by Davey Heller, January 28th 2018
“Under the fraudulent cover of eliminating “fake news” and “Russian meddling,” the technological scaffolding of a 21st century capitalist police state is being erected”.
This is the warning made by the WSWS as it launched its call out for the creation of the “International Coalition to fight Internet Censorship”. The last twelve months has seen a massive escalation by the ruling class to censor left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites.
This modern censorship is insidious. Rather than removing whole websites from the internet the censorship largely involves using a combination of search algorithms and human censors to disappear targeted websites from search engines or limit their ability to be shared on social media. The aim of this is to prevent these websites reaching a broader audience as the capitalist crisis worsens and the plans for World War Three are advanced.
For example the WSWS saw the amount of traffic it was receiving from Google searches drop by almost 70% during 2017. This occurred immediately after Google announced a new policy to remove “fake news” from its searches. Similar impacts have occurred for sites such as Wikileaks, Truthdig, Alternet and Globalresearch.org.
Facebook has also announced that it will be manipulating its algorithms to prioritise “reliable” sources of information, that is mainstream media which sticks to the military/intelligence/corporate script and apolitical content. Facebook is trying to bury anti-war and progressive content under a mountain of funny cat video’s and “personal” moments. Recently sites such as the WSWS have reported that specific videos are being blocked from being shared. Australian blogger Caitlin Johnson has also reported a sudden drop in her views on Facebook due to censorship.
Powerful voices are supporting the new coalition against internet censorship. Pullitzer prize winning author Chris Hedges who currently writes for Truthdig joined David North in co-hosting a webinair on internet censorship. Hedges both personally and the website Truthdig have both been targeted. Julian Assange and John Pilger both released statements in support of the Webinair as did anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
The increased suppression of free speech on the internet is a clear warning that the ruling class planning to rapidly expand its response to the ongoing capitalist crisis, that is war, austerity and dictatorship. Under these conditions the spreading of counter mainstream, left-wing, socialist and anti-war perspectives poses an existential threat to the ruling class. Under the force of objective conditions it is inevitable that the working class will be increasingly attracted to and won over by these perpectives. Conversely, the revolutionary consciousness of the working class can only be developed through its exposure to the correct perspective, which Class Conscious believes is the perspective of the ICFI and the WSWS. Therefore an existential threat to the struggle for socialism and against war is posed by the moves to shut down free speech on the internet. The stakes of this battle cannot be overstated.
Class Conscious endorses the following principles for the International Coalition to Fight Internet Censorship as outlined by the ICFI
- Safeguarding the Internet as a platform for political organization and the free exchange of information, culture and diverse viewpoints, guided by the principle that access to the Internet is a right and must be free and equally available for all.
- Uncompromising insistence on the complete independence of the Internet from control by governments and private corporations.
- Unconditional defense of net neutrality and free, unfettered and equal access to the Internet.
- The banning and illegalization of government and corporate manipulation of search algorithms and procedures, including the use of human evaluators, that restrict and block public visibility of websites.
- Irreconcilable opposition to the use of the Internet and artificial intelligence technologies to carry out surveillance of web users.
- Demanding the end to the persecution of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and the complete restoration of their personal freedom.
- Advocating the transformation of the corporate Internet monopolies into public utilities, under internationally coordinated democratic control, to provide the highest quality service, not private profit.
- The fight against Internet censorship and the defense of democratic rights cannot be conducted through appeals to capitalist governments and the parties and politicians who serve their interests, but only in uncompromising struggle against them. Moreover, this struggle is international in scope and totally opposed to every form and manifestation of national chauvinism, racism and imperialist militarism. Therefore, those who are truly committed to the defense of democratic rights must direct their efforts to the mobilization of the working class of all countries.
Class Conscious will use this platform to help in the following essential tasks for the Coalition that the ICFI has proposed :
- Develop a systematic campaign of written exposés to be posted on the Internet and transmitted widely through all available forms of social media as well as through the distribution of printed leaflets, brochures and pamphlets to expose Government and corporate censorship.
- Amplify awareness of the threat to Internet free speech by aiding one another in the sharing of articles, videos, interviews, graphics, and other content.
- Organize meetings and establish discussion groups on the fight against Internet censorship in work places, neighborhoods, and schools.
- Mobilize combined resources to defend and publicize websites, groups, and individuals who are targeted by the censors and the state.