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.

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

SUPPORT THE RESISTANCE:

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.

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:

Undercover Documentaries on the Diabolical Israeli Lobby

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Israeli lobby power exerts enormous influence over nearly all members of Congress. With rare exceptions, House or Senate members don’t dare confront it or criticize Israeli policies, a career ender for some who tried.

Truth-tellers about Israeli state terror risk being intimidated, blackmailed, smeared, pressured, removed from positions of authority, or called national security or terrorist threats.

Israel gets away with mass murder and much more because virtually no one in Washington, other Western capitals, or top UN officials dares challenge its apartheid viciousness, demanding it be held accountable for offenses too horrendous to ignore.

James Petras discussed the lobby’s enormous influence in his important titled “The Power of Israel in the United States.” 

Norman Finkelstein challenged Israel in his book titled “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.” A short article on his book launched my pro bono writing, a second career in retirement. 

Petras, Finkelstein, and others explained Israel’s longstanding abuse of power, its horrendous human and civil rights abuses, institutionalizing racist hate-mongering as official policy.

The lobby’s sinister operations have been ongoing since the early 1950s – AIPAC one of 52 major US Zionist organizations, the most prominent one with enormous influence over US foreign policy. 

The lobby has deep roots throughout government, the business community, the dominant media, academia, the clergy, and powerful wealthy Jewish and other families.

Broad support comes from doctors, lawyers, accountants, other professionals, philanthropists, journalists and other segments of society.

With help from its lobby, Israel created the eternal Jewish victim, the myth of unique Jewish suffering claimed. 

Vested interests take full advantage, deflecting or suppressing Israeli criticism, critics called anti-Semites. 

Criticizing Israel and Zionism have nothing to do with anti-Semitism – hostility or discrimination against Judaism as a religion. Israel is a nation-state. Criticizing its ruthlessness is essential to challenge what’s clearly intolerable.

Claiming otherwise is a long ago discredited canard – still surfacing, disgracefully denigrating Israeli critics, ignoring enormous Jewish state harm to Palestinians and others.

Al Jazeera produced a four-part undercover documentary on the Israeli lobby the Jewish state unsuccessfully tried to suppress – exposing its enormous influence in Britain, saying the following:

“Episode One (Young Friends of Israel): In part one, Al Jazeera Investigations reveals how pro-Israel groups are trying to influence Britain’s youth. 

Episode Two (The Training Session): In part two, our undercover reporter joins a delegation from the Israeli embassy at last year’s Labour Party Conference. 

Episode Three (An Anti-Semitic Trope): In part three, our undercover reporter witnesses a heated conversation between two opposing activists. The evidence raises serious questions about whether accusations of anti-Semitism are used to stifle political debate.

Episode Four (The Takedown): In part four, the senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London discusses a potential plot to ‘take down’ British politicians – including a minister.”

A separate Al Jazeera undercover documentary titled The Lobby USA discusses its enormous influence in Washington.

The Electronic Intifada (EI) obtained a copy, publishing its four episodes, the first two below, the others to come on EI’s website, saying the following:

“To get unprecedented access to the Israel lobby’s inner workings, undercover reporter ‘Tony’ posed as a pro-Israel volunteer in Washington.”

“The resulting film exposes the efforts of Israel and its lobbyists to spy on, smear and intimidate US citizens who support Palestinian human rights, especially BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

“It shows that Israel’s semi-covert black-ops government agency, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is operating this effort in collusion with an extensive network of US-based organizations.”

“These include the Israel on Campus Coalition, The Israel Project and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.”

Watch both documentaries to learn how far the Israeli lobby is willing to go to promote the interests of a ruthless apartheid state – films the Jewish state wants no one to see.

Below are the links to access them:

Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see

Watch final episodes of Al Jazeera film on US Israel lobby

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