Michael Shellenberger Profile picture
Mar 9 41 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
EXPOSED: America's Secret Censorship-Industrial Complex

U.S. government officials, agencies, and contractors are violating the First Amendment

My testimony to Congress

Over the last three months, a small group of us 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.
At 10 am ET, @mtaibbi & I will testify before Congress to share shocking new findings: a highly-organized network of government agencies and contractors has been creating blacklists and pressuring social media companies to censor Americans, often without them knowing it.
We have already reported on some of the actions by this complex.

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.
My 68-page testimony to Congress lays out an effort by U.S. government intelligence and security agencies to wage “information warfare” against the American people.

(The full document can be downloaded here)

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.
The Censorship-Industrial Complex

My verbal testimony to Congress

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… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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.
There is 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.
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… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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.
Who are the censors? They are a familiar type. Overly confident in their ability to discern truth from falsity, good intention from bad intention, the instinct of these hall monitor-types is to complain to the teacher — and, if the teacher doesn’t comply, to go above them, to the… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Such an approach might work in middle school and many elite universities, but it is anathema to freedom and is an abuse of power.

These organizations and others are also running their own influence operations, often under the guise of “fact-checking.”
The intellectual leaders of the censorship complex have convinced journalists and social media executives that accurate information is disinformation, that valid hypotheses are conspiracy theories, and that greater self-censorship results in more accurate reporting.
In many instances, censorship, such as labeling social media posts, is part of the influence operation aimed at discrediting factual information.

The censorship industrial complex combines established methods of psychological manipulation, some developed by the U.S. military… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
The complex’s leaders are driven by the fear that the Internet and social media platforms empower populist, alternative, and fringe personalities and views, which they regard as destabilizing.
Federal government officials, agencies, and contractors have gone from fighting ISIS recruiters and Russian bots to censoring and deplatforming ordinary Americans and disfavored public figures.
Importantly, the bar for bringing in military-grade government monitoring and speech-countering techniques has moved from “countering terrorism” to “countering extremism” to countering simple misinformation.
The government no longer needs a predicate of calling you a terrorist or extremist to deploy government resources to counter your political activity. The only predicate it needs is simply the assertion that the opinion you expressed on social media is wrong.
These efforts extend to influencing and even directing conventional news media organizations. Since 1971, when the Washington Post and New York Times elected to publish classified Pentagon papers about the war in Vietnam, journalists understood that we have a professional… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
And yet, in 2020, the Aspen Institute and Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center urged journalists to “Break the Pentagon Papers principle” and not cover leaked information to prevent the spread of “disinformation.”
Government-funded censors frequently invoke the prevention of real-world harm to justify their demands for censorship, but the censors define harm far more expansively than the Supreme Court does.
The censors have defined harm so broadly, in fact, that they have justified Facebook censoring accurate information about COVID vaccines, for example, to prevent “vaccine hesitancy.”
Their goal, clearly, is not protecting the truth but rather persuading the public. That is the purpose of open debate and the free exchange of ideas.
And, increasingly, the censors say their goal is to restrict information that “delegitimizes” governmental, industrial, and news media organizations. That mandate is so sweeping that it could easily censor criticism of any part of the status quo, from elected officials to… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Congress should immediately cut off funding to the censors and investigate their activities. Second, it should mandate instant reporting of all conversations between social media executives, government employees, and contractors concerning content moderation. Third, Congress… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Whatever Congress does, it is incumbent upon the American people to wake up to the threat of government censorship. “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” Eisenhower noted, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
All of the above is just a summary

To read the full, 68-page report/testimony, please visit Public

And stay-tuned for a bombshell up-coming TWITTER FILES thread from @mtaibbi

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“After much thought and consideration, we believe it is in the best interest for Park’s stockholders to materially reduce our current exposure to the San Francisco market… a path to recovery remains clouded and elongated by major challenges, old and new”

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“The material includes intact and partially intact vehicles.”

“In his statements cleared for publication by the Pentagon in April, Grusch asserted that UFO “legacy programs” have long been concealed within “multiple agencies nesting UAP activities in conventional secret access… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Few things matter more than equal justice under the law, civilian control over law enforcement, and the separation of powers. We should thus be appalled by the FBI Director's refusal to turn over alleged evidence of Biden corruption.

The FBI says, "The escalation to a contempt vote under these circumstances is unwarranted" bc it showed the document to members of Congress. But by sitting on Hunter Biden's laptop since Dec. '19, and retaliating against whistleblowers, the FBI has proven it can't be trusted.
The American people don't trust the FBI, and rightly so. They were sitting on Hunter Biden's laptop since December 2019 while "former" FBI and CIA officials spread a conspiracy theory in the media that it was Russian disinfo.

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Jun 5
I've disagreed with @RobertKennedyJr in the past on various issues, but he is currently making a powerful and moving case for the First Amendment. Very inspiring. I encourage everyone to listen in.
Kennedy says the government agencies supposed to be "our protectors" have turned into "our predators."

He condemns elites for "cloaking things in fear and deception."

Kennedy laments that many liberals have gone from being radical free speech defenders to demanding censorship.
Journalists are supposed to "speak truth to power" but have become "propagandists" for government and big corporations.

He condemns that the news media have been captured by big corporations including pharmaceutical companies.
Read 11 tweets
Jun 5
No movement for human freedom has ever demanded censorship. Equal rights for religious, racial, and sexual minorities were won with more free speech not less. Those who demand censorship in the name of reducing harm are the persecutors not protectors of the vulnerable.
The good news is that a very large majority of human beings in the US, UK, Europe, Brazil, and around the world would rather be able to express themselves freely than have their rulers decide what they can say and hear, read, and write.
But we must assert our rights as free citizens who believe free speech is a basic human right and perhaps the most basic human right since fighting for equal justice and treatment are simply not possible so long as the powerful people at the moment can silence you.
Read 6 tweets
Jun 5
Buy your ticket to join Russell Brand, Matt Taibbi, and me as we take on the Censorship Industrial Complex in London on June 22! Let's go!

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