Monday, December 12, 2022

From Shadow Bans to Black Lists, Musk Forces a Free-Speech Reckoning for Politicians and Pundits

By Jonathan Turley - December 12, 2022 at 09:09AM


Below is a slightly augmented version of my column in the Hill on the latest release of the Twitter files, confirming long-denied use of shadow banning and other techniques to suppress conservative and dissenting viewpoints.

Here is the column:

“We don’t make exceptions for jokes or satire.” That line from a third tranche of company documents released by Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, captures the social media giant’s censorship culture. Its humorless, officious tenor is all too common with state censors throughout history. Censorship creates an insatiable appetite for more censorship, where even jokes become intolerable.

Censorship apologists are running out of room for evasion. They first insisted that Twitter was not censoring disfavored views and then said that claims of secret throttling or shadow banning were “conspiracy theories.” They then insisted that there was no evidence of meetings with the FBI or other agencies.

These latest Twitter files shatter all of these past spins. This includes confirmation of “shadow banning” and other suppression techniques despite denials by former CEO Jack Dorsey under oath before Congress and public denials by top corporate executives.

The legal ramifications will become clearer as more information emerges. Yet, a far more significant problem already is confirmed in these files: the existential threat of corporate censors to free speech.

In the new material released late Friday, journalist Matt Taibbi confirmed that Twitter executives met weekly with FBI, Homeland Security and national intelligence officials to discuss “disinformation” they felt should be removed from the site. Those discussions apparently included the Hunter Biden laptop story.

You don’t need a state ministry of information if the media voluntarily maintains official narratives and suppresses dissenting views. And what emerges from these files is the notion of an effective state media in America — an alliance of media, business and political figures who act, not out of government compulsion, but out of personal conviction.

The notion of a privately-run state media is reinforced by the response to these disturbing disclosures — a virtual news blackout, with most major media offering little coverage of the disclosures. Just as Twitter suppressed dissenting or opposing views in a myriad of ways, many in the media are minimizing coverage of this scandal.

To use a favorite term of Twitter executives found in these files, the media “amplifies” certain narratives or views while “deamplifying” stories that contradict those accounts.

Some of these files reflect specific subjects or measures long pushed by powerful politicians to get private companies to do indirectly what they themselves are barred from doing under the First Amendment.

In a Senate hearing where Dorsey apologized for blocking the Hunter Biden laptop story, for example, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was more concerned about Twitter “backsliding or retrenching” on censorship and warned that Congress would not tolerate any reduction of “robust content modification.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) reminded Dorsey that he expected censorship of misinformation on climate change as well as other areas.

Others, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have called on social media companies to use enlightened algorithms to protect people from their own bad reading choices. As shown in the recent Twitter releases, these algorithms manipulate what someone sees in searches or trending stories.

What these files suggest is an utter license to control political speech on social media platforms. Twitter executives often sound like overlords determining what the public should be allowed to read or say. This is hardly surprising, given the constant stroking by many politicians and pundits who say they are saving democracy by limiting free speech.

In speaking to media figures in April, former President Barack Obama called upon “our better angels” to shape voters’ opinions. Similarly, President Joe Biden has said social media editors are vital to protecting citizens from their own misguided values or assumptions. Without enlightened editors, he asked, “How do people know the truth?”

Such comments show total contempt for the ability of people to make up their own minds on subjects ranging from elections to vaccinations.

Yet social media executives readily embraced their role in framing “the truth.” Former Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal pledged to “focus less on thinking about free speech” and more on “who can be heard.” While some of us denounced his anti-free-speech agenda, others rose in defense of Twitter maintaining one of the largest censorship systems in history.

Now, these Twitter files show precisely what it means to manipulate “who can be heard” — a process that went beyond controversial suspensions of users to include a broader, secret effort to suppress disfavored viewpoints. The new documents show Twitter using blacklists and “visibility filters” to interfere with user searches or to shadow-ban individuals and prevent their tweets from trending. The new material also indicates that “visibility filtering” was directed at various Republican campaigns, throttling or reducing candidates’ visibility before the 2020 election.

