Editor’s Note: As the technological realm becomes more pervasive, whom can we trust? Each week, Liberty Nation brings new insight into the fraudulent use of personal data, breaches of privacy, and attempts to filter our perception.
Twitter and Facebook brought down the wrath of Republicans, free-speech advocates, and just about everybody with some mistrust of the Washington elite last week when they decided to block the spread of allegedly incriminating emails from Hunter Biden’s one-time computer.
Just weeks before the election, a New York Post article reporting on the documents, which appear to show corrupt activity on the part of the Biden family in Ukraine, led to a full-scale damage-control effort by Facebook and Twitter. Twitter soon walked back some of its restrictions and attempted to make nice with the many outraged parties, but NYP editor Sohrab Ahmari put it in stark terms:
“This is a Big Tech information coup. This is digital civil war. I, an editor at The New York Post, one of the nation’s largest papers by circulation, can’t post one of our own stories that details corruption by a major-party presidential candidate, Biden.”
Is this the smoking gun that illustrates the bias and censorship of major social media firms and might eventually be turned on them?
As reported by Liberty Nation’s Leesa K. Donner, Republican lawmakers have made official complaints, and President Trump has once again called for Big Tech platforms to lose their Section 230 immunity from liability over the content they host. As fate would have it, the controversy comes just before their Oct. 28 hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee, which aims to ask the pointed question: “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?” The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google will virtually attend the hearing, which seeks to find out if “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has outlived its usefulness in today’s digital age” and to “provide an opportunity to discuss the unintended consequences of Section 230’s liability shield and how best to preserve the internet as a forum for open discourse.”
The fates of the social media titans remain unknown – but by far the most disturbing episode in the blockage saga of the Biden emails came from a member of the Biden campaign. National press secretary for the campaign Jamal Brown told the Cheddar network:
“I think Twitter’s response to the actual [New York Post] article itself makes clear that these purported allegations are false and they’re not true, and glad to see social media companies like Twitter taking responsibility to limit misinformation.”
Are we entering a phase when not only information but also truth is judged and censored, based on how it is controlled? When information is judged false because the gatekeepers restrict it, we have truly entered the post-fact era.
Great Barrington Declaration – Censored?
Science – what an abused field it has become. Despite the impossibility of such a thing, many would have the public believe that the science is “settled” when it comes to coronavirus and other issues that affect the world today. The problem is that not all scientists agree. Are those with the “wrong” opinion being censored online?
A petition with the rather grand title Great Barrington Declaration critiques coronavirus lockdowns, suggesting, “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.” The document — created by Harvard professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Oxford professor Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, all epidemiologists and experts in infectious disease – recommends instead an approach called Focused Protection: quarantining only those vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus while allowing the rest of the population freedom to attain herd immunity.
While the document has more than 40,000 signatures and is reportedly being considered by the White House, it has not received wide recognition in the press or online – bar a few bad reviews by the mainstream press. According to Toby Young, associate editor of The Spectator and general secretary of the Free Speech Union in Britain, “there’s been a well-orchestrated attempt to suppress and discredit it.” Young described his experience attempting to find the declaration’s webpage via Google but being directed instead to content critical of the petition. He says, “In the first ten pages of Google search results, not one took me to the actual declaration.”
He adds, “It is hard to find any mention of it on Reddit, the world’s best-known discussion website. The two most popular subreddits devoted to the virus — r/COVID19 and r/Coronavirus — have excised all references to it, with the moderators of the latter denouncing it as ‘spam.’” A look at Reddit reveals that, while this section of the site, which aims to “monitor the spread of the disease COVID-19,” may not approve of the doctors’ message, a few defiant sorts have created posts in rebellious corners of the site to discuss the declaration and possible censorship – such as the r/LockdownSkepticism forum and r/NoNewNormal.
The petition is not infallible, with many critics pointing to phony signatories such as “Dr. Johnny Bananas” and professionals apparently lacking medical credentials. But these critiques ignore the equally credible names who have lent their signatures, such as Dr. Michael Levitt, Stanford biophysicist and 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Young was not the only one to allege censorship. Zero Hedge highlighted one Twitter user, “el gato malo,” who showcased opposing screenshots of Google vs. Bing search results – with the Google photo bringing attention to counter-arguments to the declaration, while Bing offers a more sober set of results.
from the "make orwell fiction again" files:
google has memory holed the great barrington declaration
not only have they wiped it from the top results, they have salted it with false claims about "climate denial"
it's pure, simple propaganda
here's bing (who plays it straight) pic.twitter.com/kTdhH8zXia
— el gato malo (@boriquagato) October 10, 2020
now let's have a look at google.
pretty different looking results, huh? not only do they not lead with the declaration itself or its authors, they lead with dishonest hit pieces.
they try to tie it to climate denial and fake science.
um, no. this is "fake search." pic.twitter.com/Nez3geywni
— el gato malo (@boriquagato) October 10, 2020
Fraser Myers of Spiked wrote, “Now we have the likes of Google deciding the correct science in advance. These tech firms then shield the public from anything that diverges from that view.” He pointed out, “But as more and more scientists warn against the dangers of lockdown … categorising dissent as ‘misinformation’ will soon become untenable.”
But is any censorship actually going on? Liberty Nation had no problem finding the petition on the Google search engine after these allegations were made, so could it all be a matter of delayed reaction? When queried directly on the subject on its support forum, Google employee Danny Sullivan responded, “It can take a little time for our automated systems to learn enough about new pages like this for them to rank better for relevant terms …” The answer also noted that Joe Biden’s website had recently taken some time to show up in the rankings – although it was not specified how long the delay was in either case.
Phew – that’s a relief!
That’s all for this week from Tech Tyranny. Check back next week to find out what’s happening in the digital realm and how it impacts you.
Read more from Laura Valkovic.