Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for a crackdown on those who would blaspheme against Islam on social media, and claims to have contacted Facebook and Twitter to ask for their help in suppressing online sacrilege.
“All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law,” Sharif said.
Minister of the Interior Ministry (MoI) Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that an official from Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, DC, was dispatched to Facebook and Twitter, asking them to help identify Pakistanis both at home or abroad who have insulted Islam.
He went on to say Pakistan would seek to extradite any Pakistanis living abroad if they were accused of blasphemy so they could be tried in an Islamic court.
Facebook, at least, has answered the call and will send a delegation to Pakistan to help them fight blasphemy, according to a statement from Pakistan’s Interior Ministry. Facebook told the MoI that they were “aware” of Pakistan’s concerns, and wanted to reach a mutual understanding with the Islamic Republic.
Facebook told the Associated Press that it seriously considers requests from governments, but its ultimate goal is to “protect the privacy and rights of our users.”
“We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law,” continued Facebook.
Pakistan already extensively censors online content that depicts blasphemy, pornography, suicide and other things deemed objectionable. YouTube was blocked in the South Asian nation from 2012 to 2016, until it agreed to assist the government in censoring their content.
Facebook itself was blocked for a short period of time in 2010 due to it being the platform of choice for many artists participating in “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. Some sites, such as Reddit and Imgur, remain banned.
Pakistan has some of the world’s strictest blasphemy laws. “Outraging the religious feelings of Muslims” carries a three year prison sentence as well as fines. Defiling a Quran is life in prison. Speaking ill of Mohammed is punishable by death.
Human Rights Watch claims that from 1987 to 2014, more than 1,300 Pakistanis have been accused of blasphemy and more than 60 of the accused have died in extrajudicial killings.
So far 564 people believe they have shared on Facebook my article conclusively refuting the CIA’s invention of lies about Russia hacking the DNC, using the share button on this site. Another 78 have tried to share it from my Facebook page. The total amount of incoming traffic from these 650 people sharing? 22 people. Almost nobody can currently reach this site through Facebook, as the “came from” interface on my statcounter below shows. Nothing from Facebook. Facebook are actively colluding in preventing social media from contradicting the mainstream media lies about Russian involvement in the US election campaign.
Don’t believe me? If you think you shared the article on Facebook, phone one of your Facebook friends and ask if it appeared for them.
The only way to defeat this is to republish the article yourself. I waive any copyright. If you have access to a blog, copy and paste it there and post a link to that blog on Facebook. Or simply cut and paste my whole article and copy it to your Facebook page, in sections if required.
I am similarly ghost banned on Twitter. The work round to this, which plenty of people have found, is to create a new tweet yourself with a link to my site, rather than retweet one of my tweets. As with the Facebook share, if you do retweet you will be unaware it doesn’t work.
There are profound implications for society in the compliance of the major social media corporations with establishment demands to prevent social media from effectively challenging the mainstream media narrative – and I cannot think of a more classic example than this case. I do urge you to take action as described above, to show that the people will not stand for it.
I had never heard of ghost banning until I was ghost banned by twitter. That of course is the idea – they censor you without you realising that you are censored. People no longer get notifications when I post, and the tweet only turns up in the twitter line of followers who happen to be logged in at the time my tweet goes out. Those logging in later will no longer see tweets I issued while they were away. Most of my tweets no longer show up on twitter searches, and further restrictions are applied when people retweet my tweets.
Since ghost banning, traffic to my website from twitter has fallen 90%.
As twitter do not inform you that you have been ghost banned, it is hard to know exactly what prompted it, but I believe it immediately followed this tweet.
For anyone who gets their news through the mainstream media, the spirit cooking scandal referred to performance art by Marina Abramovic, to an intimate domestic display of which Clinton campaign chairman and paid Saudi lobbyist John Podesta was invited. The performance draws upon occult references and imagery – as an “artist” her inspiration appears to be early Hammer horror films. It involves painting with blood, milk and semen, presumably from animals. To add a frisson, Ms Abramovic has claimed it is art when performed in a gallery, but real when performed in a private home.
Personally, I view it as rubbish as art, and the sort of thing idiots with too much money pay for. I think the occult references give a frisson to the idle rich, like students playing with a Ouija board. Personally I believe that kind of thing is better avoided, but each to his own. What the Podesta emails undoubtedly show is that the rich are not like us. Just as David Cameron sticking his todger in the mouth of a dead pig was an upper class bonding ritual and not actual bestiality, I don’t actually think the Podestas are Satanists. Just weird.
