Free Speech and Tech Giant Censorship

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How The New NAFTA Trade Deal Lets Big Tech Squelch Conservative Speech

By   13, 2018

Less than two weeks ago, President Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement intended to be the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has attacked for decades. The White House says the agreement will “better serve the interests of American workers and businesses” and “includes the strongest digital trade … provisions of any United States trade agreement.”

Unfortunately, an obscure article in one provision of the agreement only serves the interests of the largest tech monopolies by granting them special privilege to censor conservatives. Congress should demand the removal or amendment of this article before giving consent to confirm section 230.

How did this happen? Big Tech lobbyists orchestrated the quiet insertion of a seemingly innocuous provision (Article 19.17) into the deal that is based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230, much beloved by big tech, and an essential building block of their monopolistic dominance, holds that platforms like Facebook cannot be held liable as a “publisher or speaker” of their users’ content.

Under the right circumstances, there’s good reason for tech companies to have this type of immunity. If Facebook were legally responsible for everything its more than 2 billion users post, then it would enforce overly restrictive rules and restrictions and block lawful posts. Because Congress explicitly acknowledged that these platforms served as a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse,” it granted this important privilege.

Read More: http://thefederalist.com/2018/12/13/the-new-nafta-trade-deal-lets-big-tech-squelch-conservative-speech/

Congress Should Reconsider Big Tech’s Special Legal Privileges That Foster Censorship

   14, 2019

On Jan. 9 we sent letters to the chairs and ranking members of the House Judiciary, House Energy and Commerce, Senate Judiciary, and Senate Commerce committees requesting hearings on this matter in order to seek an appropriate governmental remedy to online censorship.

This request comes after we have carefully tracked and documented viewpoint censorship for years. Repeatedly, we have urged Big Tech leaders to adopt a free speech charter to ensure their platforms are an even playing field for debate. In December 2017, we launched Internet Freedom Watch to draw greater attention to this problem. For many years we have amassed evidence of viewpoint censorship on the internet, illustrating it with a timeline with more than 40 high-profile examples.

In addition to Graham, the timeline is a veritable who’s who of Christian and conservative leaders and causes, including cases involving Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Susan B. Anthony List, PragerU, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Alliance Defending Freedom, NRBTV, Erick Erickson, Dr. Michael Brown, Live Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries, Dr. Carol Swain, Ray Comfort, Phil Robertson, Todd Starnes, Chuck Colson’s Manhattan Declaration, and other Christian leaders and ministries, as well as conservative leaders and organizations.

The common denominator is espousing viewpoints progressives oppose and increasingly seek to squelch in the public marketplace of ideas. Although some of these cases of censorship were later corrected, that the problem persists and is growing indicates it is systemic.

Read More: http://thefederalist.com/2019/01/14/congress-reconsider-big-techs-special-legal-privileges-foster-censorship/

‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism

John Naughton
Sun 20 Jan 2019

…The headline story is that it’s not so much about the nature of digital technology as about a new mutant form of capitalism that has found a way to use tech for its purposes. The name Zuboff has given to the new variant is “surveillance capitalism”. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behaviour of those users in astonishing detail – often without their explicit consent.

“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”

While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users. In that sense, her vast (660-page) book is a continuation of a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi and – dare I say it – Karl Marx.

Read More: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship Is “Moral and Ethical”

CrisisRyan Gallagher
August 16 2018

Google employees are demanding answers from the company’s leadership amid growing internal protests over plans to launch a censored search engine in China.

Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.

The internal furor began after The Intercept earlier this month revealed details about the censored search engine, which would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, leaked Google documents disclosed. The search platform is to be launched via an Android app, pending approval from Chinese officials.

The censorship plan – code-named Dragonfly – was not widely known within Google. Prior to its public exposure, only a few hundred of Google’s 88,000 employees had been briefed about the project – around 0.35 percent of the total workforce. When the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, many employees expressed anger and confusion.

