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Musk Offers Twitter $41 Billion, Exciting Free Speech Advocates

Will Musk succeed in his effort to "unlock" Twitter's free speech potential?

News has moved fast since it was revealed last week that Elon Musk purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter. Since then, Musk was offered a seat on Twitter’s board, an offer he at first accepted, and then declined. Now, Musk has upped the ante by offering to buy Twitter for $41 billion. In his letter to the board, Musk referenced his desire to make Twitter “the platform for free speech around the globe,” and stated that he has the ability to “unlock” Twitter’s “extraordinary potential.” Here’s his full letter: Bret TaylorChairman of the Board, I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is…

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YouTube Suspends News Show for Reporting on Misinformation

The show's host has accused YouTube of failing to "distinguish between misinformation and reporting"

Last week, YouTube suspended a popular daily news show from The Hill for including in its reporting footage of former President Donald Trump repeating the claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a claim that violates YouTube’s policies on misinformation. The co-hosts of the show have criticized the suspension, arguing that the policy, as enforced, is a threat to journalism on YouTube. One of the co-hosts posted about it on Twitter: Robby Soave and Ryan Grim co-host Rising, a daily morning news show for The Hill, one of the country’s leading political newspapers. Last week, they discovered that their channel had been temporarily suspended based on two videos that the show posted that had violated YouTube’s policies. The…

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It’s Time for a Public Conversation About Social Media Companies

A company whose platform is built on the backs of content creators owes some responsibilities to those creators

Amid the ongoing cancel culture that is rampant among social media companies, there is a large undercurrent of people who say things like, “These are private companies, and they can do what they want.” The idea behind this is that social media companies do not owe you their product, and that is not of harm to you, the consumer. Especially since you are not paying for their product, why should they have to listen to you? To see why this thinking is flawed, we need to think back to the history of these platforms and what is needed to make them work. Why is anyone on Facebook or Twitter at all? Because that is where everyone else is. To be…

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New York Senate Tries To Shut Down Misinformation on Social Media

The introduction of the bill raises concerns about government's intrusion into the freedom of speech online

In December, a bill was presented in the New York State Senate that would attempt to hold social media companies responsible for their role in circulating incitements to violence, incitements to self-harm, and misinformation.  Introduced by Democratic/Working Families Party Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, the legislation would empower the state’s Attorney General to bring an action against any social media company that allows for the circulation of content that incites violence or that “includes a false statement of fact or fraudulent medical theory…”. No person, by conduct either unlawful in itself or unreasonable under all the circumstances, shall knowingly or recklessly create, maintain or contribute to a condition in New York state that endangers the safety or health of the public through…

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Surveillance and Silence at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Why are countries instructing their Olympic athletes to use burner phones?

In a previous article, I looked at the security issues with the MY2022 app, the official app for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, and the app that everyone who attends must download. The app has two key vulnerabilities that leave user data exposed when sending information over WiFi.* Aside from these vulnerabilities, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab found a list of censored keywords in the app’s code, as well as the capability to report someone who has sent politically contentious content over the messaging service. The keyword feature does not seem to be active, but as Jeffrey Knockel, author of the Citizen Lab report, told the New York Times, they could censor content with “the flip of a switch.” This is one…

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LinkedIn Says Goodbye to China

If the blasé business world of LinkedIn cannot pass the Cyberspace Administration of China’s rules, then what platform can?

LinkedIn announced that it will no longer host social media and content sharing in China. Instead, it’s China-only app will be a job-board site. This comes after LinkedIn received criticism for blocking certain researcher profiles in China as well as human rights advocates and journalists who write on China. LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was one of the only U.S.-based social media outlets still operating within China. Twitter, Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp), and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, Inc.) are banned. Google (also owned by Alphabet, Inc.) left in 2010. Signal and Clubhouse were banned in 2021. Other apps, such as TikTok (owned by ByteDance, Inc.) have their own Chinese version that complies with censors and data regulators.…

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Section 230: What Is It and Why the Controversy?

Does Section 230 provide Big Tech too much power, or is it necessary for the moderation of misinformation and inappropriate content?

