Mark this day: social media colludes in the first global act of censorship.

The Internet has been captured by billionaires.

Progressive Governments must take note! OUR Internet should be in the commons.

By Phil Hall

Facebook, Whats App and Instagram went down today – presumably in a damage limitation exercise after the release of the Pandora Papers. It’s frightening and, at the same time, there was the curiously timed distraction of the Facebook whistleblower’s leak.

Francis Haugen’s so-called revelations about Facebook amounted to an argument for greater censorship. This whole elaborate charade feels like the prelude to a coup d’état; the moment when the radio station gets captured.

The release of the Pandora Papers have been one year in the planning, but the former Facebook product manager, young and blond, who came forward at the same time as the Pandora Papers with her own document dump, was playing a different game.

At Facebook, Francis Haugen was responsible for flagging up fake news. She was the product manager on the social network’s civic misinformation team. In other words, she was one of Facebook’s guides to controlling the narrative. She also worked in counterespionage for the company. These are all clues as to who her other employers might have been and who really is controlling the narrative from somewhere in Langley.

In other words, Haugen was a close liaison with her government’s intelligence services.

Haugen’s own release of documents was timed perfectly to drown out some of the publicity about the Pandora Papers and send Facebook into a panic with an interview arranged on the 60 Minutes programme.

Francis Haugen is only one person. In contrast, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who released the Pandora Papers is a large global organisation. But the noise that Haugen made was amplified by the US media-security apparatus and served to muddy the waters.

Haugen wasn’t saying anything new, but in her pitch for censorship, just at a time when social media has become a vital conduit for news, invoked the damage caused to teenage girls done by Instagram. So bears do shit in the woods, after all.

Tellingly, even Internet services are going down in some parts of London – though that may be a coincidence. The veins of the Internet are being constricted. Some young people are scared by this outage. Generation Z and Y have never experienced life without Internet. Instagram is such a big part of their world.

Social media have probably been instructed by US intelligence services to arrange an outage while these services get their ducks in a row to deal with the release of the Pandora Papers. That’s an educated guess.

Facebook is scurrying to recalibrate its algorithms

Biden’s son is in view. Money is going into obscure tax havens, into Delaware and Dakota, among other places. Unsurprisingly, no information is available about the Internet billionaires’ finances. It’s fishy! The billionaires’ financial information was probably the first to be deleted.

Social media companies like Mark Zuckerberg’s don’t want people to share the information released in the Pandora Papers; tens of thousands of documents reveal the finances of powerful people around the world.

After the WikiLeaks releases by Julian Assange – who was later marked by the law of capitalism’s omerta – people who shared the information released by Julian Assange were, it was reported, threatened and targeted. That was a foretaste.

Social media have probably been instructed by US intelligence services to deal with the release of the Pandora Papers. That’s an educated guess.

In a mild act of redemption, the Guardian has helped the International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists, the ICIJ to analyse and publicise the release of the Pandora Papers and discussed a tiny fraction of their contents. According to the ICIJ on the 3rd October, one day before the facebook, Instagram and Whats App outage:

The secret documents expose offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the prime minister of the Czech Republic and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The files also detail  financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States, Turkey and other nations.

The leaked records reveal that many of the power players who could help  bring an end to the offshore system instead benefit from it – stashing assets in covert companies and trusts while their governments do little to slow a global stream of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations.

Levelling up, Boris Johnson? I don’t think so! The chutzpah of the man!

The intelligence agencies are only too aware of the potential scandals like these have for mobilising citizens against corrupt leaderships. This has been the western agencies’ recent modus operandi when catalysing coups and putsches in places like the Ukraine. These agencies also use accusations of corruption to discredit unreconstructed, left-leaning, populist politicians like Jacob Zuma.

But how does that biblical saying go?

‘And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

What most discredits the Conservative government currently in power are accusations of cronyism. Friends of government ministers and former ministers enriched themselves off the back of the death of over a 120,000 British people; more people than all the soldiers that have died in all Britain’s wars since the Second World War. In the UK, at a time of fuel shortages and Covid, the information in the Pandora Papers will erode confidence in the mainstream media pretense that we live in a society with a more or less level playing field. Levelling up, Boris Johnson? I don’t think so! The chutzpah of the man!

For example, Tony Blair refused to allow the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the alleged £1 billion dollar bribe supposedly paid to Saudi officials to secure an arms deal when he was in office, we forget, but much was made of the wooden mansion owned by Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych and the luxury accommodation built by Jacob Zuma to house his large extended family.

