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Twitter’s ‘Birdwatch’ Community Fact-Checking Feature is Crowdsourcing Censorship

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

Now that Trump is out of office, many have been half expecting that mainstream media and Silicon Valley’s hyper-active ‘fact-check’ brigades might calm down, have a few wheat grass smoothies and bask in their momentous victory. Unfortunately, this new class of self-styled thought police are just getting warmed up. Jack’s got a plan.

Before we discuss Twitter’s latest dystopian add-on feature, let’s first establish a few important terms of reference as to the role which Big Tech has ascended to. The bottom line is that Twitter was caught directly meddling in the 2020 US Election and the mainstream press have worked hard to obfuscate this fact. When the Hunter Biden laptop scandal materialized prior to the November election, Twitter took the unilateral partisan decision to shutdown any information on the story, and even went so far as to shutdown the account of the New York Post who originally broke the story, and even suspended the White House Press Secretary’s account for retweeting it, as well as other high-profile staffers. Emboldened by Twitter’s bombast, Democrat leaders, mainstream media and even ‘the Big Guy’ Joe Biden himself – all clung to one singular narrative claiming the Hunter Biden story was somehow untrue, baseless misinformation planted by The Russians!™ to undermine candidate Biden. Not only were they all wrong, but we later learned that partisans at FBI had in fact been quietly sitting on Hunter Biden’s laptop since autumn 2019, effectively keeping it on ice so as not to hurt Biden’s Presidential run. After the election, Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, then took what appeared to be coordinated action to pursue any users who dared to challenge the 2020 election result, in some cases prohibiting terms like “voter fraud” and “election fraud” on their platforms. This wave of censorship and fact-checking came into effect even before many of the court challenges. Regardless, the new ad hoc corporate ‘truth committees’ appeared omnipotent in their anointed role as information gatekeepers of the new digital public square. If that wasn’t enough, after Twitter and Facebook’s political purge, Big Tech cartel members and Democrat activists then conspired in the take-down an emerging competitor, Parler, taking the social media completely offline, and pressuring its vendors to abandon their service commitments with the new social media firm.

While this approached may have worked for them in the short-term, and indeed helped to achieve the election results they wanted, it won’t erase that fact Big Tech is guilty of the very crime which Democrats and media mavens spend 5 years trying to convince the world of when they floated the evidence-free conspiracy theory that the Russians ‘meddled’ and colluded with the Trump campaign in order to install The Donald in the White House in 2016.

Now, creative technocrats at Twitter appear to have devised a tangential escape route (and Section 230 workaround) from their own obvious culpability in election meddling and political censorship. It’s called “Birdwatch,” a new feature designed to supposedly combat the supposed omnipresent threat of ‘misinformation’ on their platform – by allowing users to add so-called ‘fact-check’ notes to peoples’ tweets. It’s supposed to allow ‘regular users’ (how are going to determine who is a ‘regular user’ is another question) called ‘Birdwatchers’ who will be allowed add to fact-check notes and provide ‘informative context’ for tweets.

Wait a minute. Call me old fashioned, but don’t Tweets already have a forum for discussion, context and debate? Isn’t that what the comment section below each Tweet is for? I used to think so.

So why is San Francisco’s high latte council of the Ministry of Truth creating this new wing on Jack’s bird? American tech entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy describes part of Twitter’s political modus operandi in a recent interview (see video below):

“If you trace it back to what happened a couple weeks ago, what we saw was actually the liberal wing of government, the liberal wing of Congress, delegating to these social media companies the dirty work that they couldn’t directly do under the Constitution – that was the work of censorship. Not only President Trump, but hundreds [actually tens of thousands] of Conservatives had their accounts purged after what happened on January 6th. So that was step one. These companies took criticism, they took heat. So now of course we see step two, we’re they’re now delegating that dirty work to their own users. We aren’t going to debate each other, but are going to try to cancel one another. I think it’s incredibly divisive.”

Ramaswamy added, “These policies are changing every day on the fly. It’s ‘Birdwatch’ today, it will be ‘snail watch’ tomorrow. It’s ultimately are what side of the bed Jack Dorsey wakes up on a given day. They censor Trump, they censored Conservatives, they changed their terms of service – really on the fly. This really is corporate monarchy, and this so-called ‘Birdwatch’ program is really papering-over the fact that this is

Sounds like death by a thousand fact-checks. Simply out, this initiative is an attempt to crowdsource the petty censorship they’ve been doing in-house, which will almost certainly pave the way for some kind of ‘trustworthiness’ rating or social credit rating for users on their platform. It’s doesn’t take a genius to work out how this will ultimately morph into some sort deplatforming mechanism. Of course, they’re not telling you the whole plan, only the initial nudging exercise. If they unveiled their whole censorship plan, their share price might tank again like it did following their decision to deplatform President Trump. But the real problem with this latest ‘solution’ to free speech is that it opens the door to the worst aspects of organized and state-sponsored trolling, just like Wikipedia’s failed ‘community-driven’ approach to so-called fact-checking which has succumbed to vexatious editors and trolls who’ve been allowed to vandalize pages and libel political dissenters and journalists on an industrial scale. As a result, Wikipedia’s reputation has been permanently damaged, as their board continues to turn a convenient blind eye to suspected establishment henchmen online such as the notorious Philip Cross. Similar problems have been created by the UK military’s online trolling army known as 77th Brigade. As Laurie Clark aptly explained in her feature for Wired magazine:

“In 2015, the British Army announced the creation of the 77th Brigade, a psychological operations unit responsible for ‘non-lethal’ warfare that reportedly uses social media to “control the narrative”, as well as disseminating UK government-friendly podcasts and videos. At its creation, the unit announced 1,500 soldiers would take to Facebook and Twitter for this purpose.”

In other words, these same Silicon Valley firms who spent the last five years clamping down on supposed ‘Russian bot accounts’ but have routinely looked the other way when it comes to proliferation of organized trolling and swarming by certain government, namely the government, military and their contractors from the US and UK. It would be interesting to know whether any of these entities are being allowed access to social media platforms by way of some special Application Programming Interface (API), whereby firms like Twitter and Facebook would allow certain military, intelligence agencies, or other third party state contractors to run large farms of accounts and chat bots from a proprietary dashboard, the same kind used by NATO information warfare units? That’s one question we’d like to ask egalitarian champions Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg.

And then there’s the Section 230, the law which protects Big Tech firms from liability for publishing offensive material, a status protected by the claim that they are not publishers exercising editorial control, but rather platforms which simply host a space for users to post content. Dorsey’s new “Birdwatch” feature is clearly an attempt to move away from the Section 230 cross hairs and into the Wikipedia zone. Clearly, these firms have been caught heavily editorializing their users, even along partisan lines. This may eventually prompt a fundamental change to Section 230 down the line, one which may or may hurt Big Tech monopolies, but may also further throttle free speech online. It remains to seen how that one will play out.

Silicon Valley can’t help it – they’re stuck in downward Orwellian spiral. By openly showing their authoritarian hand, that should be a signal to the world that it’s time to change course, and get off their woke IPO gravy train to nowhere. With each step they make, Big Tech firms further expose their own institutional biases – which may contribute to their gradual free-fall in street credibility and reputation as this generation’s legitimate digital alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar public square. Instead, what we are seeing is hyper-partisan, plutocratic digital plantation which has drifted so far from the free and open, decentralized internet envisioned by online pioneers like Jaron Lanier and Kim Dotcom.

Watch this recent segment with entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy for FOX News:

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Author Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq. See his archive here.

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