David v. Goliath in Cyberspace

Reposted from The Pipeline

Clarice Feldman • 02 Jun, 2020 • 5 Min Read

Vintage antique illustration and line drawing or engraving of biblical story about David who beaten Philistine warrior Goliath.From Biblische Geschichte des alten und neuen Testaments, Germany 1859. Samuel 17.

In his 20007 book, An Army of Davids, Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit, wrote optimistically that an army of ordinary people (“Davids”) could use technology and the market to beat the Goliaths of “Big Media, Big Government and other Goliaths.” Thirteen years later, big media is on the ropes but the Silicon Valley Goliaths, using the technology and market forces at their disposal, have shut out of the marketplace Davids opposed to their preferred opinions. Not the least of their favored views has been the notion that we are in an existential crisis of climate change for which the only remedy is killing reliance on traditional energy sources. 

Last week in an effort to curb the manifest bias in social media platforms, President Trump signed an executive order preventing online censorship. The justification for now treating social media as “publishers” responsible for content — instead of “platforms,” which are not — stems, inter alia, from their behavior in stifling the free exchange of views inconsistent with those of their owners and staff.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see. As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the Internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy. 

Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

The website Wattsupwiththat greeted the President’s move as an opening for climate change skeptics who’ve been abusively treated by these outfits. I anticipate the order’s enforcement will meet with significant challenges along the way, but in support of the president’s claim, there is ample evidence of both the abusive treatment of climate change skeptics and the impact this has had on public debate and policy. Examples abound of censorship by Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and You Tube.

Apple no longer allows its iPhone to access an app called Inconvenient Facts which challenges Al Gore’s views on dangerous climate change. Reddit moderators have banned climate skeptics from the “/r/science” feature which has millions of monthly visitors. Wattsup documents countless incidents of social media censorship by Google, twitter and Microsoft. Twitter is the worst in its view. It bans tweets whose content it omnisciently determines is “inaccurate. “At the same time it runs and sometimes promotes ads without marking them as paid ads or putting the word “promoted “ in tiny font.

Google is only slightly better, censoring and banning messages, including ads “in the middle of a run,” none of which contain misrepresentation, but conflict with the views of its apparatchiks. The censoring of skeptic ads, even after approval, seemed significant just prior to the Paris conference re-enactment. Microsoft and LinkedIn banned messages, sometimes at their onset and other times in the middle of ad campaigns. Sometimes they did not outright ban them, but kept them in review “indefinitely.”

Is the simultaneous banning by multiple big social media companies evidence of marketplace monopolistic collusion, the author asks, noting these companies did enter into various agreements with the European Commission and German government to suppress some content? Adding to this suspicion of collusive practices is the fact they often hire the very same “fact checkers” and censors. If so, such collusion could subject the firms’ officers to prison sentences under 15 U.S. Code Sec. 24.

And then there’s YouTube (owned by Google). It is the “platform” that carries videos on everything from White House pressers to how to trim and tie a beef tenderloin or make your own silly putty. “1,300,000,000 use YouTube. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.” https://merchdope.com/youtube-stats/
You Tube is adding “fact checks” to videos that dare to question the climate change credo. 

Wikipedia is the recipient of a significant grant from Google, so if you see collusion in the fact that YouTube will tag some climate change skeptic videos with text from Wikipedia stating “multiple lines of scientific evidence show that the climate system is warming” you may not be off the mark. (If the solar minimum happening right now indicates the system is in a cooling phase, will they remove the text, confess error, or just change the text from “warming” to “cooling”? It will be interesting to watch, I think.)

Adding to the injury to YouTube viewers seeking information and posters advocating their position is the secrecy with which the policy was made effective.

The Heartland Institute, for example, a conservative think tank that posts videos of its staff and others questioning climate change, told BuzzFeed News that it noticed the change a few weeks ago and had not been notified by YouTube. Spokesperson Jim Lakely declined to comment on the policy or its impact.

PragerU, a nonprofit online “university” that made some of the other affected videos, says YouTube’s policy shows its political bias. “Despite claiming to be a public forum and a platform open to all, YouTube is clearly a left-wing organization,” Craig Strazzeri, PragerU’s chief marketing officer, said by email. “This is just another mistake in a long line of giant missteps that erodes America’s trust in Big Tech, much like what has already happened with the mainstream news media.”

YouTuber Tony Heller, who also makes climate denial videos, described the policy on Twitter as YouTube “putting propaganda at the bottom of all climate videos.” (He did not respond to a request for comment.)
It’s not just misleading climate videos. The same climate blurb was appended to dozens of videos explaining the evidence and impacts of climate change.

