By: Mark Glennon*

Democracy is subverted when the free exchange of information and opinion is suppressed.

That subversion is now reality in America and much of the world thanks primarily to censorship by big technology platforms and our unapologetically dishonest and biased national media.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate held hearings on one of those causes, big tech censorship. If you are unaware of how pernicious and common that censorship has become, particularly by Twitter and Facebook, you are dangerously uninformed. Comedian Bill Maher, hardly a right-winger, said it right: The censorship is “evil” and “f—ed up.”

This is not about Trump. He and censorship of him are now in mostly in the rear view mirror. Though censorship was blatantly targeted at him, it’s the future that matters now  — whether the marketplace of ideas can survive in a world where big tech’s authoritarianism is broad and growing.

For example, Twitter and Facebook last week censored Oxford University scientists who posted an article about a recent study questioning the effectiveness of face masks to stop COVID-19. One of the censored authors said such censorship is “one of the reasons we face a global meltdown of free thinking and science.” His name, sadly ironic, is Thomas Jefferson.

Question big tech censorship and even prominent liberals face retribution. For example, Glenn Greenwald, a respected liberal journalist, dared to question big tech’s brazen suppression of stories about Hunter Biden’s emails and foreign influence peddling. His story on it was killed by The Intercept. Commendably, Greenwald then resigned from that publication.

With hundreds of other examples readily available, it was therefore entirely appropriate and urgent for the Judiciary Committee to take up the matter. Aside from the meltdown of free thinking and science that Prof. Jefferson described, many of America’s razor-thin elections beyond the presidential race could easily have been turned by false narratives rigged by big tech. Easily.

But how did Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a Judiciary Committee member, preface his comments?

It’s a big waste of time and a political stunt, he told us. “I think there are more important and timely questions…but we are trying to determine whether or not the social media instruments of America are fair to the Republican Party.”

What’s more important? Oh, national security, the pandemic and the possibility that Trump would refuse to leave when the election is certified, Durbin said.

No, Senator Durbin. The Judiciary Committee is the top legislative oversight body on the rule of law in what is supposed to be the world’s leading democracy. National security and coronavirus are not within the committee’s charge. And a speculative case on presidential transition is premature for a hearing. What is within its jurisdiction, and should be top priorities, are freedom of expression and the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives big tech immunity and is central the censorship issue.

As for the censorship, bring it on. Durbin wants more.

He wants more censorship to combat hate crimes, he said. That means stifling hate speech. Citing numbers on hate crimes, he said, “It’s clear to me that it’s more important that social media combat this more than ever.  “Are you looking the other way on that?” he asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

We’ve seen repeatedly that hate speech, to many on the left, is pretty much everything said by anybody on the right.  Would Durbin include among his concerns the endless labeling of some 72 million Republican voters as white supremacists and fascists or violence by radical leftists who are encouraged by that kind of labeling? No, Durbin made it clear he didn’t mean that. “This is not Antifa. These are documented hate crimes from the FBI…”

Under the First Amendment, hate speech is permitted as long as it doesn’t rise to the level of provoking violence. That’s as it should be. Everybody should be free to express hatred towards, for example, those they regard as fascists or communists, provided they don’t incite violence. But the First Amendment does not cover private entities like big tech and Durbin, like many on the left, showed no interest in letting First Amendment be the precedent for big tech censorship, provided it is targeted selectively at the right.

Some of Durbin’s colleagues on the Judiciary Committee joined him with calls for more censorship by big tech. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), for example, asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey why Twitter doesn’t have a standalone climate change misinformation policy. “Helping to disseminate climate denialism in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.”

Illinois’ other senator, Tammy Duckworth, earlier had a particularly stupefying response to concerns about big tech censorship. Regarding a previous hearing on the topic by a different Senate committee, she said it was Repubicans “aiding Trump’s and Russia’s efforts to use social media for misinformation campaigns” and “undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Got that? You’re helping Russia if you’re against censorship.

Despite such attitudes, the Judiciary Committee hearing uncovered a major turn for the worse on tech censorship: They collude on who and what to censor. Facebook, Twitter and Google use a software communication tool called Centra to communicate on who and what they want to stifle, which magnifies the impact of any decision by any one of them. What’s clear, however, is that a solution must be found because a keystone of open society is shattered.

