By Charles Hugh Smith
Source: Of Two Minds
We either take down Facebook and Google and turn them into tightly regulated transparent public utilities available to all or they will destroy what little is left of American democracy.
The RussiaGate Narrative has been revealed as a Big Con (a.k.a. Nothing-Burger), but what’s dangerously real is the censorship that’s being carried out by the for-profit monopolies Facebook and Google on behalf of the status quo’s Big Con.
This site got a taste of Facebook-Google-Big-Media’s Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship back in 2016 when a shadowy fake-news site called PropOrNot aggregated every major alt-media site that had published anything remotely skeptical of the coronation of Hillary Clinton as president and labeled us all shills for Russian propaganda.
Without any investigation of the perps running the site or their fake-news methodology, The Washington Post (Jeff Bezos’ plaything) saw fit to promote the fake-news on Page One as if it were journalistically legitimate. Why would a newspaper that supposedly values the integrity of its content run with such shameless fake-news propaganda? Because it fit the Post’s own political agenda and biases.
This is the essence of Facebook-Google-Big-Media’s Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship: sacrifice accepted journalistic practice, free speech and transparency to promote an absurdly obvious political and social agenda.
If there was any real justice in America, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai should be wearing prison jumpsuits for what Facebook and Google have done to American democracy. Both of these monopolies have manipulated news feeds, search results and what individuals are shown in complete secret, with zero public oversight or transparency.
The damage to democracy wrought by Facebook and Google is severe: free speech no longer exists except in name, and what individuals see in search and social media feeds is designed to manipulate them without their consent or knowledge–and for a fat profit. Whether Facebook and Google are manipulating users for profit or to buy off Status Quo pressures to start regulating these monopolistic totalitarian regimes or to align what users see with their own virtue-signaling, doesn’t matter.
What matters is that no one can possibly know how Facebook and Google have rigged their algorithms and to what purpose. The typical corporation can buy political influence, but Facebook and Google are manipulating the machinery of democracy itself in three ways:
1. They are secretly censoring alternative media and skeptics of the status quo narratives.
2. They are selling data and ads to anyone interested in manipulating voters and public opinion.
3. They are providing data to the National Security organs of the state which can then use this data to compile dossiers on “enemies of the people,” i.e. skeptics and dissenters who question the “approved” context and narrative.
That’s a much more dangerous type of power than buying political influence or manipulating public opinion by openly publishing biased “commentary.”
We all understand how America’s traditional Corporate Media undermines democracy: recall how every time Bernie Sanders won a Democratic primary in 2016, The New York Times and The Washington Post “reported” the news in small typeface in a sidebar, while every Hillary Clinton primary win was trumpeted in large headlines at the top of page one.
But this sort of manipulation is visible; what Google and Facebook do is invisible. What their algorithms do is invisible, and the shadow banning and other forms of invisible censorship cannot be easily traced.
A few of us can trace shadow banning because we have access to our site’s server data. Please consider the data of Google searches and direct links from Facebook to oftwominds.com from November 2016 and November 2018:
Nov. 2016: Google Searches: 36,779
Nov. 2016: links from Facebook: 9,888
Nov. 2018: Google Searches: 12,671
Nov. 2018: links from Facebook: 859
Oftwominds.com has been around since 2005 and consistently draws around 250,000 page views monthly (via oftwominds.com and my mirror site on blogspot, which is owned/operated by Google. Interestingly, traffic to that site has been less affected by shadow banning; Coincidence? You decide….).
Given the consistency of my visitor traffic over the years, it’s “interesting” how drastically the site’s traffic with Google and Facebook has declined in a mere two years. How is this shadow banning not Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship? It’s akin to China’s Orwellian Social Credit system but for private profit.
It wouldn’t surprise me to find my photo airbrushed out of group photos on Facebook and Google just as the Soviet propaganda organs did when someone fell out of favor in the 1930s.
Fortunately, oftwominds.com isn’t dependent on Facebook or Google for its traffic; other content creators who were skeptical of RussiaGate are not so fortunate. One of the implicit goals of shadow banning and filters is to destroy the income of dissenting sites without the content creators knowing why their income plummeted.
Strip dissenters of their income and you strip them of the ability to dissent. Yay for “free speech” controlled by for-profit monopolies!
Where’s the “level playing field” of free speech? As long as Facebook and Google are free to censor and filter in secret, there is no free speech in America. All we have is a simulacrum of free speech in which parroting “approved” narratives is promoted and dissent is censored/banned–but without anyone noticing or even being able to tell what’s been filtered, censored or banned.
So when are we going to tackle privately held monopolies which are selling user data to the highest bidder, obliterating free speech in secret and manipulating news feeds and search to promote hidden agendas? I’ve argued (see links below) that the solution is very simple:
1. Regulate Facebook and Google as public utilities. Ban them from collecting and selling user data to anyone, including federal agencies.
2. Allow a modest profit to each firm via display adverts that are shown equally to every user.
3. Require any and all search/content filters and algorithms be made public, i.e. published daily.
4. Any executive or employee of these corporations who violates these statutes will face criminal felony charges and be exposed to civil liability lawsuits from users or content providers who were shadow-banned or their right to free speech was proscribed or limited by filters or algorithms.
There is no intrinsic right for privately held corporations to establish monopolies that can manipulate and filter free speech in secret to maximize profits and secret influence. We either take down Facebook and Google and turn them into tightly regulated transparent public utilities available to all or they will destroy what little is left of American democracy.
I recently addressed these invisible (but oh-so profitable) mechanisms in a series of essays:
Are Facebook and Google the New Colonial Powers? September 18, 2017
The Demise of Dissent: Why the Web Is Becoming Homogenized November 17, 2017
Addictions: Social Media & Mobile Phones Fall From Grace November 24, 2017