NetworkAffects Profile picture
Apr 25 36 tweets 20 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter

The Information Cartel" ImageImageImage
2. My name is Andrew Lowenthal. For almost 18 years, I was Executive Director of @EngageMedia, an NGO devoted to protecting digital rights and freedoms. In recent years, I watched with concern and then despair as a dramatic change swept through my field.
3. Organizations & peers began de-emphasizing freedom of expression, instead promoting surveillance & censorship to combat 'disinformation'. Here Automated Controversy Detection & the Center for an Informed Public boast of their online monitoring capabilities. Image
4. I knew things were bad. When I started work on the #TwitterFiles, I learned: they're far worse. The Files show an uncanny alliance of academics, journalists, intelligence operatives, military personnel, government bureaucrats, NGO workers and more. Some I know personally. ImageImageImage
5. I had always understood "civil society" to mean "not the military." The former exists to check the latter. So I was shocked to see the depth of collaboration. For instance, "civil society" groups coordinating with Pentagon officials in an "election tabletop" exercise. Why? Image
6. Also startling: Twitter emails and Slack communications suggesting heightened levels of data access for the military. Or military contractors like Mitre being part of the Aspen Institute's "Information Disorder" report along with NGO and academic colleagues. ImageImage
7. In a functioning democracy there’s dynamic tension between government, civil society organizations, news media, and industry, all advancing their own interests, in theory keeping one another honest. In the #TwitterFiles we find them all working together, cartel-style. Image
8. In the #TwitterFiles, tech firms collaborate with each other, and the state. Companies organize "IndustrySynch," "Industry comms," "pre-sync," and "Multi-Party Information Sharing," collaborating on a "whole range" of subjects, from election security to state-media labeling. ImageImageImageImage
9. Tech companies not only collaborate on content, they gather regularly for "private sector engagement" with the FBI, DOD, DHS, House and Senate Intel Committees, and others, each agency getting its own meetings: ImageImageImage
10. Here Twitter staff ask for Twitter General Counsel (& former FBI Deputy General Counsel) Jim Baker's blessing for EIP and Virality Project partner Graphika to "inform their partners in USG 3-5 days before publication" of a report detailing Pentagon disinformation operations. Image
11. Graphika receives money from the Pentagon, Navy, and Air Force, while simultaneously supporting human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Working with both the perpetrators & those representing the victims is very 2023. ImageImage
12. During the War on Terror the DHS was harshly criticized by progressives for civil rights violations and targeting of Muslims. Now DHS sub-entities like CISA work closely with progressive tech. Here Twitter warmly welcomes a DHS/CISA staffer's job application. Image
13. Other DHS staff such as Matt Masterson become fellows at the Stanford Internet Observatory and work on the Virality Project's censorship of "true stories of vaccine side effects." The revolving door between academia, government, NGO's and BigTech is endless. ImageImage
14. As reported by @shellenbergerMD, The Aspen Institute combined WaPo, NYT, Rollingstone, NBC, CNN, Twitter, Facebook, Stanford, and "anti-disinfo" NGOs like FirstDraft to practice an oddly prescient "hack and leak" exercise on the Hunter Biden laptop BEFORE its release. ImageImageImageImage
15. When the Hunter Biden laptop story broke, the existence of the recent tabletop exercise became instant important news - but the journalists who’d attended stayed mum, perhaps granting off-the-record privileges to the organizers. Image
16. "We totally blew it on our Burisma tabletop this summer — we didn't have Trump announcing "Lock him up" until day *nine* of the Burisma information operation" writes Garret Graff, the Aspen Institute’s Director of Cyber Initiatives. Image
17. "LOL! Ok, off the record, what's our working theory here of what happened?" replies Noah Shachtman, current Rolling Stone Editor-in-Chief. Image
18. Last week Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was alleged to have instigated the "Russian" "hack" letter signed by 50 former intel officials. At RightsCon, civil society's biggest digital rights event, Blinken spoke on 'disinformation' with Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa. Image
19. See how it works? The people accusing others of "disinformation" RUN the biggest disinformation campaigns themselves.
20. Anti-disinformation conferences teem with Beltway journalists - the same names from the Post, Times, Atlantic, and NBC, over and over - but these proto-censorship workshops are often off the record, like defense or intel confabs. Reporters are participants, not adversaries. ImageImageImageImage
21. The scale of funding is similarly beyond shocking. Governments and foundations pour millions - one company alone reportedly won $979 million from the Pentagon - into "anti-disinformation" firms and NGOs. ImageImage
22. Craig Newmark is reported to have given more than $200m to journalism projects, (by another estimate $338m) including the founding funds for the Stanford Internet Observatory. ImageImage
23. Whether it's the ADL with election miscreants, the Alethea Group counting China-linked accounts "amplifying known right-wing figures," or the Atlantic Council monitoring "opposition activity" around the Iran deal, the NGOs make blacklists of wrongthinkers: ImageImageImageImage
24. The #TwitterFiles are riddled with removal demands from opaque cut-out organizations like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, whose mysterious funding never troubles either Twitter execs or the reporters who transmit their demands. ImageImageImage
25. Media forwards the blacklist demands to industry: ImageImageImage
26. Industry folds, and all the people from these groups - the same names, over and over - get together for hors d'oeuvres at cozy conferences with NATO STRATCOM, the Center for European Policy Analysis, the Carnegie Endowment, etc. One big club. ImageImage
27. Here 12 Attorneys General ask Twitter to deplatform the 'disinformation dozen". Twitter jumps into action to help. ImageImageImageImage
28. Nor was I prepared to read bluntly Orwellian communications like Twitter's cheery "Visibility Filtering Year in Review" Newsletter, boasting of new innovations in "soft intervention" and the "Visibility Filtering Library." Image
29. More surprising was the violation of commonly held privacy values. Meedan (one of Twitter’s 4 main 'anti-disinformation' partners on Covid) had an Omidyar funded project called CryptoChat that advocated peering into private, encrypted messages to weed out "misinformation". ImageImage
30. In a similar vein The Algorthmic Transparency Institute (a core Virality Project partner) conducted Stasi-style “civic listening” and “automated collection of data” from “closed messaging apps” to hunt down "problematic content" through its Junkipedia initiative. Image
31. NGOs shill for corporate products. The Public Good Projects (a Twitter's COVID 'misinformation' partner) ran initiatives to "increase vaccine demand". @lhfang's #TwitterFiles revealed BioNTech sought Twitter's help to repress a vaccine equity campaign.… ImageImage
32. The story of the #TwitterFiles and the Censorship-Industrial Complex (CIC) is really the story of the collapse of public trust in experts and institutions, and how those experts struck back, by trying to pool their remaining influence into a political monopoly:
33. In the #TwitterFiles we repeatedly see terms like "infodemic," "information pollution," and "information disorder," which express elite panic over the great technological explosion that has radically expanded the "contagion" of democratic participation. ImageImage
34. The Western "anti-disinformation" field, with its Government collaboration and calls for more state control over speech and expression, is betraying human rights activists around the world, who fight against online government repression.
35. Let's put the "non-government" back into NGO and defund the "anti-disinformation" industry. After all, the information control shoe will one day be on the other foot.
36. Read the full essay at…. With additional research from @mtaibbi and @bergerbell

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with NetworkAffects

NetworkAffects Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!