A telling postscript to the hearing is that NBC, ABC and CBS all refused any coverage of it.

How to address the problem of big tech censorship is challenging and reasonable minds differ. Their platforms are more powerful than any other public forum in history, yet their censors make no pretense of selectively enforcing their dictates or applying any of the time-honored principles our courts have developed under the First Amendment. And Section 230 is a complicated matter.

Facebook and Twitter CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey

Pending a solution, here is where we are:

First, what tens of millions of people read for news is determined by the two people shown here.

Second, the subversion of democracy by suppression of the free exchange of information and opinion is no longer just a threat. It’s here.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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Dr Nemo
1 month ago

Sens. Durbin and Duckworth were each elected 55-40 in their most recent respective election runs. This type of representation may be what a solid majority of the people want here. At least compared with what the GOP offers. The state Republican Party leadership seems to be a hapless group of crooks and bums itself and offers little or nothing in the way of attractive alternatives in statewide races. Durbin’s rival was a little-known Republican from Lake County, loser of a recent county sheriff election there, and where the entire congressional delegation, as well as the entire slate of county-wide offices,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dr Nemo
Dale
1 month ago

He will support censorship until he says something they don’t like and they censor him. Highly unlikely, but falls in line with its for thee, but not for me thinking in communism.

Governor of Alderaan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dale

Nobody censored Dick when he said in 2005 American troops were no different from Nazis, the KGB or the Khmer Rouge

Stevet
1 month ago

These companies need to be seized and broken up as the marxist tools they are.

Douglas
1 month ago

Mark- I honestly see your point, but I do have to disagree with you and say that like most things in the US in 2020, this issue is very screwed up and more complicated than simple regulatory solutions. Do you honestly believe government regulating the internet more is a good idea? Really? So, what’s the solution in my opinion? From what I can gather, intellectual property/patents are part of the problem with these platforms. Competitors up and coming can/do get sued by Google, Facebook, Twitter for infringement. Intellectual property/patents need a much, much shorter time frame. These companies have played… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Douglas
mj
1 month ago

It’ll go from bad to worse if the U.S. senate goes Dem. How can this happen? Dominion software

s & p 500
1 month ago

I started watching Sky News from Australia on you-tube. They aren’t going along with the MSM and are reporting on the widespread fraud in the election. I can’t believe how TIME magazine has fallen–it used to be the premiere news magazine.

IllinoisRocks
1 month ago
Reply to  s & p 500

Dicky Durbin – about as fit for his job as JB Pritzker… Hah, no pun intended…

Laurie McWilliams
1 month ago

The ignorance that allows for social media’s exploitation is staggering, If you get your news from those platforms you are lazy and dangerous.

Fur
1 month ago

A population of people living in another reality is undeniably dangerous. Agreed.

IllinoisRocks
1 month ago

If you believe the MSM is unbiased and reports facts, you are lazy and dangerous. We got that for which we have voted and for which we have paid… The vast majority of our population, inclusive of those teaching middle and higher ed, is intellectually lazy and ignorant. We no longer value entrepreneurs, critical/analytical thought, and real science (not the nonsense of the vacuous left). My only lament is the lack of places to which one might escape. So sad what this once noble republic has become. Ah well. Franklin and his peers warned us about the mob, voting yourself… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by IllinoisRocks
David
1 month ago

If you get your news from only Facebook and Twitter you’re not too bright to begin with. And while I generally agree that censorship is bad, not all “free speech” is protected by the Constitution. Publishing defamatory, fraudulent or speech that is patently dangerous is irresponsible. It’s sometimes admittedly a fine line but newspapers have had to adhere to the rules for many years. Social media shouldn’t get a free pass either.