At the center of the controversy between free speech and the rights of private companies lies Section 230, the controversial U.S. code dating back to 1996. Toward the end of his term in 2020, former President Donald Trump famously tweeted that Section 230 should be “completely terminated.” Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voiced their support, but by and large, the sentiment was met with fierce resistance. Advocates for the reform (or complete repeal) of Section 230 argue that it shields Big Tech companies from accountability when they engage in politically-motivated censorship and content moderation. Supporters of Section 230 argue that it is essential to keep the internet free of misinformation and vile or obscene material. Section 230…

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Books and crumpled paper in the bin. Books that do not read, low-grade literature, copy space

The Tyranny of Big Tech: The Book That Almost Wasn’t

How cancel culture came for a book taking on Big Tech monopolies

On May 4, Regnery Publishing released The Tyranny of Big Tech, a book written by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) uncovering the deceptive and antitrust practices of companies like Facebook and Google, and laying out a policy plan to break up the monopolies and protect the interests of America’s common men and women. The book has done well. In its first week, it became the number one bestseller in three separate categories on Amazon lists, and it made the Publisher’s Weekly list of hardcover nonfiction at No. 6. “Big Tech represents today’s robber barons,” Hawley writes in the first chapter, “who are draining prosperity and power away from the great middle of our society and creating, as they do, a new…

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The Push to Break Up Big Tech Monopolies

Facebook is "acting as an arm of the state," says Florida's governor

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures, hosted by Maria Bartiromo, over the weekend. The two discussed Big Tech’s alarming censorship power and Florida’s efforts to combat that power. Recent government emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits suggest that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg coordinated what should and should not be dispersed through social media platforms regarding COVID-19 and its origins. “Do you believe Fauci colluded with Mark Zuckerberg? Does this expose Facebook to legal action?” Bartiromo asked DeSantis. DeSantis answered by calling Facebook “an arm of the state”: Here’s an example of working with Fauci where Facebook, you can argue, is essentially acting as an arm of the state, because they’re…

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YouTube on a phone

Big Tech Scrubs Religious Radio Show From YouTube

This isn't the first time YouTube has infringed on free speech

YouTube removed an entire radio show from its platform this week, hosted by popular Christian author and social commentator Eric Metaxas, citing violations of their community standards. Metaxas – author of biographies on the lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and William Wilberforce, among many other books – announced the news to his social media pages on Tuesday. “It’s happened,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Despite our going FAR out of our way to comply with their arbitrary ‘community standards’, YouTube decided to remove every single video we’ve ever done on the Eric Metaxas Show off their platform.” The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, humorously called “The Show About Everything”, has featured a host of big name guests, including former…

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Texas State Capitol Rotunda

Texas Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Big Tech Censorship

The bill seeks to reign in Big Tech power and protect the principle of free speech for Texas citizens

Last week, the Texas Senate passed a measure that would prohibit large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from censoring political and religious viewpoints of Texas citizens. The bill now awaits a vote in the Texas House. Senate Bill 12 was introduced in March by State Senator Bryan Hughes. Titled “Relating to the censorship of users’ expressions by an interactive computer service,” the bill would not only prohibit censorship, but would require social media companies to disclose their moderation policies, publish reports about any blocked content, and create a legal route for people to appeal any censoring or deplatforming decisions. Social media companies currently enjoy legal protections against lawsuit under Section 230 of the U.S. Code, which on the…

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Parler vs. Amazon: Amazon Strikes Back!

Amazon is trying to avoid a state lawsuit through a hardball legal maneuver
Parler, an alternative social networking site, has been in a fierce legal battle with AWS/Amazon since it was removed from Amazon's platforms on January 10. Read More ›
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Nevada Announces New Cities in State To Be Run By Big Tech

The zones promise technological freedom, but what are the dangers to handing so much political power to big corporations?

Nevada is courting technological business by offering them the opportunity to develop cities independent of government regulation. In his State of the State address on January 19th, Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced proposed legislation to create “Innovation Zones” in order “to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms.” The long-term vision for these Innovation Zones is a county independent of local government, run solely by a technological corporation for the purpose of pursuing advanced technology without the red tape of bureaucracy. The proposed legislation draft calls “traditional forms of local government” “inadequate” in their ability “to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses…”…

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The concept of building a business network Businessmen experience a global network and global online trading development system exchange.

