‘Christchurch Call’ is a blueprint for more online censorship — and Zuckerberg is a big fan

CAP

By Danielle Ryan

There is nothing inherently wrong with the new ‘Christchurch Call’ to curb violent and terrorist content online. No one in their right mind wants mass shootings live-streamed online — but it’s what comes next that should worry us.

Drawn up in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacre, which was streamed live online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ‘Christchurch Call’ is billed as a “roadmap for action” and calls for the “immediate and permanent” removal of “terrorist and violent extremist content” from social media platforms. It has been signed by 18 governments and eight tech companies.

On the face of it, that sounds fine. It’s difficult to argue against removing terrorist content from the platforms so many of us use on a daily basis. The trouble is, Ardern has already admitted that the pledge is simply a “starting point” — and if you were expecting this to be the moment at which social media companies finally began to push back a little bit, sorry to disappoint you, but they’re all in on it together.

ALSO ON RT.COMFacebook ban on Alex Jones and others is a form of modern-day book burning

Endorsing censorship

Lord of social media, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is afflicted with an obvious and ever-worsening God complex, offered a full-throated endorsement of online censorship a few days ago, saying “…the question of what speech should be acceptable and what is harmful needs to be defined by regulation, by thoughtful governments.”

That’s right, Zuck thinks “thoughtful governments” should be deciding what is “acceptable” for us to say online. There’s no ambiguity there. It’s a simple, straight-forward endorsement of the idea that governments should be allowed to regulate our speech. If that doesn’t worry you, then maybe you’re the kind of person who reads dystopian novels and cheers for the wrong side.

Zuckerberg’s comment isn’t exactly out of the blue. Facebook is already under fire for censoring political speech from both the right and left ends of the political spectrum. The company has banned a slew of right-wing commentators and conservative agitators from its platform and taken worrying steps against leftist and anti-war activists around the world.

Just the beginning

So, if social media companies aren’t going to fight back on our behalf (and they clearly are not), who will? The obvious answer is “journalists” — but they don’t appear to be in too much of a rush to halt this creeping censorship either. Some of them appear to be advocating more censorship, rather than less.

ALSO ON RT.COMNo kissing gays or conservative hunters: Overcautious Facebook blocks political ads in SwedenIn an interview with Le Monde on Monday, Ardern was asked why she decided to focus “uniquely on violent terrorist content, and not more broadly on hate speech, which also contributes to the drift in social media?”

Ardern replied that focusing on terrorist content was just the “point of departure” on which everyone could agree. So this is a journey we are on. We’ve departed at ‘terrorism is bad’ — but where will we end? Ardern said she was wary that going any further right now would “open the way for debate” on potential risks to freedom of expression. But in a joint press conference on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, she said her hope was that working together, governments and tech companies could “eliminate ideologies of hate.”

That would be lovely — and if only the word were so simple, we could just eliminate all the meanies from the internet and live in an online utopia. Unfortunately, this is completely unrealistic, and when you start talking about eliminating certain ideologies, that’s where things get sketchy. Particularly if we’re going to delegate the task of deciding what is and is not “harmful” (as Zuckerberg said) to “thoughtful governments.”

‘Hate speech’ or ‘free speech’?

Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis is set to sign a bill that would make it a “hate crime” to “demonize” or“delegitimize” Israel. The bill purports to be about “anti-Semitism” but it’s really just a vehicle to censor and even criminalize political speech. You see, that’s the kind of thing that “thoughtful” politicians get up to if left to their own devices. Then again, the Florida bill probably isn’t something that would ring alarm bells at Facebook HQ, either. Zuckerberg already happily complies with orders from the Israeli government to delete Palestinian activist accounts.

As for the US government, it has refused to sign Ardern’s ‘Christchurch Call’ citing first amendment rights — but declining to sign a vague and non-binding agreement doesn’t mean much. Capitol Hill is still swarming with politicians just dying to enforce more restrictions on free speech.

ALSO ON RT.COMFrance wants more govt regulation of Facebook and Zuckerberg calls it ‘model’ approachDemocratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeted in the aftermath of last year’s Infowars ban that the very “survival of [US] democracy” depends on Facebook’s willingness to “take down” more websites that “tear our country apart.” Sure, why don’t they just get rid of any content that could conceivably be categorized as divisive? Sounds like a foolproof plan.

A US government intelligence report last year highlighted a former RT show hosted by Abby Martin as an example of content that sowed “radical discontent” in society for critically covering controversial issues like US regime change wars, fracking, capitalism and police brutality. Be careful out there, you never know what could be defined as “radical” content next.

