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YouTube axes anti-protest channels as US Ministry of Truth battles China over Hong Kong

RT | August 23, 2019

YouTube has disabled 210 channels for posting content related to the Hong Kong protests “in a coordinated manner,” following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter in restricting its arbitrary censorship to pro-China accounts.

“Channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” Google threat analyst Shane Huntley claimed in a blog post on Thursday, adding that the Google team’s “discovery” was “consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”

Translation? The channels were “sowing political discord” on behalf of the Chinese government, and had to be stopped. How did Google know it was the Chinese nefariously attempting to poison the minds against the protesters? The “use of VPNs” and “other methods of disguise” – widespread in the era of mass surveillance – was all the proof required to wipe the channels out of existence.

Twitter got the anti-China censorship ball rolling earlier this week, in perhaps the first-ever social media preemptive strike “proactively” deplatforming hundreds of thousands of accounts for the capital crime of “sowing discord.” Their crimes included “undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” One could argue that the protests themselves are a form of political discord, but resistance is futile when charged with such an inchoate offense.

None of the social media platforms have ever defined what exactly constitutes “attempting to sow discord,” though a common thread running through the mass deplatformings of the past year suggests it involves posting in support of a government the US doesn’t like – whether Russia, Iran, Venezuela, or China.

The social media Ministry of Truth has become increasingly open about the irrelevance of truth in what constitutes actionable disinformation. One group of “experts” in the spread of disinfo online even published a paper this week explaining that true statements could constitute disinformation if they were arranged to serve a purpose, calling for platforms to expand their definition of “inauthentic behavior” to include anyone reposting information portraying the “good guys” in a negative light.

The Chinese government challenged Twitter to explain its decision to ban state-owned media from advertising, asking “Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”

Beijing has pointed to a US role in fanning the flames of unrest, a charge that grows more plausible with every day the protests continue despite having succeeded in forcing the Hong Kong government to withdraw a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China. Armies of pro-protest tweeters swarm any post by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with pleas to intervene in their plight, even as US lawmakers threaten to rain down fire and fury should anyone harm a hair on a protester’s head. And photos of the protest leaders meeting with US diplomats suggest there is certainly some “coordinated inauthentic behavior” at play on the other side.

YouTube, as a subsidiary of Google, has been exposed as even more partisan than Twitter’s arbiters of truth. A whistleblower released nearly 1,000 pages of internal documentation earlier this month showing YouTube’s algorithms were aimed more at shaping reality than at accurately portraying it. The platform removed Iranian state media channels as Washington ramped up tensions with Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz, and its deactivation of pro-China channels now suggests the protests – despite achieving their initially stated goal – are far from over.

August 23, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter bans ‘state media’ from advertising… and guess who decides how they are defined

RT | August 19, 2019

As mainstream media outlets accused Twitter of allowing a Chinese news agency to advertise its reporting on the Hong Kong protests, the platform announced it would ban all “state-controlled” media advertising within a month.

“Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities,” Twitter announced on Monday afternoon.

What exactly amounts to a “state controlled” media will be “informed by established academic and civil society leaders in this space,” Twitter said.

The devil, as usual, is in the details. The policy will not apply to “taxpayer-funded entities, including independent public broadcasters,” the company said, in language that seems tailor-made for outlets such as the BBC or Voice of America (VOA), and seems both broad and flexible at the same time, to the point of being arbitrary.

The authorities Twitter intends to rely on in defining “state media” were listed as Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the UK-based Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit, the Dutch-based European Journalism Centre, UNESCO, and the US government-funded NGO Freedom House.

Determination will depend on criteria such as “control of editorial content, financial ownership, influence or interference over broadcasters, editors, and journalists, direct and indirect exertion of political pressure, and/or control over the production and distribution process,” Twitter said.

The announcement comes on the same day as a number of reports in mainstream media outlets that accused Twitter of accepting advertising buys from the Chinese news agency Xinhua, which was critical of protesters in Hong Kong.

Also on Monday, Twitter announced it had “proactively” shut down a number of Chinese accounts critical of the Hong Kong protests.

The unrest in Hong Kong began at the end of March, over the proposed bill to allow extradition of criminals from the autonomous city to the mainland, and continued after the bill was suspended, with protesters waving US and British flags while demanding “freedom, human rights and democracy.”

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

Protecting Information Space from Facebook’s Tyranny

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 18.08.2019

The recent attack aimed at New Eastern Outlook (NEO) and several of its authors once again exposes the infinite hypocrisy of US and European interests including across their media and among their supposed human rights advocates.

It also exposes the severe threat that exists to the national security of nations around the globe who lack control over platforms including social media used by their citizens to exchange information.

This lack of control over a nation’s information space is quickly becoming as dangerous as being unable to control and protect a nation’s physical space/territory.

Facebook’s Tyranny  

NEO and at least one of its contributors had their Facebook and Twitter accounts deleted and were accused of “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” according to Facebook’s “newsroom.”

Their statement reads:

In the past week, we removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.

It also reads:

We removed 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook Pages for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Thailand and focused primarily on Thailand and the US. The people behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run Pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and also to drive people to off-platform blogs posing as news outlets. They also frequently shared divisive narratives and comments on topics including Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow.

In this single statement, Facebook reveals about itself that it, and it alone, decides what is and isn’t a “news outlet.”

Apparently the blogs the deleted Facebook pages linked to were “not” news outlets, though no criteria was provided by Facebook nor any evidence presented that these links did not meet whatever criteria Facebook used.

While Facebook claims that it did not delete the accounts based on their content, they contradicted themselves by clearly referring to the content in their statement as “divisive narratives and comments” which clearly challenged narratives and comments established by Western media organizations.

The statement first accuses the pages of “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” but then admits they were only able to link the pages to a single individual in Thailand. How does a single person “coordinate” with themselves? Again, Facebook doesn’t explain.

Finally, Facebook reveals that any association at all with Russia is apparently grounds for deletion despite nothing of the sort being included in their terms of service nor any specific explanation of this apparent policy made in their statement. New Eastern Outlook is indeed a Russian journal.

Other governments, especially the United States, fund journals and media platforms not only in the United States, but around the globe. Facebook and Twitter, for example, have not deleted the accounts of the virtual army of such journals and platforms funded by the US government and directed via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

NED-funded operations often operate well outside of the United States, while NEO is based in Russia’s capital, Moscow. NED-funded operations often don’t disclose their funding or affiliations.

Ironically, the accounts Facebook deleted in Thailand were proficient at exposing this funding to the public.

The bottom line here is that Facebook is a massive social media platform. It is also clearly very abusive, maintaining strict but arbitrary control over content on its networks, detached even from their own stated terms of service. It is a form of control that ultimately and clearly works in favor of special interests in Washington and against anyone Washington declares a villain.

Facebook would be bad enough as just a massive US social media platform, but the real problem arises considering its global reach.

Looking at Information Space as we do Physical Space 

A nation’s information space is a lot like its physical space (or territory). The people of a nation operate in it, conduct commerce, exchange information, report news, and carry out a growing number of other economically, socially and politically important activities there. It is not entirely unlike a nation’s physical space where people conduct these same sort of activities.

