizing his lack of expertise in the area of healthcare and re-evaluating the fraudulent and dubious wiki entries, Wales demonstrated his lack of awareness by stating that:

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.”

Quite frankly, it’s not surprising to hear such a response from the man who heads an organization that serves the interests of the Big Money Machine and its quest to dumb down the populace. As Dr. Vasquez puts it, in a recent critique of a New York Times propaganda piece on the “danger” of nutritional supplements to fight coronavirus:

The scaffolding of our institutionalized ignorance requires structural support from publications and organizations that pretend to inform and empower us while simply leaving us dumber and weaker than before.”

So when did Wikipedia become an extension of Big Pharma? The truth is that the health section of Wikipedia was commandeered by a bitter group of skeptics who live within their own, egoic constructs of reality and health.

This anti-health movement ramped up in 2006 when Paul Lee, then the listmaster of Quackwatch, made a forum post inviting skeptics to come forward and begin writing content on Wikipedia about natural and complementary health topics.

Quackwatch, a “Skeptic” website aimed at “debunking” and smearing non-drug medicine, was founded by Steven Barrett, an unlicensed MD who failed his psychiatric board exam, and has authored zero published research (at least I haven’t been able to find any). During a court proceeding, he admitted ties to the AMA, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FDA (though his sources of funding are likely far more expansive).

Lee was in full violation of Wikipedia’s neutrality policy and knowing this, he stated:

Any coordination of efforts should be done by private email, since Wikipedia keeps a very public history of every little edit, and you can’t get them removed. We don’t need any accusations of a conspiracy.”

Needless to say, a coordinated effort over private email IS a conspiracy. And not a very sophisticated one at that.

Then, in a move demonstrating both the organization’s ethical and moral standards, Wikipedia made Paul Lee a senior editor with special rights and privileges.

The influence that both Google and Wikipedia have is astonishing when you consider that Google receives more than 1 billion health-related questions per day. How many of those people have turned away from effective treatments due to the information Google fed them? How many people wrongly believe that COVID vaccines are safe effective?

But who do we blame for the increasing power and influence that Google and Wikipedia hold? Perhaps we are to blame. Blindly trusting in “authorities” to have our best interests at heart is the kind of infantile thinking that got us into this mess.

As the number one visited website in the world, Google controls ~90% of global search traffic. Our minds, health beliefs, political stances, and world views are inseparably linked to information we read on the internet and neither Google nor Wikipedia is an objective source for this information.

It is time that we take responsibility for our own health. We have to develop the ability to read and assess health knowledge objectively and intuitively.

Do you suffer from depression? Maybe you need to get your vitamin B12 or vitamin D levels checked, maybe you need to cut out processed and neuroinflammatory foods from your diet.

The internet is not a miracle worker. The internet doesn’t know what’s best for you, no one does. Your body is different from mine. Treatments that work for you may not work for me. But as long as we learn to listen to our bodies, to understand our own, unique inner landscape, we can begin to seek treatments and practitioners that truly make a difference.

The lesson is this: You are the authority. Read, learn, understand, and don’t take anything at face value. We need to learn to develop our intuition in parallel with our critical thinking skills.

Discernment is our secret weapon. We’re fighting an information war. Arm yourself with knowledge and be free.

Ryan Matters is a writer and free thinker from South Africa. After a life-changing period of illness, he began to question mainstream medicine, science and the true meaning of what it is to be alive. Some of his writings can be found at newbraveworld.org, you can also follow him on Gab.

July 12, 2021 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Global Vaccine Passports Have Arrived Courtesy of Google, EU

Image Credits: Google
Privacy To Go | July 8, 2021

On June 30th, 2021, the Google Developers blog announced the launch of vaccine passports in Android through its Passes API.

Less than 24 hours later, the European Union, long mired in a sea of national standards for digital jab records, rolled out its EU-wide vaccine passport.

Two completely different vaccine passport schemes unveiled on the same day, encompassing the whole of the Western world? What are the odds!

