Sharp-eyed readers will have spotted that Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi testified before Congress yesterday about the activities of what they call America’s ‘Censorship-Industrial Complex’, i.e., the combination of shadowy state agencies, state-funded NGOs and private companies that since 2016 have been engaged in censoring domestic dissent on social media on a massive scale, particularly when it comes to issues like election fraud, the origins of COVID-19, controversial pharmaceutical treatments of COVID-19, the efficacy and safety of the mRNA Covid vaccines, masking, gender identity ideology, the war in Ukraine and the causes of climate change, as well as energetically spreading misinformation and disinformation about those issues.
The exposure of this complex has been triggered by the release of the Twitter Files, with Shellenberger and Taibbi being among the two most prominent journalists who’ve been given access to those Files and who’ve shared their findings in a number of Twitter threads. Needless to say, we also have a ‘Censorship-Industrial Complex’ in the UK, as documented by Big Brother Watch in a recent report, which has matched the growth of its American equivalent step-by-step, although unlike in America our political class remains almost completely uninterested in it, with a few notable exceptions, and British citizens are more vulnerable to these attacks on their free speech than their American counterparts because we don’t have a First Amendment.
Michael Shellenberger wrote a post for his Substack yesterday, just before testifying, that tried to sum up what he and Taibbi have been able to discover so far:
Our findings are shocking. A highly-organised network of U.S. Government agencies and Government contractors has been creating blacklists and pressuring social media companies to censor Americans, often without them knowing it.
We and others have already reported on some of the actions of this complex, including its disinformation campaigns. But the extent of its censorship was unknown to us until very recently. And, as importantly, we now understand the ways in which this complex simultaneously spreads disinformation and demands censorship.
What my 68-page testimony to Congress shows is an effort by U.S. Government intelligence and security agencies to wage “information warfare” against the American people.
I do not doubt that some people will try to justify the behaviours we have documented. They will say such censorship is necessary for “fighting disinformation”.
But there is no moral or legal justification for the acts of state-sponsored censorship we document, much less for the fundamentally un-American censorship-industrial complex.
I believe that any reasonable person reading our report, no matter their politics, will be horrified by what is taking place and demand an end to it.
With our testimony, we are calling on Congress to defund and dismantle the censorship-industrial complex immediately.
Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Both are under attack.
Shellenberger’s piece is worth reading in full, not least because it also contains a transcript of his testimony which he added later.