As journalist Igor Ogorodnev wrote in a recent oped, the aftermath of an atrocity “is a honeypot for short-sighted do-gooders buzzing about looking to do something, but also opportunist politicians to realize their long-harbored ambitions.”

Trying to distract us

Social media is what the public uses to organize en masse in the 21st century.

Is it any wonder that Macron, facing months of Yellow Vest protests against his government, is helping lead the charge toward more online censorship?

A French government report recently called for the eradication of content that damages “social cohesion” and warned that“false information,”“unfounded rumors” and “individuals pursuing political or financial objectives” can have an impact on “the social order.” But who decides what constitutes “false information” and “unfounded rumors”? Is Macron’s government “thoughtful” enough for Zuckerberg?

ALSO ON RT.COMWhite House posts call for social media censorship stories, triggering hope & cynicismOf course, it’s much easier for governments to pass the blame for social discontent onto companies like Facebook, while arguing that censorship is the only solution. If they didn’t do that, they’d have to admit that what really drives mass discontent are the neoliberal policies that have had a detrimental effect on basic standards of living, wiped out people’s life savings and ravaged the planet.

But maybe that’s all something Ardern and Macron can work on some other day — that is, if we’re allowed to talk about it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Facebook bans Italian populist pages ahead of EU elections

By   

The social media giant Facebook has banned 23 noteworthy Italian populist pages with 2.5 million followers just two weeks ahead of the highly anticipated European elections.

The vast majority of the 23 pages that were banned supported Italy’s currently governing coalition made up right and left wing populist parties La Lega (The League) and the 5-Star Movement (MS5), Italy’s La Stampa reports.

Facebooks cited ‘hate speech’ and ‘divisive content’ regarding vaccines, immigrants, and Jewish people as justification for the drastic move.

Apparently, the tech giant’s decision to ban these pages was informed by a report which was created by a leftist NGO by the name of Avaaz, which claims to focus on environmental campaigns and what they regard as ‘human rights’.

A spokesperson from Facebook commented, saying, “We thank Avaaz for sharing its research so we could investigate…We are committed to protecting the integrity of the EU elections and around the world. We have removed a series of false and duplicate accounts that violated our policies on the subject of authenticity, as well as several pages for violation of the policy on changing the name.”

“We have also taken action against some pages that have repeatedly spread misinformation. We will take further measures if we find other violations,” the spokesperson added.

In Avaaz’s report, which was presented to Facebook earlier this month, the NGO claimed that it had discovered 14 Italian networks operating on social media platform which included 104 pages, 6 groups, with a reach of more than 18.2 million individual users.

Of these networks, actions taken by Facebook this week targeted 23 of its pages – totaling nearly 2.45 million individual users and 2.44 million interactions over the past three months.

On top of this, Facebook has also apparently ‘weakened’ pages that it has arbitrarily deemed to be spreading content containing ‘fake news’ – presumably limiting their visibility to Facebook users.

Facebook asserts that its primary motivation for banning these pages was that the page creators had initially chosen page themes which didn’t cite any involvement with political parties or movements, but which had later switched the themes.

Included among the banned pages are ‘Lega Salvini Premier Santa Teresa of Riva’, ‘We want the 5-Star Movement in government’, which had 129,000 followers and nearly 700,000 interactions in just three months, ‘Lega Salvini Sulmona’ — which had 307,000 followers – ‘We Are 5 Stars’, as well as ‘Beppe Grillo for President’.

Facebook’s most recent efforts in Italy to influence this May’s European elections are only the tip of the iceberg, according to Italian media.

Earlier this month, Facebook opened up a ‘war room’ in Dublin, Ireland with 40 teams of full-time engineers, researchers, threat specialists, scientists, and experts for each country who devote their efforts to the European electoral campaign, according to the Italian La Repubblica.

Apparently, there are 500 individuals working on the elections, with the help of 21 so-called ‘fact checkers’, working in 14 different languages.

Trump Supporters Crash Bill de Blasio’s Green New Deal Presser at Trump Tower

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks inside Trump Tower about the Green New Deal, serving notice to US President Donald Trump demanding more energy-efficient buildings, including Trump Tower, May 13, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Don Emmert / AFP) (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

By Joshua Caplan

Supporters of President Donald Trump crashed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press conference touting the city’s “Green New Deal” inside the lobby of Trump Tower on Monday morning, holding signs with insults directed at the far-left Democrat.