A nation’s physical space would never be surrendered to a foreign government or corporation to control and decide who can and cannot use it and how it is used. But this is precisely what many nations around the globe have done regarding their information space.

Facebook is essentially that; a foreign corporation controlling a nation’s information space rather than its physical space. Facebook does this in many nations around the globe, deciding who can and cannot use that information space and how that information space is used.

A US corporation just decided that a Thailand-based writer associated with a political journal in Moscow is not allowed to operate in Thailand’s information space. It made that decision for Thailand. It admits in its statement that it worked, not with the Thai government or Thai law enforcement, but with “local civil society organizations,” almost certainly referring to US NED and corporate foundation-funded organizations like Human Rights Watch. Again, this is a clear violation of Thailand’s sovereignty, however minor this particular case may have been.

If it is not a legal violation of Thai sovereignty and an intrusion into their internal affairs impacting people living within their borders, it was certainly a violation and intrusion in principle.

Protecting Information Space

Nations like China and Russia understand the importance of information space.

Both nations also understand the critical importance of protecting it. Both nations have created and ensured the monopoly of their own versions of Facebook as well as other social media platforms. They also have their own versions of “Google” as well as platforms hosting blogs, videos, e-commerce and other essential services that make up a nation’s modern information space.

There is room for debate regarding how this control over Chinese and Russian information space is managed by their respective governments, but it is a debate the people of China and Russia are able to have, however restrictive it may or may not be, with people, organizations, corporations and governments within their own country, not with an untouchable Silicon Valley CEO thousands of miles away.

China and Russia created these alternatives and exercises control over their information space almost as vigorously as they defend their physical territory, understanding that their sovereignty depends as much on keeping foreign influence from dominating that space as it does keeping invading forces from crossing their border.

Smaller nations like Thailand, the subject of Facebook’s most recent “removal” campaign would benefit greatly from creating their own alternatives to Facebook, alternatives created, administered, and serving their interests rather than Silicon Valley’s or Washington’s.

Thais, for instance, cannot have any meaningful debate regarding Facebook’s policies, terms of service or their apparently arbitrary decision made independently of both since ultimately Facebook is a foreign corporation that does not answer to either the Thai people or the Thai government.

For China and Russia, both nations adept at exporting arms to smaller nations affording them the ability to defend their physical territory, an opportunity exists to export the means for these smaller nations to likewise defend their information space.

By aiding these nations in pushing out abusive monopolies like Facebook, Beijing and Moscow will also benefit by watering down US control over global information space and the news and points of view US tech corporations “allow,” and providing more space for the sort criticism and scrutiny NEO and its authors were engaged in right before Facebook removed them.

Gunnar Ulson is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

“Human Right Activists” Celebrate Facebook-Twitter Censorship

By Joseph Thomas – New Eastern Outlook – July 26, 2019

All Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst Tony Cartalucci have been deleted. The extent to which both American-based tech companies went to target Cartalucci could be seen in a recent Reuters article reporting on it.

Written by Thai Reuters correspondent Patpicha Tanakasempipat, the article titled, “Facebook removes fake accounts from Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, Honduras,” referred to the author claiming:

The accounts removed in Thailand used “fictitious personas” to promote narratives about Thai politics, U.S.-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand, Gleicher said.

“We were able to determine conclusively that some of the activities of this network was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow,” Gleicher said.

The article cited “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and hailed the move as countering “deceptive political propaganda.”

No mention was made of how writing anonymously is “inauthentic behavior” nor were any examples provided of what was deemed “deceptive political propaganda” and why.

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Matthew Tostevin, a Reuters correspondent also based in Southeast Asia and whose Twitter profile unironically invokes the hashtag, “Journalism is Not a Crime” celebrated the systematic, coordinated censorship, claiming in a tweet:

“Tony Cartalucci” Facebook and Twitter accounts inaccessible after Facebook said it had erased accounts of a network linked to “an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal”.

The term “associated with” is often used to imply impropriety without providing any actual evidence of it. Tostevin’s defence of Facebook-Twitter censorship fails to explain how getting paid to write articles is wrong, especially considering Tostevin himself makes his living doing precisely that for London-based Reuters.

Human Rights Watch’s Thai representative, Sunai Phasuk, himself a verified recipient of foreign government funds, also celebrated rather than opposed Facebook and Twitter’s coordinated censorship.

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In his tweet (translated from Thai), he claimed:

The end of IO [information operation]! Facebook and Twitter suspend the accounts of Tony/Anthony Cartalucci (source of “slim” information) as well as related accounts for using a fake identity, disseminating false information, creating hatred for democratic parties and human rights activists/linked to Russian IO.

The term “slim” is a derogatory term used by supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted billionaire politician now living abroad as a fugitive and guilty of the worst human rights violations in contemporary Thai history.

Sunai not only reveals a complete lack of impartiality as a supposed human rights advocate, but also is clearly promoting censorship of information he and his foreign sponsors deem “false.”

Regarding claims of using a “fake identity,” Cartalucci himself has repeatedly stated over several years that the name “Tony Cartalucci” is a pen name and that he writes anonymously, as many authors throughout history have, particularly those writing about sensitive political topics.

From Reuters to Human Rights Watch employees, attempts to “dox” Cartalucci and others presenting differing perspectives has become a disturbing trend.

Facebook and Twitter now deleting accounts of anonymous writers only serves to further chill the free speech “human rights advocates” like Sunai claim to defend.

Others celebrating Cartalucci’s suspension from Facebook and Twitter include BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.

West’s Losing Battle Amid the Information War 

Facebook and Twitter have targeted many other alternative media sites and individuals, often using accusations of being “Russian-funded” to smear targets and justify censorship. Conversely, should governments overseas targeted by US or British-funded sites or individuals attempt to shut them down, they are depicted as “authoritarian” and guilty of indisputable “censorship.”

Such hypocrisy over free speech, media freedom and censorship stems from the much wider hypocrisy that drives Western foreign policy in general.

Other examples include decrying “Iranian aggression” while the US surrounds Iran with military bases built on nations the US illegally invaded and now occupy, or the US decrying unfounded claims of Russian interference in its domestic politics while openly funding opposition groups targeting Moscow.

The accounts of organisations and individuals across the West, including Reuters, the BBC, and HRW guilty of “disseminating false information” regarding “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, Russian interference in US elections, claims of sarin gas used in Syria or covering up Western interference in the domestic politics of nations worldwide not only remain unscathed by Facebook and Twitter’s “fake news” campaign, but the sole beneficiaries in an increasingly crowded information sphere where the alternative media has otherwise challenged their monopoly over information.

Facebook and Twitter are both suffering severely from attempts to control the flow of information on both platforms. A desire for alternatives is sought out not only by persecuted political activists being purged from both platforms, but from a wide and growing range of ordinary individuals who feel both social media platforms have become too invasive.

Cartalucci will likely continue writing and those who remain on Facebook and Twitter will likely continue promoting his articles. All the move to purge individuals and organisations from social media platforms will do is accelerate the search for alternatives.

