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Social media platforms censor content at behest of US government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Censorship of Social media

The United States has always prided itself as a country that protects freedom of speech. However, there is mounting evidence that when it comes to freedom of speech on social media platforms, the government of the United States of America is bending the rules in its favor to suppress narratives that it does not like.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has accused the US government of pushing all social media platforms to work with the US government to censor content. According to Musk every social media company is engaged in heavy censorship with significant involvement, and at times, explicit direction, of the government.

Musk was referring to internal Twitter communications published by journalist Matt Taibbi with his approval.

The files show the FBI acting as doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship encompassing agencies across the federal government. Elon Musk released the documents following his purchase of Twitter.

According to Taibbi, in addition to Twitter, the US government was in contact with virtually every major tech firm, which included Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, and even Pinterest.

According to the document, CIA agents nearly always sat in meetings of these firms with the FBI's Foreign Influence Task Force.

The firm reportedly colluded with the FBI to remove content the agency wanted hidden, assisted the US military's online influence campaigns and censored, "anti Ukraine narratives" on behalf of multiple US intelligence agencies.

A lot of people have questions. How involved is the government in monitoring and censoring the speech of ordinary people?

What we've seen so far already and we have definite conclusive proof of is that there are lots and lots of reports where we see Twitter executives saying things like DHS flagged this, the FBI flagged this and then they had … a whole thread where they decided what to do about it.

Do we remove it? Do we put a label on it? So there's tons of that stuff, where they're clearly getting communications from the FBI.

Matt Taibbi, Journalist

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Twitter helped the US military amplify its propaganda campaigns in the West Asia region, allowing fake accounts to push pro-US narratives. Twitter secretly created a special whitelist exempting accounts run by US Central Command, CENTCOM, from spam and abuse flags. The move allowed those accounts greater visibility on the platform.

Twitter has long pledged to shut down all state backed Disinformation and Propaganda efforts. But these rules and suspensions have not been applied to the American military efforts.


The findings of this research appear to corroborate a major report published in August by online security researchers affiliated with the Stanford Internet Observatory.

That report claimed that thousands of accounts that they suspected to be part of a state backed information operation were spreading misinformation. And earlier this year, it was revealed that the US government made efforts to influence cyberspace in the country through a cyber security and infrastructure security agency.

We also know that they have meetings, not just with the FBI, and the DHS, but also a surprise was the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. I hadn't heard that before that was a new one.

And then we're learning a lot about the kind of scraping of raw intelligence, and fire hosing it to the government, all kinds of government agencies, on the back end.

So the government is harvesting tons of information from these companies and then turning around and spitting it back to companies like Twitter in the form of requests for, you know, maybe bannings, maybe shadow bans, maybe deletions or labels and that sort of thing. It's fascinating.

Matt Taibbi, Journalist

The US government has reportedly pressured social media platforms to "shape online discourse".

There are now concerns that officials in the Department of Homeland Security have greater influence to make politically motivated determinations about what constitutes dangerous speech, and critics say the extent to which the DHS initiatives affect Americans daily social media feeds is unclear.

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