Speaking at a podium steps from the spot where President Donald Trump announced his own presidential run in 2015, the Democrat said he had come to Trump Tower to promote a new city air pollution law requiring skyscraper owners to cut greenhouse gas emissions or face fines.

De Blasio said Trump’s buildings in the city could face a combined $2.1 million in annual fines if they don’t reduce emissions by 2030.

“President Trump, you’re on notice. Your polluting buildings are part of the problem,” he claimed.

However, de Blasio’s speech was all-but drowned out by a throng of Trump supporters who demonstrated behind him on the building’s escalators, booing, whistling, chanting and holding up signs with messages including “Failed mayor” and “Worst mayor ever.” Footage of the heckling was shared to social media.

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Loud music also played over the building’s sound system for part of the event. De Blasio had to shout to be heard.

“It’s so nice of them to serenade us at Trump Tower. Clearly, they are uncomfortable with the truth,” he said.

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Under a deal that President Trump struck with the city decades ago, Trump Tower’s lobby is considered a public space for much of each day.

New York City’s $14 billion “Green New Deal” aims to reduce emissions by roughly 30 percent. The plan will ban new glass buildings deemed “inefficient” and strive for carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

World Renowned Transgender Researcher Briefly Suspended by Twitter for Sharing His Findings

Twitter is now suspending scientists whose findings contradict their terms of service.

By 

A world renowned psychologist and scientist in the field of transgenderism, pedophilia, and sexual orientation had his Twitter account briefly suspended by the tech giant Sunday after sharing his latest scientific findings.

Ray Blanchard served on the gender dysphoria working group and chaired the paraphilia working group for DSM V. He is a world expert in the field. Twitter has just suspended his account for a thread setting out his findings from A lifetime of research. Unreal,” Helen Joyce of The Economist said, attaching a photo of the suspended account.

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DSM V is the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by doctors and psychiatrists in diagnosing mental illnesses.

Apparently, Blanchard’s scientific findings did not mesh with Twitter’s terms of service. The microblogging giant flagged him for violating its rules against “hateful conduct.” In six Tweets, Blanchard laid out his beliefs based on his research:

My beliefs include the following 6 elements:
(1) Transsexualism and milder forms of gender dysphoria are types of mental disorder, which may leave the individual with average or even above-average functioning in unrelated areas of life.
(2) Sex change surgery is still the best treatment for carefully screened, adult patients, whose gender dysphoria has proven resistant to other forms of treatment.
(3) Sex change surgery should not be considered for any patient until that patient has reached the age of 21 years and has lived for at least two years in the desired gender role.
(4) Gender dysphoria is not a sexual orientation, but it is virtually always preceded or accompanied by an atypical sexual orientation – in males, either homosexuality (sexual arousal by members of one’s own biological sex) . . . or autogynephilia (sexual arousal at the thought or image of oneself as a female).
(5) There are two main types of gender dysphoria in males, one associated with homosexuality and one associated with autogynephilia. Traditionally, the great bulk of female-to-male transsexuals has been homosexual in erotic object choice.
(6) The sex of a postoperative transsexual should be analogous to a legal fiction. This legal fiction would apply to some things (e.g., sex designation on a driver’s license) but not to others (entering a sports competition as one’s adopted sex).

After significant backlash, Twitter reinstated Blanchard’s account.

“Twitter has unlocked my account and graciously apologized for their error. My sincere thanks to the people who expressed their concern during the past 24 hours,” he said Sunday night.

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Twitter has become known for its censorship of conservative ideas, including that transgenderism is a mental illness, which, as proven by Blanchard, is not so much a political idea as a scientific one.

Facebook co-founder says it’s ‘time to break up’ the social media giant in scathing op-ed

CAP

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called for the break-up of the social media behemoth and lamented the “staggering” and “unchecked” power of CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a lengthy and searing oped.

Hughes co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 and watched “in awe” as the company grew over the last 15 years — but said he now feels a “sense of anger and responsibility” about how all-powerful and out-of-control the social media giant has become.

Lashing out at the company, Hughes wrote in a piece published by the New York Times that Zuckerberg’s power and influence goes “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government.”

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“There is no precedent for [Zuckerberg’s] ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”

Hughes berates Facebook over “sloppy privacy practices,” “violent rhetoric and fake news,” and the “unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention.” It’s not that Zuckerberg is a bad person, he writes, but “he’s human” and his focus on growth “led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks.”

