A wave of Internet censorship is sweeping the globe. This censorship is no longer just the nefarious work of totalitarian nations. Many western nations are experiencing their own brand of censorship that is being promulgated by ostensibly “private” companies. (Although many of these are near-monopoly utilities that could be classified as public accommodations.)
The War on Guns
Dozens of conservative, pro-gun videobloggers and news outlets have been demonetized by YouTube in the past two years. By flagging these sites as “not family friendly”, viewers must now toggle “Restricted Mode: Off” and even when they do, advertisements are no longer displayed. This has happened to gun vloggers like Hickok45, Demolition Ranch, and many others. And even some vloggers who only occasionally mention guns (such as Wranglerstar) have also been intermittently blacklisted. This effectively zeros their advertising revenue. The goal of YouTube’s liberal, globalist, and anti-gun management is clear: They want to drive these sites out of business by cutting them off from their revenue stream.
Meanwhile, Google is deliberately “de-listing” conservative sites from showing up on the first page of results in Google searches. Going far beyond just a deniable search engine “algorithm glitch”, Google has been caught hiring outside contracting firms to manipulate data, deliberately assigning “low to medium” or “poor to low” reliability to numerous news outlets including InfoWars and Natural News. They have done the same to whistleblowing sites like Wikileaks. By pushing down their search engine relevance, Google is marginalizing these sites. Google’s goal is clear: They want to remove these sites from the public eye.
Search Engine Shenanigans
Google was also caught red-handed during the 2016 presidential election cycle in manipulating the “auto fill” feature of their search engine window in completing search phrases that involved the name Hillary Clinton. This was well documented by Fortune magazine.
Concurrently, Twitter has “shadow banned” some users.
Facebook has also been caught systematically censoring posts.
Now, more than ever before, Facebook is using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to flag and delete “offensive” content. Not surprisingly, it is conservative and pro-national sovereignty sites that seem to be flagged most often.
The work of the AI algorithms often has tragi-comic results. Most recently, a blogger posted the Declaration of Independence to his Facebook page, in several installments, in honor of Independence Day. One portion of the Declaration was quickly flagged as “hate speech” by Facebook’s AI, and automagically deleted. Facebook administrators later apologized and restored the post. But this illustrates the just how arbitrary the AI juggernaut can be.
To make matters even worse, two years ago Amazon.com slashed the commissions for all of their “Amazon Associates” by an average of 45%. This has made it difficult for many bloggers to cover their costs.
The end result of these many maneuverings has been to marginalize and demonetize web sites, blogs, and vlogs of those who are deemed “politically incorrect.” By suppressing and manipulating search engine results, these sites are not just made unprofitable, they also disappear from public view. This is blatant censorship and an outright stifling of free public discourse.
Sequence of Events
Through the use of AI and paid opinion molders, the general direction and sequence of 21st Century Internet censorship appears to be:
- Identifying politically incorrect bloggers and vloggers.
- Targeting those who are the most outspoken.
- Marginalization—through deliberate manipulation of search engine results.
- By selectively editing content, leftist Wikipedia cabals are skewing content and even outright deleting it. The “James Wesley Rawles” Wikipedia page just barely survived multiple deletion campaigns as “Non-notable.” Some of these “Articles for Deletion” (AfD) attempts occurred after three of my books were on the New York Times Bestsellers List. (Since when is a bestseller not notable?)
- Reducing revenue to remove any incentive to continue blogging or vlogging.
- Demonization through miscategorization into “hate” categories. This has included attempts to fabricate conspiratorial relationships through Guilt by Association, or even –- as I have personally experienced — Guilt by Disassociation. I have been targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in a smear campaign.
- Repeatedly flagging conservative blogs, vlogs, and web sites. This is done by placing “hits” or “strikes” on sites that are in any way deemed offensive.
- Full Deletion of websites. Once a sufficient number of strikes have been tallied, content is removed or made invisible. This is not just piecemeal deletion of individual posts, videos, or web pages but rather wholesale deletion of entire sites. Once deleted these sites and their authors are de-ranked or even completely deleted from search engine results. Poof! Down the Memory Hole.
In the face of this revisionism, censorship, and full-on site deletion, those who have been targeted have begun to fight back. We recognize that as private firms, companies like Facebook and Google can operate their businesses as they see fit. (The freedom of association also implies the freedom of disassociation. The phrase “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” still applies.) So, rather than by filing fruitless lawsuits, we have chosen to find alternative outlets and methodologies. These include:
- Establishing fully independent web domains that are not tied to proprietary commercial services such as Blogger or YouTube.
- Employing alternative services for high bandwidth video content. These presently are typified by Full30.com and BitChute.com.
- Widely cross-posting content.
- Setting up offshore mirror websites.
- Encouraging readers to bookmark websites, so that people will continue to visit sites even after they have been expunged by search engines.
- Asking sites to maintain prominent link lists and blogrolls, where content with the same political perspective is apparent.
- Distributing blog archives on DVD and USB memory sticks.
- Encouraging readers to print out key posts and maintain their own hard copy archives.
- Preparing to distribute leaflets, printed newsletters, or e-mailed newsletters, in the event that censorship gets even more severe
- Providing press credentials to all adult citizens. (We have done so though our sister site, CFAPA.org.)
- Making plans and setting up resources to physically move blogging staff off shore, if it becomes necessary.
All in all, Internet censorship is becoming a serious threat to the free exchange of ideas and to individual liberty. We need to defend the First Amendment rights of everyone — even those whom we politically or philosophically oppose. As Benjamin Franklin so aptly put it: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
Please defend freedom of the press! – JWR