Since Facebook and Twitter’s censorship fails to address the fundamental shortcomings of Western foreign policy that people like Cartalucci expose and have gained attention from Facebook and Twitter censorship for, such censorship is a bandaid at best. At worse, it is delaying the inevitable conclusion of an information war neither social media platform (nor the special interests they represent) are winning.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , | Leave a comment

Backing Pompeo’s ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ incident is a massive anti-Iran online propaganda campaign

By Helen Buyniski | Helen of Destroy | June 14, 2019

Twitter has declared victory over disinformation, deplatforming thousands of pro-Iranian Twitter accounts this week to coincide with US Secretary of State “Rapture Mike” Pompeo’s evidence-free declaration that Iran had attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. But the mass deletion is merely an effort to distract from the implosion of two anti-Iran troll campaigns dedicated to smearing pro-peace Americans, both tacitly Twitter-approved. And there’s plenty more where those came from. As US media and politicians continues to hyperventilate about Russian bots, who’s the real troll-master?

Pompeo was out front with the blame hours after the attack, absent a shred of proof beyond unspecified “intelligence” and a few other dubious incidents in the Middle East that the US has previously pinned on Iran (also absent a shred of proof). But even mainstream media has initially been reluctant to take his word for it, mostly because the narrative is so improbable – Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe was in Tehran when it happened, promising to make the “utmost effort” to de-escalate tensions, when, as if on cue, one Japanese ship and another carrying Japanese cargo were hit? What are the odds?

When even CNN acknowledged that the attack “doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region,” and Bloomberg admitted “Iran has little to gain” from blowing up the ships of its esteemed guest, Pompeo clearly understood another route of influence was required. Who better to call in for reinforcements than Twitter, which has demonstrated time and again its willingness to serve the US’ preferred narrative with mass deplatformings? 4,779 accounts believed to be “associated or backed by Iran” were removed – less than an hour after Pompeo’s declaration of Iranian guilt – for nothing more than tweeting “global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state.” This was deemed “platform manipulation,” and therefore unacceptable.

One troll down, thousands more to go

Tweeting with an angle that benefits the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the American state, however, is perfectly acceptable – at least, it wasn’t Twitter that brought the “Iran Disinformation Project” crashing to a halt earlier this month. The State Department officially ended its @IranDisinfo influence operation after the social media initiative, ostensibly created to “counter Iranian propaganda,” went rogue, smearing any and all critics of Trump’s hawkish Iran policy as paid operatives of the Iranian government. Human rights activists, students, journalists, academics, even insufficiently-militant American propagandists at RFE/RL, Voice of America and other US-funded outlets were attacked by @IranDisinfo – all on the US taxpayer’s dime.

Congress only learned of the project in a closed-door hearing on Monday, when the State Department confessed the troll campaign had taken $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money to attack those same taxpayers – all in the name of promoting “freedom of expression and free access to information.” The group contracted to operate Iran Disinfo, E-Collaborative for Civic Education, is run by an Iranian immigrant and claims to focus on strengthening “civil society” and “democracy” back home, though its work is almost exclusively US-focused and its connections with pro-war think tanks like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have alarmed congressional staffers.

“What rules are in place to prevent state-funded organization from smearing American citizens? If there wasn’t public outcry, would the Administration have suspended funding for Iran Disinfo?” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) tweeted after the mea culpa meeting. While the State Department was long barred from directing government-funded propaganda at its own citizens, that rule was quietly repealed in 2013 with the passage of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, which gave its narrative-spinners free reign to run influence operations at home. And while the Pentagon is technically forbidden from running psychological operations (“psy-ops”) against American citizens, that rule goes out the window in case of “domestic emergencies” – and the domestic emergency declared by then-President George W. Bush days after the September 11 terror attacks remains in effect, 18 years later.

Trump’s favorite anti-Iran troll

Nor was the State Department’s trolling operation the only anti-Iran psy-op to be unmasked in recent weeks. Heshmat Alavi, a virulently anti-Iranian columnist promoted by the Trump administration and published in Forbes, the Hill, and several other outlets, was exposed by the Intercept as a propaganda construct operated by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a controversial Iranian exile group often called a cult that has only recently lobbied its way off the US’ terror list. The MEK is notorious for buying the endorsement of American political figures, and national security adviser John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani are among those who have spoken at its events.

The fictional Heshmat Alavi’s stories were used to sell Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal to the Washington Post and other more reputable outlets, as well as to promote the MEK as a “main Iranian opposition group” and viable option for post-regime-change leadership of Iran – even though it is very much fringe and hated by the majority of Iranians for fighting on the side of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Indeed, Alavi’s relentless advocacy for the MEK may have scared off a few of the sites that initially published his work – the Diplomat and the Daily Caller both quit publishing him in 2017, citing quality concerns.

None of the editors who’d published Alavi’s work had ever spoken to him or even paid him, and none could provide the Intercept with any evidence that he was not, in fact, “a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK.” Defectors confirmed that Alavi is a small part of a massive US-directed propaganda campaign.

“We were always active in making false news stories to spread to the foreign press and in Iran,” a Canadian MEK defector told the Intercept, describing a comprehensive online propaganda operation run out of the group’s former base in Iraq that sought to control the narrative about Iran on Facebook and Twitter. Alavi may be gone, his account quietly suspended by Twitter in the wake of the Intercept’s unmasking and his stories pulled from Forbes and the Diplomat, but there are more where he came from. The Intercept delivered Twitter all the evidence they needed to take down the MEK’s trolling network, a swamp of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in which Alavi was a prominent node, but the social network sat on its hands.

Friends funding fiends

Add to this toxic US-approved stew the Israeli astroturf operation Act.IL, which in 2018 took $1.1 million from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to troll Americans critical of Israeli policies, including its hostility toward Iran. Initially founded to combat the Iran nuclear deal, the Ministry’s mission has pivoted to combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for which it receives significant US funding (Israeli Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi admitted in 2012 that American taxpayers contribute more to the country’s defense budget than Israeli taxpayers). Act.IL boasts it has gotten Americans fired from their jobs, and the app encourages users to accuse American students and journalists who support BDS of antisemitism, mass-report their posts, and otherwise engage in what would be called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” if any other country did it.

Act.IL is by no means the only Israeli trolling campaign aimed at American eyeballs, either. Psy-Group, the Israeli private intelligence company that infamously pitched a social media influence operation to the Trump campaign, ran a multi-pronged online smear operation to influence a local election in California in 2017 and has pitched dozens more. The Israel on Campus Coalition attacks pro-Palestinian student activists and professors through coordinated social media campaigns, while The Israel Project operates a network of Facebook groups whose admitted purpose is to smuggle pro-Israeli propaganda into users’ newsfeeds by concealing it among bland inspirational messages.

Such clear-cut deception by state-sponsored actors is a blatant violation of Facebook’s policies as they’ve been applied to other users, but the site claims the Israeli groups are kosher. Yet of the pro-Iran accounts deleted by Twitter, one “set” included 248 accounts “engaged with discussions related to Israel specifically” – these were shut down for nothing more than their country of origin, even as inauthentic accounts run by Israel were given carte-blanche to spew propaganda. Twitter and Facebook don’t mind being weaponized in the propaganda wars, as long as they’re working for the “right” side.

As 21st century wars are fought more and more in the informational sphere, the brightly-colored propaganda posters of the previous century have been replaced with relatively sophisticated social media influence operations. What Pompeo can’t accomplish by lying to the American public, the State Department will attempt to achieve through the slow and steady drip of disinformation.

