People Need to Reclaim the Internet 403

No matter how much you dislike Trump, only a fool can fail to see the implications for public access to information of the massive suppression on the internet of the Hunter Biden leaks.

This blog has been suffering a ratcheting of social media suppression for years, which reached its apogee in my coverage of the Julian Assange trial. As I reported on 24 September:

Even my blog has never been so systematically subject to shadowbanning from Twitter and Facebook as now. Normally about 50% of my blog readers arrive from Twitter and 40% from Facebook. During the trial it has been 3% from Twitter and 9% from Facebook. That is a fall from 90% to 12%. In the February hearings Facebook and Twitter were between them sending me over 200,000 readers a day. Now they are between them sending me 3,000 readers a day. To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline. My own family have not been getting their notifications of my posts on either platform.

It was not just me: everyone reporting the Assange trial on social media suffered the same effect. Wikileaks, which has 5.6 million Twitter followers, were obtaining about the same number of Twitter “impressions” of their tweets (ie number who saw them) as I was. I spoke with several of the major US independent news sites and they all reported the same.

I have written before about the great danger to internet freedom from the fact that a few massively dominant social media corporations – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – have become in effect the “gatekeepers” to internet traffic. In the Assange hearing and Hunter Biden cases we see perhaps the first overt use of that coordinated power to control public information worldwide.

The way the power of the “gatekeepers” is used normally is insidious. It is quite deliberately disguised. “Shadow banning” is a term for a technique which has many variations. The net result is always that the post is not ostensibly banned. Some people see it, so that if the subject of the suppression claims to be banned they look stupid. But it is in fact shown to far, far less people than it would normally be. So even members of my own immediate family find that my posts no longer turn up in their timeline on either Facebook or Twitter. But a few followers, presumably at random, do see them. Generally, though not always, those followers are apparently able to retweet or share, but what they are not told is that their retweet or share is in fact put in to very, very few people’s timelines. The overall audience for the Tweet or Facebook post is cut to as little as 1% of what it might be without suppression. As 90% of the traffic to this blog comes in clicks from these social media posts, the effect is massive.

That was the technique used on the Assange hearing. In normal times, the ratchet on traffic can be screwed down or released a little, from week to week or post to post.

In the Hunter Biden case, social media went still further and without disguise simply banned all mention of the Hunter Biden leaks.

As I reported on September 27 last year:

What I find deeply reprehensible in all the BBC coverage is their failure to report the facts of the case, and their utter lack of curiosity about why Joe Biden’s son Hunter was paid $60,000 a month by Burisma, Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer, as an entirely absent non-executive director, when he had no relevant experience in Ukraine or gas, and very little business experience, having just been dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve for use of crack cocaine? Is that question not just a little bit interesting? That may be the thin end of it – in 2014-15 Hunter Biden received US $850,000 from the intermediary company channeling the payments. In reporting on Trump being potentially impeached for asking about it, might you not expect some analysis – or at least mention – of what he was asking about?

That Hunter Biden received so much money from a company he never once visited or did any legitimate work for, located in a country which remarkably at the same time launched into a US sponsored civil war while his father was Vice President, is a question which might reasonably interest people. This is not “fake news”. There is no doubt whatsoever of the facts. There
is also no doubt that, as Vice President of the USA, Joe Biden secured the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma for corruption.

The story now is that Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop in a repair shop, and the hard drive contained emails between Hunter and Burisma in which he was asked for, and promised, various assistance to the company from the Vice President. This hard drive was passed to the New York Post. What the emails do not include is any incriminating correspondence between Hunter and his father in which Joe Biden agrees to any of this – which speaks to their authenticity, as that would be the key thing to forge. Given that the hard drive also contains intimate photos and video, there does not seem to be any real doubt about its authenticity.

However both Facebook and Twitter slapped an immediate and total ban on all mention of the Hunter Biden emails, claiming doubts as to its authenticity and an astonishing claim that they never link to leaked material or information about leaked material.

Alert readers will note that this policy was not applied to Donald Trump’s tax returns. These were extremely widely publicised throughout social and mainstream media – and quite right too – despite being illegally leaked. Twitter may be attempting to draw a distinction between a “hack” and a “leak”. This is difficult to do – the Clinton and Podesta emails, for example, were leaked but are frequently claimed to have been hacked.

I am astonished by the online comment of people who consider themselves “liberals” who support the social media suppression of the Hunter Biden story, because they want Trump to be defeated. The truth is that those in control of social media censorship are overwhelmingly Atlanticist figures on the Clinton/Blair political spectrum. That embraces the roles of Nick Clegg and Ben Nimmo at Facebook. It explains the protective attitude of Blairite Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales (also a director of Guardian Media Group) toward the Philip Cross operation.

Censorship from the self-satisfied centre of the political establishment is still more dangerous, because more stable, than censorship from the left or right. It seeks rigorously to enforce the “Overton window” on social media. It has a “whatever it takes” attitude to getting Joe Biden into the White House and removing a maverick element from the political stability it so prizes. Its hatred of public knowledge is behind the persecution of Assange.