Exceedingly low, of course. This level of coordination belies yet another blitz in the ongoing rollout of a global, technofeudal control grid. The EU has arguably been at the forefront of this rollout – its standardized digital jab certificate is little more than an aggregator for the draconian technology now operating at the Nation-State level.

Adoption of this unified standard is already approaching 100% of EU Member States. Doublethink rhetoric of restoring the Schengen Area’s “freedom of movement” abounds, even as additional barriers to travel are erected.

In this sense, Google and the US are playing catch-up. While de facto vaccine passports have been implemented sparingly in places like New YorkCalifornia, and Hawaii, an ever-expanding number of States have banned the notion outright.

Yet herein lies the insidiousness of the public-private partnership model: Technocrats can use governments where it suits them, corporations where it does not, and an increasingly bizarre fusion of the two where necessary. Even the propaganda rollout surrounding jab passports is bifurcated by this model, with the EU using official government bulletins while Google syndicates the news via trendy tech blogs.

And though many States in the US have passed legislation or executive action to curb the implementation of vaccine passports, Google could care less.

Google Passes: Vaccine passports for all, regulation be damned

Like the contact tracing API before it, political resistance alone is proving ineffective against the technological implements of the Great Reset. Even the staunchest State level opponents to this agenda have done nothing to halt the hyperactive Bluetooth surveillance grid running on Android and iOS devices – on the contrary, many have used taxpayer money to help finance its data harvesting operations.

Similar political action against digital vaccine passports will not halt Google’s rollout via the Passes API, either.

In fact, Google’s selection of the Passes API to implement vaccine records is telling in its own right, given the information it already stores: Boarding passes for airlines. Travel tickets. Event tickets.

While legislative action in States like Florida may allow you to attend a Miami Dolphins game with your biological privacy intact, the same may not be said for travel. The battle over Federalization of airline travel was lost on November 19th, 2001 with the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, whose influence has been expanding ever since – the latest privacy affront being the REAL ID Act, which mandates highly insecure RFID technology for interstate air travel.

Even more dangerous are biometric companies with government contracts, like CLEAR, whose terminals are already widely used at TSA PreCheck terminals and event centers.

Google Passes and other digitized jab certificates are simply a competing product. One that is already in the pocket of 85% of Americans alone, with similar adoption levels in Europe.

Products marketed for “convenience” like TSA PreCheck biometrics will, over time, become mandatory – the REAL ID Act itself is a perfect example of this Fabian creep. Passed all the way back in 2005, its full implementation has been pushed back multiple times due to individual State holdouts, most recently until 2023.

But these delays are immaterial – the framework’s existence is all that matters, as despite not being enforced, privacy-violating RFID technologies are now the norm for US driver’s licenses. Jab certificates like Google Passes will be no different. Once in place, they will be utilized – if not immediately, then in the future.

Not only can the Passes API integrate with third-party pharmaceutical companies to track jab history, it is also capable of storing results from dubious PCR tests. This level of biodigital convergence sets an unsettling precedent, as Silicon Valley’s expectation is that your medical history will now be in your pocket at all times, integrated with their servers, and subject to whatever authority may ask for it.

Passes is not an isolated product, either – it’s a development suite within the broader Google Pay SDK.

There are technical reasons why Google may have chosen to use the Pay SDK as opposed to a health-focused API like Google Fit – QR code generation, limited use passes, and encrypted keyrings are already present in the Passes API. However, despite Google Pay’s scant consumer use at present, the long-term intent is crystal clear: Access to financial services and medical records will be intertwined.

In Closing

The post-2020 era has pushed humanity to the precipice of a longstanding dream of our would-be comptrollers. Whether it is Newt Gingrich’s Age of Transitions or the late Zbignew Brzezinski’s Between Two Ages, the kind of biodigital convergence represented by digitized medical passports has been at the forefront of the Technocratic agenda for decades.

As Silicon Valley attempts to bridge the “last mile” of mandated biometric surveillance, resistance to these aims on an individual level remain multivariate – ditch your smartphone, or at least utilize a privacy-respecting alternative that is incompatible with Google or iOS services. Starve the business of travel and entertainment industries that would see us become serfs in exchange for bread and circuses.