Instagram rushing to firewall the Pandora Papers

Alexei Navalny – incidentally, a heavy user of drugs, an open racist and extreme nationalist – tried the same trick with Putin and was widely echoed in the West. No one is saying Putin isn’t corrupt, or ruthless and dictatorial. He is!, But the video of ‘Putin’s’ luxury mansion turned out to be fake news. According to John Ryan on Ars Notoria last month:

After his arrest, Navalny’s supporters released a two-hour YouTube video about an opulent Black Sea residence allegedly built for Putin. It immediately got wide media attention, especially in the West, and it has been widely viewed in Russia. President Putin immediately denied having anything to do with this structure.  Shortly afterwards, a Russian businessman, Arkady Rotenberg, provided proof that he owns this property and that this has nothing to do with the Russian president.

Accusations of corruption are a whip to public anger. This anger bubbled to the surface in the UK when it was revealed that MPs abused their expenses in 2009 and they were even using them to buy up property and build duck ponds. Nearly all British MPs misused their expenses in one way or another, that is, except for a few honourable exceptions. Jeremy Corbyn was one of those exceptions.

It’s fishy that the Pandora Papers don’t mention Jeff Bezos.

Evidence of corruption, bribes and payments to key politicians in the client Middle Eastern states might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in the region. The Arabs might tip the boat against their dictatorial US-backed regimes. In another example – let’s beg the question – in the 2.94 terabyte leak, is there information about the financial transactions of that Venezuelan US stooge, Juan Guaido? Where does he get his money from?

Tim Berners Lee believes the Internet is the property of the commons, photo Paul Clarke

Facebook withdrew their internet address routes, and is scurrying to recalibrate their algorithms so that they fetch up the information about the Pandora Papers as quickly as possible and block, delete and suppress it as fast as they can.

Clearly this is not a technical error, but a concerted attempt to stop the information flowing and seeing the light. In the old days it would have been easier. For example, in the UK, the government would have just placed a banning order for reasons of state.

The left struggles to be heard now. If we over share our articles to Facebook groups or get into vigorous debate we are just three or four abuse reports away from a banning.

Remember the Arab Spring. All those dictators who lord it over their populations and squirrel money away in safe havens like London know that they are just one popular uprising away from meeting the fate of Muhamar Ghadafi, or prison and torture, or exile. So many Idi Amins! So many Bolsonaros!

The left struggles to be heard now. If we over share our articles to Facebook groups or get into vigorous debate, we are just three or four abuse reports away from a banning. Since the McCarthyism of the antisemitism scandal, the strategy to use banning in order to stop left wing sites from becoming too influential has become a conscious tactic of our opponents.

To quote a conversation I had with a friend:

Me: ‘You know, as individuals we are all pretty dumb, even the cleverest of us. What they are scared of is influence and collective action. So long as we stay isolated or obscure, it doesn’t matter what we say or think, so long as we don’t intend to do something destructive like anarchists, or close the M25.’

G: ‘Just reading a passage about pre-emptive policing, which has a lot about data mining and algorithms. Indeed, Facebook knows a lot more about us than MI5 but I suspect they all collaborate. We would be very easy to ‘switch off’ in times of emergency. It seems to be happening more and more. It was also very noticeable that, although Labour have been live-streaming the conference on YouTube, they ‘switched off’ the Palestine debate. Sir Rodney knows exactly what he is doing.’

Facebook knows a lot more about us than MI5

Me: ‘Yes. It really is problematic. Facebook is the modern telephone. Imagine a state that listens in to your conversations and then decides to remove the telephone service when it disagrees with what you say or how you say it. Liberals ask for us to be polite when we speak. What they really want to do is add noise to communication. And the use of AI means there is no sensitivity at all to irony or wit or double entendre. The machine is horrifyingly literal. The moderators aggressive, underpaid, badly educated, exploited denizens of the lower middle class. When we try to use Facebook as a distribution mechanism for news, comment and art then, unless we pay, we are flagged up as fake news and suppressed by algorithms. The main aim of all the police interference in little activists’ groups is to keep them small and irrelevant. We are a left-wing cultural magazine etc. Why is it that there are none of them on the national scene that have any impact? That’s not a coincidence.

This outage is a foretaste. We are experiencing the real danger of putting the Internet, our most important medium for the exchange of information, into the hands of billionaires like Sergey Brin and Larry Page at Google, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook

Tim Berners Lee was right. The Internet is for the commons. Jimmy Wales is one of the only deservedly famous heroes people’s Internet heroes alongside Berners Lee – though his Wikipages are an intelligence battlefield. To the credit of WordPress, and Twitter they didn’t go along for the ride.

Mark this day. The Pandora Papers were published and social media was required to pull the plug on us all.

Phil Hall is a university lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.

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