WhatsApp Delays Controversial Data Changes amid Public Outcry

WhatsApp Delays Controversial Data Changes amid Public Outcry

By Staff, Agencies 

WhatsApp announced on Friday that it would postpone changes to its terms of service for at least three months amid an outcry the mobile messaging service would share confidential data with its parent company, Facebook.

We are now delaying the date by which users will be required to review and agree to the terms,” the company said in a blog post. 

The changes, which were supposed to come into effect on February 8, will now be pushed back to May 15.

WhatsApp said the update would not “strengthen our ability to share data with Facebook”, but was primarily intended to help businesses communicate better with their customers through the platform. 

“We know there has been confusion and misinformation about this update, and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the company said.

WhatsApp conversations will continue to be end-to-end encrypted and neither Facebook nor WhatsApp will be able to see these private messages, the company says.

The announcement of the update last week caused panic and anger among many of its users, who claimed the messaging service was abandoning its core founding values regarding privacy rights. 

The application has built its reputation in particular on data protection.

Disbelief in human rationality; The Trump Factor

November 08, 2020

Disbelief in human rationality; The Trump Factor

by Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog

Disbelief is probably the best word to describe today’s world. Disbelief that in the short span of my own lifetime thus far, I have lived to witness black whitewashed to become white, and when it doesn’t turn white, brains are brainwashed to see it white.

In am in disbelief that the political Left that I have grown to choose to either like or dislike is now owned and controlled by Western billionaires and oligarchs who have turned developing countries into slave labour camps.

I am in disbelief that the former promise of liberalism has been turned by the new-Left to become a mass movement that is devoid of free-thinking, one that literally coerces one to unconditionally accept it and follow its agenda without any questions or else face persecution, humiliation and slander.

Love or hate Castro and Guevara, I am in total disbelief that their political heirs, as it were, are Greta Thunberg, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, the main benefactor of whom is George Soros; just to name a few.

I am in disbelief that decent people have condoned violent protests and looting and considered them as rightful civil rights activities.

I am in total disbelief that rudeness, thought-policing, political correctness, hypocrisy and double standards have become the new norms.

And now that Biden has illegally declared himself a winner, I am in disbelief that many of his supporters do not seem to care as to whether or not he has indeed committed electoral fraud or not despite allegations that indicate that ballots might have been fiddled with and which at least warrants an investigation. They seem happy to get rid of Trump even if this meant that fraud was actually committed.

I am in disbelief that world leaders are breaking the standards of political protocol and congratulating Biden before he is formally declared a winner.

I am in disbelief that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are allowed to censor personal opinion and make their own rules on what constitutes freedom of expression and what doesn’t. Even more, I am in disbelief that those giants are free to decide to ban publishing reports about allegations of corruption in the Biden family camp because they have not been legally and formally substantiated, but at the same time promote and publish unsubstantiated accusations about Trump and his supporters.

I am in disbelief that it became illegal to prescribe and sell hydroxychloroquine even though there are indications that it can treat COVID-19.

I am in disbelief that intelligent, well-meaning people, including many personal friends have believed the myriad of unsubstantiated stories that have been fabricated about Trump ever since he was elected. I am in disbelief that they believed in the Russiagate fiasco and that upon reflection did not feel any remorse when they were proved to be a lie. I am in disbelief that those who fabricated the story were not prosecuted.

I am in disbelief that the BLM movement appears to blame Trump for centuries of racial injustice in America. I am in disbelief that those same people do not look at Obama’s track record on race issues.

I am in disbelief that many mature and intelligent men and women believe that Greta is an expert on climate all the while ignoring what many eminent scientists are saying to the contrary. I am in disbelief that Trump is blamed for that so-called ‘Climate Change’ and that Biden truly believes that he is able to reach zero CO2 emission.

When I was growing up, reform and justice meant iconic issues such as freedom of worship, free speech, free education and medication. I am in disbelief to see that the new definition has morphed into the ‘rights’ of late term abortion and school children having gender change surgeries.

I am in disbelief that the same West that once mocked the use of the term ‘democratic’ in the rhetoric of the USSR and the names of entities like the German Democratic Republic finds itself at ease kicking democracy in the guts and have the so-called American Democratic Party ruled by a new ‘species’ of dictators and thugs.

I am in disbelief that the new definition of being progressive does not include decency and respect and that parents no longer teach their children simple rules like giving up their bus seats to the elderly.

I am in disbelief that the impact of COVID-19 and ‘alleged’ loss of life was blamed on Trump. I say ‘alleged’ loss of life not because I believe that the virus does not exist; it does, but because I have seen enough evidence to substantiate that the figures we have been presented with were highly exaggerated and that many people died of causes other than COVD-19 but were counted as COVID-19 victims; just to make Trump look bad. To this effect, if Trump does initiate a court challenge to the election results and loses, then all that Biden has to do is to start publishing the real figures of deaths caused by COVID-19, and that alone will make him look like a hero who managed to turn around the figures.

I must say that as a Syrian-Lebanese, Trump has been horrible for Syria. He did not manage to contain Erdogan. He sanctioned the theft of Syrian oil. He allowed for Syrian crops to be burnt. He intensified sanctions against Syria with his Caesar Act. For the above and other reasons, Syrians should be rejoicing to see him leave even though Biden and his team of Democrats have been beating the drums of war, but if they draw first blood, it will be a war they cannot win. In more ways than one, a military escalation in Syria now, one that does not expand to become an all-out war between America and Russia, may break the stalemate and create the foreground for moving forward in a new direction. In other words, as far as Syria is concerned, Biden can inadvertently be a better president than Trump. Time will tell.

I therefore have real, concrete and thought-out reasons to dislike Trump and even loath him. But I find myself in total disbelief when I ask many people the reason, the real reason, for which they hate Trump; they are unable to provide a single one. Some revert to his looks and/or his vocabulary, but come on, is this enough for them to hate him with the passion they do? I am in disbelief that they echo like parrots the words of the media, knowing from previous experiences that the only thing that the media is good at is lying. I am in disbelief that seemingly rational people are increasingly finding it easy and plausible for them to adopt very strong views, make loud and uncouth comments, without taking the effort of fact-finding.

I am in disbelief that the moment one speaks of fact-finding-based rationality, he/she is either ‘accused’ of being a Trumpie or a denialist. You are either 100% with them or against them. I am in disbelief that they do not see the grey lines in any given argument.

The perception of Trump by the world reminds me of that of President Assad in the Arab World a bit; not that a real comparison can be drawn between the two men. Many Arabs who hate Assad cannot provide one single legitimate reason for hating him, but when squeezed in a corner, they admit that they dislike him because he is an Alawite.

The planners of the anti-Trump campaign have worked very hard in order to demonize him and create a multi-faceted global anti-Trump hysteria. They planned to put together a coalition of haters of different persuasions united only by their hatred to Trump; again in a manner akin to how the ‘War on Syria’ started.

The public both within America and abroad has been bombarded with stories about Trump, portraying him as the public enemy number one at different levels and on many issues.

The Chinese have a great interest to see Trump go because Trump is a tough trade deal negotiator.

The EU nations, and NATO members to be specific, also have a great interest to see Trump go because he forced them to make larger contributions to the NATO budget.

And even though Trump canceled the Iran nuclear deal, endorsed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and facilitated peace settlements with three Arab states, the Israelis have no qualms about seeing Trump go because they know for a fact that Biden will not waver in his support to Israel. To Israel and the Israel lobby, the identity of the resident of the White House is totally immaterial.

Erdogan will be happy to see Trump go because he knows that Biden will be a much softer putty to mould. Biden is more than likely to give him a free hand dealing with the Kurds than Trump ever did.

The huge American industrialists and globalists will be happy to see Trump go because they do not wish to repatriate their factories and create American jobs. They do not want to pay higher salaries and higher taxes. They are totally indifferent as to how far and wide the rust belt expands; for as long as their companies are making profit having factories overseas.

Big Pharma is keen to see Trump go because it is tipped to make hundreds of billions of dollars selling vaccines.

Last but not least, the Deep State wishes for Trump to go. No former American President has ever dared to even mention the term ‘Deep State’ let alone take charge against it. I find myself in a state of disbelief because the alleged foot soldiers who are meant to stand up against the ‘Deep State’, ie the Left, are the ones taking charge against Trump. Work this one out.

Even the old guards at the GOP, the Republican Party are against Trump; because they are part-and-parcel of the Deep State, they have their fingers in the pie, and Trump does not represent them. In reality, in both of his election and re-election bids, Trump ran more like an independent than a GOP candidate. History will possibly mark him as the American President who was closest to being an independent candidate.

With all of the above said, I can fully understand why some have good reasons to dislike Trump and even hate him, and as mentioned above, I can have my own reasons. I can equally understand why some can be shortsighted enough to wish to see him go without giving much thought to who is to replace him. But for anyone to believe that Joe Biden is the man to restore America’s position in the world and make the world a better place, than unsubstantiated wishful thinking is the most polite manner to describe such aspirations.

Notwithstanding all of the above, the world is undergoing an inevitable polar shift and this is now unstoppable. The West is losing its technical edge and financial prowess as both are moving east. And even if Trump wins his touted court battle and is declared a winner, changes the constitution and gets re-elected for ten more terms, he will not be able to reverse this torrent even if the Democrats worked wholeheartedly with him.

If Biden ends up in the White House, he may and probably will attempt to gain initial support by publishing real COVID-19 death related figures as mentioned above. But what will he be able to conjure up in order to be able to save face when it comes to public debt, unemployment and other huge problems that America and the rest of the world face?

The cracks within America are sadly widening and the underlying foundations are crumbling, and if Biden is foolish enough to take the war gamble as a way out of the financial dilemma that he will have to deal with if he becomes president and squanders a few more trillion on a new war somewhere in the world, he will hasten the financial collapse. If he warms up to China and escalates his anti-Russian rhetoric to the extent of creating war with Russia, then God help us all. I suppose Greta and her minions will blame Russia for the nuclear fallout, provided that any of them and us will still be around to talk about it.

Whether Trump stays or goes, he has definitely and inadvertently accelerated the events in the age of disbelief. The word disbelief was once associated with heresy, but now, at least in my dictionary, it refers to the disbelief in the current state of human rationality.

I can go on and on but enough is said. With all the above reasons to have disbelief, I wonder if there is still any benefit in writing articles like this one and trying to talk people into having some common sense.

The world is quickly and steadfastly approaching a rather frightening stage of mass hysteria of Biblical proportions. Rational people now feel that they are surrounded by lunatics, and yet some say we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’.

May God have mercy on humanity, because humanity did not have mercy on itself.

4 years of anti-Trumpism shaping MSM vote coverage, but expect long fight

Source

Saturday, 07 November 2020 9:22 PM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 07 November 2020 9:22 PM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
“Trumpism”, a cartoon by The Economist

By Ramin Mazaheri and crossposted with PressTV

4 years of anti-Trumpism shaping MSM vote coverage, but expect long fight
* Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US elections. He is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

With Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US presidential votes, you will probably not hear pro-Trump views in the mainstream media for four years, but 70 million Trump votes show they do exist.

Last night I dreamt that I asked Trump what it was like to be the world’s most insulted man over the last four years?