The Establishment’s problem is that inequalities of wealth are now so extreme in Western society, that the attempted removal of access by the public to radical thinking is not protecting a stable society, but is protecting a society tilting towards structural instability, in which the lack of job security and decent conditions and pay for large swathes of the population contrasts vividly with the spectacularly flourishing fortunes of the ultra billionaires. Our society desperately needs thinking outside the box into which the social media gatekeepers are attempting to confine us.

An early part of that thinking out of the box needs to relate to internet architecture and finding a way that the social media gatekeepers can be bypassed – not by a few activists, but by the bulk of the population. We used to say the internet will always find a work-around, and there are optimists who believe that the kind of censorship we saw over Hunter Biden will lead to a flight to alternative platforms, but I don’t see that happening on the scale required. Regulation to prevent censorship is improbable – governments are much more interested in regulation to impose more censorship.

The development of social media gatekeeping of internet traffic is one of the key socio-political issues of our time. We need the original founders of the internet to get together with figures like Richard Stallman and – vitally – Julian Assange – to find a way we break free from this. Ten years ago I would not have thought it a danger that the internet would become a method of political control, not of political freedom. I now worry it is too late to avert the danger.

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403 thoughts on “People Need to Reclaim the Internet

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  • DevonshireDozer

    I won’t touch twitter or facebook with a barge-pole, but I do use RSS feeds from blogs & websites a lot. Eventually our masters & other control freaks will ban such things but meanwhile your readers should be encouraged to use it.

    • Brad Bell

      I use RSS also. You have to be a bit savvy for RSS tho, as most corporations have a business model based on hiding RSS so that people have to visit the web site and consume ads. Example: FB ‘follows’ are really RSS subscriptions (but you can’t get a feed); YouTube subscriptions are RSS (but you have to search relentlessly to find the code to get a feed) In case anyone wants to add YouTube channels to their RSS reader:
      (You have to paste the channel ID you want to follow after the equals sign)

      Mastodon seems like a great Twitter replacement — open source, decentralised, (uncensorable) — but the network effect is such that no one wants to dive in. I spent some time alone there:
      Notice the pinned post is a GIF of a Twitter RT that keeps UNretweeting

    • Jan+Brooker

      Aha, geek-speak. Looked up RSS. Please don’t use acronyms without at least a Plain English [Scots?] translation/explanation.

      • Fazal Majid

        RSS is the best chance to get to the decentralized system without gatekeepers Craig is talking about. Basically it is a format by which a website exposes new articles in a computer-readable fashion. Thus instead of me making a round of the 400+ blogs and sites I read, including this one, my RSS Feed Reader does it for me so I get handed over only the new stuff on a silver platter. NetNewsWire is a good free reader for Mac, I use my own, Temboz, and there readers available for pretty much every platform.

        Since your feed reader connects directly to the sources, there are no censors or gatekeepers, but as Craig says, mass adoption is lacking. There is also the question of maintaining a balanced information diet and not succumbing to the solipsistic joys of an echo bubble. Finally, in a world where newspapers are replaced by feed readers getting information from primary sources or trusted individuals, not faceless corporations, how will investigative journalism be funded?

        Now keeping up with the firehose of information is a challenge, and one of the most vital tools is filtering, but you cannot cede control of your feed to the manipulative algorithms of Facebook, Twitter et al.

      • Tom Welsh

        Jan+Brooker, you are demonstrating exactly the behavioural traits that have led to the current discontent with social media. You want everything on a platter, without the need to take any trouble or even a minute out of your busy day.

        Google (or the search engine of you choice) is your friend. Or you could go straight to Wikipedia, which is still reliable for any purely technical topic. You will find:

        “RSS (RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication)[2] is a web feed[3] that allows users and applications to access updates to websites in a standardized, computer-readable format. These feeds can, for example, allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator”.

        That is actually what Brad Bell just told you. As you will now know, there are at least two accepted expansions of RSS, and most “geeks” refer to it simply as RSS. Providing either or both of those would not have made Brad’s comment any easier to understand.

        There will be no hope of any kind of democratisation of the Internet until everyone who uses it is prepared to take a few hours to learn the basic terminology and concepts. If you went to China without learning a single word of Chinese, you might experience some difficulty. The world of computers and networks is just as complicated as the Chinese language, but in both cases you can get by with only a small part of it.

        • Fazal Majid

          Tom, if we are to have widespread adoption of RSS and other democratizing technologies like ad/tracker blocking, encrypted messaging, VPNs, open-source/libre software, and so on, technologists have to meet people where they are and not expect the mountain to move to them. As the author of a RSS feed reader I have been using for myself since 2004, I didn’t find Jan’s question out of line at all. If anything, it illustrates how poor a job the community has done of evangelizing the many benefits of RSS to the general public. The Wikipedia blurb you quoted is a good illustration of the problem, it’s very hard to parse and understand the value proposition.