JimBob
1 month ago

We live in a time when people think “unthinkable” thoughts and fear to express them. We know that seniors are vulnerable and we know that longer life expectancies magnify pension and health care costs. Ezekiel J. Emanuel proposes that when he hits age 75, he is done with healthcare except for palliative care. He believes when almost everyone hits age 75, they are on a downhill slide. While he does not quite say it, he seems to believe that it is an unreasonable use of scarce resources to invest in healthcare for those older than 75. Here is a quote:… Read more »

Hakuna Matata
1 month ago

The saddest thing over the last umpteen years, especially the last 4, is to see the right try to mimic the left on how to play the victim. Not only is it counterproductive, they don’t do it as well. The only organization that can censor is the government. Private companies and individuals can and do moderate their content. You may or may not post this comment. It’s your choice and you are not censoring me if you choose not to. Sometimes they don’t do it well. Facebook is probably somewhat better than Twitter. But you might have a little more… Read more »

Hakuna Matata
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

So, I can agree that a lot of MSM is not very good and a lot is biased. It’s becoming even too much for left liberals. But I can get nowhere close to the “democracy is being subverted” message. There is no shortage of places to get information. Take Wirepoints!. I read it and agree with much of the POV. Many of the interesting people who have been shunned are ending up on Substack. There is just no shortage of reasonable content. Almost everyone would be better off to focus on stories in publications like Block Club and Patch. Their… Read more »

Hakuna Matata
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

The 17% does not pass the smell test. There’s no way 1.25 million people would have changed votes. Besides the story got Streisand-effected. Anyone who was looking for reasons to not vote for Biden had this information put in front of them. And as slanted and biased as much of the MSM is it’s a heck of a lot better than the right outlets that are trying to go big. Note that Newsmax is on Xfinity even in Chicago. https://thedispatch.com/p/giving-the-people-what-they-want You don’t have to hate Trump to see how pitiful the conspiracy theories are. At the end of the day… Read more »

Susan
1 month ago
Reply to  Hakuna Matata

you recommend we all switch to Happy puppy stories, coverage of new tchatchkis shops and wine bar openings, and organic quinoa recipes.
How nice it must be to live a life wherein distasteful issues like political corruption are better off ignored.
Your attitude indicates that aberrant high property tax rates, annually diminishing home value, and certainty of local unequal application of the law doesn’t intrude on your own personal comfort…
If you have it that good,, do you really need to practice passive aggressive criticism of investigative journalism which might end up helping those less fortunate than yourself?

Cpt Crunch
1 month ago
Reply to  Hakuna Matata

“We still live in the most prosperous time ever.” Not for long. Besides Biden is not the president.

Joey Zamboni
1 month ago
Reply to  Hakuna Matata

—“Today the partisan right is obsessed with election victim theories.”—

My, what a short memory you have…

Or maybe you just haven’t been paying attention to the last almost 4 years of (D) election victimhood…?

Russia! Russia! Russia!…?????

Anonymous
1 month ago

Durbin and Duckworth aren’t worth the time.
Useless

Mike
1 month ago

Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth have no problem with the premeditated timing by Facebook and Twitter prior to the election.

Facebook and Twitter could have ratcheted up the censorship 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years ago.

The timing was deliberate to disrupt Trump momentum.

They helped make history and the cost is their credibility and legacy took a hit.

John
1 month ago

Then eliminate Section 230 and hold Big Tech responsible for the content on their sites. Hold them criminally liable for any child porn or online harrassment and civilly liable for copyright infringement. They want it both ways.

Bob Out of Here
1 month ago

How on earth can Jack Dorsey be CEO of a multi billion dollar corporation and look like a panhandler? I’d expect someone looking like that to be on a street corner with a tin cup begging for spare change. At least Zuck wears a suit and tie.

Heyjude
1 month ago

He looks like Rasputin

Cpt Crunch
1 month ago

Its for special effects. He’s trying to make a statement.

The Real President-Elect
1 month ago

The sad part is the majority of people (in Illinois) have no critical thinking skills and are lazy. They don’t care about freedom because they have no original thought – so why should they care if freedoms are lost? These America-haters were brilliant when they took over our public schools and brainwashed our children who are now voting age. I live in a “great school district” and would never, ever send my children to a pubic (yes, I meant pubic) school where the teachers are now bullies forcing students what to think, not teaching them how to think. America is… Read more »

Johngalt
1 month ago

Remember when the internet was going to give access to all the world’s knowledge, and be a force for liberation? Instead it has given us tyranny and unlimited access to porn….

