by Michael Shellenberger
Over the last three months, a small group of independent journalists, including Leighton and I, have, thanks to the Twitter Files, exposed the ways in which social media platforms have, under pressure from U.S. government agencies, censored ordinary Americans and spread disinformation.
Today, at 10 am ET, journalist Matt Taibbi and I will testify before Congress and reveal the existence of a secret censorship-industrial complex in the United States.
Our findings are shocking. A highly-organized network of U.S. government agencies and government contractors has been creating blacklists and pressuring social media companies to censor Americans, often without them knowing it.
We and others have already reported on some of the actions of this complex, including its disinformation campaigns. But the extent of its censorship was unknown to us until very recently. And, as importantly, we now understand the ways in which this complex simultaneously spreads disinformation and demands censorship.
What my 68-page testimony to Congress shows is an effort by U.S. government intelligence and security agencies to wage “information warfare” against the American people.
I do not doubt that some people will try to justify the behaviors we have documented. They will say such censorship is necessary for “fighting disinformation.”
But there is no moral or legal justification for the acts of state-sponsored censorship we document, much less for the fundamentally unAmerican censorship-industrial complex.
I believe that any reasonable person reading our report, no matter their politics, will be horrified by what is taking place and demand an end to it.
With our testimony, we are calling on Congress to defund and dismantle the censorship-industrial complex immediately.
Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Both are under attack.
PS: A written transcript of my verbal testimony, which summarizes our findings, is below. I hope you will consider reading the full 68-page document, which can be downloaded by clicking the “download” button.
Censorship Industrial Complex Shellenberger Testimony
515KB ∙ PDF File
by Michael Shellenberger
In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of “the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower feared that the size and power of the “complex,” or cluster, of government contractors and the Department of Defense would “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” How? Through “domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money.” He feared public policy would “become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
Eisenhower’s fears were well-founded. Today, American taxpayers are unwittingly financing the growth and power of a censorship-industrial complex run by America’s scientific and technological elite, which endangers our liberties and democracy. I am grateful for the opportunity to offer this testimony and sound the alarm over the shocking and disturbing emergence of state-sponsored censorship in the United States of America.
The Twitter Files, state attorneys general lawsuits, and investigative reporters have revealed a large and growing network of government agencies, academic institutions, and nongovernmental organizations that are actively censoring American citizens, often without their knowledge, on a range of issues, including on the origins of COVID, COVID vaccines, emails relating to Hunter Biden’s business dealings, climate change, renewable energy, fossil fuels, and many other issues.
I offer some cautions. I do not know how much of the censorship is coordinated beyond what we have been able to document, and I will not speculate. I recognize that the law allows Facebook, Twitter, and other private companies to moderate content on their platforms. And I support the right of governments to communicate with the public, including to dispute inaccurate and misleading information.
But government officials have been caught repeatedly pushing social media platforms to censor disfavored users and content. Often, these acts of censorship threaten the legal protection social media companies need to exist, Section 230
“If government officials are directing or facilitating such censorship,” notes George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, “it raises serious First Amendment questions. It is axiomatic that the government cannot do indirectly what it is prohibited from doing directly.”
Moreover, we know that the U.S. government has funded organizations that pressure advertisers to boycott news media organizations and social media platforms that a) refuse to censor and/or b) spread disinformation, including alleged conspiracy theories.
The Stanford Internet Observatory, the University of Washington, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and Graphika all have inadequately-disclosed ties to the Department of Defense, the C.I.A., and other intelligence agencies. They work with multiple U.S. government agencies to institutionalize censorship research and advocacy within dozens of other universities and think tanks.
It is important to understand how these groups function. They are not publicly engaging with their opponents in an open exchange of ideas. They aren’t asking for a national debate over the limits of the First Amendment. Rather, they are creating blacklists of disfavored people and then pressuring, cajoling, and demanding that social media platforms censor, deamplify, and even ban the people on these blacklists.
Liberal Pinheads always claim the Democrats are for Freedom shows liberals walk around with theirs heads in the Clouds
Democrats put forth a disgusting endorsement of the attack on the 1st Amendment in the House today. Democrats support censorship and they support propaganda. They are the party of the fascist totalitarian police state.