Monday, October 23, 2023 by Belle Carter
On October 18, a group of 136 academics, historians and journalists coming from all directions of the political spectrum – left, right and center – released the “Westminster Declaration,” a document that basically points out to President Joe Biden’s administration that the rapidly growing censorship of his regime “undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy” and that the best way to combat actual disinformation is with free speech.
The said declaration was the result of an initial meeting of free speech champions from around the world who met in Westminster, London, at the end of June 2023.
“We write as journalists, artists, authors, activists, technologists and academics to warn of increasing international censorship that threatens to erode centuries-old democratic norms. Coming from the left, right and center, we are united by our commitment to universal human rights and freedom of speech, and we are all deeply concerned about attempts to label protected speech as ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ and other ill-defined terms,” the piece included. “This abuse of these terms has resulted in the censorship of ordinary people, journalists and dissidents in countries all over the world.”
Suppression of speech has been widely observed during the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as authoritarians in the U.S. and around the world have cynically used claims of “disinformation” to censor ordinary people and stifle dissent about everything from the efficacy of masks to vaccines. The same strategy has also been employed to suppress the scandal surrounding the files of the presidential son Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” and continued up to the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, and even the most recent Middle East violent attacks and counterattacks.
The paper further stated that government actors, social media companies, universities and non-government organizations are increasingly working to monitor citizens and rob the people of their voices worldwide. They defined the ‘censorship industrial complex’ to be a large-scale coordinated effort. However, they emphasized that it can also operate through more subtle methods such as filtering, labeling and manipulation of search engine results. It further cited how social media censors silenced lawful opinions on topics of national and geopolitical importance through deplatforming, throttling and flagging. Mainstream media also hired biased ‘disinformation experts’ and ‘fact-checkers,’ who seemed to have abandoned the journalistic values of debate and intellectual inquiry.
“Open discourse is the central pillar of a free society, and is essential for holding governments accountable, empowering vulnerable groups and reducing the risk of tyranny … We do not want our children to grow up in a world where they live in fear of speaking their minds,” the declaration emphasized.
Some of the luminaries who signed that declaration against censorship were: Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson; U.K. Biologist Richard Dawkins; NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt; Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks; actor Tim Robbins; evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein; economist Glenn Loury’ filmmaker Oliver Stone; whistleblower Edward Snowden; and British comedian John Cleese. Additionally, two of the independent journalists responsible for the Twitter Files, Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi, who testified before Congress about the “censorship industrial complex,” were also among the signatories. (Related: Censorship remains a problem even after Musk’s Twitter takeover.)
Elsewhere in the signed document, all 138 signatories called on the tech giants to stop the censorship. It also ordered governments and NGOs to respect free speech as protected by the “UN Declaration of Human Rights.” They also implore an increasingly complacent public to reject the “climate of intolerance that encourages self-censorship and instead of fear and dogmatism, we must adopt investigation and debate.”
The New York Post cited the free speech lawsuit Missouri v. Biden to have been at the forefront of exposing an entrenched censorship scheme cooked up between the federal government and Big Tech. More than 60 officials or agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were accused of violating the First Amendment by pressuring Facebook, Twitter and Google to censor users for alleged misinformation or disinformation.
According to the news outlet, they have also been a victim of the vast “censorship enterprise” when it was Hunter Biden’s laptop exposé that was suppressed by Facebook and Twitter in October 2020. Weeks before the presidential election, the FBI had pre-bunked a story published by the Post, warning the social media companies, with varying degrees of specificity, to watch out for a “dump” of Russian disinformation likely in October and relating to the younger Biden. Had the report been published, the outcome of the election may have had a different result, a survey revealed.
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