ALSO ON RT.COMFacebook ban on Alex Jones and others is a form of modern-day book burningHughes also bemoans the fact that the powerful CEO controls three core communications platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) and says that lack of competition, market or government regulation is a major problem. If a competitor crops up, Zuckerberg can simply choose to shut it down “by acquiring, blocking or copying it” in the manner it did with the Instagram and WhatsApp mergers.

The lack of competition means that “every time Facebook messes up, we repeat an exhausting pattern: first outrage, then disappointment and, finally, resignation.”

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“Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered.”

Hughes also worries that Zuckerberg has “surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.” He believes that neither Facebook’s offer to appoint a “privacy czar” or the expected Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fine of $5 billion will be enough to rein in the company.

The answer and solution lies in more government regulation and subsequent market competition, Hughes says. But Facebook isn’t afraid of just “a few more rules,” so the action needs to be more dramatic, he suggests.

“The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”

That will involve separating Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram into three individual companies and banning future acquisitions “for several years.”

The FTC should never have permitted these mergers, but it’s “not too late to act.” There is “precedent for correcting bad decisions,” he says, pointing to 2009 when Whole Foods settled antitrust complaints by selling off the Wild Oats brand and stores it had acquired years earlier.

ALSO ON RT.COMFacebook ban on Alex Jones and others is a form of modern-day book burningHe notes that time is of the essence, however, as Facebook has been working quickly to integrate the three platforms, precisely in order to make splitting them up more difficult.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American. It is time to break up Facebook.”

Hughes also suggests the creation of a new government agency specifically to empower Congress to regulate tech companies and protect user privacy.

He says the agency should “create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media” while noting that the idea might seem “un-American” at first. The standards therefore should be “subject to the review of the courts” and would be similar to already accepted rules on speech like not shouting “fire” in a theater, provoking violence or making false statements to manipulate stock prices.

Ultimately, he says, an aggressive case taken now against Facebook would persuade other behemoths like Google and Amazon to “think twice” about stifling competition out of fear that “they could be next.”

Facebook, Google Pour Big Money into Lobbying Congress While Blacklisting Conservatives

CAP

By Sean Moran

Facebook and Google increasingly influence Congress as the social media giants censor conservative and alternative voices, dominate the Internet, and violate Americans’ privacy.

Facebook announced on Thursday that they have banned several conservative personalities such as Infowars host Alex Jones, Infowars contributor and YouTube personality Paul Joseph Watson, journalist and activist Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulus. The social media giant also banned Louis Farrakhan from its platforms.

Facebook said that they banned these personalities because they were “dangerous.”

Amid calls for greater regulation of social media companies’ potential anticompetitive behavior, censorship of conservative and alternative voices, and privacy violations, Facebook and Google have remained at the top of Open Secret’s database of top spenders lobbying Congress.

So far in 2019, Facebook spent $3,400,000 and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, $3,530,00 in lobbying Congress. Alphabet also ranked as the eighth total highest spender in lobbying in 2018, spending $21,740,000, while Facebook spent $12,620,000.

Facebook’s influence has continued to rise over the years. In the early years of President Barack Obama, Facebook spent below one million dollars in 2008 and 2009. From 2011 to 2018, Facebook’s lobbying spending skyrocketed and reached historic highs in 2018, when they spent $12.6 million.

In 2019, Facebook lobbied heavily on H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act, a Democrat bill which would restore the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality regulations, which arose as the result of Google’s heavy lobbying of the Obama administration. In 2019, Google also lobbied on the Save the Internet Act.

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In 2018, one of Facebook’s bills on which they lobbied Congress was H.R. 2520, the Browser Act, sponsored by then Rep. and now Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), which would require social media companies such as Facebook and Google to obtain explicit permission from users for collecting their private data. The Browser Act would also stipulate that these social media companies cannot deny services to users who do not opt-in to these companies’ collection of their private data. In 2017, the Browser Act was the most important issue on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Blackburn said that her legislation would establish one set of rules that would balance the relationship between ISPs and Facebook and Google. The legislation would also prevent the social media giants from unfairly profiting off of Americans’ private data without their explicit consent.

“We need one set of rules for the entire internet ecosystem with the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] as the cop on the beat,” said Senator Blackburn. “The FTC has the flexibility to keep up with changes in technology and its principal mission is consumer protection. The BROWSER Act will enable consumers to make more educated decisions regarding the nature of their relationship with tech companies.”