This piqued his interest and he granted me a walk-and-talk interview. While I waited for him to be free I ate pizza – the food of variety and routine entertainment. When he became available we walked to a car, marveling that the secret service was going to let us travel without them. Trump would drive, which in dream logic means I think he is in charge.

I had more good journalistic questions for Trump, but I couldn’t remember any others when I woke up.

If the United States corporate media could insult Trump for four years then we should assume there is the same bias and animosity in their coverage of the current election crisis.

As a journalist I must account for this and realize they routinely give only one side of the story. In short: it’s clear they still want Trump out by any means necessary, which is why their mainstream journalists have done all they could to give the impression that it’s all over but the counting.

It’s not.

Trump’s demeanor in my dream was one of annoyance changing into focused determination – one cannot permanently put down someone with an ego as massive as Trump’s. Similarly, you cannot insult Trumpers because they truly believe their Americanness makes them totally impermeable to serious denigration. This arrogance is the psychological foundation of imperialism – that Western culture can never embarrass itself enough to jeopardize the idea of their natural superiority over others. Anti-Trumpers have this arrogance in the same magnitude, but express it slightly differently.

One cannot understand American political culture if one does not at least occasionally tune into right-wing AM talk radio. This is the only place to find the Christian conservatives who compose one-third of the country (polls show 50% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents call themselves “moderately” or “highly religious”). Due to fanatical Western secularism these people are essentially shut out of mainstream political discourse, but their massive numbers have allowed them to carve out this niche on an antiquated medium.

Every decent journalist should already know this. The US has very few of those (whereas the Iranian press is vibrant and demanding).

This explains why we hear so much talk in the American press about the pernicious influence of “online disinformation” such as the highly-publicized “Stop the Steal” page on Facebook. The out-of-touch US journalist class is totally tech-focused and thus mistakenly believes the primary threat to their narrative dominance is online.

If they would simply turn on the good old radio it would be shocking clear: “Stop the Steal” is the tip of the iceberg and not the work of Iranian or Russian trolls: there is a huge sector of US society which does not believe this election is fair and transparent enough, and they are focused, politically-involved and have the same analytical skills God gave all humans.

You can take down Facebook pages, but the massive audience which right-wing AM radio has enjoyed for decades will still be there. The US MSM has always ignored this medium, mistakenly hoping it would just go away, and thus Iranian and Russian trolls are the culprit.

You couldn’t hear pro-Trump views in the MSM for four years, but 70 million Trump votes shows they actually do exist.

This massive audience is incredibly upset, and on November 4, 2020 they became self-assured that they are not an historical anomaly. Trumpers are currently more emboldened and politically justified than ever and… you expect them to take a knee on their undoubtedly unusual presidential vote? Because the mainstream media says so?

The victory of the “Trumpian Republican” over a media-overhyped “Blue Wave” is totally confirmed, though their figurehead may not survive. That makes them skeptical and upset in massive numbers, but this voice is blocked. This is why if you only tune into mainstream media everything is exactly as it has been for four years: Trump must leave office, and they marshal a ton of experts who prove it.

But turn to the one media source where Trumpers actually feel comfortable talking with other Trumpers and you will find they are also marshalling a ton of experts who are howling with indignation not at the mistreatment of their figurehead but at the way mail-in ballots and questionable 2020 political decisions have called the integrity of US vote structures into question.

Trump is a figurehead, but the elections verify that Trumpism is a real movement. It is based on the idea that America is not the world’s greatest country but the greatest country in the history of mankind. However, the Washington Swamp has corrupted it. Their essential stance is that the November 3rd vote is fine – it’s the people who ran that vote who cannot be trusted and whose work must now be verified.

Trumpers do not want major structural changes – Democrats are more inclined to installing semi-progressive changes – they want different people in office, and (like every other country) people who are more openly reflective of their worldview. Corruption is the primary wellspring of Trumpism, not White supremacism.

Trump gained with every ethnic cohort and gender except White males, after all. Any journalist who keeps talking about White supremacism – as the primary ethos of Trumpism, not as a longstanding and genuine structural problem which includes Democrats as well – is totally wasting your time. Incredibly, there are many of these, and they are the best-paid ones.

Here’s the problem: unless the vote is not just totally counted but also calmly litigated and vetted – precisely because there has been a drastic changing to the 2020 vote forced by the pandemic, the executive orders of state governors and overreaching local officials – half the voting population is going to have major resentment and continued grounds for belief in the corruption of American officials (again, because they believe the structures sent by the archangels Jefferson, Washington and (ugh) Hamilton cannot possibly be at fault).

So Trump and Trumpers – who were not even browbeaten by four years of anti-Trump bias – will not be browbeaten into calling off the vote clarification efforts.

This notion is being trumpeted all over their media, but you have to know where to find them in a very stratified and biased US media. As a journalist I must objectively report (disclaimer: I did not support either candidate) that they sound serious as hell.

Not serious as hell as in right-wing militias shooting up Main Street – that was an absurd distraction with the backing of zero historical precedent – but serious in that they can marshal their own lawyers, analysts, professors, local officials, state officials, poll watchers and regular Joes who all can intellectually defend the idea that they are not going to accept the presidential vote without assurances that it was totally fair. In my journalistic view: they meet the American standard of “reasonable doubt” to merit judicial checking.

And what’s wrong with that? What’s Christian Conservative about demanding modern vote justice via checks and balances? What’s wrong is that it threatens the 1%’s desires.

Remember 2000? Jay Leno’s nightly mocking and the quick trashing of lower class votes?

In 2000 the mood in America was one of total impatience – this is because the imperialist US abhors a vacuum. Somebody must be in charge, if only so they know whom to slavishly follow.

By mid-December Al Gore foolishly quit – denying modern political justice to thousands of Black Floridians –  for what he thought was the good of the nation; to end the perceived nightmare of a very short-term power vacuum. That’s not going to happen this time around.

The US mainstream media is doing all they can to make it happen, but Trumpers have their own media which is mainstream enough to them, and they sure don’t sound like this will be over soon. At least – not to this journalist. Expect the impatience to kick in soon, which is hysterical (the word of 2020), because the inauguration isn’t until late January.

Trump cares mainly about himself, not the nation, which is another reason it’s different this time around.

The 2000 election had two key effects: alienating many Americans from politics while highly polarizing the ones who remained involved. Yet another reason it’s different this time around – less patriotism and more zero-sum game polarization.

In my dream Trump was driving because he truly is in charge – it’s widely acknowledged here that the Trump family will hold the most sway in the Republican Party win or lose. Donald Trump Jr. looks like the heir apparent: he definitely has the media savvy, is all over Fox News (which I assume few “objective” US journalists ever tune into either) and, crucially, his father’s combativeness towards the US establishment. Trumpian Republicans are a force to be reckoned with and will change the country’s politics – however, I contended here that the duopoly’s quicksand will swallow them up and dilute them.

For Iran there is no need to overreact – America has been anti-Iranian Revolution since forever. Trumpians are not original in their pro-Zionism. Who knows what Trumpism will really morph into – maybe their reluctance towards more endless wars will enlighten US foreign policy?

The Donald is still in the driver’s seat, but in my dream it’s notable that we didn’t drive anywhere. Bad omen for him from this news gypsy.


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Social media’s erasure of Palestinians is a grim warning for our future

Jonathan Cook

26 October 2020 12:39 UTC 

Facebook, Google and Twitter are not neutral platforms. They control the digital public square to aid the powerful – and can cancel any of us overnight

Palestinian critics say Facebook has become ‘another face of occupation’ (AFP/File photo)

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability. 

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump. 

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know. 

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants. 

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.How Facebook threatens vulnerable Muslim communities Read More »

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”. 

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer. 

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true. 

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful. 

Social media algorithms help drive decisions on content removal (AFP/File photo)
Social media algorithms help drive decisions on content removal (AFP/File photo)

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally. 

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight. 

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal. 

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly. 

The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.Facebook accused of censoring Palestinians under pretext of fighting hate speech Read More »

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights. 

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites. 

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism. 

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia. 

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a 2019 cyber industry conference in Tel Aviv (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a 2019 cyber industry conference in Tel Aviv (AFP)

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services. 

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.  

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised. 

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity. 

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute. 

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists. 

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag “FBcensorsPalestine”. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”. Leila Khaled shutdown shows how corporate tech is enemy of free speechRead More »

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed. 

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations. 

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown. 

New houses are built in the Nokdim settlement in the occupied West Bank on 13 October (AFP)
New houses being built in the Nokdim settlement in the occupied West Bank on 13 October (AFP)

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible. 

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank. 

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.” 

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians. 

Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”. 

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful. 

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.Jonathan CookJonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth since 2001, is the the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a past winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His website and blog can be found at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net

From a Wealthy Socialite to an Israeli Govt Censor, Facebook’s New “Free Speech Court” Is Anything but Independent

By Raul Diego

Source

Freedom of speech on the Internet is all but extinct, and on the eve of the 2020 US elections, a de facto “free speech court” is going to make sure it never comes back. On Facebook at least.

Days away from the most polarized electoral contest in American history, social media companies like Facebook have vowed to censor any voices which they and their partners in the federal government consider inconvenient. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is ready to implement election information strategies that have been in the works for years.

Company spokesman Andy Stone told the WSJ that the social media giant will be applying the “lessons” learned from previous elections in accordance with the designs of “hired experts” and vague references to “new teams,” who are leveraging their “experience across different areas to prepare for various scenarios.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s de facto monopoly over online peer-to-peer communication tools has given Facebook an inordinate amount of influence over the political narratives at both national and regional levels, which it has shown a willingness exercise with topics like the Philippines and Palestine.

Last week, the company took a major step in solidifying its grip over the content purveyed on its platform with the official launch of the Facebook Oversight board. A body that is to function like a ‘Supreme Court’ for chat rooms, if you will, with the power to review any decisions regarding post removals or deplatforming and to make policy recommendations. Members have been drawn from “law experts… rights advocates” and journalists from around the world. The oversight board currently boasts 20 members.

Four members – two of which have extensive experience in the U.S. judicial system – serve as the board’s co-chairs and were handpicked by Facebook, according to The Guardian. Other board members include former Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who is also a co-chair and is perhaps only remembered outside of Denmark for her selfie faux pas at Mandela’s funeral in 2013 when she was photographed taking a group photo with Barack Obama and David Cameron during the commemoration.

Judges of little character

Thorning-Schmidt’s insensitive moment at the laying-in-state of one of the most significant figures of the 20th century may be less damning to her presence on a social media oversight board than the tax-evasion scandal involving her husband – a British MP –, which ended up costing her re-election. When confronted over the accusations, she retorted that if her intention had really been to evade taxes, she would have done so “much more elegantly.” Despite these questionable instances and her reputation as an “extravagant” woman with expensive tastes, Thorning-Schmidt remains among the least objectionable figures on the oversight board.

Emi Palmor, for example, presents a much more alarming profile. One of 16 non-chair members of the board, Palmor is a former General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, she was directly responsible for the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinian posts from Facebook. Before being fired from that job, Palmor had created the so-called “Internet Referral Unit” at the ministry; a cybersecurity team that deliberately targeted and took down the aforementioned content, and whose nomination to the Facebook oversight board was loudly protested by pro-Palestinian advocacy groups back in May.