US politicians, meanwhile, remain so fixated on the “Russian trolls stole the election!” narrative they’ve been flogging for the last three years that the Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to restrict entry to any foreign national convicted of “election meddling,” a toothless piece of legislative virtue-signaling that reveals their utter disconnection from reality. It’s more than a little ironic that they’d embrace and even pay for foreign meddling as long as they believe the trolls are working for them.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Or a troll.

[originally published in abbreviated form at RT]

June 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Internet Free Speech All but Dead

Unelected, unnamed censors are operating across the Internet to suppress “unapproved” content.

Internet All But Dead

By Philip Giraldi | Global Research | June 8, 2019

The Internet was originally promoted as a completely free and uncensored mechanism for people everywhere to exchange views and communicate, but it has been observed by many users that that is not really true anymore. Both governments and the service providers have developed a taste for controlling the product, with President Barack Obama once considering a “kill switch“ that would turn off the Internet completely in the event of a “national emergency.”

President Donald Trump has also had a lot to say about fake news and is reported to be supporting limiting protections relating to the Internet. In May, a “net neutrality” bill that would have prevented service providers from manipulating Internet traffic passed in the House of Representatives, but it is reported to be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, so it will never be enacted.

Social networking sites have voluntarily employed technical fixes that restrict some content and have also hired “reviewers” who look for objectionable material and remove it. Pending European legislation, meanwhile, might require Internet search engines to eliminate access to many unacceptable old posts. YouTube has already been engaged in deleting existing old material and is working with biased “partners” like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to set up guidelines to restrict future content. Many users of Facebook will have already undoubtedly noted that some contacts have been blocked temporarily (or even permanently) and denied access to the site.

Google now automatically disables or limits searches for material that it deems to be undesirable. If Google does not approve of something it will either not appear in search results or it will be very low on the list. And what does come up will likely favor content that derives from those who pay Google to promote their products or services. Information that originates with competitors will either be very low in the search results or even blocked. Google is consequently hardly an unbiased source of information.

In May 2017 Facebook announced that it would be hiring 3,000 new censors, and my own experience of social networking censorship soon followed. I had posted an article entitled “Charlottesville Requiem” that I had written for a website. At the end of the first day, the site managers noticed that, while the article had clearly attracted a substantial Facebook readership, the “likes” for the piece were not showing up on the screen counter, i.e., were not being tabulated. It was also impossible to share the piece on Facebook, as the button to do so had been removed.

The “likes” on sites like Facebook, Yahoo! news comments, YouTube, and Google are important because they automatically determine how the piece is distributed throughout the site. If there are a lot of likes, the piece goes to the top when a search is made or when someone opens the page. Articles similarly can be sent to Coventry if they receive a lot of dislikes or negative marks, so the approvals or disapprovals can be very important in determining what kind of audience is reached or what a search will reveal.

In my case, after one day my page reverted to normal, the “likes” reappeared, and readers were again able to share the article. But it was clear that someone had been managing what I had posted, apparently because there had been disapproval of my content based on what must have been a political judgment.

A couple of days later, I learned of another example of a similar incident. The Ron Paul Institute (RPI) website posts much of its material on YouTube (owned by Google) on a site where there had been advertising that kicked back to RPI a small percentage of the money earned. Suddenly, without explanation, both the ads and rebate were eliminated after a “manual review” determined the content to be “unsuitable for all advertisers.” This was a judgment rendered apparently due to disapproval of what the institute does and says. The ability to comment on and link from the pieces was also turned off.

Dissident British former diplomat Craig Murray also noted in April 2018 the secretive manipulation of his articles that are posted on Facebook, observing that his “site’s visitor numbers [were] currently around one-third normal levels, stuck at around 20,000 unique visitors per day. The cause [was] not hard to find. Normally over half of our visitors arrive via Facebook. These last few days, virtually nothing has come from Facebook. What is especially pernicious is that Facebook deliberately imposes this censorship in a secretive way.

“The primary mechanism when a block is imposed by Facebook is that my posts to Facebook are simply not sent into the timelines of the large majority of people who are friends or who follow. I am left to believe the post has been shared with them, but in fact it has only been shown to a tiny number. Then, if you are one of the few recipients and do see the post and share it, it will show to you on your timeline as shared, but in fact the vast majority of your own friends will also not receive it. Facebook is not doing what it is telling you it is doing—it shows you it is shared—and Facebook is deliberately concealing that fact from you. Twitter has a similar system known as ‘shadow banning.’ Again, it is secretive and the victim is not informed.”

More recently, pressure to censor Internet social networking and information sites has increased, coming both from government and from various interested constituencies. In late May, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss how to eliminate “hate speech” on the Internet.

The two men agreed that the United States Internet model, in spite of already being heavily manipulated, is too laissez faire, and expressed an interest in exploring the French system where it is considered acceptable to ban unacceptable points of view. Zuckerberg suggested that it might serve as a good model for the entire European Union. France is reportedly considering legislation that establishes a regulator with power to fine Internet companies up to 4% of their global revenue, which can in some cases be an enormous sum, if they do not curb hateful expressions.

So unelected, unnamed censors are operating all around the Internet to control the content, which I suppose should surprise no one, and the interference will only get worse as both governments and service providers are willing to do what it takes to eliminate views that they find unacceptable—which, curiously enough, leads one to consider how “Russiagate” came about and the current hysteria being generated in the conventional media and also online against both Venezuela and Iran. How much of the anger is essentially fake, being manipulated or even fabricated by large companies that earn mega billions of dollars by offering under false pretenses a heavily managed product that largely does what the government wants? Banning hate speech will be, unfortunately, only the first step in eliminating any and all criticisms of the status quo.

June 9, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Twitter suspends the accounts of two newspapers and several Venezuelan government institutions, but verifies the “presidential” account of Guaidó

Orinoco Tribune | May 2, 2019

Between Tuesday, April 30 and Wednesday, May 1, the US corporation Twitter has suspended, without explanation, the accounts of several Venezuelan media and various government institutions led by President Nicolás Maduro. Among others, the accounts of the newspapers El Correo del Orinoco ( @correoorinoco ), the Diario Vea ( @DiarioVEAVen ) and the television station ViVe Televisión ( @ViVetvoficial ), as well as the accounts of the Ministry of Popular Power for Women ( @MinMujer ); of the Ministry of Popular Power for Education (@ mppeducacion ) and the Ministry of Popular Power for Petroleum ( @MinPetroleoVE ).

The newspaper Vea is a private media outlet whose editorial line is favorable to the Venezuelan revolutionary process, while El Correo del Orinoco and Vive Televisión are state media.

These actions occurred almost simultaneously with an attempted coup on April 30 against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, as part of the maneuvers to overthrow him that the opposition deputy Juan Guaidó, with the support of the US government, has been attempting since the 23rd of January.

It is noteworthy that the opposition deputy Juan Guaidó, who claims to be “President in charge” of Venezuela, announced last week the creation of a “National Communication Center”, which will function as an “official communications organ” or a kind of ministry of parallel communication. It will be directed by Alberto Federico Ravell, a journalist known for having directed the private channel Globovisión during the years in which it worked as a communication weapon to try to overthrow the then President Hugo Chávez, and later became the director of the opposition digital medium, La Patilla, of identical characteristics.