If you’re in the EU, use paper records instead of digital equivalents, or better yet, refuse to comply at all.

Educate well-meaning policymakers to the threats represented by the pseudo-private sector and impress upon them that the dangers of State surveillance are rapidly being outpaced by Terms and Conditions mandated by smartphone companies.

Neofeudal Technocracy is desperately trying to extract humanity’s consent to these draconian efforts before the next phase of the so-called Great Reset.

Don’t let them.

July 8, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | 1 Comment

Big Tech created a gold mine of data for law enforcement

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim the Net | June 30, 2021

It’s not exactly news at this point: law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeking Big Tech’s cooperation in giving them access to massive data sets taken from users of social networks and other online platforms and services.

And although some reports now address this topic in the context of the way these powers were used during the Trump era Department of Justice (DoJ), the practice neither started, nor ended with the previous US administration.

Instead, over the past six years, there has been a steady and entirely predictable rise in requests for detailed personal data that Big Tech collects from users and their devices. The more data – the more requests.

The latest available statistics from the first half of last year show that Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft received three times more requests for information about users’ calls and emails, and content like photos and texts, compared to 2015. But tech giants collect – and hand over – much more than that, shopping and driving route history being some of the data harvested thanks to map and payment apps.

In the first half of 2020 alone US law enforcement asked for this data a total of 112,000 times – and Big Tech complied either fully or partially in 85% of cases. Facebook and Instagram in particular, having the largest combined user base, also topped this list.

And while the behemoths say that most of that data is “non-content” – such as metadata – user’s privacy is not much better off for it, considering that identifiable information can clearly be extracted from multiple correlated metadata points.

In a recent report, AP cites the case of Newport, a small town with a large tourist industry, whose police department is now increasingly relying on obtaining data from tech companies when investigating crimes.

“The amount of information you can get from people’s conversations online – it’s insane,” Newport supervising detective Robert Salter shared with the agency.

Digital privacy groups like the EFF call this “the golden age of government surveillance” as law enforcement not only has more access to data, but is also more prone to using gag orders, leaving its targets unawares.

The EFF suggests tech companies use strong encryption as one remedy to the police “short-circuiting constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.”

June 30, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

DuckDuckGo is now the second most popular search engine in the West

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim the Net | June 29, 2021

DuckDuckGo is one of the privacy-focused alternatives to Google’s massive ad business operation taking place under the guise of a search engine.

Regardless, Google Search has for years if not decades been the most widely used search tool, at least in the western world. Installed and integrated into every Android device and made default even in Google’s rival browsers, the search market is an effective monopoly that’s a very hard nut to crack.

However, DuckDuckGo is now reporting that it has seen significant growth, both in terms of numbers and market status, having had over 50 million app downloads over the last 12 months – which is said to be more than in all previous years put together.

At the same time search traffic increased 55%, and all this propelled the engine to the number two spot on mobile apps in the US, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands.

One of DuckDuckGo’s features is not to track users, which makes it difficult to know precisely how many of them there are, but a blog post said that market share estimates, downloads, and national surveys put that number at between 70 and 100 million.

According to DuckDuckGo, this answers the question of whether people who say they care about online privacy are actually willing to do something about improving it. The conclusion is that in order for more people to take action, companies providing alternatives to dominant platforms and services need to take ease of use into account.

Those behind the family of products – the search engine, the mobile DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser that replaces Chrome and extensions for desktop versions of other browsers – believe they have this solved by bundling them into one app that is available cross-browser and cross-platform.

About to hit beta is DuckDuckGo Email Protection, which aims to improve email privacy without forcing users to switch to a different email service. Other improvements include tracker blocking for Android, expected to roll out as yet another beta during the summer, while the mobile app’s desktop version is planned by the end of 2021. According to DuckDuckGo, it will be usable as a primary browser.

June 29, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 5 Comments