          • Tom Welsh

            Let’s agree to disagree!

            To my mind, for an Internet user to disavow knowledge of what RSS means is analogous to someone setting out to drive a car without knowing what the steering wheel, clutch or accelerator are.

            It’s also helpful to know about “mph” and “rpm”.

          • james

            tom, i think a better analogy is a person who drives a car and doesn’t know much of anything about the engine.. it happens all the time… so, i think your analogy is not a great one.. cheers..

          • porkpie

            “To my mind, for an Internet user to disavow knowledge of what RSS means is analogous to someone setting out to drive a car without knowing what the steering wheel, clutch or accelerator are.”

            Then your mind is a strange place, Tom. Perhaps if an internet user disavowed knowledge of what a keyboard is you might have a point.

            And I’m not sure you know what disavow means….

          • Franc

            Well said Fazal, and thankyou. Like Jan + Brooker, I also struggle to follow the jargon and would love to come across simple guides, but unlike Jan, im a fucking eeejit!

    • Kev

      “The United States Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation, as defendants in the case, had influence enough to force a closed-door trial without a jury.”

      Opening paragraph from Isaac Asimov’s ‘GALLEY SLAVE’. 1957

      • Penguin

        The robot which is employed as a proofreader but rewrites the text to improve it, much to the discontent of the original scribe?

  • vin_ot

    Those New York Post stories have been slammed by the elite media and the sharing of them absurdly blocked by Facebook and Twitter. But we all know that the allegations of nepotism, incompetence and Hunter’s trading on his father’s position as VP ring true. There are photos, emails, texts, recordings. Gerald Sussman charted the Bidens’ ransacking of Ukraine for CounterPunch back in August, try sharing that on Twitter and Facebook.

    • Jan+Brooker

      That’s why I chip in my two-pennorth every month to ensure that alternative news is available to me and others ~ same as I do for Jonathan Cook.

  • Gregor

    An overarching, agenda driven, politically rotten, private corporate Big Tech ‘Truth/Thought/Choice’ dictatorship (re. Big Tech’s/MSM partner’s industrial-scale mass public/political censorship rampage) poses a significant threat to all: public/society/State/humanity…

  • Geoff Reynolds

    When you flick on any aspect of the mainstream media you are bombarded with complete BOLLOCKS.

    BBC, SKY et al are all a complete fiction to whet the appetites of the morons who are led up the garden path, day in, day out …

    They are suckers for punishment willing to accept complete claptrap based upon a script, now a global script.

    Three corporations release everything you hear and see and all news, whenever having a modicum of truth, will be spun in such a way it suits the chessmasters agenda.

    There is no Labour Party, Conservative Party or Liberal Democrats as they all work as one but you are brainwashed into the absurdity that you have a choice … it’s total fiction and you are the losers.

    We are a group of islands that are ruled by a sovereign that nobody ever voted for, governed by a bank, the Bank of England, where our monarch gave Royal Assent for the shareholders names to be hidden from the public.

    Did you know that the Bank of England is the only registered enterprise where the shareholders are hidden from view completely!

    I wonder why?

    Despite the actions of the multinationals in Silicon Valley that control the chaff you are fed, to stifle other narratives that disagree with their targets, the truth eventually leaks out. Like an air bubble in a crock of shit, it always surfaces.

    You are labelled a conspiracist for telling the truth nowadays but when our governments are facing a Nuremberg style inquisition for malfeasance in office and the murder of it’s citizens we will have the last laugh.

  • CasualObserver

    Its a fairly safe bet that Team Trump have the goods on Biden, so even if Joe were to win in November, he’ll be so tainted as to be forced to step down before inauguration ? So realistically a vote for Joe is a vote for the Cameltoe.

    As for Twitter and FB, its best to remember that both companies depend on the shareholder dime, and should their behaviour become so egregious as to see them in danger of losing their protection against being classed as publishers, there’ll be a lot of unhappy investors. Indeed, Dorsey’s change of tack within a day regarding the hard drive topic would suggest that the Bottom Line has already assumed the form of a boot applied to his rear end.

    That just leaves the BBC, might even be worth starting a sweepstake on how long it will take them to cover the story 😀

    • gwp3

      “Its a fairly safe bet that Team Trump have the goods on Biden, so even if Joe were to win in November, he’ll be so tainted as to be forced to step down before inauguration ? So realistically a vote for Joe is a vote for the Cameltoe.”

      You don’t seriously believe that the orally incontinent Trump would not spill the beans if that were true?

      And what’s this Cameltoe crap?

  • pretzelattack

    i’m never surprised when self described liberals turn into shills for whatever disinfo is currently being peddled, or shills for suppressing unwelcome info. not anymore.

    • Tom Welsh

      A real liberal respects other people’s liberties and understands that, while their ways and preferences may differ very much from his own, they are nonetheless entitled to them.