Palmor posing with Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016. Photo | Israeli Government Press Office

Inviting a literal state censor from a country with such an atrocious record of oppression and overt ethnic cleansing policies to serve in a supervisory role at one of the largest content networks in the world, should be reason enough for concern. Perhaps, even reason enough to call for the board’s dissolution given that such an egregious choice of personnel reveals an unacceptable political bias in an ostensibly impartial quasi-judicial body.

A clear agenda

A look at the other co-chairs on the oversight board leaves no doubt as to which interests Facebook intends to further through its sham social media traffic court. It might not be a surprise to learn that an American company would tap American legal minds to form part of a dispute resolution body, as Jamal Greene, an oversight board co-chair, describes it.

Greene is a Dwight Professor of Law Columbia Law School who served as an aide to Sen. Kamala Harris during the highly-controversial Senate confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Prior to this, he was a law clerk for late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 1997 Internet decency controls decision that shot down legislation that sought to regulate online speech. An auspicious sign, perhaps, but tempered by Steven’s own pragmatist views on free speech, leaving the door open to context when protecting the “public interest” surrounding the first amendment.

Sitting alongside Greene and Helle Thorning-Schmidt on the oversight board’s co-chairmanship is Michael McConnell; a constitutional law scholar who served seven years as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit court. McConnell wrote the dissenting opinion in the seminal “Ten Commandments” case, which centered around the government’s authority to decide which monuments can be erected in a public park.

Judge McConnell, who has been floated as a potential Supreme Court nominee more than once and is “highly regarded for his writing on church-state law,” argued in favor of the government’s discretionary powers, claiming that private donations to public facilities – like the ten commandments monument in a public park in Utah, that spurred the case – became “government speech” and, therefore within the purview of governmental authority.

Rounding out the co-chair suite is Catalina Botero Marino, a Colombian attorney and former special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Organization of American States (OAS); an organization well-known for being Washington’s mouthpiece for D.C.-aligned policy in Latin America.

Botero expressed her position on the very topic she will be dealing with first-hand in her new position as co-chair of the Facebook oversight board in a 2019 paper titled “Towards an Internet Free of Censorship: standards, contexts, and lessons from the Inter-American Human Rights System.” In it, Botero reveals why she was tapped to join the make-shift panel of social media judges when she defines freedom of expression as “individual and collective self-government” and highlights her “utmost concern” over the “deliberately false circulation of information, created and put into circulation with the purpose of deceiving the public” in electoral processes.

Has the US been chastised into reform, or is 4 more years of Trump needed?

Monday, 26 October 2020 9:25 AM  [ Last Update: Tuesday, 27 October 2020 5:30 AM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Donald Trump leaves the polling station after casting his ballot at the Palm Beach County Public Library, during early voting for the November 3 election, in West Palm Beach, Florida, on October 24, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Has the US been chastised into reform, or is 4 more years of Trump needed?

By Ramin Mazaheri

Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US elections. He is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

There is a world of difference between “make it stop” and “make it change”, no?

In 2016 we all knew that a Trump victory would undoubtedly be terrible for Iran, Cuba and Palestine – that has been proven true.

However, being a “one-issue voter” is never advisable, but especially for those voting in the country which has more global influence than any other.

The question for those in those three countries is this: why would a victory by Joe Biden herald a major change in US policy – not merely a change from post-2016 policy, but from the United States’ policy since 1979, 1959 or 1948?

Trump-era sanctions are illegal, inhumane and war, indeed, but it would be overreaction to say they were something altogether new. Washington’s policy towards all three of these nations – undoubtedly the martyrs of the international community – has been the unbroken same for many decades: destruction of the patriotic leadership elements in those countries. (However, Palestinians can accurately add that supporting total genocide against all Palestinians is also an undeniably clear policy of Washington.)

Why would Biden reverse these policies? A temporary relenting is not a reversal.

Is not reversal the goal, or is merely “less worse” the democratic majority desire in these three nations as regards their foreign policy with America?

Worryingly, it should be assumed that Biden would certainly be more successful in galvanising Western support for “new” Iranian sections than Trump, who alienated America’s allies, if Biden chose to do so. What if these sanctions are thus even more comprehensive than the Trump era’s “US alone” sanctions?

When it comes to these three anti-imperialism-championing, leftist-inspired nations we must consider the “hope” aspect – Barack Obama won on this idea precisely because it is so critical to consider: is it possible that a Trump finally freed of election concerns could perhaps do what he was elected to do in 2016 – break with the Washington “Swamp” and all of its horrors and murders?

The world notes that Trump is – without question – the least belligerent elected president in the modern era (Gerald Ford was not elected). Considering that prior to WWII the US was still engaged in wars of imperialism in North America and beyond, and also that prior to the Civil War the US was engaged in slavery, it is not an exaggeration to say that Trump has been one of America’s least foreign-warmongering presidents. This sounds preposterous, but American history is an unbroken line of preposterous, imperialist brutality – denying that is inaccurate.

Therefore, it’s reasonable to consider that a Trump freed of election concerns, and also of trying to win over the Washington establishment, could allow his anti-belligerent tendencies to take over. Trump is not a military man, but a business man. The idea that Biden could possibly have a “Nixon moment” with Iran is absolutely out of the question – he is completely an establishment man. Indeed, this reality is the foundation of his presidential campaign – a return to “normalcy”.

But the US establishment is totally anti-Iranian Islamic Revolution, anti-Islamic conceptions of capitalism, and anti-Iranian resistance to Western invasion and imperialism. In a system dominated by lobby interests, there is absolutely no “pro-Iran” lobby and to think there is would be to misunderstand America.

The concern is that those outside of and unfamiliar with America do not understand these realities; that there are still those who think Obama was truly worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize; that think Democrats are lenient towards to the world even though they spearheaded the destruction of Yugoslavia, Libya, Honduras, Haiti, Ukraine etc. and etc. It is like a a household with two very unpleasant daughters: the family always says, “That one is the easy-going one”, when in reality she is still very unpleasant when compared with normal standards of comportment.

There is absolutely no way Biden would engineer a “Nixon moment” of (not rapprochement but) detente with Iran. Therefore, the question to ask is: are the 2016-era sanctions so bad that Iran has to throw in the towel, and not take a chance on the most successful anti-establishment candidate in the US since Andrew Jackson?

Part 2: Why would anyone, anywhere wish for the very unpleasant Washington establishment to remain in complete control?

We have established that Biden may only slightly lessen, but never end, the four decades of sanctions on Iran. About Trump – we simply cannot be so sure.

Trump, thus, is the “hope” candidate. Trump doesn’t have a real ideology, we have learned since 2016 – he’s not a real Zionist, any more than he’s a real Christian, any more than he’s a real Republican – he is a selfish business man, and that is it. These people ruin the world, but can also build great things. 

That’s the same question Americans considering voting for Trump are asking: are things so bad that the only way to advance is via retreat – i.e. four more years of the astoundingly upsetting (the French “bouleversement” is so much more accurate) Trump presidency?

Turning to America’s domestic situation: they are in a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe, i.e. the 2020 coronavirus recession is being added to the 2008 Great Recession.

The election media circus does not focus on this – they instead create nonsense like Iranians posing as “Proud Boys” and mail-in ballot hysteria – but if you are in the US and talking to people you only hear from Americans about how truly bad things are in ways totally unrelated to the election.

Visitors from Iran cannot believe their eyes when they see the US – this country is in disrepair, is technologically behind in many ways, and is in jaw-droppingly bad physical and social health (putting aside more subjective questions of moral and mental health).

How on earth can we explain the 2020 continued success and resonance of Trump, who in the 2nd debate kept reminding voters of why he won in 2016: the staggering corruption of the US political establishment, of which he is not completely a part of?

He knows that the US public has as many reasons to subvert the US political establishment as the Iranian public has: the most basic, and necessary, examination of the situation via this lens of class tells us that – of course – both publics greatly suffer under the brutality of the unwanted capitalism-imperialism foisted by the 1%.

Furthermore, we should expect that the factions thwarted in 2016 would impose even further safeguards to their power to make sure another Trump cannot happen again.

Trump has pushed things to the right, indeed, but nobody more so than the US establishment and 1%: this couldn’t be more in evidence thanks to how even the Democrats have embraced the CIA & FBI, Twitter/Facebook censorship, QE policies which keep their rich donor classes happy, and how this class demands Trump be even more warlike and employ even more policies which many used to only associate with American conservatives. The American Democrat is no leftist.

But the delusion is believing that far-right policies – both at home and abroad regarding places like Iran – started with Trump. American Democrats may believe that nonsense, but it’s vital that the world has a memory which stretches back just a mere five years. A Biden victory would immediately allow the US to sweep under the rug and to scapegoat the nation’s pre-2016 problems on Trump – many American voters will not tolerate that, as they want immediate changes to the long-running status quo.

Who knows what a second Trump presidency would do? This is both hope and risk. And as Biden said in the second election: “You know who I am” – indeed. 

What the world and the US public wants is obvious: mutually-beneficial cooperation, which is not necessarily excluded in capitalism, but it is excluded in “capitalism with Western characteristics”. “Trump term 1” was against free-trade, neoliberal capitalism-imperialism: would “Trump term 2” push aside the New York City financial elite and insist on concluding mutually-beneficial business deals which don’t have to be signed at the barrel-end of a US gun?

It’s so very, very hard to believe, but US Congresspeople spend 70% of their work day fundraising. What a terrible system, no? This explains how Americans get such poor governance – they are not occupied with the business of public service.

I think it’s fair to point out that Trump has done the same since 2016 in order to win re-election: he has spent 70% of his time complying with and being bogged down by establishment nonsense – Russophobia, a useless impeachment drive, a hostile media, etc. What would he do if he was freed from this, and given free rein to use the executive branch powers for actual policy which bypassed the Swamp? We don’t know, because we have never seen such a US president.

The question is this: does a Trump freed from re-election concerns, and confident of his mandate, still continue to turn his back on the patriotic populism which his voters expected, or do we see something even more spectacularly upsetting to the US establishment than what we have seen the past four years?

We do know Biden will re-chart the American course for Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and all the other usual capitalist-imperialist belligerence. Regarding the influence of Bernie Sanders and the fake-leftistm America has recently mustered: please don’t make me laugh at the idea that in 2021 they will be handed top cabinet posts and actual influence.

But a vote for Biden implicitly implies that the US has learned much since 2016 and will reform and correct themselves; that Biden is not an establishment man, as I asserted, but something new. To put it in Trumpian campaign terms: Biden the public servant in year 48 will be different than Biden the public servant years 1-47. Conversion, rebirth, epiphany – these are all real things, certainly, and nowhere more so perhaps than in evangelical Christian-dominated America.

But we must also remember that, as the European Union proves, Western “neo-imperialism” includes the colonisation of the Western public by an unpatriotic, international 1%. Biden is undoubtedly neoliberal and neo-imperial – Trump is… something else, no? (One cannot be anti-free trade and still neoliberal, after all.)

Thus the “hope” choice in this election is not “for” Trump – it is “anti”-US establishment, and that goes for those abroad as well as domestically.