In contrast, Alphabet’s most prominent issues in Congress in 2019 and 2018 related to labor and antitrust, as well as telecommunications and technology.

Facebook and Google’s dominance on the Internet has become increasingly apparent as Google has approximately 90 percent of web search traffic, whereas in digital advertising, Google and Facebook amount to nearly two-thirds of American digital ad spending, with Amazon at a “distant third” at under nine percent.

In 2018, Google lobbied Congress fourteen separate times on multiple pieces of legislation that would have increased liability for companies that enabled sex trafficking.

Facebook and Google’s influence in Congress extends to its trade group, the Internet Association. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the Internet Association spent $840,000. In total, the social media giants spent $2.6 million in 2018 for lobbying. In 2019, the association has spent $690,000 so far. Over the last two years, the Internet Association has focused on the Save the Internet Act as well as on legislation that would increase edge providers’ liability for hosting content that enables sex trafficking.

Facebook and Google influence political elections as well. During the 2018 election cycle, Alphabet donated:

  1. $223,269 to former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) Senate campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a prominent critic of Silicon Valley censorship.

  2. $149,741 to Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate campaign (D-NV) to unseat Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

  3. $135,625 to Rep. Josh Harder’s congressional campaign.

  4. $124,508 to former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s unsuccessful re-election campaign.

  5. $97, 364 to former Sen. Claire McCaskill’s failed re-election campaign.

During the 2018 midterm elections, Facebook donated:

  1. $75,005 to O’Rourke’s Senate campaign.

  2. $37,954 to Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) 2017 special Senate election against former Alabama judge Roy Moore.

  3. $34,534 to Heitkamp’s Senate election.

  4. $31,326 to McCaskill’s Senate campaign.

  5. $29,387 to Rosen’s successful campaign to unseat Heller.

As Facebook and Google and other social media giants continue to increasingly censor and blacklist conservative and alternative voices, more and more conservative voices have called for addressing the social media giants’ dominance of the Internet. Facebook and Google’s influence in Congress also relates to political confrontations; during a hearing in December 2018, the then-ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee delivered a sharp rebuke of Republican accusations of Google’s political bias affecting its search engines, even though Google was his top donor.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in April, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said  he envisions three potential remedies for big tech’s violation of free speech and dominance on the Internet.

Cruz’s three solutions include:

  1. Amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
  2. Antitrust measures to address big tech’s dominant status on the Internet.
  3. Addressing potential cases of fraud and deception.

“No one wants to see the federal government regulating what is allowed to be said, but there are at least three potential remedies that can be considered by Congress or the administration or both,” Cruz said.

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JAMES WOODS BANNED FROM TWITTER AMID SILICON VALLEY’S CONSERVATIVE BLACKLISTING CAMPAIGN

James Woods Banned from Twitter Amid Silicon Valley’s Conservative Blacklisting Campaign

Twitter suspended Woods for a tweet that read, “‘If you try to kill the King, you best not miss’ #HangThemAll.”

By Justin Caruso

James Woods, one of the few conservative stars in Hollywood, has been locked out of his Twitter account for over a week now for “abusive behavior,” once again demonstrating the double standard the tech giant holds when it comes to enforcing rules.

Twitter suspended Woods for a tweet that read, “‘If you try to kill the King, you best not miss’ #HangThemAll,” according to his girlfriend Sara Miller.

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The tweet was apparently in reference to the Mueller report, which found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and has been used in various forms in movies and TV shows like The Wire.

Nevertheless, this post apparently met the threshold on Twitter for “abusive behavior.”

Twitter does not appear to have the same standard for leftists. As Breitbart News has reported, there are several examples of actual violent threats going unchecked by the social media company.

  • Twitter allowed a number of verified accounts to participate in doxxing and violent threats against teenagers from Covington Catholic high school in January.
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was on the receiving end of vicious sexist Twitter abuse after she defended Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Actor Peter Fonda said that Barron Trump should be taken away from his Melania and put in a cage with pedophiles. Fonda also called for Kirstjen Nielsen to be whipped. He later apologized.
  • Hollywood star Jim Carrey posted a drawing of Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. getting bludgeoned to death by an elephant last year. The tweet is still up.
  • In 2016, various accounts called for and cheered on the shooting of police officers.

Woods has been locked out of his account before for posting a meme.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has previously claimed that while he is “more left-leaning,” his company does not target users over political views.

“I think the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? We are not. Period. We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior,” he said last year.

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