Most striking in the latest documents is how Twitter censors knowingly discarded even their own policies to hamper then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. In one tweet, Trump referenced a mail-in voting problem in Ohio that was found to be true. Nevertheless, Twitter executives were praised for their speed to impose “visibility filters” so the tweet could not be “replied to, shared, or liked,” and the staff received a censorship “attaboy”: “VERY WELL DONE ON SPEED.”

There was even a long debate over whether to censor a joke about mail-in voting by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) because Twitter staff insisted they “don’t make exceptions for jokes or satire.” After all, the censors noted, a joke “could still mislead people” — the same logic that appeared to be the basis for suspending conservative satirical site The Babylon Bee. The only reason Huckabee’s joke wasn’t censored was a concern that “we’ve poked enough bears.”

Of course, Twitter long ago exceeded its bear-poking quota with the public.

A record number of users are signing up with Twitter and a recent poll shows a majority of Americans supporting his efforts to restore transparency and free speech on the site.

Thus, Musk seems to be forcing a reckoning that few in Washington relish — and one which the media can’t continue to ignore, given an expected investigation by a Republican-controlled House. Political and media figures will be forced to dispense with any pretense of support for free speech in defending censorship, election manipulation, blacklisting and shadow banning.

Twitter’s former executives were correct about one thing: There is nothing humorous about any of this — if you value free speech.

Reprinted with permission from



No comments:

Post a Comment


Ron Paul America Cloud

Site Credits

Ron Paul America

is voluntarily affiliated with

Liberty Operations Group


Site created, maintained and hosted by

Liberty Web Services


#TurnOnTheTruth 2008 2012 4th amendment 911 ACTION Afghanistan war Agency Aggression Principle al-Qaeda Alan Colmes Alert America America's Fault Americans antigun AR 15 assault weapon Audit Authoritarian bailouts Believe Big Brother big government bill of rights Blame blowback bubbles Bush Campaign for Liberty Career Politician Eric Cantor Central Bank Charity China churches collapse Collectivism Commission committee Compassion Congress Conservative constitution Crash dangerous person Democrat Democrats Donald Trump Donald Trump. Planned Parenthood drones economic Economy Edward Snowden End the Fed European Union Federal Reserve Floyd Bayne floyd bayne for congress force foreign interventionism free market free markets GOP Nominee GOP Presidential Debates Government Great Depression gun control House of Representatives housing bubble HR 1745 I like Ron Paul except on foreign policy If ye love wealth better than liberty IFTTT Individual Individualism Institute Irag Iran Iraq war ISIL ISIS Judge Andrew Napalitano libertarian Liberty Liberty Letters Liberty Report Lost mass Media meltdown metadata Micheal Moore Middle East Mitt Romney nap National Neocons New Ron Paul Ad New York Times Newsletters Newt Gingrich No Non non-interventionism NSA NSA Snooping Obama Overreach overthrow Patriot Act peace Peace and Prosperity politicians Pope Francis President Presidential Presidential Race programs prosperity Race Racist Racist Newsletters Rand Paul Read the Bills Act recessions redistribution of wealth refugee crisis Repeal Obamacare Report Republican Republican Nomination Republican Nominee Republicans Revolution Rick Santorum Rick Santorum Exposed Ron Ron Paul Ron Paul Institute Ron Paul Institute Featured Articles Ron Paul Institute for Peace And Prosperity Ron Paul Institute Peace and Prosperity Articles Ron Paul Next Chapter Media Channel Ron Paul Racist Newsletters ron paul's foreign policy Ronald Reagan Rosa DeLauro russia Samuel Adams Saudi Arabia Second Amendment Security Senate Senator September 11th attacks Show Soviet Spying stimulate Stock Market surveillance Syria tech bubble terrorist The the Fed the poor US US foreign policy Us troops USA Freedom Act Virginia Virginia Republican Primary voluntarism. Liberty Voluntary Warner Warning warrantless wiretaps YouTube