      A pseudo-liberal (what mostly passes for a “liberal” nowadays, especially in the USA) believes that he knows how other people could be made far better than they are, and intends to impose those improvements on them whether they like it or not.

  • Ralph

    faecesbook and shitter – together with google ‘do evil’ – and of course the msm, in particular the Western one, not to mention unholyweird with the pentagram etc, are simply EVIL, doing evil. You cannot expect them to act otherwise, that is their evil nature. Therefore you have to avoid them when not attacking them: their life blood is people, and without them, they are nothing.

  • Father O'Blivion

    Not sure why such blatant manipulation of the net is a problem based on the logic presented in the third para from last.

    “The Establishment’s problem is that … removal of access by the public to radical thinking … is protecting a society tilting towards structural instability …”

    So, if we “fix” the problem, we protect the Establishment from a “heads on pikes” scenario.
    And here was me sharpening my pitchfork.

    • pretzelattack

      sharpening your pitchfork is never wasted effort. make sure your tumbril is roadworthy, too.

  • FlakBlag

    Another great article Craig. Thanks.

    I’m a moderately technical person with a particular interest in computer technology. I’ve long been aware of numerous problems with social media, it’s not just censorship, it’s broader and deeper than that, perhaps even worse than television. As a result I’ve never used Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin/Instagram or anything else beyond posting on various web forums, blogs, and occasionally having an internet dating profile. Good to see the rest of the world catching up (finally, again).

    The problem isn’t the technology, the alternatives exist: diaspora, mastadon, lbry. People don’t use them at scale, because these platforms haven’t been skillfully promoted by the engineers of our society. The problem is as it always is, one of psychology, a lack of individual enlightenment, and societal control. People use Facebook because everyone else uses Facebook, because everyone was herded there with promises of being “cool” by those who run the world. The same goes for other social media platforms. It was a conscious reaction against the unprecedented decentralization of the control of information that the internet allowed, as socially disruptive as the invention of the printing press.

    It’s human nature to strive to be part of the greater group, the in crowd, that’s what’s at play here. It’s being manipulated for all it’s worth. In this world of deliberate structural atomisation, alienation and division people crave connection. Social media provides that connection in a corporately sanitized and approved way. Social media is to human relationships as McDonald’s is to food. One has to admire the seamless and accomplished way in which the forces of evil have subverted the Free internet and turned it into a tool of hyper-orwellian control.

    The forces of evil lure us in with convenience and utility, as a result we must eschew that convenience and utility. The answer is to walk away, abandon these controlled platforms of control, and to deride those who still use them. I propose we all get tshirts emblazoned with the words “Facebook is for morons”. It won’t work, but it might make us feel better.

    • James Cook

      “The forces of evil lure us in with convenience and utility, as a result we must eschew that convenience and utility. The answer is to walk away, abandon these controlled platforms of control, …….”.

      Agrees! Humans (as a group) are inherently lazy – the easiest thing either physically or mentally is the path most will follow.

      The solution here is to get rid of your “smart” phone and go back to the flip-phone for voice communication. “Smart” phones are the current tool of human control……and amazingly people are willing to pay big money for the latest model which will control them ever better????

      Humans need time the think critically thru reading and conversation with others, but everything is being pushed faster and faster and faster (5G) so humans have no time to think – just react to what they are told.

      Ultimately humans have to say ENOUGH! – I am throwing away the smart phone and am going to start to think for myself again.

      Unfortunately the tech giants are using weaknesses in human nature against everyone through “human chemical additions” to the visual/mental stimulation of their digital platforms.

      Unfortunately, humans (as a group) are inherently lazy – the easiest thing either physically or mentally is the path most will follow. It will be a long, slow fight to regain human freedom from mental/intellectual slavery.

  • ET

    “We need the original founders of the internet to get together…………………..”

    Sir Tm Berners Lee and others are involved in developing just such a decentralised system at
    Whilst I have a POD, I have to admit I haven’t really learned how to use it much which is my own fault for not giving it time. I guess the more people that try out such projects the more likely one will suceed.

    A great post Craig. I think you’ve nailed it when you say:

    “Ten years ago I would not have thought it a danger that the internet would become a method of political control, not of political freedom. I now worry it is too late to avert the danger.”

    What I find is that sadly very few of my own family and friends are remotely interested, some even hostile to that argument. I have shared direct links to some of your reports of the Assange hearing with family members. Only one is interested and they’d have been reading your site anyway. The usual response is complete indifference. Didn’t bother reading it because better things to be doing. I would welcome suggestions as to how to combat such indifference. Ironically, it will take the likes of the BBC, Sky News or some other such “trusted” source for people to take this seriously.

    • On the train

      Yes I have exactly the same problem. It leaves you feeling hopeless and silenced doesn’t it? I try to believe that “ the truth will out “ , but I don’t have a lot of faith.

    • Chris

      My daughter in law didn’t want to hear about Julian’s plights “because of what he did to Hilary Clinton”. FF actual S!

