Journalist Matt Taibbi eviscerated Twitter and other social and mainstream media outlets during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, saying their collusion with the federal government over “disinformation” had created “a form of digital McCarthyism” in the 21st century.
“Effectively, news media became an arm of a state-sponsored thought-policing system,” Taibbi, 53, told members of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government in his opening statement.
“We learned Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation ‘requests’ from every corner of government: the FBI, DHS, HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at State, even the CIA.”
Taibbi — who along with fellow reporters Michael Shellenberger and Bari Weiss was granted access last year to Twitter’s internal communications by CEO Elon Musk — said his “Twitter Files” investigation revealed that the social media giant collaborated with the US government “to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control” as part of an “anti-disinformation” push.
He said the so-called “Twitter Files” found the government’s actions pose a “grave threat to people of all political persuasions,” citing the suppression of The Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story in October 2020.
“It’s not possible to instantly arrive at truth. It is however becoming technologically possible to instantly define and enforce a political consensus online, which I believe is what we’re looking at,” Taibbi told Congress — a reality, he said, that Shellenberger has termed the “Censorship-Industrial Complex.”
Taibbi noted that a similar tactic was followed regarding the so-called “lab leak theory” for the origins of COVID-19.
“Many of the institutions we’re now investigating initially labeled the idea that Covid came from a lab ‘disinformation’ and conspiracy theory,” he said. “Now apparently even the FBI takes it seriously.”
And these disinformation efforts may have serious consequences for those seeking to do business online, Taibbi pointed out.
“Ordinary Americans are not just being reported to Twitter for ‘deamplification’ or de-platforming,” Taibbi said, “but to firms like PayPal, digital advertisers like Xandr, and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. 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.”
Taken as a whole, the social media companies commitment to policing free speech, Taibbi said, violates the original purpose of the Internet.
“The original promise of the Internet was that it might democratize the exchange of information globally,” he said. “A free internet would overwhelm all attempts to control information flow, its very existence a threat to anti-democratic forms of government everywhere.”
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