This article does not promote Trump but merely seeks to explain his popularity, as the Western mainstream media cannot do anything but support their establishment, of course. Biden voters are “holding their nose” and voting for a candidate they don’t like – one is wrong to assume that Trump supporters aren’t doing the exact same.


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October 26, 2020

Tiktok – How Trump Failed America

Tiktok – How Trump Failed America

October 18, 2020

By Allen Yu for the Saker Blog

Donald Trump was elected with a mandate to make deals and “drain the swamp.” I had my doubts he could make a difference in the geopolitical realm. But even on economic matters, he has not had a lot of success. His Tiktok saga reveals just how far he has left people down.

Trump’s demand for a fire sale of Tiktok hit a legal wall two weekends ago when a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction. Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, questioned whether a President had the legal authority to so broadly ban and restrict a “personal communication” and “informational” service such as Tiktok on “national security” grounds.

But even without the injunction, Trump’s vaunted deal-making skills were fast morphing into a freak show. From the beginning, Trump made unsubstantiated accusation that Tiktok was being used as a platform for Chinese espionage even when the CIA found no evidence of Chinese espionage. The EFF – which traditionally has been critical of China’s Internet companies – has also concluded that there is no evidence that TikTok is less secure than other social media apps.

Side note – Lesson #1: if you want to negotiate from a position of strength, you should not start out with a preposterous position, as you will soon lose the trust and belief of the other side. A negotiation is the art of find a deal that both sides walk away happy. If you just want to pummel the other to submission, any “gains” you get will not last.

In late September, after months of negotiations, a surprise deal was announced between Byte Dance and Oracle whereby Byte Dance’s operations outside China would be transformed into a new global company headquartered in Texas. Under the deal initially announced by Oracle late last September, Tiktok would be transformed into a new company headquartered in Texas. Oracle and partner Walmart would co-own 20% of the new company. Oracle would be designated a “trusted technology provider” to manage and store all of Tiktok’s user data.  It would have the authority to audit source codes of Tiktok and parent company Byte Dance.

In addition, four of the five board members of the new Tiktok would be Americans, with one being a data security expert appointee approved by the U.S. government and holding a top-secret U.S. security clearance.  A security committee whose members would be US citizens approved by the US government would be formed and chaired by the appointee.

Based on Chinese social media responses, this state affair was a big loss of not only face but business interests for China. Yet, from the jaws of defeat, Byte Dance was complimented for salvaging something out of nothing.

After initially giving his “blessings” to the deal, Trump backtracked just days later to demand that the core algorithms and AI behind Tiktok – designed, owned and controlled by Byte Dance – must be sold and handed over, too.

The fact that Tiktok is getting all this attention over data security is quite puzzling. Tiktok is a video sharing service for short, hip, fun videos popular among teens, hardly a target for international spying. An email, chatting, or cloud storage service would have represented far juicier targets for Chinese agents!

Furthermore, the U.S. currently does not have any federal-level data privacy law, let alone data security law. Authorities generally leave it to the “market place” and “competition” to keep companies in check. If the U.S. government is truly worried about the data security of American citizens, it should have gone after Facebook, Twitter, and Google and forced a change of ownership some time ago!

Some observers have suggested that the real reason for Trump’s attack on Tiktok is personal vengeance after K-pop fans on Tiktok allegedly sabotaged his first “post-Coronavirus” rally in Tulsa back in June. If so, this would be a major strategic blunder.

While the world’s Internet is currently dominated by American companies, strong political backlash against U.S. based Internet companies are already brewing across the globe, from Europe to India. If Trump manages to whip up nationalistic fervors around the world to carve up Internet companies on trumped-up “national security” charges, it will be mostly American companies that will be on the chopping blocks.

Side note – Lesson #2: you should negotiate with a solid understanding of the end goals – with good strategies. Merely appearing good “reality TV” fashion for political gain will net you little in the end. One can argue, the U.S. “wars on terror” and fights for “democracy” are such. They will hurt many … but they will not gain the U.S. much. Same here in the economic realm … as here with Tiktok.

Many Americans have falsely taken comfort in the thought that Trump’s actions constituted long overdue payback against Chinese government’s banning of U.S. Internet companies. In actuality, Trump’s actions are much more destructive than any policy enacted by the Chinese government.

Contrary to popular beliefs, China has always welcomed U.S. Internet companies to operate in China, provided they follow Chinese laws and respect government’s concerns over information that incite, misinform, defame, or that otherwise endanger national security. While some companies – such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter – have avoided China with much fanfare over “censorship” concerns, others – such as Microsoft and Apple – have done quite well after setting up Internet operations within China.

America has often made China into the world’s bogeyman over censorship. But China or not, there is no such thing as “freedom of speech.” Today American companies, including Google, censor on behalf of governments the world over on diverse issues such as privacy, blasphemy, defamation and hate speech to disinformation, copyright and national security. Just look to Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s “transparency report” for some shocking statistics.

Today, the Trump Administration is trying to make another bogeyman out of China over “data security.” But of course, the real question is whether the U.S. – and the world – can accept a second generation of globally spanning Internet companies that are not necessarily American.

Should only companies from certain nations be trusted?  Is corporate governance sufficient to regulate globally spanning multinational companies?  Or must we rely on some sort of forced nationalization?

Side note – if there is ever one topic I fundamentally and deeply disagree with the Saker about, it is on the notions of “freedom of speech.” For me, there is no such thing as “freedom of speech.” There are always limits and contingencies to speech, limits that depend on a society and its history, whether it be blasphemy, defamation, misinformation, disinformation, a violation of privacy or of copyright, hate speech, speech that incite, speech that spur violence, speech that undermines national security, and so on.

I find it fascinating that so many “liberal” free speech zealots have no qualms about the government making rules to ensure food and drug labeling are accurate yet … at least until very recently … these same folks are ok with disinformation and misinformation in the political arena.

In China, disinformation and misinformation has been recognized as a problem since the earliest days of the Internet. This is why China built its GFW. Let me give you an example.

Just earlier this week, there was an interesting story about Facebook and Twitter restricting the spread of a controversial New York Post article critical of Joe Biden and his son’s relationship to a Ukrainian company. Facebook restricted links to the article on grounds it couldn’t independently verify the story. Twitter restricted on the ground that they don’t publish “private” information or “hacked” information.

Would they be so gracious about restricting things when it comes to China?

I say, to the extent the West seems “freer” in the past, it’s only because of two things. One, in recent history, the West had been so much stronger than others. It was under so much less threat than others. There was just always so much less that constituted a threat to its social and national security. But this might be changing. Two, at least in modern history, the West has always monopolized the narrative regarding the social and political issues of our days. What is “censorship” by others is always anything but censorship when done in the West. There are always some righteous and obviously legitimate reasons to limit speech – whether it be defamation, privacy, hate speech, violence, blasphemy, national security, whatever. The issue of “freedom of speech” never even enter the analysis.

Here are a few recent examples.

Just two years ago, Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denial as an example of permissible free speech. However, just this past week, Mark Zuckerberg is saying that Facebook would ban content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust.”

Also consider this thing about Russia meddling in America. In the last few years, national security concerns have loomed large as many Americans became paranoid about Russia’s spending of a mere $100K could sway the 2016 elections. Social media companies are urged to do all sorts of things to limit “foreign influence.” Left undiscussed is what about the “foreign influence” this country perpetrates in other countries? Let’s not even go into the armed or political support – what of the voice of America, the national endowment for democracy – institutions that spew “foreign paid” misinformation and disinformation around the world?

Some Americans may reply: what of “foreign influence” if it helps to dig up the truth? Well, if that’s so, why do America care so much about “foreign influence” then? Also, why is there such focus on “foreign” interest but almost nothing on “domestic” special interests? To the extent some powers are “distorting” the “free marketplace of ideas,” aren’t “domestic” special interest just as dangerous to democracy as “foreign” interests?

In an explosive report by the Wall Street Journal, we have learned that it was Mark Zuckerberg who had been instilling in Washington “national security” concerns over Tiktok. Zuckerberg had privately lobbied Trump to do something about Tiktok. Coincidentally, Zuckerberg’s company Facebook owns a service called Reels that had thus far competed unsuccessfully with Tiktok and that would have the most to gain from continued uncertainties at Tiktok.

The specter of Larry Ellison – a personal friend and ardent supporter of President Trump – has also raised eyebrows. While Microsoft was the clear front runner to purchase Tiktok in early August, it was Oracle that ended up as the “surprise” victor in late September. According to a report by the Washington Post, Microsoft’s deal would have given the U.S. even more control over Tiktok’s data and in that sense addressed Trump’s concerns about “national security” even better.

Mixing private and public interests has always been an unfortunate hallmark of the U.S. government.

In targeting Tiktok, Trump has boasted that he expected political and financial paybacks for his attacks. On several occasions, Trump publicly demanded that whoever buys Tiktok pay a “finder’s fee” to the U.S. Treasury. After the Oracle deal was announced, Trump bragged that Tiktok had agreed to pay $5 billion to the Treasury and a special education fund to teach American children “the real history of our country.”

In an age when Americans have been on openly edge over foreign governments’ spending money on social media to influence elections, what should Americans think about their President soliciting billions from a “foreign adversary” to support his “pet barrel” projects?

It is really too bad that Trump’s rally cry of “America First” has turned into an ideology based on xenophobia. When Trump became president, I was fascinated by his tentative outreach to Russia and China … and his criticism of NATO and other aspects of the American “empire.” However, after four years, he has shown he is incapable of changing the course of this aspect of American history.

If the West wants to decouple with China, so be it. If the West wants to give up the Chinese market, so be it. In Trump’s view, the West had helped to “built up” China. In my view, to the extent the West “built up” China, China also “built up” much of today’s West.

America and Europe were in despair with high inflation, unemployment, and low productivity growth at the end of the 1970’s. China’s entrance into the global trade system ushered in a new period of continued prosperity in the West. China not only provided the West with steady and reliable supply of basic goods and services, it also built up a new prosperous middle class and opened up its huge market to the world. U.S. corporations reaped disproportionately huge profits – profits that are used to fund the R&D needed for further advances in chips, Internet, among others.

Whether Tiktok or Huawei survives the Trump Administration, the Chinese are no longer willing to indefinitely subsidize American R&D going forward. Efforts are afoot for Chinese companies to remove their dependence on critical American technologies – from electronic parts to chips to software to machinery – throughout their supply chain. They will demand this of themselves and of their partners in Europe and Japan and S. Korea and everyone around the world. A new ecosystem will soon arise that is intentionally stripped of critical “American” components and technology to better serve the Chinese market. This will be the lasting influence of Trump. China has no choice. China may suffer in the short term, but China is determined to win in the long term.


[note: a short, much abridged version of this article was initially published as a “commentary” on the South China Morning Post]

Allen Yu is an IP attorney in Silicon Valley, a founding blogger at blog.hiddenharmonies.org, as well as an adjunct fellow at the Chunqiu Institute for Development and Strategic Studies. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a D. Engr., M.S., and B.S. from UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

Jews Frustrated They Can’t Silence Their Critics The Way They Used To When They Monopolized All Media

Source

OCTOBER 16, 2020

The Jewish News Syndicate has published another essay demonstrating the incorrigible Jewish hypocrisy and narcissism over free speech — they applaud the recent Facebook censorship of “Holocaust deniers” based solely on the spurious presumption that anyone who wants to know the full truth about what did and did not happen in World War II must necessarily be motivated solely by an irrational, blind hatred of Jews:

…The Internet is the best thing that ever happened to extremists. Prior to its development, denizens of the fever swamps of the far-right and the far-left were limited in their ability to communicate with each other or to publicize their beliefs.