This access-point censorship not only hurts those censored persons and messages. Since Google controls 92.2% of all online searches, and clearly considers views other than its own on climate “disinformation,” it is able to keep alternative views and evidence out of educational and public discussion and consideration. David Wojick makes a compelling argument that its “algorithmic definition of ‘authoritative’ makes liberals the voice of authority.”

It’s rather circular, the more the liberal sites (which in various ways these online giants promote) get linked, the more authoritative, these same giants consider them, and place them at the top of the search results. Also rigging higher authority-based search algorithm results are negative attacks on skeptics, including suggestions that the source of their funding influenced their work, while never making such a connection between “funding of alarmists by self-interested government agencies, renewable energy companies, far-left foundations or Tom Steyer.”

Wojick ‘s investigation into Google’s censorship concludes “No matter how well reasoned, articles questioning the dominance of human factors in climate change, the near-apocalyptic effects of predicted climate change, or the value and validity of climate models are routinely ignored by Google’s algorithms.”

It is a certainty, that the information moguls of Silicon Valley and their supporters are using every strategic advantage they possess, from search placement, to fat thumbs on the scales, to outright censorship, to influence the debate to the advantage of those whose views they support on climate change and to the disadvantage of anyone who questions them. The president’s executive order is an effort to level the playing field in the battle between the Internet Goliaths and the Army of Davids. Lets hope it succeeds. Clarice Feldman is a retired attorney living in Washington, D.C. During her legal career she represented the late labor leader Joseph (“Jock”) Yablonski and the reform mine workers against Tony Boyle. She served as an attorney with the Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations, in which role she prosecuted those who aided the Nazis in World War II. She has written for The Weekly Standard and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.

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59 thoughts on “David v. Goliath in Cyberspace

  1. HEAR HEAR!

    Hazzah!

    Add in any other cheers if you wish.

    I said on the other post, this EO is a long time coming. In a slightly different bent than the author, YouTube was defined as a publisher by the FTC when it was fined for content of it’s creators (see the ‘targeting children’ thing on YouTube if you are interested in how that decision hurt creators that are seen as “playing with childish things” by the FTC). So this EO is a definitive step to both the gov and platforms to remain as platforms. And maybe allow those platforms to act as platforms and base the algorithms back to popularity rather than political correctness for a fear of being fined in the future and/or fear of reprisal by deep pockets willing to draft lawsuits.

  2. “..In his 20007 book, An Army of Davids, Glenn Reynolds….”

    I know that we often say that predicting precise aspects of weather 100 years in the future is quite difficult, but to predict the title of a book 17,987 years in the future is pretty impressive…

    • “But I can call spirits from the vasty deep”
      “Why, so can any man. But will they come when so called?”

      Anyone can predict 17,000 years ahead. …

  3. we’ve seen same with Covid 19, youtube has removed video of scientists of the caliber of Micahel Levitt (Nobel Prize), Karol Sikora (former Nr 1 on cancer at WHO), Knut Wittkwoski!

    • “The Cause” goes beyond their climate forecast.
      What is the Goal of “The Cause”?
      Not “Government” preserving individual freedoms.

      Off topic “PS”, I noticed the improvements in the “Search” feature. Nice!
      I found what I think was my first comment on WUWT made under a different screen name.
      (For the readers, when I realized I would continue to commen, I adopted a nickname here given to me decades ago for job security etc. for future comments.)

  4. Good article, tho many here have been aware of and subjected to this for, not years, but decades. The deep moral & ethical corruption in the media cannot be changed, it must be somehow supplanted/superceded.

  5. Good move by President Trump. His EO eliminates the Section 230 protection, and the order is based on the blatant censorship utilized by these social platforms to generate a false narrative. When is the last time you heard CNN or NBC admit that George Floyd was under the influence of fenadryl and methamphetamine? Has either network listed the police killed in the line of duty during the terrorist assaults (misreported as demonstrations)? Stay sane and safe (if you defend your business with a gun you must use it when threatened-don’t give it up, re Onion Fields).

  6. I was truly stunned when You Tube took down the press conference with Drs. Erickson and Massihi.

  7. My solution is to avoid Google, Facebook, and Twitter. I also buy locally when possible for the product I want, which is almost always.