Fed up neighbor
1 month ago

Not only Dorsey and Zuckerberg beware of one person and don’t forget his name Bill Gates.

Rick
1 month ago

“The Great Reset” is what they call it, it has a lot of things, censorship, demonetization of businesses on tech platforms, corporations ignoring their home country, indoctrination in colleges, destruction of education as we know it, elimination of cash so all monetary exchanges are traceable and taxable at variable rates depending on your wealth, marxism, elimination of borders, the government bureaucratic class hoarding wealth, confiscation of guns, self defense becoming a crime, and to make it all look legit they will keep people voting to make them think they decide, but voting will be as it is in China where… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Rick
Ex Illini
1 month ago

Dick Durbin is a worthless waste of space. Of course there is censorship and widespread media bias. I firmly believe that it is only beginning, and if the Liberal media doesn’t get the results they want, they will double down. I am counting on a bloodbath in the House in 2022, as Republicans respond loudly to the garbage that is going on. The Dems think 2020 was disappointing? Just wait.

Tom H
1 month ago
Reply to  Ex Illini

Let’s hope so. But shouldn’t all opinions count? Best ones succeed. That is a real democracy. If you are scared of the opposing view, censorship is not the way. Debate and conversation of how best to proceed is. **This is the way**

Joey Zamboni
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom H

The big question is *why* are they so scared of opposing view points…?

mj
1 month ago
Reply to  Ex Illini

Durbin is a dangerous leftist Senator and lame Duckworth just follows suit. Dominion SW is the only logical reason these idiots stay in the chair.

NoHope4Illinois
1 month ago

Durbin and Duckworth like censorship because so far it’s only happened to their political opponents (I refrained from saying enemies but that is the correct word since Democrats look to extended censorship with punishment) Censorship has NOT been an equal opportunity abuser, but targeted at conservatives and independents.

Freddy
1 month ago

Seems like everything is being censored nowadays like any alternative remedies or prevention for Covid and of course politics by the media. It has been months ago that you cannot make a comment on Yahoo. Free speech as we knew it is being suppressed at all levels. Here’s my idea. We will soon have to communicate by code like during World War l as it was first used by Indians known as the Choctaw Telephone Squad and in WW 2 it was the Navajo Talkers Code and a few other native Indian languages which could not be interpreted by the… Read more »

Fed up neighbor
1 month ago
Reply to  Freddy

Only problem is today’s society doesn’t have a clue about the great world wars 1,2 not a clue what they were about and what it meant about freedom. Wait when your freedom starts to disappear like it is now, the slow pokes in society will say hey wait what gives. Problem is they will all be to late!

Last edited 1 month ago by Fed up neighbor
Governor of Alderaan
1 month ago

Society doesn’t even have a clue about communism and the Soviet Union

Governor of Alderaan
1 month ago

If I read this to you and did not tell you that this was describing what American media companies and democrats were doing, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime–Pol Pot or others–that had no concern for the truth. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the media and democrats

Cpt Crunch
1 month ago

My Polish grandfather, father, and uncles were arrested and sent to a Siberian. Gulag. They all attempted to escape and were mowed down by machine guns by the concentration camp guards.  My father is the only one that survived.  The stories he shared with me are horrifying.  

Susan
1 month ago

The solution is simple and already available. It is DAO (distributed autonomous organization) as opposed to centralized control.

Blockchain social media sites are uncensorable and unscrubbable by design.

All it takes is for a critical mass of us to get our lazy complacent asses off of the old, comfortably familiar, censorable “evil” communication platforms and onto the new blockchain platforms instead.

As a side note, the decentralized “new Facebook”” and the “new YouTube ” send ad dollars from ad buyers to content creators and ad watchers in enormously higher proportion than traditional centralized control models do now.

Fed up neighbor
1 month ago

Has anyone on the wirepoints forum read the book controlled demolition of the American empire, I would strongly recommend it.

Joan
1 month ago

Did our local media ignore this too? I knew the censorship was happening but haven’t seen anything about the hearings and all the rest. This is AWFUL. What’s happening to our country?