    • arby

      Same here! I posted a few of the Assange/Craig items on Facebook – no response, bar one ‘like’ from an Indian colleague.
      I’m sure some actively disagreed and there would be apathy, but I also don’t discount the Facebook Filter at play.

      My take is to resist this apparent hopelessness and keep the embers alive, keep nudging in a positive direction – while that continues from many independent fronts, the truth can propagate, just like it did when it first came to me.

  • DiggerUK

    History shows that state control and private ownership of the media is nothing new. Twitter, Facebook and Uncle Tom Cobbley are just more of the same old, same old. Stop wingeing.

    It always fails because the truth has a persistent way of shining through. Illuminating that truth isn’t a job for snowflakes however…_

  • nevermind

    If I want to express what I feel with the minimum of words I write a Haiku, but twitter and its limited controlled agenda is not for me. Would it not be opportune to treat this kettleling of information as a call to boycott Twitter and FB/, the latter still trusted by some to be good for getting in touch with past acquaintances?. Most people believe that the family pictures they post/share are their private property, in reality you are giving it to FB to do what they like with it.
    Boycott the censors!
    When Craig writes “The development of social media gatekeeping of internet traffic is one of the key socio-political issues of our time. We need the original founders of the internet to get together with figures like Richard Stallman and – vitally – Julian Assange – to find a way we break free from this.” then that is achievable.
    Should we write an open letter to Tim Bernhard Lees and urge him to provide an alternative means to communicate freely openly and secure from political control?

    • Tom Welsh

      “Should we write an open letter to Tim Bernhard Lees and urge him to provide an alternative means to communicate freely openly and secure from political control?”

      First of all, nevermind, that is (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee.

      Second, the Internet and the Web already provide exactly that.

      Think of social media as a noose dangling from a gallows. Unless you shove your own head into it, it cannot hurt you.

  • Crispa

    Ha, by coincidence I deleted my Twitter account late last night because I have got so disaffected by the medium, which has never been my style of communicating anyway and I have got increasingly fed up with the banality and abuse and the totally overblown sense of importance of many people’s tweets. And the links to articles and sites that I did find useful I can easily find elsewhere. Should we really care about this constant recycling of verbal ephemera most of which is garbage anyway.

    • Tom Welsh

      Congratulations, Crispa! A blow for freedom which I trust you will never regret for one moment.

      Now… about 249,999,999 to go!

  • Tom Welsh

    “The story now is that Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop in a repair shop, and the hard drive contained emails between Hunter and Burisma in which he was asked for, and promised, various assistance to the company from the Vice President”.

    Apart from anything else, this demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that Hunter Biden is a complacent, incompetent booby. It’s not as if he couldn’t get, at the snap of his fingers, world-class advice on IT security from his father’s crew. (Or buy it himself with a tiny fraction of his ill-gotten gains).

  • Republicofscotland

    It was just a matter of time before heavy censoring affected the internet, information as they say is power. As for Hunter Biden I recall Trump telling the audience in his head to head with Biden that his son was dishonourably discharged for using drugs. Joe Biden is just another corrupt warmongering shit hoping to become POTUS.

  • Tom Welsh

    “An early part of that thinking out of the box needs to relate to internet architecture and finding a way that the social media gatekeepers can be bypassed – not by a few activists, but by the bulk of the population”.

    It has always been a source of wonder to me (along with most others who were involved with computers before 1990) that so many of the world’s population could be persuaded not only to carry computers with them wherever they go, but to pay for that privilege. After all, the overwhelming majority of those billions have not the slightest idea of how a flip-flop, a transistor, an arithmetic-logic unit, or a hard drive work – let alone an IP network. To them, the smartphone (sic) is just a way of opening worm-holes to other places so they can chat to their friends. It expands the social group to, potentially, many thousands – to the point where it is limited only by the individual’s time and attention.

    With respect to Mr Murray, the matter has nothing whatsoever to do with “Internet architecture” (which has been handled for 34 years, with outstanding competence, by the Internet Engineering Task Force). The Internet is just fine as it is, and so is the World Wide Web (similarly governed by the World Wide Web Consortium).

    Mr Murray’s complaint is analogous to a parent lamenting that his child’s car accident, caused by driving into a tree while drunk and distracted, was due to the car’s inadequate design.

    The fundamental paradox of computers is that they are “universal” machines capable of almost any task that can be performed by manipulating numbers or symbols; and that they are therefore intrinsically far too complex for most users to understand or handle effectively.

    The creators of the Web enabled virtually all human beings to communicate with one another through writing – and, subsequently, through pictures, video, sound, and other media.

    Unfortunately most users want something for nothing, and usually then go on to want more for less. Rather than go to the cost and trouble of creating their own Web sites and compiling lists of other sites they wish to visit, they all rush like the Gadarene swine to Facebook, Twitter and the other preconstructed “social media” sites. It has been generally understood for decades that “if the service is free, you are the product”; but most people just don’t care. Then, one day, they suddenly realise that they have lost their right of free speech – but only inasmuch as they only speak and listen through social media.