Marginal groups were effectively silenced in an era when print, radio and television outlets were closed to them because major publishing entities acted as gatekeepers that effectively shut them out of the public square. While the Internet opened up new opportunities for communication for every conceivable niche and interest group, and thereby democratized publishing, it also provided a way for hate groups to connect and gave them a megaphone with which to make their toxic messages better known.

That was enabled because Facebook and Twitter were allowed by an obscure legal provision to avoid accountability for what they allowed to be published on their sites. Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act allowed an “interactive computer service” to be exempt from the normal perils of publishing—i.e., being held accountable for what was put on their sites. This both protected free speech on the Internet and allowed those responsible for what were thought of as bulletin boards for users, rather than publishing outlets to function without tackling the impossible task of monitoring what their customers were doing. Although the development of social media was far in the future at that point, Section 230 was the law that enabled Facebook and Twitter to eventually dominate modern communications.

In the view of those who are concerned about the spread of hate, that was all well and good when it was just a matter of providing billions of people the ability to post pictures and updates about their lives. Eventually, however, the notion of Zuckerberg, whose current wealth is estimated at $111 billion, enriching himself by enabling Holocaust deniers was seen as intolerable. They felt the same way about Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who is only worth a piddling $4.9 billion…

Of course the original 1996 Communications Decency Act had less to do with “freedom of speech” on the internet per se — it was about protecting children from all the freely available Jewish-produced pornography that was beginning flood into every home in America.

But let’s not forget that it was Jews who have always defended the proliferation of pornography as a form of “free speech” — a complete twisting of the intent of the First Amendment.

And the Section 230 clause that was added to the CDA was a common sense law that made ISPs legally immune for what user’s posted on their websites — without that indemnity, the internet would collapse.

But Section 230 took away the Jews’ go-to tool to silence voices they didn’t like — sue the publisher — make the publication of certain opinions a prohibitive economic liability — the terrible power of the Jewish purse.

Jews view opinions they don’t like in the same way that Christians view pornography — radically different worldviews.

They are demanding their “right” to censor content that offends them –and pedophilia doesn’t offend them but your opinion probably does.

Oh, they are all for “freedom of speech” and “democracy” as long as they own all the publishing houses and television stations — and “count all the votes.”

To do that end, they need to effectively de-claw Section 230 — and by doing so, they can regain their pre-internet monopoly as the sole “gatekeepers” of all opinions and information– and they are doing just that.

NEW STEP IN GOOGLE’S FIERCE CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY SOUTHFRONT

21.08.2020 

South Front

The Euro-Atlantic establishment and global corporations seem to be so terrified by SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence that they stop at nothing to suppress SouthFront’s voice and damage our work.

On August 21, Google unilaterally disabled SouthFront’s official Google AdSense account claiming that it “was found to be non-compliant with the AdSense program policies”. Just like in the case of censorship of SouthFront on YouTube and Facebook, this decision was made without any advance warning or real explanation. (The long story of SouthFront censorship on YouTube and Facebook can be found here: 1 – Facebook2 – YouTube)

Funds collected on the account for the last 1.5 months were in fact stolen.

New Step In Google’s Fierce Campaign To Destroy SouthFront

In previous month, SouthFront was able to use the revenue from GoogleAds banners on southfront.org to fill gaps in our monthly donation budget created by the increasing censorship and pressure campaign aimed at our endeavor. The goal of this campaign is to limit SouthFront’s audience reach by banning on the most popular public platforms, limit the donation flow to SouthFront and discredit our team as a whole. Not backed by corporations or governments, SouthFront operates thanks to the audience’s donations.

Despite this unprecedented pressure campaign, which was publicly assisted by the US State Department, and thanks to your support, SouthFront was able to survive in the recent month. However, the August 21 situation demonstrates that Euro-Atlantic structures and global corporations are determined to employ any, even illegal steps, to destroy SouthFront.  In own turn, SouthFront Team officially declares that we will not surrender and fight against the mainstream censorship and propaganda until our last breath.

Chaotic and illegal attempts of our ill-wishers to damage SouthFront work only confirm that we are on the right track. Dear friends, together, we will be able to overcome any challenges and difficulties and fight back against the mainstream censorship and propaganda.

SUPPORT THE RESISTANCE

Gilad Atzmon on Adam Green’s Know More News

 BY GILAD ATZMON

Adam Green and myself discuss questions to do with the current authoritarian shift and the centrality of Jewish sensitivities in this transition.

Help SouthFront To Fight Back US State Department & Co

Help SouthFront To Fight Back US State Department & Co

 14.08.2020 

DEAR FRIENDS,

SouthFront is facing an increasing agressive censorship and pressure campaign from Euro-Atlantic structures and global corporations.

Over the past months, YouTube and Facebook have contributed extensive efforts to suppress SouthFront work on these platforms. (LINKLINK) Just recently, the US Department of State released an official report calling SouthFront a “pillar” of “Russia’s disinformation and propaganda” simultaneously asking millions of dollars to fight SouthFront. The requested FY 2021 budget of the US Department of Satate’s Global Engagement Center, tasked with preparing fairy tales and justifying the censorship of SouthFront, is $138 million. This is $11,500,000 per month. At the same time, SouthFront’s monthly donation duget needed to continue our work is merely $5,000.

While Euro-Atlantic structures remain scared by mighty SouthFront, our team continues its struggle to keep SouthFront alive and continue its work and further.

Since August 1, we’ve collected $1,162. This is about 23% of the needed monthly budget. If SouthFront is not able to collect the needed amount, our work next month will be in a grave danger. We urgently need your help.

Help SouthFront To Fight Back US State Department & Co

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Three Dead in India’s Bengaluru over “Derogatory” FB Post on Prophet Mohammad

Three Dead in India’s Bengaluru over “Derogatory” FB Post on Prophet Mohammad

By Staff, Agencies 

Angry crowds went on a rampage in the Kaval Byrasandra area of Bengaluru over a Facebook post, shared by P. Naveen, nephew of Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, a Congress legislator from the Pulakeshinagar area. Violence engulfed parts of India’s “Silicon Valley” last night as protesters and police locked horns.

At least three people died and dozens of people were left injured in the Indian city of Bengaluru on Tuesday night after police opened fire at a mob protesting a “derogatory post” that insulted the Prophet Mohammad [PBUH].

The post is said to have been shared on social media by P. Naveen, nephew of Karnataka Congress state legislator Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy from Pulakeshinagar.

A total of 110 people have been arrested in connection with the violence. The wounded also included 60 policemen, local media reported.

According to media reports, protesters reached police stations to file their complaints against the now-deleted Facebook post.

Naveen claimed that his Facebook account had been hacked and he had no idea about the post that was causing the upheaval.

Demonstrators later gathered in front of the house of Naveen’s uncle and state legislator Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, located in the city’s Kaval Byrsandra area, and began hurling stones.

Hundreds of cars parked outside were also set on fire, police said.

Photos and videos of the violence have gone viral on social media. Senior Karnataka Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao also tweeted about the “horrible situation” last night.

In the midst of the violence, a group of Muslim protesters formed a human chain to protect any attack on Hindu temples in the area in a bid to prevent a further deterioration of the situation.

Sandeep Patil, the Joint Commissioner of Police [Crime], Bengaluru, has revealed to the media that P. Naveen, the nephew of the Congress legislator, has also been arrested.

Karnataka state chief B.S Yediyurappa said strict action would be taken against the guilty people who caused the attacks.

He wrote on Twitter: “The attack on journalists, the police, and the public in the riot last night is unpredictable. The government will not tolerate such provocations and rumors. Strict action against perpetrators is certain”.

Facebook Threatens to Censor IMEMC

August 11, 2020 4:13 AM

IMEMC

Dear IMEMC readers: The IMEMC has recently received messages from Facebook telling us our page is “at risk of being restricted or unpublished”.

There is no way to appeal this threat, or counter the false claim that our page and website are “low quality”. We have tried many ways to reach Facebook, but have come across an impenetrable Wall in which there is no customer service line, no email contact, no appeals process – in short, no way to reach any humans at Facebook to challenge their claims.

So we would like to publicly present this question to Facebook (and readers, if you have some special knowledge or way to reach Facebook, please pass this along):

  • What exactly about our original, on-the-ground reporting about Israel-Palestine has ‘inauthentic content’ and is ‘low quality’? Please provide specific examples.
  • What have we reported on our page that is false? Our reports come from on-the-ground witnesses and reporters.
  • The definition provided of ‘inauthentic behavior’ and ‘low-quality content’ — that it is full of ads or spam — is clearly not the case, as we have no ads on our website.

Please, dear readers, support the IMEMC anyway you can, and ensure that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, are inalienable rights that should not be suppressed.

We at the IMEMC reject all forms of injustice, all forms of racism, sexism, discrimination, and strongly believe all people are born equal.

We also believe in the peoples’ right to struggle for liberation and independence, and that nobody is better than anybody else because of their gender, race, religion, or anything else.

Please help us continue our work, and support the IMEMC with a financial contribution so we can fight back against this blatant attempt to suppress free speech and independent journalism! We remain the only Palestinian-led news organization that is entirely supported by reader donations, with no foundations, corporate grants or political party funding that would diminish our independence.

SOUTHFRONT DECLARES MASS MOBILIZATION!

DEAR FRIENDS,

WE CALL ON YOU TO SHARE INFORMATION SOUTHFRONT AND SHARE SOUTHFRONT CONTENT ON YOUTUBE AND FACEBOOK AS WIDE AS POSSIBLE

In the situation of the increasing censorship of SouthFront on YouTube, Facebook, our unity is our main strength. Only together, we will be able to overcome the wide-scale censorship campaign run by the Euro-Atlantic establishment against independent media.

Please, share this message with the global audience. Also, please, inform your friends, your social circles about SouthFront as an independent platform covering crucial developments in the Middle East and around the world.

UPLOAD SOUTHFRONT VIDEOS ON YOUR PERSONAL YOUTUBE CHANNELS AND FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS

A good example of this appraoch is demonstrated by Pommy Pie on YouTube:

DEAR FRIENDS,

WE CALL ON YOU TO SHARE INFORMATION SOUTHFRONT AND SHARE SOUTHFRONT CONTENT ON YOUTUBE AND FACEBOOK AS WIDE AS POSSIBLE

In the situation of the increasing censorship of SouthFront on YouTube, Facebook, our unity is our main strength. Only together, we will be able to overcome the wide-scale censorship campaign run by the Euro-Atlantic establishment against independent media.

Please, share this message with the global audience. Also, please, inform your friends, your social circles about SouthFront as an independent platform covering crucial developments in the Middle East and around the world.

UPLOAD SOUTHFRONT VIDEOS ON YOUR PERSONAL YOUTUBE CHANNELS AND FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS

A good example of this appraoch is demonstrated by Pommy Pie on YouTube:

Southfront Declares Mass Mobilization!

SOUTHFRONT DECLARES MASS MOBILIZATION

SouthFront once again declares that we are open for volunteers. Our contact email is southfront.org.