    For Wikipedia, I tried to be an editor about 20 years ago on a non-political subject — but my revisions were always deleted within a few hours. I never used Wikipedia again for any serious subject. But they are fine to look up who played Beaver Cleaver on the Leave It To Beaver TV show.

    • ^This. Their bias runs deep and they’re completely shameless about it. Their “editors” are obviously social justice morons regardless of age.

    • Richard,
      This is my preferred solution too; I wish the general public would wake up and do the same. It’s harder to avoid youtube, but I spend as little time on it as possible. The same goes for Wikipedia.

    • William Connelly squats on Wikipedia’s material on the Little Ice Age, in which the text claims that Native American farming created the Medieval Warm Period and then disease introduced by Europeans wiped out the Indians, the fields went back to forests and the Little Ice Age occurred. I tried several times to ameliorate, very gently and with one sentence, this unfounded material, but Connelly reversed my input each time and then threatened to ban me. Nice orc hauling detritus for the climate alarmists.

  8. It is bad that media companies have been banning altenate views, no matter how fact based they may be.

    It is lethal with the COVID epidemic.

    Do the wider public, who may have lost loved ones, need to know who the leaders of the companies are and what they have done and are doing?

  9. OK, here is a regulatory option:

    Companies that want to serve the material (Google, Twitter etc) can do so but cannot control the accounts. That makes them service providers and not content adjudicators or access managers. Content and account management has to be by a separate entity to which users must have recourse for decisions.

    This separates the sourcing and delivery of material as a business, with ads, from the management of public access and safety. The problem which has arisen is, the ideology of service is not under fair control. The reply that it is a private channel and therefore can restrict what is on the platform contradicts the claim that it is not a publisher (therefore managing that content).

    The law provides two options: a published material owner, or a platform with free access sharing material within the bounds of permitted or banned speech.

    At present, the platforms permit anything that supports their ideology, while restricting those with whom it disagrees, and provides no fair access means for preventing or appealing their censorship. The platforms are in consequence self-defined as publishers.

    Pres Trump says if you are not going to allow public access, you are publishers and subject to the rules thereof, and subject to the decisions of the Ombudsman (not internal employees). You can be sued for content.

    There can be no publisher without an accessible Ombudsman. There shall be no platforms that are not publishers without free access, controlled only by standard regulatory oversight such as hate speech laws.

    People upset with hate speech laws can take that up with the government, which is the appropriate agency. Twitter essentially says they are blocking or labeling inappropriate or false messages – as determined by them. They are playing “Platform”, “Publisher” and “Ombudsman”. They cannot have it all ways. The corporation is too large, lacks competition, and is effectively a public service. Congratulations. Well done. Now behave as if democratic rights and the right of self-expression means something. We all know there are regimes where such basic rights are eschewed. Twitter cannot be one of them.

    • “Pres Trump says if you are not going to allow public access, you are publishers and subject to the rules thereof, and subject to the decisions of the Ombudsman (not internal employees).”

      Yes, but Pres Trump does not mke laws. That is for Congress, which has legislated otherwise. Here is Prof Volokh explaining the law of the matter:

      “Under current law, Twitter, Facebook, and the like are immune as platforms, regardless of whether they edit (including in a politicized way). Like it or not, but this was a deliberate decision by Congress. You might prefer an “if you restrict your users’ speech, you become liable for the speech you allow” model. Indeed, that was the model accepted by the court in Stratton Oakmont. But Congress rejected this model, and that rejection stands so long as § 230 remains in its current form. “

      • Nick, correct, the President does not make laws like the legislative branch. However, the President’s executive powers give him authority to issue executive orders which behave like laws and must be enforced.

      • You mean like the Executive Order joining the Paris Accords which behaved exactly like an unconstitutional treaty? Or the illegal DACA order?

        The executive executes the laws. The courts may enforce the laws. Eventually.

          • The Executive Branch of government is the entity that implements the laws Congress writes.

            In implementing laws, Executive branch bureaucrats have a lot of discretion. They can cause different things to happen without having to change a law. If they go too far, then Congress can come back and address the law and be more specific about how they want the law implemented.

            Congress writes the laws. The Executive Branch implements the laws. The Executive Branch has a lot of room to act within the bounds of the particular law. Congress does not usually spell out every detail about how to implement a law, so this implementation is left to the Executive Branch for the most part.

          • Quite the opposite. I am pointing out that a clearly unconstitutional EO, which has been ruled so by lower courts but stayed, is still in effect.

            But nice try.

          • “Quite the opposite. I am pointing out that a clearly unconstitutional EO, which has been ruled so by lower courts but stayed, is still in effect.