The (coup’s) “National Communication Center” announced on Monday that its social networks were already active, having created the @Presidencia_VE account , which they describe as the “Official Account of the Presidency (E) of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” This account, surprisingly, already appears as “verified account” (with the blue check that denotes that the Twitter company has verified the legitimacy of this account), although the real account of the Presidency of Venezuela, @PresidencialVen , which records the activities of the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, was never verified by this company, despite the fact that it was created in April 2010 and has more than 1 million followers.

The verification to the @Presidencia_VE account of Juan Guaidó is, moreover, strange given that Twitter announced in November 2017 that its program for verification of accounts (to place the famous “blue check”) was temporarily suspended , and until today he has not reactivated it .

The blue check denotes that the Twitter company verified that the account belongs to its legitimate user. Generally it was approved for journalists, politicians, celebrities and famous people or of the world of show business, which allows to distinguish the legitimate accounts of impersonations, usurpers, false accounts and parodies.

For some, the fact that the Twitter company has decided to place as “verified account” the one of Guaidó seems to indicate in a brazen way what their political preferences are.

Worse yet: the @PresidencialVen account has been suspended this year on at least two occasions: March 12 and April 1. It was also suspended in September 2018. The restrictions lasted a few days; The reasons were never reported.

Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018 as President of Venezuela, in a widely audited process that was attended by international observers.

The account of Correo del Orinoco has been suspended several times, the most recent being on January 29. This account has more than 829 thousand followers and mainly publishes contents of the newspaper’s website , which is attached to the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information and is directed by the journalist Desiré Santos Amaral. It is noteworthy that last year they celebrated the 200th anniversary of the creation of Correo del Orinoco by the Venezuelan Liberator Simón Bolívar, a newspaper that played an important role during the war of independence against Spain. The account was unlocked a few days later.

At that time, the @ViceVenezuela account of the Vice Presidency of the Republic, which has 329 thousand followers, was also restricted for several days .

Precedents
It is not the first time that major Twitter accounts linked to the Chavista government are massively blocked, particularly during politically critical moments.

In November 2013, Twitter suspended some 6,600 accounts of supporters of President Nicolás Maduro or of officials or institutions of his government, including two media outlets (CiudadCCS and the radio network La Radio del Sur). Among those blocked were the then Minister of Communication and Information, Delcy Rodríguez; Wilmer Barrientos, who at that time was assigned to the Office of the Presidency; the then Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Yvan Gil; the governor of Anzoátegui at that time, Aristóbulo Istúriz ( @psuvaristobulo); as well as the official accounts of the ministries of University Education, Land Transportation, for Women, Corpomiranda, the Social Vice Presidency, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), the National Experimental University of Security (UNES), Pdval, Mercal, and networks of supporters of Maduro such as ForoCandanga, in addition to numerous journalists, professionals and recognized individuals. The accounts were restored days later, claiming that it was “an error” .

In June 2017, dozens of media accounts and chavismo activists were suspended without explanation. At least thirteen accounts of the state-run Radio Nacional de Venezuela were suspended, including its main account, @RNVContigo, and the accounts of regional broadcasters @rnvcentral, @rnvtachirafm, @rnvzulia, @rnvanzoategui, @rnvlosllanosfm, @rnvtachirafm and @rnvportuguesa, as well as the @rnvmusical and @rnvindigena channels, and the @rnvcultura, @rnvdeportes sections and @rnvinter. In addition, the accounts of Radio Miraflores ( @MirafloresFM ) and Miraflores TV ( @MIRAFLORES_TV ), media of the Presidency of the Republic, as well as important Chavez influencers and tweeters were blocked. None of these accounts could be recovered.

Source URL: Alba Ciudad

Translated by JRE\EF

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May 3, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

As voice after voice gets purged from social media, still think there’s no censorship?

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | February 28, 2019

For a civilization that considers freedom of speech one of its fundamental principles and universal human rights, the West sure does a lot of censorship – and no, farming it out to ‘private companies’ does not change what it is.

It happened again on Tuesday: British activist Tommy Robinson was erased from Facebook and Instagram. The social media behemoth said it has to act “when ideas and opinions cross the line and amount to hate speech that may create an environment of intimidation and exclusion for certain groups in society.”

As online polemicists are fond of saying, “citation needed!” Yet Facebook offers none: no evidence of specific violations, not even a definition of “hate speech,” just an arbitrary standard – and a threat of further bans for people who “support… hate figures.” Whatever that means.

How did journalists – those paladins of free speech, the fabled Fourth Estate, the valiant protectors of values that would die in darkness without their intrepid efforts – greet this news? Did they object to a British citizen being muzzled and wax about the dangers to digital democracy? Oh no, they rejoiced: Finally, what took so long?!

The same process repeated itself later in the day, when Twitter banned Jacob Wohl. The self-described supporter of US President Donald Trump had reportedly boasted about setting up fake accounts to influence the 2020 election. That is regarded as the sin-above-all-sins by social media executives, terrified of Congress blaming them for Hillary Clinton losing the White House to Trump in 2016, even though 99 percent of US media considered it rightfully hers.

Here’s the thing, though: Twitter still hasn’t banned Jonathon Morgan, CEO of New Knowledge, a company that was proven to have set up thousands of fake accounts to swing the Senate race in Alabama to the Democrats, and later paid by the Senate to blame Russia for its tactics.

Let’s also remember the suspension of several Facebook pages belonging to Maffick Media, an outfit that partners with Ruptly, a RT subsidiary. After the “Twitter police” at the German Marshall Fund and CNN raised a fuss about these pages having “Kremlin ties,” Facebook blocked them until they agreed to put up a notice about being “funded by Russia.”So they did, even though there is no such rule that would be universally applied.

Surely it is entirely a coincidence that a CNN reporter went around actively badgering social media outlets to ban Alex Jones, way back in August 2018, and would not stop until they all did?

But wait, there is more! It was confirmed on Tuesday that retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley, known as a crusader against “stolen valor,” got his YouTube channel deleted earlier this month. There were no details as to why, but this was right after Shipley had exposed Nathan Phillips – the Native American activist who claimed he was victimized by Kentucky high school students, in what turned out to be fake news – as falsely claiming he served in Vietnam.

Columbia University researcher Richard Hanania offered an interesting analysis a couple of weeks ago, showing that of the 22 prominent figures suspended by Twitter in recent years, 21 were supporters of President Donald Trump, and only one – Rose McGowan – was a Democrat. McGowan had clearly violated the platform’s rule against doxxing, and was reinstated after she deleted the post. Many of those 21 Trump supporters were not so lucky, getting permanent bans from the platform. So he asked:

Are we to believe that while prominent figures on the left encourage uncivil and even violent tactics… their online behaviour is, with the solitary exception of Rose McGowan, universally exemplary?

What are the odds? Astronomical, actually – Hanania showed that conservatives would have to be four times as likely to violate Twitter rules for even a 5 percent chance of producing the 21-1 ratio. Yet those who routinely cite statistical “disparate impact” to cry racism are perfectly fine claiming there is no bias here? Really?