Wikipedia’s Bias Meets a Free-Speech Alternative

The famously free encyclopedia’s pages on abortion, communism, and historical figures reveal a left-leaning bias

Last December, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger announced that he would be launching a free speech alternative to Wikipedia, a website that Sanger believes has lost its credibility as a neutral source of information. Sanger’s Encyclosphere is meant to be “an open encyclopedia network” (Sanger compares it to “the blogosphere”) with the goal of “build(ing) a network that … all of humanity owns and no one exclusively controls.”  One of Wikipedia’s declared “fundamental principle(s)” is NPOV – neutral point of view. Wikipedia defines NPOV as “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.”  “This policy is non-negotiable,” the website states. But according to Sanger, “Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ is dead.” …

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Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

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Little-Known Civil Rights Law Could Bring Big Tech to Its Knees

Many tech giants have considerable assets and many employees in Seattle's jurisdiction

SEATTLE—As state and federal lawmakers consider drafting new legislation to counter big tech censorship of dissenting political voices, few seem to realize that an anti-discrimination law already on the books could spell big trouble for big tech companies that engage in political censorship.  Ironically, the law was enacted by one of the most politically progressive cities in the country: Seattle.  Unlike most political jurisdictions in the United States, Seattle expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of “political ideology.” Seattle defines political ideology expansively as any idea or belief, or coordinated body of ideas or beliefs, relating to the purpose, conduct, organization, function or basis of government and related institutions and activities, whether or not characteristic of any political party or group. This…

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What We Can Do To Prevent More Online Censorship

Encrypted email can be an end-around social media companies' monopoly of free speech

With all the concern about major social media companies deplatforming those they disagree with, there is a concern that these companies’ monopoly on social media will eliminate free speech. New social media platforms such as Gab, Parler and MeWe have popped up to offer freer alternatives. Yet even that is not without peril, as deplatforming can happen lower down the technology stack. Parler was recently kicked off AWS (Amazon Web Services). However, in the midst of all the hubbub we’ve forgotten the original social network: email. Email is still here. The distance between email and modern social media may be smaller than it first appears. Lets make a short list of the perceived differences between social media and email, and…

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Lawyer Turned Citizen Journalist in China Turns Up Again—in Jail

She has been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a crime in China

Lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, went missing on May 15 after documenting on Youtube, Twitter, and WeChat what she saw in Wuhan during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic. She has now been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Zhang had already been detained for supporting the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which likely played into her harsh sentence. So far, 47 journalists have been jailed for reporting on COVID-19 in China. YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible within China because of the Great Firewall which allows the Communist Party of China (CCP) to control the information that comes into and goes out of the country. Within the Great Firewall journalists must adhere…

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Twitter Twitted Over Clumsy Political Censorship

Getting the algorithm to censor users can backfire and sometimes the results are funny

I once wrote an online forum system called Areopagus. It had a simple “bad words” (profanities, etc.) filter. It looked for common bad words and common variations of those words and automatically prevented any post containing those words or their variations from being posted. This is called “mechanical censorship” and, on its own, it is nothing new. Some users came up with cleverer variations of the bad words than the filter was set for and then moderators had to spot and remove the posts. During the recent presidential election campaign, Twitter has taken mechanical censorship to new levels. Instead of censoring ways of speaking, Twitter has decided to censor specific ideas and thoughts. Automatic censorship of ideas is a problematic…

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China: COVID-19’s True History Finds an Unlikely Home — GitHub

The Chinese Communist party, rewriting the COVID-19 story with itself as the hero, must reckon with truthful techies

For a brief window of time at the beginning of 2020, China’s internet censors didn’t block stories about Wuhan and COVID-19, the coronavirus. Caixin, a widely-read news magazine, published a multi-page investigative report on everything leading up to the outbreak, including the way in which the provincial authorities in Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, suppressed knowledge of the virus. Fang Fang, an award-winning novelist, kept a Wuhan diary online on Weibo, which was recently published as a book in the U.S. (HarperCollins 2020). For that short time, comments on the coronavirus were not being censored (Wired) at WeChat. Many people were thus able to vent their frustrations and pay their respects when 32-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower Li Wenliang…