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Glenn Greenwald

Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment

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For the third time in less than five months, the US Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them, with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms. On March 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrogate Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai at a hearing which the Committee announced will focus “on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.”

The Committee’s Chair, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of the Subcommittees holding the hearings, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), said in a joint statement that the impetus was “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud.” They argued that “these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” adding: “This hearing will continue the Committee’s work of holding online platforms accountable for the growing rise of misinformation and disinformation.”

House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing: to exert control over the content on these online platforms. “Industry self-regulation has failed,” they said, and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.
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The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot

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What took place at the Capitol on January 6 was undoubtedly a politically motivated riot. As such, it should not be controversial to regard it as a dangerous episode. Any time force or violence is introduced into what ought to be the peaceful resolution of political conflicts, it should be lamented and condemned.

But none of that justifies lying about what happened that day, especially by the news media. Condemning that riot does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was. There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.

Yet this is exactly what has happened, and continues to happen, since that riot almost seven weeks ago. And anyone who tries to correct these falsehoods is instantly attacked with the cynical accusation that if you want only truthful reporting about what happened, then you’re trying to “minimize” what happened and are likely an apologist for if not a full-fledged supporter of the protesters themselves.

One of the most significant of these falsehoods was the tale — endorsed over and over without any caveats by the media for more than a month — that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was murdered by the pro-Trump mob when they beat him to death with a fire extinguisher. That claim was first published by The New York Times on January 8 in an article headlined “Capitol Police Officer Dies From Injuries in Pro-Trump Rampage.” It cited “two [anonymous] law enforcement officials” to claim that Sicknick died “with the mob rampaging through the halls of Congress” and after he “was struck with a fire extinguisher.”
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The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows

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A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism.

I’ve written before about one particularly toxic strain of this authoritarian “reporting.” Teams of journalists at three of the most influential corporate media outlets — CNN’s “media reporters” (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy), NBC’s “disinformation space unit” (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny), and the tech reporters of The New York Times (Mike Isaac, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel) — devote the bulk of their “journalism” to searching for online spaces where they believe speech and conduct rules are being violated, flagging them, and then pleading that punitive action be taken (banning, censorship, content regulation, after-school detention). These hall-monitor reporters are a major factor explaining why tech monopolies, which (for reasons of self-interest and ideology) never wanted the responsibility to censor, now do so with abandon and seemingly arbitrary blunt force: they are shamed by the world’s loudest media companies when they do not.

Just as the NSA is obsessed with ensuring there be no place on earth where humans can communicate free of their spying eyes and ears, these journalistic hall monitors cannot abide the idea that there can be any place on the internet where people are free to speak in ways they do not approve.
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How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler

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Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should.

The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company.
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With Biden's New Threats, the Russia Discourse is More Reckless and Dangerous Than Ever

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To justify Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss to Donald Trump, leading Democrats and their key media allies for years competed with one another to depict what they called “Russia’s interference in our elections” in the most apocalyptic terms possible. They fanatically rejected the view of the Russian Federation repeatedly expressed by President Obama — that it is a weak regional power with an economy smaller than Italy’s capable of only threatening its neighbors but not the US — and instead cast Moscow as a grave, even existential, threat to US democracy, with its actions tantamount to the worst security breaches in US history.
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After the Deep State Sabotaged His Presidential Bid, Bernie Sanders Mocks Those Who Believe it Exists

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At what would be the peak of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, the U.S. intelligence community, using anonymous leaks to The Washington Post, dropped a devastating bomb on the Vermont Senator. “U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest," the paper announced, citing “people familiar with the matter” whom the paper allowed to speak “on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.”

At the time of this perfectly timed leak, Sanders was on a major roll. He had effectively tied Pete Buttigieg for first place in the scandal-plagued Iowa caucus, in which an app developed and sold by Democratic Party operatives made it impossible to reliably count the votes, and then won the first primary in New Hampshire (Joe Biden finished fourth and fifth, respectively, declared all but dead by the punditocracy and Democratic donors).

The leak to The Post was published on February 21 — the day before Nevada was to hold its caucus, as polls showed Sanders with a sizeable lead in that state. The next day, Sanders had a blowout win, defeating Biden by twenty-two points and scoring what The New York Times described as “a major victory in the Nevada caucuses that demonstrated his broad appeal in the first racially diverse state in the presidential primary race and established him as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.”
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The US Inability To Count Votes is a National Disgrace. And Dangerous.

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The richest and most powerful country on earth — whether due to ineptitude, choice or some combination of both — has no ability to perform the simple task of counting votes in a minimally efficient or confidence-inspiring manner. As a result, the credibility of the voting process is severely impaired, and any residual authority the US claims to “spread” democracy to lucky recipients of its benevolence around the world is close to obliterated.
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My Resignation From The Intercept

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Today I sent my intention to resign from The Intercept, the news outlet I co-founded in 2013 with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, as well as from its parent company First Look Media.

The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.

The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct. Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded, these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.
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