Journalist and Twitter Files reporter Michael Shellenberger referred to the “Censorship-Industrial Complex” as a “terrifying mechanism” seen in totalitarian societies.
Shellenberger, along with fellow Twitter Files reporter Matt Taibbi, appeared before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government regarding their findings in the Twitter Files.
“I’ve never worked on an issue where so frequently, while doing it, I just had chills going up my spine because of what I was seeing happening,” Shellenberger said during the hearing. “I never thought in my own country that freedom of speech would be threatened in this way.”
“It’s just frightening when you get into it.”
Michael Shellenberger says the Department of Homeland Security is building a censorship industrial complex:
"It's not a slippery slope. It's an immediate leap into a terrifying mechanism that we only see in totalitarian societies."@ShellenbergerMD pic.twitter.com/rWp9JzBiaZ
— kanekoa.substack.com (@KanekoaTheGreat) March 9, 2023
“We first raised a bunch of concerns around the way Twitter pre-Elon Musk was censoring people and creating blacklists. Very quickly we discovered that we had FBI agents … and other government officials demanding that Twitter take certain actions,” Shellenberger said, noting the Department of Homeland Security had attempted to created the Disinformation Governance Board (DGB) last year which was fully disbanded several months later citing public backlash. “We now realize that they have this other enterprise and they’ve been building out mechanisms to proliferate a Censorship-Industrial Complex around the country to censor on a whole range of issues.”
Shellenberger continued, noting initial “disinformation” efforts were employed to fight foreign agents including ISIS and “Russian disinformation bots,” but those efforts had transitioned to fighting domestic adversaries.
“Which is just saying, ‘We need to fight against people who are saying things we disagree with online’ — that’s all that means,” he said. “It’s not a slippery slope. It’s an immediate leap into a terrifying mechanism that we only see in totalitarian societies of attempting to gain control over what the social media platforms are allowing.”
He added: “It starts at DHS but we see almost every government agency involved in this.”
Taibbi’s Thursday statement before Congress echoed Shellenberger’s as the former Rolling Stone editor said the United States government played a lead role in internet censorship and social control.
“For every government agency scanning Twitter, there were perhaps 20 quasi-private entities doing the same, including Stanford’s Election Integrity Project, Newsguard, the Global Disinformation Index, and others, many taxpayer-funded,” Taibbi said. “A focus of this fast-growing network is making lists of people whose opinions, beliefs, associations, or sympathies are deemed ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ or ‘malinformation.’”
Taibbi referred to “malinformation” as a euphemism for “true but inconvenient,” further suggesting the creation of aforementioned lists were a form of “digital McCarthyism.”
“These companies can and do refuse service to law-abiding people and businesses whose only crime is falling afoul of a distant, faceless, unaccountable, algorithmic judge,” Taibbi continued. “If there’s anything the Twitter Files show, it’s that we’re in danger of losing this most precious right, without which all other democratic rights are impossible.”