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Not a Nothingburger: My Statement to Congress on Censorship The key question in censorship is always the same. Who's doing it?


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The Racket News

Matt Taibbi

Dec 2, 2023

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Former Executive Director of the ACLU Ira Glasser once explained to a group of students why he didn’t support hate speech codes on campuses. The problem, he said, was “who gets to decide what’s hateful… who gets to decide what to ban,” because “most of the time, it ain’t you.”

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Having come to this conclusion, the kind of people who do “anti-disinformation” work have taken upon themselves the paternalistic responsibility to sort out for us what is and is not safe. While they see great danger in allowing anyone else to read controversial material, it’s taken for granted that they’ll be immune to the dangers of speech.

This leads to the one inescapable question about new “anti-disinformation” programs that is never discussed, but must be: who does this work? Stanford’s Election Integrity Project helpfully made a graphic showing the “external stakeholders” in their content review operation. It showed four columns: government, civil society, platforms, media:

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One group is conspicuously absent from that list: people. Ordinary people! Whether America continues the informal sub rosa censorship system seen in the Twitter Files or formally adopts something like Europe’s draconian new Digital Services Act, it’s already clear who won’t be involved. There’ll be no dockworkers doing content flagging, no poor people from inner city neighborhoods, no single moms pulling multiple waitressing jobs, no immigrant store owners or Uber drivers, etc. These programs will always feature a tiny, rarefied sliver of affluent professional-class America censoring a huge and ever-expanding pool of everyone else.

Take away the high-fallutin’ talk about “countering hate” and “reducing harm” and “anti-disinformation” is just a bluntly elitist gatekeeping exercise. If you prefer to think in progressive terms, it’s class war. The math is simple. If one small demographic over here has broad control over the speech landscape, and a great big one over there does not, it follows that one group will end up with more political power than the other. Which one is the winner? To paraphrase Glasser, it probably ain’t you.

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