    The moral is very simple: don’t use “social media”. Use the Web in the way it was intended to be used.

    • FairiesWearBoots

      “…the overwhelming majority of those billions have not the slightest idea of how a flip-flop, a transistor, an arithmetic-logic unit, or a hard drive work – let alone an IP network.”

      This principle applies to everything, not just computers.

      The majority of the ‘general public’ do not care how computers, cars, aircraft or any other technical aspect of daily life work in their finer details, just that they work efficiently and safely when required. They have lives – predominantly work that supports a family life in all its aspects, one increasingly under threat from the increasing variety of structural crises being experienced by the capitalist system (it’s always “The economy, stupid”.). And it is this preoccupation with “getting on with one’s life” and not having the time (and, increasingly, energy as the demands and conditions of work become harder) to look into the detail of the workings of the politico-economic system that those running it rely on to avoid scrutiny.

      But, just in case, as Chomsky has spent his life explaining, the ‘legacy’ media and (now that they are increasingly taking its place) social media have always been subject to censorship. Not usually of an unsophisticated kind – book-burning, press-smashing, etc. – but of a more subtle, insidious kind: restrictions on the sources of news and expressions of opinions beyond the “acceptable” for the continued smooth running of the system, and the implied or overt defamation of ‘alternative’ sources of news that refuse to behave “reasonably” and “maturely”.

      No “conspiracy” is necessary for this to take place because the process is ideological: as Chomsky tellingly stated in an interview with Andrew Marr ( “I’m not saying that you’re self-censoring, I’m sure that you believe everything that you’re saying: but what I’m saying is that if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting”. It is the (widespread) failure to understand the power and mode of functioning of ideology that causes so many critiques of the capitalist system to become voluntarist.

    • Redshift

      The problem with the “internet architecture” as Craig makes clear is the corruption of the centralised gatekeepers. Since the vast majority of activity on the web is “client-server” in nature those who control the servers get to control the message. It has always been the case throughout history that when enough people see a problem with the status quo they look around and start to accept available solutions. In this instance it may be that people will turn to peer-to-peer services and darkweb protocols to bypass those trying to control the information flow. The increasing use of cryptocurrencies to store and transfer money via decentralised blockchain is an example of a peer-to-peer system which seems to be catching on to get around issues with the centralised banking system.

    • laguerre

      “It has always been a source of wonder to me (along with most others who were involved with computers before 1990) that so many of the world’s population could be persuaded not only to carry computers with them wherever they go, but to pay for that privilege.”

      Part, or much, of your ISP subscription goes to paying for the upkeep and updating of the trunk cables/system, does it not? There’s no real reason why that should be free. We should be grateful to Berners-Lee and his pals for the invention of the WWW, and the idea of free access. It didn’t exist before. It’s only the super-position of social media which is the problem. Payment for the use of the trunk cables is inevitable.

  • lysias

    I just mailed in my ballot for Trump. I didn’t vote for him four years ago. Then, I voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party. Indeed, I had only voted third-party in presidential elections for some 20 years.

    But this time I thought the Democrats had become so bad that I had to swallow my dislike of Trump. If he is re-elected, he may be able to take legal action, like antitrust enforcement, against Big Tech.

  • Ian Robert Stevenson

    A laptop dropped off at a shop by a person unknown (in some reports) who didn’t leave a contact number and didn’t return to pick it up.
    Trump has been behind in the polls for some time and many of us were waiting for an ‘October surprise’. Trump was accusing the Bidens of corruption in his impeachment trial.
    Steve Bannon and Giuliani delivered a copy of the hard drive to the New York newspaper after being contacted by the shop owner. The former is facing legal charges for fraud and Giuliani is under investigation for possible breaking of lobbying laws according to the New York times.
    I don’t find it very convincing.

    • lysias

      The shop owner handed over the laptop to the FBI about a year ago, late last year. (He kept a copy.) The Bidens have not claimed that the laptop is phony. Hunter Biden’s lawyer has requested the return of the laptop.

      I don’t think there’s any question of its authenticity.

      All that the Biden camp has been arguing is that the Russians were somehow involved in getting the information to Giuliani, and thus to the Trump campaign and the NY Post. They furnish no evidence for this claim, but, even if it’s true, what difference does it make, so long as the information is true?

      • Ian Robert Stevenson

        well, timing is important if you are going to discredit an opponent. No doubt Biden’s lawyer wants to examine the machine and if they say it’s his, that’s the way to see it. I’ll reserve judgement.

        • Penguin

          You’ll bury your head in the sand then. CM was reporting on this story for years, as recorded in this very post, but you’re waiting for someone in the FBI to confirm the truth? Fucking prick!