The main fields in which our team needs help:

  • Sharing of SouthFront content on Social Media;
  • Writers that are interested to cover developments and prepare analyses in the field of SouthFront coverage;
  • Regional and military analysts;
  • Designers;
  • Video makers;
  • Voiceover artists.

SouthFront is a crowdfunded endeavour. If you want to influence the global politics and further, and force the US State Department & Co release even more fairy tales in an attempt to silence independent media, support SouthFront by donations.

WE ARE THE RESITANCE!

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The Open Society and its Giant Enemies

twitter.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

 A few days ago I received this warning message from Twitter: 

 “Hi Gilad Atzmon, 

Your account, @GiladAtzmon has been locked for violating the Twitter Rules. I was accused by this anti social network of “violating” their  “rules against hateful conduct.”

The message took me by surprise as hatred is foreign to me. In fact, I dedicate a considerable amount of my energy to exposing the racism, racial supremacy and biological determinism that are found in many identitarian discourses. 

Twitter wrote to me “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”

Here is my 5 year old tweet that prompted action by twitter:

 @GiladAtzmon

_What can Jews do about #Antisemitism? Simple– look in the mirror– introspect. #Palestine #Zionism #Israel #BDS

what can jews do.png

 It seems that Twitter considers it  ‘hateful’ to  ask people to “look in the mirror”, to “introspect,” to consider the ‘remote’ possibility that maybe some of the Jewish State’s policies and practices may reflect badly on the Jews as a whole. I would like Twitter to explain to us how calling on people  to “introspect”  “promotes violence” or “threaten[s] or harass[es] people on the basis of race?” 

Twitter must have known that I didn’t commit any ‘hateful speech’ and offered me the chance to erase my 5 year old tweet that no one except my devoted Zionist stalkers would notice and who managed to pinpoint four other ‘hateful’ statements by me.  

Apparently sarcasm isn’t well received by Twitter’s moderators. They demanded that I also delete this 4 year old tweet:

@GiladAtzmon

I suggest instead of referring to the Swastika we just call it ‘Star of Adolf,’ it sounds friendly and it puts David’s in context…”

I accept that some Jews are upset by my dark cynicism, but considering the disastrous crimes that are committed by the country that decorates its tanks and airplanes with Stars of David, this is another call for Jews to introspect, to look in the mirror, to self-reflect. It by no means “promotes violence”, “threatens”, or “harasses” anyone. If anything it replicates the early Zionist insight which I agree with, that before anything else, Jews must first find their way to become ‘people like all other people.’ 

 Twitter also asked me to remove this exchange with an ardent Zionist: 

“@GiladAtzmon

@Saul_Freeman because the real holocaust is what you People do to Palestinians.”

I understand that I violated a tenet of the holocaust religion that no one is allowed to apply the H-word to any other people’s suffering. Certainly, no one is allowed to point at the slow genocide of the Palestinians. 

I don’t intend to bore you with each statement Twitter finds hateful. It doesn’t take much  to figure out that  Twitter was subjected to a Zionist blitz aimed at silencing me.  To some extent it was reassuring that my detractors couldn’t find a single remotely hateful statement in my entire Twitter oeuvre. And it was amusing to see how upset this caricature Zionist was to find out that my Twitter account was still active.  https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1291278513534902281&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fgilad.online%2Fwritings%2F2020%2F8%2F8%2Fthe-open-society-and-its-giant-enemies&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

 What is clear to a growing number of people, perhaps most Westerners, is that Twitter, like FB and  Google are not what they initially promised to be. It took little time for these internet platforms to morph into authoritarian and draconian thought police. If there was an initial promise to emancipate us through the internet, it is gone, the internet giants have become the most rigid oppressive and totalitarian forces leading us into the next dark age. 

The chutzpah, and I indeed deliberately use the Yiddish word in this context,  exceeds former totalitarian oppressive measures. This time it is not our rulers, tyrants or monarchs who make us fearful of our own thoughts. It is not political parties who make us walk on our tiptoes. In 2020 Internet companies even suspend the activity of democratically elected  leaders if they don’t fit with the Zuckerberg agenda or Twitter’s ‘progressive’ goals. In 2020 Zuckerberg and a few of Google’s directors decide what scientists are allowed to say about Covid 19. In August 2020 the internet giants claimed to know what eradicated Beirut before even the Pentagon or the Lebanese produced an explanation.  

Once again I find myself  reiterating that the Tyranny of Correctness is at the very heart of the Jerusalemite ethos. While Athens introduces us to philosophy, science, logos, beauty – Jerusalem, is considered the city of revelation,  is all about obedience. In Jerusalem, we follow mitzvoth and commandments. In Jerusalem, ethics (the making of moral judgments)  is replaced by rules that dictate an image of morality. Jerusalem decrees what we can say, Athens teaches us how to think for ourselves. 

The USA was born as an Athenian realm. It was the Land of the Free, not because it has ever been free, but because it was inspired by the notion of freedom.  Not much is left out of this aspiration.  America, like Britain, France and other Western countries is now a Jerusalemite colony, its regime of correctness is defined by foreign sensitivities. 

For the West to stop its rapid decline, it must –  and right now, before it is too late, to reinstate its fidelity to the Athenian creed. If the West wants to survive, it must ensure that it isn’t a Zuckerberg, in whatever form, who defines the boundaries of the Covid-19 debate. It should not be Youtube that decides which doctors and scientists are kosher enough to deserve airtime.  

For us to have a prospect of hope, Jerusalem must be reduced into its natural magnitude.  The Zionists who are upset by such  thoughts should bear in mind that Zionism succeeded in achieving its early objectives because its Zionist founders rejected Jerusalem. Their aim was to make Zion into an Athenian province. Their mission ultimately failed, but not before it inspired some Jews to believe in the possibility of a metamorphosis.  

Thanks for supporting Gilad’s battle for truth and justice.

My battle for truth involves a serious commitment and some substantial expenses. I have put my career on the line, I could do with your support..

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Video: Covid-19 and the Censorship of Medical Doctors. LancetGate and the Suppression of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, July 30, 2020

Medical doctors at an event in front of the US Supreme Court are accused of making false statements.  

The video of their press conference was removed by Youtube and Facebook. They are accused by CNN of spreading “fake science”

The doctors put forth Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as an effective Covid-19 cure.

Why were they smeared by CNN? Why were they the object of censorship?   

According to CNN, Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is sponsored by “Fake Pharma companies”. What utter nonsense.  The unspoken truth is that the statement of the medical doctors goes against the interests of Big Pharma. 

In this video, Professor Michel Chossudovsky reveals how a peer reviewed report in The Lancet  was used “to kill” the legitimacy of HCQ as a cure of Covid-19.  It was later revealed that the Lancet HCQ study was based on fake data. The author of the peer reviewed report apologized.

“I’m truly sorry”…  And the report was retracted by The Lancet, which acknowledged that the data was fabricated. The media remained silent on what constitutes “Fake Science”. 

VIDEO

The Lancet article was retracted,

India’s “Playing Hard to Get” with America by Letting the AIIB Fund China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky,

Global Research, 2020

Related Video

IMPRESSIONS FROM AN INFORMAL MEETING WITH ASMA AL-ASSAD, SYRIA’S FIRST LADY

By Eva Bartlett

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*(All photos taken from the Facebook page “Asma al Assad – Syria’s First Lady“)

I had been sitting in a small entrance room for what seemed less than a minute when the door opened and Syria’s first lady, Her Excellency Asma al-Assad, greeted me with a warm smile, welcoming me inside a slightly larger sitting room. In official meetings I had had over the years in Syria, I was accustomed to a secretary or assistant escorting me into the meeting room. Asma al-Assad, however, does things up close and personal.

Over the years in Syria, I had heard from people I encountered that she and President Assad routinely meet with their fellow Syrians in crowded venues, mixing and engaging with the people. I had also seen countless photos and videos of the Assads visiting Syrians in their homes around the country.

While I have been to Syria over a dozen times in the past seven years, it had never occurred to me to request a meeting with the first lady. But when that opportunity recently presented itself, I leapt at the chance to speak with one of the most beloved figures in Syria, and to hear her thoughts on her country, her fellow Syrians, and on the plights they are all in. And as it turned out, it was a chance to hear her poignant insights on her role as a mother, a citizen, the wife of the President and a leader in her own right.

Even before assuming the role of Syria’s first lady, Asma al-Assad made it a priority to focus on the development of Syria, and over the years since she’s headed organizations focusing on a range of development issues, including financial, educational and vocational. To effectively work on the many issues she does, her level of awareness of Syrians’ situation on the ground is crucial.

She has travelled widely around Syria, to the smallest villages, to meet with those who could benefit from the various organizations she heads. Videos abound of the first lady, and also the president, visiting wounded soldiers, families of martyrs, cancer patients, and impoverished Syrians, greeting them with hugs and kisses to their cheeks. They often sit with them on the floor of their homes, listening to them talk about their experiences.

In fact, in an interview she gave in 2002, Asma al-Assad explained:

“I wanted to meet [ordinary Syrians] before they met me. Before the world met me. I was able to spend the first couple of months wandering around, meeting other Syrian people. It was my crash course. I would just tag along with one of the many programmes being run in the rural areas. Because people had no idea who I was, I was able to see people completely honestly, I was able to see what their problems were on the ground, what people are complaining about, what the issues are. What people’s hopes and aspirations are. And seeing it first-hand means you are not seeing it through someone else’s eyes. It was really just to see who they are, what they are doing.”

As I already had an appreciation for what she’s accomplished I approached our recent meeting with a great degree of admiration for the person she is and the compassion she exudes.

Since this meeting was not a formal interview, I did not seek to record the over two hours of conversation with Her Excellency. Immediately after leaving, however, I did jot down as many notes about our conversation as I could recall, and will do my best to do justice to what Asma al-Assad said, sometimes quoting her but in general paraphrasing her words.

Also, while I wish to express the respect she deserves in her role as the first lady, and whereas most would call her Your Excellency, I’m also aware that she isn’t fond of titles and fanfare, one of many traits evidencing her humility. Thus, to find middle ground I will either refer to her as the first lady or Asma al-Assad.

Finally, although I’ve begun this essay with focus on Asma al-Assad and her character, what follows is really about Syria, through her eyes, and at some points my own. From the way she spoke, it is very clear that everything she does for her country is for her country, and she does so with an admirably passionate commitment.

I was admittedly anticipating our meeting, wondering how it might unfold. As it turned out, from the initial greeting, conversation flowed naturally and comfortably, which I attribute not only to Asma al-Assad’s ability to put those she meets with at ease very quickly, but also to the genuine interest and attention she pays everyone she meets.

She asked about my family, and was concerned about my own well being—to which my answer was something along the lines of: I’m very gratefully in the place I would most want to be right now. She asked about my experiences in Palestine in general, and my years in Gaza specifically. This was not feigned interest, as the first lady has consistently shown support for Palestine.

In late 2008/early 2009, when Israel was committing a massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who had nowhere to flee, I was living in Gaza, and during the war riding in ambulances, documenting Israel’s war crimes. For three weeks, civilians were bombarded relentlessly—including with White Phosphorous, DIME, dart (flechette) bombs, drone strikes, Apache and tank shelling, and the massive one ton bomb airstrikes. In the end, Israel’s assault killed over 1400 Palestinians.