But [insert social media giant here] is a private company! They can do what they want! So cry the sudden champions of capitalism and deregulation, who in their previous breath claimed Trump abolishing Net Neutrality rules would break the internet. Make up your mind, folks!

In the McCarthyite atmosphere whipped up after the 2016 US presidential election, the social media that once promised unprecedented freedom of expression have turned into the tools of censorship – and not on behalf of a governing party, either, but the bipartisan political establishment united in opposition to an outsider president and anyone who dares support him, or criticize their conduct.

By the way, the “terrible dictator” Trump hasn’t lifted a finger to stop this persecution, let alone sic the IRS or the FBI on his critics.

The idea behind free speech is not that all opinions are valid, but that they ought to be debated rather than imposed by force. Another fundamental principle of western civilization is that the law ought to apply equally to everyone.

One does not have to agree with Robinson, Wohl, Shipley, Maffick, Jones – or Trump, for that matter – to realize that a world in which there is one set of rules for “us” and another for “them,” in which it doesn’t matter what is done but Who is doing it to Whom, is not a land of liberty but something quite different.

February 28, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Russian bots’ that weren’t: Twitter backtracks on troll claims, media ignores updated info

RT | February 26, 2019

Twitter quietly revised its public database of ‘Russian bot’ accounts earlier this month, removing 228 accounts it previously said were “connected to Russia”— but the admission has gone almost completely unnoticed by the media.

Bloomberg reported on the “burst of activity” from the bot accounts and claimed that Russia’s “social-media trolling operation” was “stepping up its Twitter presence to new heights.”

Fast-forward to 2019 and Twitter has removed 228 of these accounts from the database, saying they had “initially misidentified” them as being linked to Russia,  but nobody in the media seems to have noticed.

In fact, Bloomberg is the only major US outlet which bothered to correct the story to reflect reality, admitting that Twitter’s changes to the dataset “invalidate central portions” of its original report and that there was “no surge” in this so-called Russian bot activity at the time in question. Oops!

Pivot to Venezuela!

Interestingly, the highlighted accounts have now been linked to Venezuela, another country the US government just so happens to have bad blood with.

In a tweet, Twitter’s “head of site integrity” Yoel Roth said that the company can now “more confidently associate” the 228 accounts with Venezuela. Roth’s short tweet thread on the misidentification was met with little interest receiving only a few retweets and no attention from media figures who supposedly actively follow any and all news remotely related to Russian activity online.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Roth later admitted that “definitive attribution is very, very difficult.” The Bloomberg mea culpa also noted that Twitter is “reluctant to discuss” how it connects accounts to so-called trolling networks in the first place.

Some on Twitter quickly pointed out that the timing of the pivot to focus on Venezuelan bots was curious, given the US’ recent efforts to engineer regime change against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Journalist Sam Sacks tweeted that the new information about Venezuelan bots was “convenient” and said that the vast majority of stories written about Russian trolls and their alleged social media activity are “based on junk research.” Sacks also questioned why anyone should have faith in the credibility of such flawed analyses going forward.

Another Twitter user found it odd that Twitter and Bloomberg had “suddenly discovered” that bots it claimed were Russian had “miraculously turned into Venezuelans.”

Pattern of fake ‘Russian bots’

When it comes to the hot topic of Russian bots and trolls, the media and various social media monitoring groups have suffered unfortunate “misidentification” incidents before.

In 2017, an African American activist Charlie Peach was suspended from Twitter during one of the company’s purges of accounts purportedly linked to Russia, a claim that was happily echoed later by multiple major media outlets. Peach told RT at the time that Twitter was engaging in “suppression of voices” using the “Russian scare tactic.”

Twitter users in the UK have also been swept up into the hysteria over Russian bots based on their political opinions, with some accounts belonging to real people even being listed in a UK government report on nefarious Russian activity online.

More recently, a dodgy US-based cybersecurity firm called New Knowledge was busted by the New York Times for creating an army of fake Russian bots in order to secretly influence an Alabama election by accusing one candidate of being ‘supported’ by the fake accounts. Yet, despite its own dirty tricks being exposed, the firm is still cited by major US media outlets as a legitimate source of information on Russian “disinformation” online.

So it seems media interest in Russian bot stories waxes and wanes based on whether or not the information bolsters the ‘correct’ narrative.

Read more:

‘Fake news’ is okay if it’s about #RussiaGate: Top 7 fake ‘collusion’ stories the media pushed

February 27, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

FACEBOOK & TWITTER: Are you ever going to tell me the real reason you banned me?

Carey Wedler | January 31, 2019

Please share this video on Twitter. I’d do it myself, but I’m permanently suspended.

inb4 “they are private companies”: Yes, and they collude with the government in many ways, but more importantly, they appear to be straying from their own policies, and as a consumer of their products, I am free to discuss this and express my preferences in the marketplace. :)

Note: My public page, Carey Wedler, is still active on Facebook. Anti-Media is still unpublished.

Find me on Instagram: @CareyWedler And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CareyWedler/

Minds: https://www.minds.com/careywedler

Steemit: https://steemit.com/@careywedler

If you like this video, please subscribe to this channel to help me fight Youtube’s algorithms! xo

Support me on Patreon, where there are extra videos: https://www.patreon.com/CareyWedler or via Bitcoin: 3KaqgxSiiHowtgHjY1aVCYxeav5tL8U834

February 3, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 2 Comments

Facebook, Twitter delete accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Venezuela with anti-west content

Press TV – February 1, 2019

Facebook and Twitter say they have taken down hundreds of accounts they claim have been part of “coordinated influence operations” from Iran, Russia and Venezuela.

Facebook said it had removed 783 pages, groups, and accounts for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran.”

The accounts, some of which had been active since 2010, had garnered about 2 million followers on Facebook and more than 250,000 followers on Instagram.

The decision came after the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said the accounts had been designed to amplify views “in line with Iranian government’s international stances.”

“The pages posted content with strong bias for the government in Tehran and against the ‘West’ and regional neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel,” the center wrote in a blog post.

Several of the accounts focused on sharing content supporting Palestinians and condemning Israeli crimes in French, English, Spanish and Hebrew, while others were critical of Saudi policies, it said.

Twitter separately announced that it had deleted thousands of “malicious” accounts from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The accounts had “limited operations” targeting the US midterm elections in November, the company alleged, and the majority were suspended prior to election day.

Back in August 2018, Facebook targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia under the pretext of fighting what it calls “misinformation” campaigns.

Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.

A similar move was taken by Google against 39 YouTube channels at the time.

The channels reportedly belonged to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which condemned the move as a “coordinated” campaign and a “clear example of censorship” aimed at preventing the dissemination of truth and alternative viewpoints online.

Three months later in October, Facebook deleted 82 more Iranian accounts, claiming that it had detected “coordinated activity” between the accounts earlier in the month.

In September 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif harshly criticized Twitter for blocking the accounts of “real Iranians” but overlooking the “regime change” propaganda spewing out of Washington.

He said the accounts of real Iranians, including TV presenters and students, have been shuttered for allegedly being part of an “influence operation.”

Earlier in January, the detention of Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi in the United States raised deep concerns among the world’s media activists and journalists, who launched a social media campaign with the hashtags #FreeMarziehHashemi and #Pray4MarziehHashemi in support of the detained journalist.