Read More: https://theintercept.com/2018/08/16/google-china-crisis-staff-dragonfly/

Facebook Censorship Updates: Ignorance is Strength

facebook censorship
Facebook Cracks Down On Independent Media, Under Guise Of ‘Enhancing Relationships’

Nothing could have exemplified the establishment’s use of Orwellian Newspeak than Facebook’s latest move to censor independent thought under the pretense of caring about the emotional wellbeing of the masses. The media giant has been documented live-streaming murderssuicidesrapes, and abuse. Despite this, The New York Post reported that Facebook officially stated they were ‘unable to stop live-streaming suicides.’ But, trust them, they care about your mental health, and that’s why they don’t want you to read certain news stories.

A recent press report on the matter stated: “Facebook said it’s changing the formula that determines users’ news feeds by decreasing business and media posts and focusing more on personal connections.” However, in reality, the changes seem to have been used to specifically target anti-establishment news sources.

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enthused regarding the changes, the company’s shareholders appeared less impressed. According to CNBC, Facebook shares fell by 4% the morning after Zuckerberg’s announcement of the new policy.  During the first day following the announcement, stocks fell by 6.1%  which was reported to have amounted to a $3.3 billion loss.

Despite this, Zuckerberg appeared totally unfazed by the price drop, openly admitting that the changes would lead to an overall decline in user engagement.

The Guardian’s coverage of the news not only chided Zuckerberg for not having made the move earlier, but also directly identified the core of the real impetus behind the changes (which had nothing to do with bringing you closer to your family). The Guardian’s writing on the issue reveals that the real reason for the change is active censorship of what the legacy press outlet deems to be “fake news” that “interfered” in the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election.

Such ‘misinformation,’ The Guardian may as well have admonished, is dangerous and liable to transform users into drooling zombies with no control over their actions whatsoever. The Guardian’s coverage of the matter encouraged censorship of independent media under the banner of “fake news,” or in other words, anything other than government-approved-propaganda. It also appeared to be a beautiful teaching moment on the value of projection.

As reported by legacy media, Facebook has come under fire in recent months for allegedly allowing Russians to attempt to influence the 2016 Presidential election through Facebook ads. Disobedient Mediahas previously addressed the multiple reasons that this line of argument is patently ridiculous, and provides yet another pretext to clamp down on non-corporate media sources.

Although this author and many other independent journalists have been subjected to various methods and degrees of censorship over the last year, Zuckerberg’s Facebook overhaul has gone far beyond what many in the anti-establishment press could have anticipated.

In addition to the issues regarding the coverage of the changes as it stands, a number of non-corporate media outlets, including Disobedient Media, have experienced drastic changes in reach on Facebook’s platform, with Caitlin Johnstone addressing the matter recently on Twitter.

FB has cranked up the censorship. Posts on my FB page are getting far less visibility than they were a few days ago as well. https://twitter.com/ElizabethleaVos/status/956366784436801538 

Read More: https://disobedientmedia.com/2018/01/facebook-cracks-down-on-independent-media-under-guise-of-enhancing-relationships/

Facebook Bans Bitcoin, ICO Ads

First it was a crackdown on “fake news”, then on Russian ads, now it’s cryptos.

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday afternoon, Facebook announced that it has created a new policy “that prohibits ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.”

Facebook lists the follow four examples of ads that will no longer be allowed:

And here is the justification:

We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception. That said, there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith.

This policy is intentionally broad while we work to better detect deceptive and misleading advertising practices, and enforcement will begin to ramp up across our platforms including Facebook, Audience Network and Instagram. We will revisit this policy and how we enforce it as our signals improve.

We also understand that we may not catch every ad that should be removed under this new policy, and encourage our community to report content that violates our Advertising Policies. People can report any ad on Facebook by clicking on the upper right-hand corner of the ad.

This policy is part of an ongoing effort to improve the integrity and security of our ads, and to make it harder for scammers to profit from a presence on Facebook.

It is worth noting that the last time Facebook actively engaged in content moderation, when it implemented a “fake news” flag only to see demand for “fake news” stories surge, it will be interesting to note if Zuckerberg’s latest attempt to sway public opinion backfires, and leads to even more demand for cryptocurrencies.

As for stunting the popularity of cryptos, if bitcoin, ethereum et al, are indeed dependent on facebook readers to keep the price rising, then it is probably time for a cleansing crash.

Read More: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-01-30/facebook-bans-bitcoin-ico-ads