During an interview she gave to CNN at the time, Syria’s first lady spoke on the horrors which Palestinians were enduring during the massacre and also due to the inhumane Israeli siege on Gaza, rendering Gaza a prison. She spoke movingly of the over 80 percent of Palestinians in Gaza reliant on food aid to merely survive, the nearly 1 million (there are far more now) who don’t have access to clean water, and on many of the other sordid realities about life under siege in Gaza.

“This is the 21st Century. Where in the world could this happen? Unfortunately, it is happening. Just imagine your children living in Gaza. Mothers in Gaza can’t cook. Why can’t they cook? Because they don’t have access to fuel, they don’t even have access to the basic foodstuffs that are required to get a meal together, so children don’t eat. You put your children to bed at night and you expect to see them in the morning. That’s a luxury that people in Gaza just do not have. So what would it be like for you, living under those circumstances?”

WORKING FOR SYRIANS

During our meeting I commented on her work drive, knowing that throughout the past months when around the world things have slowed to a halt she has continued working on issues related to Syria’s development and empowering Syrians from all walks of life.

In May she participated in a workshop with staff of Jarih al-Watan (The Nation’s Wounded), a national veteran support program created in 2014 to help injured soldiers rebuild their lives and reintegrate back into society. The program provides support in several key areas including physical rehabilitation, mental health, education grants, vocational training and financial aid for small and medium enterprises.

The first lady explained that working hard is natural for her. She graduated from university quite young and started working professionally at age 21. When it comes to her work for Syrians, it’s more than her natural drive, it is something she is compelled to do for her country.

She talked to me about her cancer treatment (2018-2019), saying that people likely expected her to stay home, to discontinue work or at least work less because she was ill and undergoing treatment. But for her, how could she, for example, delay a child from getting treatment for a hearing aid, or delay a patient from getting medical care, “simply because I was feeling tired.”

Most people who have had a cold or flu would stay home during their illness, justifiably so. That Asma al-Assad refused to do so while enduring cancer treatment and all of the painful and exhausting side effects speaks volumes to her devotion to her people, a point worth stressing given that Western media has done their utmost to vilify her and the President.

Apart from her development work, the first lady quietly works to change antiquated mindsets on how to do things in Syria. She is also keen to encourage people in general, especially children, including her own, to think for themselves.

“We are trying to encourage young people to ask questions and think critically, which should be in line with democracy and freedom of opinion…”

Encouraging critical thinking and questioning of everything are traits that make for a more open society. For at least the past decade, the US and allies have preached about wanting freedom and democracy in Syria. But while gushing about freedom, they were funding and supporting terrorism, illegally occupying Syrian land, stealing Syrian oil, and prolonging terrorism in the country.

The forward-thinking approach Asma al-Assad embodies could lead to changes for the better in Syria. Yet, because the West is on a mission to impose a government which will do America’s bidding, people and policies that are actually good for Syria are dismissed and ridiculed by America and her allies.

Meanwhile, ironically, in Western countries, censorship has become increasingly rife, with dissenting voices being deleted from Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook, and with critical articles on current events being labelled as “fake news” by Western-government affiliated so-called “fact checkers”.

The first lady noted, “People are being steered by a narrative. They are not allowed to have an opinion any longer. There’s now no freedom of speech in the West.”

IMPACTS OF AMERICA’S DEADLY SANCTIONS

In June, America again ratcheted up its decades-old sanctions on Syria, adding a new round of sanctions meant to utterly debilitate the people of Syria— who’ve already suffered nearly ten years of war.

Every day where I am now in Syria, I hear and see things that drive home just how utterly brutal the US sanctions are: a friend whose aunt can’t get the medications needed for her cancer, another friend whose cousin died as a result of not getting the medications he needed for his chronic illness.

The sanctions are deliberately targeting Syrian civilians, and that is the intent of the United States. The US pretext of “helping Syrians” by sanctioning their country is sociopathic double-speak. The reality is they are slowly killing Syrians.

Under the latest sanctions, civilians are denied medicines, access to up to date medical equipment, and as a consequence, denied medical treatment.

The first lady spoke on how much harder life has gotten for Syrians.

“The medical equipment in Syria (like radiotherapy) needed to treat cancer patients is outdated and it is getting harder and harder to maintain these machines and keep them working. With the sanctions, chemotherapy drugs have become harder to source decreasing the likelihood of patients surviving cancer. If I was facing cancer now instead of two years ago, I wouldn’t be able to get the needed treatment. This is the case for Syrians now.”

I asked about importing the materials needed for local manufacturing. But the problem is, she told me, companies cancel contracts for fear of being punished by the US for violating sanctions.

The first lady asked me what I noticed in recent visits to Syria. I said that I had imagined things would be better after the 2018 liberation of eastern Ghouta and other areas occupied by terrorists and the cessation of their daily mortar and missile attacks on residential areas of Damascus.

But although there is peace, people I meet are despondent about the future. Young people want to leave, to find work or study abroad. And while Syria has started to rebuild, the truth is we don’t know how long that will take, particularly given that the latest sanctions target reconstruction as well. Nor do people know how or when the economy will improve.

The shattered economy is largely a product of ten years of terrorism, war, the sanctions, and the US-Turkish theft and destruction of Syria’s resources, particularly oil. The Syria-wide bout of crop fires in wheat and barley growing regions has devastated farmers and contributes to the country’s economic woes. Farmers blame US and Turkish occupation forces for deliberately setting some of the fires, with Turkish forces even allegedly firing on farmers to keep them from extinguishing the flames.

Destroying the economy, starving the people, bringing people to their knees, in hopes they will vote against their president. That is the US strategy.

However, the US and allies have from day one underestimated the Syrian people. Syrians have shown the world the meaning of steadfastness, facing the most powerful nations and their terrorist proxies, and rising undefeated. But doing so with untold, tragic losses.

HONOURING THE SACRIFICES OF SYRIAN SOLDIERS

The first lady spoke of supporting micro businesses as a long term strategy to improve the economy for all, not just for some. This is something she’s been doing for nearly twenty years in Syria, with a variety of initiatives on microfinance, funding and training.

Tied into this is the vocational training that enables startup projects.

This June, at Nasmet Jabal, in a mountainous area in northwestern Syria, I saw wounded former Syrian soldiers receiving vocational training, learning cheese and yogurt making, staples of the Syrian diet. In previous years, at a Damascus community centre supported by the Syria Trust, I saw women learning sewing skills, likewise to enable them to be employed or start their own businesses.

When speaking of her and her husband’s approach to raising their children, Asma al-Assad noted the importance of their children knowing the sacrifices of Syrian soldiers, stressing that her children are able to do the most basic things in life—walk, study, even just be alive—precisely because the army has defended Syria, and in many cases with soldiers paying a deep price in doing so.

This is one reason their three children frequently appear with the first lady and president in their visits to wounded soldiers.

Last month at the vocational training, I heard the testimonies of a number of such wounded soldiers, suffering injuries that should be life-shattering. But like wounded soldiers I’ve met over the years, they shared an inspirational drive to rebuild their lives, physically, materially and emotionally

In February 2011, Vogue published a surprisingly honest article on the first lady and her work for Syria, titled “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert.” Although Vogue later removed it from their website, I would encourage people to read the archived copy. It gives a detailed sense of the work and life of the first lady. The author spent several days with Asma al-Assad, getting informative glimpses into the workings of her foundations, and of the first lady herself.

I was told some months ago that when the first lady learned of the title, she was not pleased as one might have expected.

“I am not the only rose, you are all roses,” she said to a room of women at the Syria Trust for Development.

Throughout Syria’s history women have played prominent roles, from Queen Zenobia in the 3rd century AD, to women defending Syria against terrorism, to Nibal Madhat Badr first female Brigadier General in the Syrian Army, to the mothers of martyrs.

Syria’s Vice President, Najah Al-Attar, is a woman, as is Bouthaina Shaaban, media and political advisor to the president. Armenian MP Nora Arissian and former independent MP Maria Saadeh are among countless others.

Asma al-Assad also balked at the portrayal of Syria as a desert, a portrayal physically depicting the country as a vast sandy region, but also incorrectly implying a lack of culture and education, a sense of backwardness.

Just as the cultural mosaic is vast and varied, so is Syria’s landscape, with snowy mountains, steaming coastal areas replete with citrus and banana trees, rolling hills in the northwest, and yes desert areas to the east.

Anyone who has had the fortune to come to Syria likewise is aware of how empowered women are, how rich the culture is, and how valued education is. Art and music flourish here. Teenagers participate in science Olympiads.

In the past four months, I’ve had some opportunities to see more of Syria’s beautiful landscapes that I’ve described. Prior to the war, Syria was a popular tourist destination, particularly for its rich culture and landscapes, as well as for its ancient areas and cities and historic sites.

But historic and cultural sites aside, there is an aspect of Syria’s history and culture that the first lady is extremely worried about losing: the intangible culture, customs passed down through generations. A dialect gets lost because people who fled an area sometimes will not return.

She told me of a village woman who still hand makes Freekah (whole grains of wheat harvested while still green) in the traditional way. But most young people in the village have left, so that tradition won’t be passed down.

Syria is trying to document its intangible culture, a monumental task considering how much there is to document.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ll conclude by saying that whereas over the past decade there has been a systematic effort by Western media, politicians and government-aligned “human rights” groups to vilify the first lady, president and army, the reality on the ground is in stark contrast to the propaganda emanating from Washington.

Anyone who has followed the war on Syria, and the Western aggression against so many nations, will be aware that one of the first things America and allies does is to vilify the leadership, those same leaders they may have previously praised as being moderate.

The abrupt removal shortly after publication by Vogue of its feature on the first lady is a perfect example of the media being directed to not allow any positive reflections on Syria’s key figures. Only cartoonish denominations are allowed in Western media now. The 2002 interview with Asma al-Assad which I referenced at the start was published in the Guardian, an outlet which has since become a prime source of the most vile war propaganda against Syria and the whitewashing of terrorists’ crimes.

Meeting Syria’s first lady confirmed what I already knew from speaking with countless Syrians over the years, and from observing from afar the work she does: she is a strong, intelligent, down to earth, and compassionate woman dedicated to empowering and helping her fellow Syrians.

I am extremely grateful for the time I had with her. At a time of global instability, sitting with Asma al-Assad was calming and inspiring.

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SYSTEMATIC CENSORSHIP: GOOGLE BANS TSARGRADTV’S YT CHANNEL AND ENTIRE ACCOUNT

South Front

In the very early hours of July 28th, the YouTube channel of TsargradTV was entirely banned, without an explanation.

“Now, until the situation is fully cleared up, instead of an official channel with high-quality video content, YouTube shows our viewers a black plug. The million-strong audience of Tsargrad, in fact, was cut off from the truth, which we were not afraid to speak directly on the air.”

TsargradTV is suing YouTube over its channel being closed.

“We have not received any alerts, notifications or strikes from YouTube. Moreover, the administration of the service still does not explain the reasons for the blocking. They simply refuse to get in touch with us, so we plan to resolve the conflict in court,” said the editor of the TV channel Daria Tokareva.