            But nice try”

            I wasn’t addressing any specific EO. Nice try, yourself.

    • Correct. Uploaded by a freedom fighter. Disadvantage: It now looks like relatively few have seen it: 34,305 views May 26, 2020.

      I saw an YT video interview of a Russian author, not seen by many, which was stated to have 4 comments, but only two comments were visible. Were those comments eaten by the dog?

      I think it was a Slovenian Super Talent show with a young girl imitating Greta T. She did a really good job, the audience and jury were all laughing out loud.
      YouTube banned me from seeing it, because I was in another country.
      To my surprise I could download it with a well known command line tool – tricked you YT 🙂

  10. Just did a Google search for “climate change”. It’s scary what comes up on the first 10 pages.
    David Suzuki seems to come up on almost all the pages…OH, that’s because it’s an AD…

    – JPP

    • @Jon P Peterson
      Try a Google search for Watts Up With That. Mostly populated with climate change bias

  11. There is one censorship that is difficult to spot.
    The “search suggestion” algorithm. When I type in to search about someone a list of suggestions arises. Suggested completions, even as alternates not selected, are noted by the unconscious mind.
    A person dangerous to your narrative might need to be spelled out completely and exactly to be found. A subject could be slanted because of the suggestion alone.

    • Once upon a time, I couldt search successfully in google with “AND” or “OR” or “with CSV” 😀
      Long ago and it’s now really difficult to find s.th. out of the narratives.

      • Even further back you could search using MySQL style wild cards like ‘%’ ‘?’ or you could use advanced interactive search fields.

  12. Would you stay with Verizon, ATT, TMobile, etc. phone if you could not make a call to Heartland Institute, The Pipeline any legal company? Why is this allowed. How is this any different? Trump is absolutely correct. How do the people doing this claim “It is MY PLATFORM and you can not do that here? It is MY Freedom of Speech.” At least once a month I read about a person that used YouTube, Twitter, a text message, Snap-chat, etc to contact the police. Facetime and other video chat services could use the same logic to block you over a sexy conservation with your spouse. What would have happened if the owner of that platform blocked them for a perfectly LEGAL posting that was of the wrong ideology in the minds of the owner? In fact Twitter’s biggest spotlight, the thing that gave Twitter world wide significance was the group that mistakenly walked into Iran and got a Tweet out.

    • “How do the people doing this claim “It is MY PLATFORM and you can not do that here? It is MY Freedom of Speech.””

      Same as other people who set up platforms do. WUWT makes that claim. It bans, for example, people than write about chemtrails. And sky dragons (though chinks are appearing in that wall). And I think they are right to do so.

      • Big Social Media has evolved into a “common” space (using good Socialist lingo here).

        If the tables were turned, Mosher and his buddies would be screaming about the injustice and we would be defending the rights of private companies.

        Antitrust Statutes obviously apply here. I don’t like any of that…but I will support destroying these companies that have decided to become unAmerican abusers of power by censoring the debate of honest debaters. Dirty politics goes both ways. The opponents of censorship are less guilty because truth is being censored while lies and incitement to violence remains uncensored.

      • Sorry, Nick.
        “Freedom of the Press” is in the 1st Amendment.
        Back then there was only paper for the Press to print their opinions/news upon.
        What should be done all those that produced paper had editing privileges over what appeared on their paper?
        “Platforms” have some built in protections. (Denying or deleting child pornography is not subject of legal action for example.)
        Twitter, Facebook, Google Search, etc. are the modern day “paper”. If they choose to become Opinion Editors then they are not entitled to the protections available to those who produce paper even though libelous and slanderous statements might be printed on their paper.
        WUWT is a website, not a platform.
        Wikipedia is also a website, not a platform.
        Yes, there are lots of gray areas but, to claim the protections of a “platform” not afforded to a “publisher” is not a gray area.

        • “WUWT is a website, not a platform.”
          Special pleading. Here is Trump’s EO:

          “Sec. 7. Definition. For purposes of this order, the term “online platform” means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine.”

          • The entirety of Section 230 is Special Pleading. No other publisher is granted that immunity, and rightly so. But they aren’t merely editing or curating. Now they actually have engaged in publication, and that is a different animal that has not been tested in the courts yet.

  13. “spelled out completely and exactly to be found.” when the p2.5 rules were being enacted I tried searching for the latest revision. I did an “Exact wording of several sentences in the previous document to find the new one with the whole sentence in quotes. Google found nothing – nada not a hit. Bing had it at the top of the page. Are they looking at different Internets, an alternate universe? Have have similar findings like this. This goes beyond “Bias.”

