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Contextual Quote

"Allegations of “disinformation” have become a tool to delegitimize opposition to orthodoxy and power, and have been weaponised to shield government and Big Pharma from scrutiny. Just as criticism of the automobile industry in the 60s and 70s led to improved car safety, today’s public fora must hold the powerful to account. By aligning with Big Tech and Big Pharma, the “anti-disinformation” and digital rights sectors have neglected their responsibilities, and have come to serve power rather than people, contributing to a broader chilling effect."

- Andrew Lowenthal [1]


Andrew Lowenthal:

"Disinformation was already an established sector prior to the pandemic. But it focused on top level malfeasance: for example, Myanmar military social media accounts promoting violence against the Rohingya or former Philippine President Duterte’s use of bots to attack dissidents. Advocacy took a mostly Clintonian approach to counter such state power—minimising overt censorship, while educating the public and notifying Big Tech of egregious incidents of disinformation (mostly by government).

The Trump election and Cambridge Analytica scandal changed these rules as many blamed social media greed and wilful ignorance for the election loss. Claims of Russian disinformation compounded these problems. Big Tech’s alleged lack of action put it at odds with its core, liberal constituencies. Anger and disillusionment allowed the speech control wing of the digital rights movement to ascend, shifting the movement’s mission from watching the powerful to policing the fringe.

Newer disinformation initiatives also sought to rebuild trust in Big Media, legacy organisations whose legitimacy crumbled for a variety of reasons: from supporting the Iraq war, to failing to predict Trump and Brexit. To recapture authority, elites made themselves the adults who discern the truth, as the rest of society cannot be trusted make competent decisions."


Anti-disinformation amid the pandemic

Andrew Lowenthal:

"I went into the pandemic with a wide variety of doubts, but was among the majority in supporting government restrictions, though never on access to information. Banning discussion of a possible lab accident at the pandemic’s beginning triggered me to reevaluate. My own Australian government and the former CDC Director Robert Redfield both considered the lab-leak a plausible reason for how the pandemic started. Meanwhile, leading anti-disinformation organisations labelled it a conspiracy theory, and suggested that journalists not amplify it.

After the lab leak theory became mainstream, I saw no reconsideration of facts among the anti-disinformation and digital rights sectors, as any straying meant being called far-right. Unfortunately, silence only shields the powerful, and civil liberties and human rights groups went AWOL on their duties, or even swapped sides. Witness the ACLU advocating for the violation of bodily autonomy and in favour of widespread vaccine mandates.

The digital rights field seem oblivious to how much information is now controlled. Despite all the changes during COVID, the 2022 iteration of RightsCon had no sessions on the pandemic and disinformation. The digital rights community has also ignored news of the White House directing Twitter to deplatform journalists, and of Harvard and Stanford Professors suing the White House for social media related free speech violations."



Key examples of how Pandemic Censorship protected the powerful

Andrew Lowenthal:

"Vaccines were widely claimed to stop infection or transmission. A sterilising vaccine was the core rationale behind mandates and exclusionary passport systems. Yet, in a November 2020 article in Business Insider the Moderna COO disclosed the vaccine does not stop transmission, as was admitted by a senior Pfizer executive in October 2022 during an EU hearing. Despite that, suggesting the vaccine did not prevent transmission could get you banned from several platforms.

Facebook still bans “questioning the efficacy of vaccines” and Youtube also bans some discussions. Yet, there is now a modest acknowledgement of vaccine side effects, and some governments have age restricted some vaccines due to risks. The German government acknowledged that 1 in 5000 mRNA doses results in a “serious reaction” (that’s 1 in every 1667 people with 3 shots). Still, leading health podcasters constantly operate with the fear of being shut down for discussing side effects.

Natural immunity from prior infection was one of the many “conspiracies” although the CDC now considers it equal to vaccination, stating “it really makes the most sense to not differentiate”.

Questioning of lockdowns was once banned, yet it is now widely acknowledged that lockdowns resulted in serious harm including delays in childhood learning, lack of early treatment for serious illness, a rise in domestic abuse, as well as inflation and a massive transfer of wealth to the rich.

Across the board social media sought to disallow information that is “inconsistent with health authorities' guidance”. But authorities are not all-knowing and this policy blew away previously held norms around open scientific debate and went against the crowd-sourcing ethos of progressives."