          [ Mod: Once again, kindly avoid insulting other commenters. From the moderation rules for commenters:

          Address the argument, not the person. To do otherwise will be an immediate warning flag for deletion. Any reference to any commenter which is not courteous will lead to the comment being immediately deleted.

          Regards. ]

  • Mistertaximan

    I’m feeling sheepish now about sharing this article on Facebook!

    I have found the comments section informative today. I’m off to try some links now…thank you.

  • Joseph Mellon

    Hunter Biden, who lives in Los Angeles, decides to fly 3000 miles across country to drop off 3 MacBook Pros at a computer repair shop run by a blind guy who charges the insanely low price of $85 for data recovery. Hunter gets off the plane and drunk-drives to the repair shop in Wilmington desperate for service, because everyone knows there are no computer repair shops anywhere in LA, and they don’t know much about computers in CA.
    He staggers into the shop reeking of booze, drops them off, signs a contract for repair and then totally disappears, because he’s so close to his easily-reachable dad that his dad is responsible for Hunter, but so not-close that his dad is unable to relay a message to Hunter that his computers are ready for pickup.
    The repair shop owner recovers the data but instead of doing what data recovery people normally do when computers are abandoned, which is wipe the data clean and sell the hardware, he reads literally thousands of Hunter’s *private* emails (half of which are probably the “Reply All” chains we hate) but a few of those thousands of emails may mention a possible meeting arrangement between his dad and a Ukrainian guy. (For what? it’s not mentioned.)
    Repair Shop Guy is so alarmed that he contacts the FBI. The FBI arranges to pick up the hard drives, but Repair Shop Guy chooses to take the completely normal step of copying those drives. Once he realizes the FBI isn’t doing anything with them (Hmmm… wonder why) , he calls up the most credible ex-Mayor on Earth and hands him their contents.
    That totally credible ex-Mayor is also so alarmed by these emails that instead of immediately going public or talking to Barr’s DOJ, he sits on them for months and then chooses to release them 3 weeks before the election.
    The responsible media then asks to independently verify their validity through a forensic analysis of the emails’ metadata, but said ex-Mayor does what all normal people trying to prove facts and truth do, and chooses to totally ignore all of these requests.
    Is that where we are now?
    Oh.. By the way, turns out the computer repair shop owner is a big Trump supporter

    • bj

      That’s quite a few words spent to look away from an issue.
      Focus on the material itself.
      It’s genuine. Whether or not you like that is immaterial.

      • Joseph Mellon

        > It’s genuine.
        How on earth do you know that?
        > Focus on the material itself.
        You went through the original material? You are doing better than the New York Post who have requested it without getting it….
        Like I agree – why does Hunter Biden, ex(?) substance abuser with no knowledge of the oil business get a 6 digit directorship of a dodgy newly formed oil company based in dodgy company preferred country (Cyprus) which has just been awarded the mineral rights to East Ukraine by the dodgy regime that the US installed in a coup?
        However the ‘dropped off hard drives’ story is just far fetched….

    • Tatyana

      my guess is – if the buyer’s contacts were unavailable, the repairman might have looked at the hard drive contents. Well, as if I found a phone, I would open contacts and call “mom”
      Perhaps the serviceman did exactly the same.

      Are there really so few Trump supporters that it causes sarcasm? We were told that this is about half of the population.

    • Nullis

      The repair shop is 4 miles from Joe Biden’s place. It’s not hard to believe that a son, quite a close to his Dad as Hunter was, would be found in Delaware relatively frequently. It was dropped off in April 2019. Taken to the FBI in December 2019. And when the FBI didn’t make any statement about the laptop or what was on it during Impeachment (where it would have been prime exhibit A in the defence), the shop owner took it to senators, and eventually to lawyers and Giuliani.

      Totally agree that the timing is pure political theatre, but if the FBI and Democrats had done their job at the end of 2019 and investigated Biden, instead of Trump for raising a valid issue, they could easily have Bernie as their candidate and no scandal. This represents a political howler by the Democrats and not surprisingly Trumpists are leveraging it to the full extent.

  • Goose

    Earlier this year Joe Biden expressed a desire to “revoke” the protections that draw a line between the platform that hosts content and the generator of the content hosted on. This obviously would be a terrible move, what’s happening now in terms of the heavy-handed suppression of this story probably relates to those fears rather than any blatant political favouritism.

    The exemption to which Biden was referred to is Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The key part of the law reads:

    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

  • Jimmeh

    Craig, I may be naive; but I still believe the internet is a medium that furthers free expression more than any other. It was said (Postol, I think) that the internet routes around censorship.

    Remember that the internet is not just the web. Webservers are centralised; the world-wide web consists of lots of servers, to which you connect as a client. The administrator of a webserver decides what does and doesn’t appear on that server. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Tim Berners Lee’s invention was not such a good idea.

    But Usenet still exists; email still exists; FTP still exists. Sure, these protocols still depend on server administrators doing the right thing, but if your mail provider turns bad, you can simply switch provider. And the internet stilll has no mechanism for banning new protocols. Tor still exists, and it’s hard to see how it could be suppressed.