Hashemi’s long detention without charge finally ended last Wednesday when she was released from a Washington jail. The newscaster’s ordeal is apparently over but Hashemi is taking a firm stance against the practices of the US judicial system.

Following her release, she said in a filmed statement that public support definitely played a part in her release and vowed to further protest rights violations in the US.

February 1, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Newsguard Turns to EU to Push Controversial Ratings System on Tech Companies, Smears MintPress as “Secretly Supported” by Russia

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 30, 2019

BRUSSELS —  The neoconservative-backed news rating upstart “Newsguard” is now lobbying the European Union to “force the hand” of major U.S.-based tech companies — including Facebook, Google, and Twitter — to integrate its controversial ratings system into the world’s most popular social media platforms and search engines, according to a recent statement made by Newsguard co-CEO Steven Brill during a Tuesday event on “countering online disinformation” hosted by the EU in Brussels.

Brill also announced during his Brussels speech that Newsguard will be fully operational in four EU countries — U.K., Italy, France and Germany — by this April and is hoping to partner with EU-connected and EU-funded fact-checking organizations in order to increase Newsguard’s profits and influence as well as the likelihood of its adoption by major tech companies. Many of those companies have apparently gotten cold feet after concerns were raised about Newsguard’s browser plug-in collecting location and browsing-history information on its users, a practice discovered by independent tech experts who examined the code behind the plug-in. This undisclosed collection of user information was publicly denied by Newsguard despite it clearly being in the code of the plug-in itself.

Newsguard — whose connections to prominent neoconservatives, former government and intelligence officials and powerful PR firms were the subject of a recent MintPress exposé that went viral — has apparently shifted its hopes overseas following domestic backlash within the United States, triggered by critical reporting on the group. Brill, during his brief speech at the EU event on Tuesday, claimed that news sites that have recently criticized Newsguard’s motives — MintPress among them — are “secretly supported” by the Russian government, a claim for which he provided no evidence.

Another consequence of the growing domestic backlash, as evidenced by Brill’s appearance and the content of his speech in Brussels on Tuesday, is that Newsguard is now seeking to partner with the EU bureaucracy in order to pressure social media and other tech companies to pay Newsguard a hefty licensing fee for use of its “nonpartisan” ranking system.

This would not only ensure a steady stream of income for Brill and Newsguard’s other CEO, Louis Gordon Crovitz, but would also ensure the success of Newsguard’s ultimate ambitions of becoming an involuntary part of the internet browsing experience for citizens of the United States, the Europe Union and beyond.

An unexpectedly uphill battle for the giants’ blessing

As MintPress reported earlier this month, Newsguard aims to soon be “running by default on our computers and phones whenever we scan the Web for news” and has been in talks with “online titans” for several months, having already teamed up with Microsoft. Newsguard’s Microsoft partnership is credited with the ranking system, now available only as a browser plug-in, being pushed onto public library systems and even universities throughout the United States.

Newsguard has since used a series of interviews with mainstream outlets (all of which have received high ratings from the company) to promote its “popularity” by citing a Gallup poll that found that “89% of users of social media sites and 83% overall want social media sites and search engines to integrate NewsGuard ratings and reviews into their news feeds and search results.” However, few of the outlets that reported on the poll and Newsguard disclosed that Newsguard itself and one of its top investors funded the poll, that participants were paid to answer questions, and that the poll’s findings “may not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S adult population.”

Despite that, for whatever reason, there remains some resistance from social media giants to adopting Newsguard. Such a response was unexpected by the company’s CEOs Brill and Crovitz, however, given that both — when they announced Newsguard’s formation and raising of $6 million in seed funding last March — stated in several interviews that they anticipated near-immediate offers from major tech companies.

For instance, an interview with Business Insider, Crovitz (who is also a board member of Business Insider) had stated that they expected at least one of “the big tech platforms to sign on as a paying customer in a couple of months,” while Brill was quoted in the same article as stating that “We would not have gone forward [with Newsguard]” without at least some interest from these very platforms. Several mainstream reports on Newsguard have noted that if it does not successfully partner with major social media platforms or search engine companies, it is likely to fail.

The tech companies lack of interest could be explained many ways. One possibility is that Newsguard has drawn criticism from big-name, high-traffic websites it has poorly rated, particularly among conservative outlets like the Daily Mail, Breitbart and the news aggregations site Drudge Report, which has resulted in a steady stream of negative reports about the operation since MintPress’ original exposé was first published on January 9.

Such negative reporting has led to a bombardment of negative comments on Newsguard’s Facebook posts and tweets, as well as low ratings for its browser plug-ins. Mozilla, Firefox’s parent company, was recently accused of deleting many of the 1-star ratings for the plug-in, presumably at Newsguard’s request.

In addition, Facebook’s ”third party fact-checking organization” since December 2016 — the Poynter Institute, itself controversial for being heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundations — has openly criticized Newsguard.

In a recent article on Newsguard published in Slate, Alexios Mantzarlis, head of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), stated that — while he “appreciates” what Newsguard is trying to do — he found Newsguard’s red-green rating system “reductive,” adding that “it feels like one of those recipes where the ingredients all look right, but then you follow it closely and the result isn’t great.” Mantzarlis brought up the red rating given to Al Jazeera and the green rating given to Fox News as a glaring example of Newsguard’s questionable rankings of news organizations.

Furthermore, internet privacy activists have raised concerns about Newsguard’s plug-in collecting and storing information on the browser history of its users, along with information on the device on which it is installed and geolocation information, among other data.

Though Newsguard has responded to such criticism by stating that it does not share or store the information it collects (the “Trust Us” response), privacy advocates have noted that collecting such information was a choice the company made, not a technical requirement for the stated purpose of the plug-in. It is worth noting that Newsguard’s Crovitz has repeatedly defended illegal NSA surveillance — and the man who oversaw that surveillance operation for several years, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, is on Newsguard’s board of advisors.

These factors and others have led some prominent privacy activists and technologists, such as Mozilla co-founder and former CEO Brendan Eich, to call Newsguard “a bad operation all around.” With prominent technologists like Eich and prominent fact-checkers like Mantzarlis lining up against Newsguard, the company’s plans to integrate smoothly into social media aren’t going as planned.

Leveraging the EU

Brill and Crovitz are apparently growing uneasy that large U.S. tech companies are getting cold feet on incorporating Newsguard into their online products and paying Newsguard’s hefty (yet undisclosed) licensing fee, given that licensing fees are the linchpin that would ensure the company’s profitability.

Slate’s recent article on Newsguard, published last Friday, admits as much. Will Oremus, Slate’s senior technology writer, stated that “whether NewsGuard’s shields become ubiquitous or a footnote in the history of online journalism will depend on the willingness of the large tech platforms to license its product.” Oremus then goes on to note that Brill said during an interview that he is confident that “a European Union agreement, little-known stateside, might help to force their hand. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Mozilla (maker of the Firefox browser) have all signed on this year to the European Commission’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, which commits them to various measures to tackle false news on their platforms.”

Oremus continues:

If it sounds like an empty bureaucratic gesture, well, it might be. But Brill and Crovitz are counting on it to have teeth, and they’ve been making regular trips [emphasis added] to Brussels to try to persuade these platforms that adopting NewsGuard is their best path toward satisfying the agreement. If this or other arguments fail to convince Big Tech, NewsGuard will fail too.”

