Moon of Alabama
As this outlet concluded yesterday:
Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically...
In consequence of the alleged manipulation of new and opinions during the 2016 election, Congress threatened to regulate social media. It demanded testimony by the owners of social media companies - Facebook, Twitter and Google - about their plans to weed out so called "fake news" distributed through their systems. Instead of defending the freedom of individuals and organizations to publish opinions deviating from the mainstream, the companies promised to increase their censorship capabilities. To avoid to make judgments themselves, they decided to outsource these to 'independent' fact checking organizations. Anything those deem "fake news" will then be censored.
Facebook Inc just gave such powers to two well known U.S. government regime change operators. These will now have the capabilities to censor content in foreign countries:
Facebook Inc on Wednesday said it would team with two U.S. non-profits to slow the global spread of misinformation that could influence elections,...
The largest social network, under intense pressure to combat propaganda, said it would work abroad with the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, created in the 1980s and funded by the U.S. government to promote democratic processes.
The IRI and the NDI are sub-organizations of the infamous National Endowment for Democracy. They "promote democratic processes" to achieve regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. The NED is an offshoot of the CIA:
The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s...
Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name – The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities...
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, declared in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
The Trump administration attempted to gut the NED but failed. In its 2019 appropriations Congress increased the "democracy promotion" budget that is used to "regime change" governments the U.S. does not like. The highlights of the bill include:
$2.4 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy. This amount is $91.5 million above the FY2018 enacted level.
The NED, through its sub-organizations, finances and controls local entities that promote regime change.
From Poland's Solidarnosc to the anti-Chinese Tibetan Youth Congress, from the fascist Maidan Coup in Ukraine to regime change attempts in Venezuela - the NED had and has its fingers in each of these destabilization operations:
In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc. NED typically refers to the media it supports as “independent” despite the fact that these media are on the US payroll.
In 2015 the Russian government shut down dozens of NED front groups in its country that were trying to subvert its elected institutions. But Russian language content as well as other content presented to Russian users on Facebook, will now be shaped by these organizations.
By giving "fact checking" capabilities to these organizations, Facebook hands a global censorship tool to the U.S. government 'regime change' operatives.
All fact checking organization are already a dubious endeavor. Third-party fact-checking organizations accepted by Facebook Inc for the United States are the Associated Press, Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes.com and the Weekly Standard Fact Check.
Snopes, a for profit fact checking organization, attacked Eva Bartlett for some of her well founded statements about the White Helmets propaganda organizations. In April 2018 Snopes attacked official Russian government assertions that no chemical incident took place in Douma, Syria. Snopes headlined the Russian statements as "Disinformation and Conspiracy Trolling". But the Russians were proven right. The OPCW went to Douma, took samples and found no nerve gas in them. Hospital personal as well as people living in the area were interviewed by several reporters. None of them had noticed a chemical incident. The opposition outlet Syrian Observatory did not report a chemical attack, but said that people died of suffocation after their shelter collapsed. There was no 'chemical incident' in Douma. The "fact checkers" were wrong. Moreover - when the OPCW report came out mainstream media lied about it, claiming that the OPCW found chlorine was used. The OPCW said no such thing. It found some chlorinated chemicals that can be found in any household cleaning agent. Some outlets, like the BBC and Reuters, had to correct their false claims. Snopes did not correct its false claims about the factual Russian assertions.
The Weekly Standard, a neo-conservative outlet edited by Bill Kristol played an important role in promoting war on Iraq, is now accepted by Facebook as fact checker. The Weekly Standard promptly rated a piece by Think Progress which was promoted on Facebook as "false" because of a slightly ambiguous wording in the headline of completely factual and truthful report.
Such "false" or "fake new" ratings by Facebook approved "fact checkers" have serious consequences:
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF CONTENT I CREATED OR SHARED IS RATED “FALSE” or “MIXTURE” BY A FACT-CHECKER?
A: First, that content's distribution is reduced. It will appear lower in News Feed, and will be accompanied by Related Articles from fact-checkers. If people try to share the content, they will be notified of the additional reporting. They will also be notified if content they have shared in the past has since been rated by a fact-checker.
Second, in order to more effectively fight false news, we also take action against Pages and domains that share, and domains that repeatedly publish content which is rated “False.” Such Pages and domains will see their distribution reduced as the number of offenses increases. Their ability to monetize and advertise will be removed after repeated offenses. Over time, Pages and domains can restore their distribution and ability to monetize and advertise if they stop sharing false news.
Third, Pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share false news will also lose their ability to register as a news Page on Facebook. If a registered news Page repeatedly shares false news, its news Page registration will be revoked.
Smaller news outlets like Think Progress depend on the traffic they receive through Facebook and other social media. Being falsely labeled as "fake news" outlet threatens their existence.
For foreign countries Facebook engaged with the Agence France Presse (AFP) and local organizations to check the validity of news sources. This is already a dubious choice. AFP tends to promote the French government's view. Its Beirut bureau is, for example, known to have deep relation with Jihadi 'reporters' in 'rebel' held areas of Syria and tends to promote their views. But now Facebook is handing censorship powers over foreign news to the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, organizations which were founded and are funded by the U.S. to promote regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. It is obvious that they will mark reports on Facebook that reflect the view of the government of Venezuela as "fake news", while they will promote those 'independent' Venezuelan organizations the NED itself finances.
The fact checking Facebook uses is snake oil. Such fact checking promotes a one sided view on issues and events. At the same time no fact checking is able to prevent well organized influence operations by domestic or foreign organizations. There are for example Facebook groups with thousands of members who use a special application to secretly spread pro-Zionist propaganda in cooperation with the Israeli government:
The campaign, which targeted dozens of prominent international outlets, was organized through Act.IL, a smartphone app and website developed by former Israeli intelligence officers in collaboration with the Israeli government, and with financial backing from conservative American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson...
Anyone can join Act.IL, and the platform is available on the web and as a smartphone app in the Apple and Google app stores. While it’s unclear how many active users there are, an affiliated Facebook group has more than 3,000 members worldwide. Once logged in to Act.IL, users are presented with a series of active “missions” they can take part in. Users earn participation points that can be redeemed to "get cool prizes,” according to an introductory video.
Act.IL is part of a larger Israel Lobby effort to secretly subvert and influence the content of Facebook and other social media sites.
The best way to avoid such campaigns and censorship of so called social media is to avoid them entirely. One can still get an objective view of the world by looking for original news sources and by applying a skeptical view towards presented "facts". It on us to teach others how to do this.