    It’s the internet as a mass communication system that is threatened. I’m not so sure that is a catastrophe. I became involved with the internet before the WWW introduced images and permitted advertising, before the “Eternal September” when AOL allowed their ill-informed users access to the web. In those days, most internet users were journalists, geeks and academics. There were of course loads of weirdos and looney-tunes, but they were easy to avoid; you just didn’t read newsgroups with words like “furry” in the title.

    Most of the web nowadays consists of advertising, which is a kind of propaganda (“that which is to be propagated”). As the man said, “propaganda all is phoney.”

    Advertising and sales pitches were the main driver of the demand for high-speed broadband. Nowadays that demand is because the internet has become a substitute for cable telly; Netfix, iPlayer and so on. I can manage without ads, and I can manage without streaming video. I was always in favour of high-speed broadband, but not to give others the ability to broadcast to me; I favoured it because it would allow anyone to broadcast. Sadly, most ISPs nowadays don’t let you run a server on a home internet connection.

    Call me an old codger, but I yearn for the old days.

  • bj

    What baffled me the other day, was when Biden, when confronted with some reporter who asked him about the affair, in trying to refute it, became utterly aggressive in his demeanor and in the way he pointed his finger towards the reporter.

    The mask dropped for a few seconds, the ugly face of coercion visible.
    That an old man of almost 80 could have such tremendous aggression, that’s what astounded me.

  • M.J.

    Maybe you should set up your own alternative platform that will commit itself, like the New York Times, to tell all the news that’s fit to print. 🙂

      • M.J.

        I wonder why the NYT doesn’t want to print stuff. Perhaps because they suspect that some of it is Moscow-inspired disinformation based on forged videos and emails?
        Biden vs Trump is like Blair vs Boris. Give me Blair every time. Oh, for the good old days of Barack & Hillary. I can enjoy seeing The West Wing again once Trump is out! I regret not knowing anyone with access to HBO Max and so missing the re-staging of “Hartsfield’s Landing”. I look forward to seeing it on DVD or Youtube even.

  • nevermind

    This old man who tried many times to become president is a mere front for Kamala to pitch in when he’s dropped off, gone gaga, not that it stopped Reagan, but who would she appoint as her new Vice president in charge of all the democratic vice?
    Could that be our favourite Shillary?
    We will get what we deserve for wagging our tail and keeping these blundering crooks in charge. If you sling s..t far enough it starts stinking everywhere, we are now getting used to the bad smells emanating from the white House built with black slave labour.

    Worst bad news here is that Archbishop Sentamu was refused a lordship, because the Tories want to ‘slim down the house of Lords’. Yeah tell us another one. what of Lebedev, Ian Botham and his very own brother Jo, Boris, you old crook?
    12 out of 794 rotten ol’ pears, mustn’t make a mistake now, are black and in black history month the y don’t really want to be seen appointing another black Lord into their lardy dardy hangers on tax feeding club.
    The problem today is that there are not enough Fawkes around.

    • M.J.

      Sentamu’s being refused a peerage looks like unfair discrimination that the Tories think they can get away with. I hope they don’t, and that it backfires on them, come election time.

  • John A

    About the Hunter Biden story, the increasingly pathetic propaganda sheet The Guardian writes:
    The latest example is how a tiny, unverifiable, almost-certainly-false story published by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post (the fourth-largest readership of any newspaper in the United States) generated a ridiculous blowback among rightwing pundits and politicians.

    It goes on to describe the story as ‘almost comical’.

    What a disgusting rag that paper is.

    • M.J.

      Thanks for the information about this excellent article. I thought this might be Moscow-inspired disinformation, since Putin wants useful idiots lke Trump running America. But think of the millions that will lose health care if he succeeds.

          • M.J.

            bj: IMHO Venezuela is in a difficult and stalemated position. I don’t envy her citizens. One way forward may be to have another election with international observers.

          • Johny Conspiranoid

            Venezuela had an election with international observers when they chose Maduro and they will be having another one on the due date despite the best efforts of the US and its allies.

            Moscow might be doing disinformation but since, as Putin pointed out, it doesn’t make much difference to US foreign policy who is president, I doubt if they care enough.
            Murdoch might have an axe to grind though.

      • John A

        How can millions lose healthcare that they never had? The Democrats only ever talk about providing ‘access to healthcare’ never healthcare for all. Access in the same way as I have access to stay at the Ritz, eat at Le Gavroche while drinking Chateau Petrus of the most expensive vintage they have.

        The Guardian has clearly gone into shoot the messenger mode here. They have spent 4 years moaning about how Saint Hillary was cheated by the Russians, now it is the Blessed Biden who is being targetted. The laptops are Hunter’s, his lawyers have asked for them back, but instead of discussing the damning contents, the MSM pretends it is a photshopped storm in a teacup. Pathetic

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