The mainstream media insist that the Censorship Industrial Complex is a conspiracy theory, but it's not. It's real. And, now, 138 artists, journalists, and public intellectuals from around the world, and from Left to Right, are calling on governments to dismantle it. pic.twitter.com/lk6O9FZ5U0
— Michael Shellenberger (@shellenberger) October 18, 2023
Since the COVID pandemic, authoritarians in the U.S. and around the world have cynically used claims of “disinformation” to censor ordinary people and stifle dissent about everything from the efficacy of masks and vaccines to the war in Ukraine, the Middle East situation, and Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Whatever your political bent, this new form of speech control is a threat to you.
Only by debating freely in a rapidly fragmenting world can we resolve differences without resorting to violence.
To that end, a group of 136 academics, historians, and journalists from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum have come together to warn President Joe Biden that this rapidly growing censorship regime “undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy.”
In their “Westminster Declaration,” released Wednesday, the international group points out that the best way to combat actual disinformation is with free speech.
“Open discourse is the central pillar of a free society, and is essential for holding governments accountable, empowering vulnerable groups, and reducing the risk of tyranny … We do not want our children to grow up in a world where they live in fear of speaking their minds.”
The eclectic group that has signed the declaration to fight censorship includes: Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, UK Biologist Richard Dawkins, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, actor Tim Robbins, evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, economist Glenn Loury, filmmaker Oliver Stone, whistleblower Edward Snowden, British comedian John Cleese, Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek, British journalist Matt Ridley, Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya, Harvard Professor of Medicine Martin Kulldorf, Australian journalist Adam Creighton, French science journalist Xavier Azalbert, and German filmmaker, Robert Cibis.
Also among the signatories are two of the independent journalists responsible for the Twitter Files, Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi, who testified before Congress about what they call the “Censorship Industrial Complex,” were slimed by Democrats as “so-called journalists,” and singled out by the FTC in a threatening letter sent to Twitter (now known as X) owner Elon Musk.
To underscore the perceived threat, while Taibbi was testifying in Washington, DC, the IRS came knocking on his door at his New Jersey home.
The Westminster Declaration comes as the European Union attempts to impose an expanded censorship regime on social media platforms and search engines, including X, Google, and Facebook, using “vetted researchers” from selected NGOs and academia.
The Westminster group says that they are all “deeply concerned about attempts to weaponize the words ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ and other ill-defined terms.
“This weaponization has resulted in the censorship of ordinary people, journalists, and dissidents in countries all over the world …
“Across the globe, government actors, social media companies, universities, and NGOs are increasingly working to monitor citizens and rob them of their voices,” said the signatories.
They cite examples of censorship crackdowns around the world:
* In India and Turkey, authorities have “seized the power to remove political content from social media.”
* The legislature in Germany and the Supreme Court in Brazil are “criminalizing political speech.”
* Ireland’s “Hate Speech” Bill, Scotland’s Hate Crime Act, the UK’s Online Safety Bill, and Australia’s “Misinformation” Bill all “threaten to severely restrict expression and create a chilling effect.”
In the US, more subtle methods of censorship prevail, including visibility filtering, labeling, and manipulation of search engine results.
“Through deplatforming and flagging, social media censors have already silenced lawful opinions on topics of national and geopolitical importance. They have done so with the full support of ‘disinformation experts’ and ‘fact-checkers’ in the mainstream media, who have abandoned the journalistic values of debate and intellectual inquiry.”
Agencies designed to combat the threat of foreign disinformation, such as the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, are “increasingly being turned inward against the public. Under the guise of preventing harm and protecting truth, speech is being treated as a permitted activity rather than an inalienable right.”
The signatories also warn that politicians and NGOs want to target encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram.
“If end-to-end encryption is broken, we will have no remaining avenues for authentic private conversations in the digital sphere.”