As Elon Musk prepares to finalize his purchase of Twitter, government officials in the U.S., the U.K., the European Union (EU) and elsewhere are introducing new legislation aimed at combating “disinformation” online — particularly on social media platforms.
In the U.S., these proposals include a government “disinformation board” and a bill pending before Congress, the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act.
Overseas measures include the EU’s recently passed Digital Services Act and the U.K.’s proposed Online Safety Bill, in addition to similar existing legislation in Germany and other countries.
Shortly after Musk moved to buy Twitter, several dozen countries and entities — including the U.S. and EU — announced the ratification of the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet,” which, among other things, aims to “bolster resilience to disinformation and misinformation, and increase participation in democratic processes.”
These and other policies purport to hold tech companies and in particular major social media platforms ranging from Twitter to Facebook to TikTok, responsible for hate speech and “disinformation” posted by users on their platforms while opening up the giant’s algorithms and moderation practices to the public eye.
However, questions also arise as to what effect these regulations — including those originating from outside the U.S. — would have on the operation of tech platforms in the U.S. and globally.
Biden administration targets online ‘disinformation’
Two days after Elon Musk announced he was purchasing Twitter, the Biden administration announced the formation of a “Disinformation Governance Board.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the announcement in testimony delivered on April 27 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee.
“The goal is to bring the resources of [DHS] together to address this threat,” Mayorkas said, adding that the department is focused on the spread of disinformation in minority communities.
The “focus” of this new board will be “Russia and irregular migration.”
However, it is unclear what constitutes “disinformation” in the views of Mayorkas, the DHS or the Biden administration, or why it appears to be a particular problem in vaguely defined “minority communities.”
Michael Rectenwald, author of “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom” and former New York University professor who lost his position in 2016 as a result of “cancel culture,” told The Defender:
“The Biden Politburo’s disinformation board will likely institute regulations that mirror the EU’s DSA by imposing similar if not identical restrictions on information and opinion.
“Musk will … likely face legislative threats from Democratic lawmakers, and other forms of coercion from the national and international establishment, including especially … from the EU’s [Digital Services Act]and the new U.S. disinformation board.”
Rectenwald said if “Musk is to have his way,” Twitter “would no longer discriminate against content based on wokeness, political beliefs or the adherence to official state narratives and dictates.”
This could include the restoration of banned accounts on request by users and dramatic changes to Twitter’s discriminatory, leftist algorithms.
“However, pressure to conform to woke dictates will come from the Big Tech ‘woke’ cartel, including threats to remove the Twitter app from the Apple Store for failure to censor ‘hate speech,’ and the flight of ‘woke’ advertisers,” Rectenwald said.
Will ‘disinformation’ be categorized as ‘terrorism’?
Former President George W. Bush established the DHS in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, with a view toward protecting the U.S. against terrorism — suggesting the federal government may now be equating “disinformation” with terrorism.
Nina Jankowicz will be executive director of the new board. As reported by Politico, Jankowicz previously served as a “disinformation fellow” at the Wilson Center for Public Policy, advised the Ukrainian foreign ministry, and oversaw “Russia and Belarus programs” at the National Democratic Institute.
As previously reported by The Defender, the Ukrainian government has leveraged its close ties with “Big Tech” — including for the development of vaccine passports — to use social media and digital technologies as a “wartime tool.”
Jankowicz announced her new appointment on Twitter, stating she is “honored” to be helping the Biden administration’s “counter-disinformation efforts.”
Written By Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.
May 05 2022