In addition, Tsargrad is preparing an official appeal to the YouTube administration demanding the restoration of the channel.

The largest media outlets wrote about the blocking of the Tsargrad TV channel on YouTube. Comments on the decision of the administration of the service appeared in a number of telegram channels, dozens of accounts on social networks.

Google, however, has chosen not to enter in any sort of discussion with TsargradTV.

Only in an interview with the Moscow city news agency did the press service of Google say the following:

“Google complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws. If we find that an account is in violation of these laws, we will take appropriate action.”

As such, Google simply said that it adheres to US sanctions on the territory of Russia.

As such, Tsargrad’s entire Google account was also blocked.

Systematic Censorship: Google Bans TsargradTV's YT Channel and Entire Account

“Your Google account has been locked and cannot be restored, due to a violation of export laws. If you’ve any queries, refer to a lawyer.”

The reason for blocking of the accounts allegedly was “violation of export laws.”

According to SocialBlade, the channel had 1.06 million subscribers the day before the block.

At the same time, the YouTube channel of the Two-Headed Eagle Society, headed by Konstantin Malofeev, the founder of Tsargrad, was also blocked.

YouTube’s notice reads: “Blocked for violating community guidelines.”

The Tsargrad channel, which appeared in 2015, positions itself as “the first Russian conservative information and analytical TV channel,” since the end of 2017 they stopped broadcasting and completely switched to online.

At the same time, in the fall of 2017, Malofeev created the “Two-Headed Eagle”, which he defined as “a society for the development of Russian historical enlightenment”; its goal is to promote monarchism and the history of pre-revolutionary Russia.

Malofeev himself has been under the sanctions of the European Union, the United States and Canada since 2014 due to accusations of financing the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.

SouthFront itself was recently banned on YouTube without a due explanation, and the support team continues the struggle against censorship.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Another Stage In Agressive War Against SouthFront

Source

Another Stage In Agressive War Against SouthFront

After the termination of SouthFront’s Facebook and YouTube accounts, our ill-wishers have moved to attempts to damage or interrupt the work of our website: southfront.org.

Most recently, you may have noticed that every day at about 14:00-15:00 CEST, southfront.org slows down. This happens because this period is often the peak of attacks on the website.

A few examples:

Another Stage In Agressive War Against SouthFront

Another Stage In Agressive War Against SouthFront

SouthFront Team contributes all possible efforts to keep the website operational and apologies for any inconvenience incurred due to the current situation.

SOUTHFRONT OPERATES THANKS TO THE AUDIENCE’S DONATIONS. OUR WORK IS NOT POSSIBLE WITHOUT YOUR HELP.

Since July 1, SouthFront has collected 382 USD. This is 7.6% of the monthly budget needed to keep SouthFront working and further.

Another Stage In Agressive War Against SouthFront

SUPPORT OUR WORK:

SouthFront Is Censored Under Cover of Pandemic

Censorship of alternative media is becoming more widespread in the COVID19 era. This article documents the case of SouthFront.

By Rick Sterling

Global Research, June 09, 2020

Introducing SouthFront

Where do you find daily news, videos, analysis and maps about the conflict in Syria?  Detailed reports about the conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Venezuela?  News about the rise of ISIS in Mozambique?  Original analysis of events in the US and Russia?  SouthFront is the place.

SouthFront is unique and influential, reaching a global audience of hundreds of thousands. They have  opinion articles but their reports and videos are informational and factual. Their website says,

“SouthFront focuses on issues of international relations, armed conflicts and crises…. We try to dig out the truth on issues which are barely covered by the states concerned and the mainstream media.”

Censorship by Facebook and YouTube

A major disinformation and censorship drive against SouthFront was recently launched.  On April 30 the SouthFront Facebook account with about 100,000 subscribers was deleted without warning or notice.

On May 1,  SouthFront’s main YouTube account with over 150 thousand subscribers was terminated. The English language channel had 1,900 uploaded videos with 60 million views over the past 5 years.

While the SouthFront website continues as before, the above actions remove important distribution channels which SouthFront has painstakingly built up.

The censorship has been accompanied by a parallel disinformation campaign promoted by corporate, governmental and establishment “think tank” organizations.  This is in the context where the US State Department’s  Global Engagement Center (GEC) has a direct liaison with Silicon Valley companies and teams focused on “countering the propaganda” from Russia, China and Iran with a current budget of $60 million per year.

In a March 2020 hearingSenator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) lobbied for increased funding and more censorship. He said, “It’s hard to chase one lie after another. You have to actually go after the source and expose the source as illegitimate or untrustworthy, is that right?” Lea Gabrielle, head of GEC, responded “That’s correct.”

When the Senator says “it’s hard to chase one lie after another“, he is acknowledging that it’s often hard to show that it’s a lie. Even more so when it is not a lie. It is much easier for the authorities to simply say the source is untrustworthy- or better yet to eliminate them – as they have tried to do with SouthFront.

False Accusations by Facebook

The elimination of SouthFront’s Facebook account was based on a Facebook sponsored investigation titled “April 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report”.  The 28 page report says,

We’re constantly working to find and stop coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate across our platforms….We view influence operations as coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation…. This month we removed eight networks of accounts, Pages and Groups….. Our investigation linked this activity to … two media organizations in Crimea – News Front and SouthFront. We found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

First, SouthFront is not trying to “manipulate public debate”; they are providing news and information which is difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere.  It seems to be the censors who are trying to manipulate debate by shutting out some voices.

Second, SouthFront does not have “fake accounts”; they have a public website plus standard social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube (until cancelled). Third, SouthFront has no connection to NewsFront nor operations in Crimea.

NewsFront and SouthFront are completely different organizations. They share the name “Front” but that is irrelevant. Does Facebook confuse the New York Times with Moscow Times?  After all, they both have “Times” in their title.

Facebook has shut down SouthFront on the basis of misinformation and smears.

False Accusations by DFRLab

The  Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) was created by the Atlantic Council, a “non partisan organization that galvanizes US global leadership”. It is another organization which is quick to label alternative foreign policy voices as “Russian propaganda”. DFRLab claims to have “operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news”. They reported the censorship of SouthFront with a report titled “Facebook removes Russian propaganda outlet in Ukraine” with subtitle “The social network took down assets connected to News Front and SouthFront, propaganda websites supportive of Russian security services”.  They reported that the two “demonstrated a close relationship by liking each other’s pages.” As anyone who uses Facebook is aware, it is common to “like” a wide variety of articles and publications. The suggestion that “liking” an article proves a close relationship is silly.

The DFRLab  report says News Front and SouthFront “disseminated pro-Kremlin propaganda in an array of languages, indicating they were attempting to reach a diverse, international audience beyond Russia.”

First, NewsFront and SouthFront are completely distinct and separate organizations.  Second, is there anything unusual about a website trying to expand and reach different audiences? Don’t all publications or outlets do that?  This is a tactic of the new censors: to portray normal behavior as sinister.

Another censorship tactic is to assert that it is impermissible to question the veracity of certain findings.  Thus DFRLab report says NewsFront posted “outright disinformation” when it published a story that “denied the culpability of Russian-backed separatists’ involvement in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH-17”.  They suggest this proves it is Russian propaganda and false. However, the facts about the downing of MH-17 are widely disputed. For example. one of the foremost American investigative journalists, the late Robert Parry, came to the same conclusion that the MH-17 investigation was manipulated and the shoot-down was probably NOT as portrayed. Parry did many articles on this important event, confirming that it is not “Russian propaganda”.

The Atlantic Council is one of the most influential US “think tanks”. It appears they have created the DFRLab as a propaganda tool to disparage and silence the sources of alternative information and analysis.

Disinformation by European Council “Task Force”   

The goals and priorities of the European Union are set by the European Council.  They are also increasingly active in suppressing alternative information and viewpoints.

In 2015 the European Council created a East StratCom Task Force to “address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns”. Their major project is called EUvsDISINFO. They say,

“Using data analysis and media monitoring services in 15 languages, EUvsDISINFO identifies, compiles, and exposes disinformation cases originating in pro-Kremlin media.”

This organization is part of the disinformation campaign against SouthFront. In April 2019 they published an analysis “SouthFront – Russia Hiding Being Russian“. The story falsely claims that SouthFront “attempts to hide the fact it is registered and managed in Russia.”  The SouthFront team is international and includes Russians along with numerous other nationalities. Key spokespersons  are a Bulgarian, Viktor Stoilov, and an American, Brian Kalman. They do not hide the fact that the website is registered in Russia or that PayPal donations go to an account in Russia. The website is hosted by a service in Holland. It is genuinely international.

EUvsDISINFO demonstrates disinformation tactic of falsely claiming to have “exposed” something that is “hidden” when it is public information. There is nothing sinister about collaboration between different nationalities including Russia. EUvsDISINFO suggests there are sinister “pro-Kremlin networks”.  In reality, SouthFront is a website run by a dedicated and underpaid staff and lots of volunteers.  While the European Council gives millions of dollars to EUvsDISINFO, SouthFront operates on a tiny budget without government support from Russia or anywhere else.

False accusations by US Department of Defense

On April 9,  the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Laura Cooper, spoke at a press briefing.  She identifies SouthFront by name and accuses them of “reporting that there actually was no pandemic and that some deaths in Italy might in fact have been from the common flu”.

The first accusation is because of the SouthFront article “Pandemic of Fear”. In contrast with the accusation, the article says, “The COVID-19 outbreak is an apparent threat which cannot be ignored.”  The article also discusses the much less reported but widespread pandemic of fear.

The second false accusation is regarding the high death toll in Italy. SouthFront reported the findings of a report from the Italian Ministry of Health which suggested the previous mild winter and flu season had “led to an increase in the pool of those most vulnerable (the elderly and those with chronic illnesses) that can increase the impact of the epidemic COVID-19 on mortality and explain, at least in part, the increased lethality observed in our country.” This is very different than saying the deaths were caused by the common flu. In any case, the findings came directly from Italian health authorities not SouthFront.

In the same press conference, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense says she wishes to “reign in malign actors that are spreading misleading disruptive information”.   The censors claim the higher ground but engage in misinformation and falsehoods as they seek to silence discussion and debate.

Conclusion

There is a coordinated effort to manipulate and restrict what the public sees and hears in both North America and Europe.  Under the guise of “fact checking” and stopping “Russian propaganda”, the establishment has created private and government sponsored  censors to distort and diminish  questioning media.  They label alternative media “Russian” or “pro Kremlin” even though many of the researchers and writers are from the West and have no connection or dependency on the Russian government.

SouthFront is an example of a media site doing important and original reporting and analysis.  It is truly international with offices in several countries. The staff and volunteers include people from four continents. The censorship and vilification they are facing seems to be because they are providing information and analysis which contradicts the western mainstream narrative.

In recent developments, SouthFront is posting videos to a secondary YouTube channel called SouthFront TV. When that was also taken down on May 16, they challenged the ruling and won. The channel was restored with the acknowledgment “We have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of our Terms of Service.”

SouthFront is still trying to have their main channel with 152K subscribers restored. Their Facebook account is still shut down and attempts to disparage their journalism continues. The censorship has escalated during the Covid19 crisis.

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Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at rsterling1@protonmail.com.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Rick Sterling, Global Research, 2020

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