Indeed, Newsguard is undeniably looking to the EU to “force the hand” of uneasy tech companies in integrating — and licensing — Newsguard’s ranking system. On Tuesday, Brill made yet another of his “regular trips” to Brussels, this time to participate in an EU-hosted conference titled “Countering online disinformation – Towards a more transparent, credible and diverse digital media ecosystem.” Brill participated in a panel discussion with representatives from European fact-checking organizations, titled “How can the fact-checking community help ensure a fair public debate?”

During his brief speech at the conference (link – speech begins around 5:38:30), Brill used many of the same talking points he has used domestically, touting Newsguard’s ostensible nonpartisanship and “growing popularity” with consumers (yes, he cites only the same aforementioned Gallup poll as evidence).

However, a few minutes into his speech, Brill states the real reason for attending the conference:

I am here to announce that by mid to the end of April, we expect to have hired enough native journalists and enough experienced editors and get the process going so that we will have launched in Italy, Germany, France and the U.K. and will have covered at least 90 percent [of the most visited news websites in those countries].”

In other words, Newsguard Europe is soon to open its doors, showing that the company’s global ambitions are speeding up sooner than many observers had expected.

As Newsguard has done in the U.S., Brill also noted that “we [Newsguard] are now talking to library systems here in Europe” and that Newsguard hoped to partner with “the fact checkers on this stage.” The other fact-checking organizations on that panel included representatives from the Poynter Institute’s IFCN, which, as previously mentioned, has recently criticized Newsguard’s rating system; the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the world’s “largest community of public service [read government-funded] media organizations in the world,” whose members include the BBC, France24 and Deutsche Welle; and the EU government- and Google-funded “disinformation observatory” SOMA.

It is currently unclear whether Newsguard has partnered with any of these organizations or is involved in talks to do so. However, Brill’s stated desire to partner with fact-checkers supported by and also funded by the EU government shows that Newsguard Europe is interested in protecting establishment corporate and state-funded media outlets — much as it has in the United States, where Newsguard has targeted independent media sites, particularly those with an “anti-establishment” leaning.

Obviously not a first choice

Given Brill’s recent announcement and his recent statements regarding Newsguard’s shift across the Atlantic, the question then becomes — will it work? Will Brill and Crovitz be able to use the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation to pressure Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Mozilla — all of whom signed the code last fall — to follow in Microsoft’s footsteps and adopt Newsguard?

On Tuesday, the European Commission commented on the initial reports by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Mozilla on their efforts “to fight fake news.” In a statement, the commission wrote:

There has been some progress, notably in removing fake accounts and limiting the visibility of sites that promote disinformation. However, additional action is needed to ensure full transparency of political ads by the start of the campaign for the European elections in all EU Member States.”

Those elections will take place in May.

As noted by Forbes, the commission will perform a comprehensive assessment at the end of 2019 and “should the results prove unsatisfactory … [the commission] may propose further actions, including of a regulatory nature.” In other words, the commission is threatening tech companies with government regulation if the results of their efforts to fight “fake news” are considered “unsatisfactory” by EU bureaucrats.

If Newsguard is able to partner with groups that are EU-connected and funded like the EBU and SOMA, that conflict of interest alone could be enough to have Newsguard integration promoted by the EU as a “satisfactory” step towards meeting the requirements of the Code. In addition, Newsguard’s ties to one of the largest advertising firms in the world, the French-based Publicis Groupe, could also help it win EU support.

Indeed, Brill showed a subsection of the Code that fits neatly with Newsguard’s stated mission and its description of its own activities during his Tuesday speech. He highlighted the Code’s Commitment 11.D “Empowering Consumers,” which states:

Such transparency should reflect the importance of facilitating the assessment of content through indicators of the trustworthiness of content sources, media ownership and verified identity. These indicators should be based on objective criteria and endorsed by news media associations, in line with journalistic principles and processes.”

Yet, despite EU threats and Brill’s presentation to EU officials and tech company representatives on Tuesday, social media platforms like Facebook seem intent on resisting Newsguard. For example, Facebook, in an effort to pre-empt the commission’s response to its efforts and the “disinformation” conference Tuesday, announced at a Monday press conference in Brussels that it plans to create an “independent content oversight board with the power to overturn company decisions on user posts,” to be composed of 40 “technology and human rights experts free of commercial influences,” who will be selected by Facebook for inaugural three-year terms.

Though it is doubtful that the EU will find Facebook’s new “content oversight board” to be “satisfactory” over the course of the year, it shows that Facebook is willing to try all sorts of alternatives to Newsguard, despite Brill and Crovitz’s heavy lobbying of the popular yet beleaguered social media platform.

Newsguard critics are all Kremlin mouthpieces?

Newsguard’s ambitions seem to be hitting more roadblocks than expected in the U.S., leading the group to turn their attention to unelected EU bureaucrats and to cultivating alliances with establishment media organizations and fact-checkers in Europe in order to pressure U.S.-based tech companies to license its ranking system.

A clear factor in creating this scenario for Newsguard has been initial critical reporting from MintPress and other subsequent reports from various outlets such as RT and Breitbart. Brill, during his Tuesday speech, made his disdain for these reports clear and attempted to write off  all critical reporting on Newsguard as being “secretly supported” by the Russian government. During a short Q&A session following his speech on Tuesday, Brill briefly donned his tinfoil hat and lamented “this sustained attack we’ve been getting from RT and Sputnik for the last 10 days and all of the various websites that they kind of secretly support [emphasis added] in the United States.”

RT’s initial report on Newsguard cited MintPress as having broken the story, and Sputnik’s coverage focused on MintPress’ article as well as a radio interview the author of this article did with a Sputnik radio program a few days after the report had been published. As a consequence, Brill implied on Tuesday that MintPress is “secretly supported” by RT and Sputnik, a bold-face lie that had first been circulated in a January 15 report by Folio that had insinuated that MintPress was a “Kremlin-linked outlet.” Folio was eventually forced make the following clarification after being contacted by MintPress Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh:

A social media headline on this story, mentioning “Russian-linked news media,” was a reference to RT and Sputnik News. MintPress News is an independent, Minnesota-based news outlet.”

Newsguard and the establishment media it seeks to protect have now made it clear that not only are they unconcerned with the actual opinions of U.S. adults regarding their platform and ranking system, they are also willing to smear any news outlet that points out their numerous conflicts of interest and troubling ambitions as “Kremlin-linked.” The only “evidence” for that smear is absurdly based on the fact that RT and Sputnik have reported on the topic. The hypocrisy is glaring given that RT and Sputnik both regularly write articles based off of stories that were first published by establishment, “green-rated” U.S. outlets; yet, those outlets are not implied as receiving “secret support” from the Russian government by association.

The absurdity of these smears, along with Newsguard’s push to hammer out a deal with EU bureaucracy over the heads of tech companies and global internet users, show growing concern among Newsguard executives and their investors that their project could fail despite their best efforts. Indeed, if they have already resorted to deleting poor reviews for their browser plug-in, it certainly — as one FireFox user noted — “seems like a desperate move.”

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment