The free and open Internet is neither so free nor so open as we like to believe, and decreasingly so as time progresses but there have been some very worrying moves towards censoring alternative media recently that should you should be aware of.
We are seeing a concerted effort to such down free speech on the Internet, under the name of "fake news", "Russian propaganda", etc. Just this past week, after the Las Vegas Shooting attack, YouTube (owned by Alphabet Inc. [Google]) reportedly updated its search engine algorithms in an effort to diminish the reach of conspiracy videos and promote more authoritative videos, and ultimately censor political content.
A Global Fight Against Internet Censorship
The Relationship Between Google and Intelligence Agencies
Ever since Edward Snowden blew the lid off the extensive Internet data collection and spying efforts of the National Security Agency (NSA), Google has claimed that they never willingly participated in the surveillance program nor did it share its servers with the NSA.
However, a series of emails exchanged between NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt have been revealed. The emails are from 2011 and 2012, before Snowden revealed the NSA's secrets in June 2013. Alexander's emails hint at the importance of "Google's participation in refinement, engineering and deployment of solutions," to cyber threats.
Congress Passes Bill Approving Deceptive Domestic Propaganda
The amendment, known as the “Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012”, was tagged on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 would allow for the United States government to create and distribute pro-American propaganda within the country’s own borders.
As per the bill, "The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are authorized to use funds appropriated or otherwise made available for public diplomacy information programs to provide for the preparation, dissemination, and use of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, the Internet, and other information media, including social media, and through information centers, instructors, and other direct or indirect means of communication."
The original Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was developed to counter communism during the Cold War, although it is outdated for the conflicts of today.
Congress Passes Bill Targeting "Propaganda" Websites
On November 30, 2016 one week after the Washington Post launched its witch hunt against "Russian propaganda fake news", with 390 votes for, the House quietly passed "H.R. 6393, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017", sponsored by California Republican Devin Nunes (whose third largest donor in 2016 is Google parent Alphabet, Inc), a bill which deals with a number of intelligence-related issues, including Russian propaganda, or what the government calls propaganda, and hints at a potential crackdown on "offenders."
A quick skim of the bill reveals "Title V—Matters relating to foreign countries", whose Section 501 calls for the government to "counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence … carried out in coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation and the role of the Russian Federation has been hidden or not acknowledged publicly.”
The section lists the following definitions of media manipulation:
This law could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called “fake news” websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media's proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration.
Solutions: Boycott Google
Here are the links to the search alternatives mentioned:
Congress.gov. (2012). H.R.5736 - Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012. [online] Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/5736/text [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Durdin, Tyler. (2016) House quietly passes bill targeting "Russian propaganda" websites. [online] Available at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-02/house-quietly-passes-bill-targeting-russian-propaganda-websites [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017]
Govtrack. (2016). H.R. 6393 (114th): Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. [online] Available at: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr6393/text [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Lamarque, Kevin. (2012). NDAA 2013: Congress approves domestic deceptive propaganda. [online] Available at: https://www.rt.com/usa/propaganda-us-smith-amendment-903/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
Levin, Sam. (2017). YouTube alters search algorithm over fake Las Vegas conspiracy videos. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/06/youtube-alters-search-algorithm-over-fake-las-vegas-conspiracy-videos [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].
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