  14. I’d love to see what Joe Rogan does when BLM orders him to take a knee.

    I am sick to death of racism. I have no tolerance for it. But BLM can kiss my ass. They scheduled peaceful protests to overlap curfews and near dark to induce the rioters to take over on their coattails. Actual peaceful protests would have occurred early enough in the day to PURPOSEFULLY distance BLM from ANTIFA and the sociopathic looters and rioters.

    BLM has set back their *stated cause* (which I heartily support) by decades. So BLM can kiss my ass again.

  15. You realize, of course, that this is being framed in the MSM as President Trump trying to stifle free speech.

    • Of course it is.
      “They” only want you to see and hear what “they” approve.
      Lots of basically good and intelligent people out there.
      But what information is available for them to base their decisions on?
      Control the information and you control the people.

      • “Control the information and you control the people.”

        General Mattis should stop listening to CNN so much. It’s warping his mind and given him TDS.

    • Yes, and it’s a deflection tactic. It’s similar to what China does. It shifts focus or blame away from its own vulnerabilities. Whenever, say, Kamala Harris denigrates Trump– and Trump is just as guilty of denigration– because of something he said, she completely steps over the substance of what he says, retorts with an aspersion, and then (in so doing) deflects.

      • “Yes, and it’s a deflection tactic. It’s similar to what China does. It shifts focus or blame away from its own vulnerabilities.”

        I think that is what the former Obama administration officials are doing. Notice how they send out one former Obama official, like General Mattis, to denounce Trump, and then the next day another former Obama official comes out and does the same thing, and they’ll end up having a parade of denouncements of Trump.

        And guess what’s going on right now? The Obama administration is being investigated for Treason, and so the former pesident and his henchmen are trying to throw up as much smoke as they can in an effort to divert the public’s attention from the Obama administration’s criminality and attempts to overthrow the U.S. Constituion.

        The Leftwing Propaganda Machine is working overtime trying to undermine Trump. In the process, they are undermining the Nation. But they don’t care, attaining political power is the only thing important to them, and if some eggs have to be broken, so be it.

  16. Banning content is actually the smaller worry; changing content is a much bigger danger.

    There was a Stargate episode titled “The Link” in which the local populace had a neural link directly with the central computer/database, so any knowledge they wanted to access was available and implanted directly in their memory. The problem was the same link could erase or alter memories as well.

    Sort of like Wikipedia without the need to point and click.

    What if instead of banning content that didn’t pass the “fact checkers” it was simply edited to conform to What We Know To Be True? How can you complain? That’s exactly what you wrote and you can’t prove otherwise. We’re routinely seeing online content modified without acknowledgement. It’s not that big a step between silently changing what they wrote to changing what you wrote.

    File a complaint? No you didn’t; you must be imagining things, and this isn’t the first time. We’ve taken the liberty of scheduling an appointment for you. Start with Wikipedia and toss in Cancer Ward.

    The first time I saw digital photo editing my immediate reaction was: photographic evidence is no longer reliable. We’re very close to reaching the same capability for video evidence. When documents and history exist primarily online then documentary evidence becomes suspect as well.

    Brave new world indeed. You can’t trust Big Brother and you certainly can’t trust Big Tech either.

  17. If you accept the proposition (which I’ve only just begun trying to demonstrate) that pseudohistory and pseudoscience are widespread in the present Western institutions of education and journalism, the appearance of a level playing field—peer-to-peer packet networking, aka this little thing called “the Internet”—creates an impressive disequilibrium.
    It’s possible to unlevel the field by filtering the Internet. But effective Internet filtering is not easy. Worse, the success of pseudohistory and pseudoscience is not just the result of the fact that it’s easy to filter broadcast information systems. It’s the result of the fact that it’s easy to create subtly filtered broadcast information systems, which don’t appear to be in the business of managing public opinion on behalf of the security forces, but in fact are doing just that.
    This level of plausible deniability is simply unachievable on the Internet.
    — Mencius Moldbug, 2007

    Basically, it’s possible, if hard, to kill Internet head-on. Yet the main result would be that Wikipedia/Google/… get treated much like Pravda was: there may be no real opposition, but everyone just assumes the real situation to be the opposite of what they peddle.
    And we know how search for hidden layers ends: commissars flip out about “OK” sign and whatnot, start chasing their own tails.

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