But what is beyond doubt is that the #spiritcooking sensation on social media had a real effect on the US election, and in an election where the margins were so very close potentially an extremely important one. Tens of millions of people saw the images on social media. It galvanised evangelical Christians to vote for Trump and, perhaps much more crucially, it contributed materially to a massive depression of the African American vote for Hillary as millions of African American Christians, disgusted by seeing apparent endorsement of Abramovic’s voodoo and satanic references by the Clinton camp, sat at home and did not turn out to vote. That 2 million black Americans who voted for Obama did not vote for Hillary was not because they are racist – it was because they disliked Hillary for a number of reasons, and spirit cooking was a factor, especially as the famed Democratic machine is heavily reliant upon African American churches for the ground war. I should love to see the influence of the spirit cooking scandal measured, but given that the mainstream media who commission the polls are desperate to deny the effect of WikiLeaks on the election, they are not likely to measure it.
Instead what we have is the “post-truth” narrative. This holds that something is only true if the mainstream media says that it is. It is an easy trick to conflate a dozen ludicrous untrue stories released on social media, and then leap from there to saying everything on social media not endorsed by mainstream media is untrue. It is but a further step to argue that therefore social media must be censored. This is where we came in, with Twitter already doing this to me. Mark Zuckerberg has indicated that Facebook will take further action to prevent dissemination of “untrue” political information. Of course, they already do this, and again I am afraid to say in particular they do this to me. All my blog posts are posted to Facebook as well as twitter. Did you know when you share my post on Facebook, Facebook limits the number of your friends who can see it? In my case the limit is set to ensure that the percentage of incoming traffic to my site that comes through Facebook, is always precisely 5%. To do that, of course, they have to know precisely how much traffic is coming in to this site. Worrying, isn’t it? Before Facebook set the limitation -around the same time as twitter – the amount of incoming traffic from Facebook was around 30% of my traffic.
As with any grossly illiberal cause it is the Guardian which has led the charge for internet censorship in the UK. One hilarious recent Guardian article listed media bias towards Clinton as an example of a post-truth claim. The article did not mention the fact that senior CNN commentator Donna Brazile had been sacked by CNN after WikiLeaks revealed she had been feeding debate questions to Hillary Clinton in advance, nor Wikileaks’ numerous releases of emails detailing partisan collusion with the media to promote Hillary. It did not mention the deliberate and planned timing of primary elections and debates to disadvantage Sanders. In fact, it did not mention any of the inconvenient facts WikiLeaks had revealed. In that, it was absolutely typical mainstream media.
Mainstream media is not post-truth. It never had any connection to the truth.
To complete the chain of dishonesty, the trope of Russian interference in the election is getting a new airing. In a painfully obvious charade, Obama is being “pushed” by his own party to reveal security service information on “Russian interference” in the US election. The focus is particularly on the allegation that the Russian state hacked the Podesta and DNC emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.
The problem is there is no such evidence. There can’t be because both the DNC and Podesta emails were leaked by Washington insiders, to my certain knowledge. I repeat that, to my certain knowledge. Hillary’s pathetic election claim that the security services had information it was the Russians, depended on a statement that the leak was “consistent with Russian methods and objectives”. Look at that statement very carefully. It says “we have no evidence whatsoever, but the President has asked us to blame the Russians”. As I say, I know it wasn’t the Russians. The only “evidence” ever shown to me by those blaming the Russians is that an alleged hacker calling himself “Guccifer” sometimes uses Cyrillic. Which may or may not be true, but as “Guccifer” was neither the source of, nor a conduit for, the leaks it is utterly irrelevant.
Fear not. The truth is out there. People are trying to make it more difficult for you to find, but they will not succeed. In my own humble case, while visits from Facebook and Twitter are radically down, overall numbers are up. The internet somehow always finds a way to work around.
YouTube and Facebook have started using hashes to automatically remove extremist content.
Giant tech companies are banding together to stop extremism on the web.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft will begin sharing a common database to flag accounts and user profiles they deem as threats to global security.
In a joint statement, the companies in the collaboration said…
“We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.”
The companies will share ‘hashes’, or unique digital fingerprints, assigned to extremist videos or photos which have been flagged or removed from their platforms.
While it’s well and good for private corporations to do what they want with their own platform, or even create an oligopoly that shares data between platforms… the slippery slope begins once the goal posts for “what is deemed extreme” gets wider and wider.
The fact that the EU is the major driving force behind this initiative should give everyone even more pause as to the true intentions of this collaboration.
Tech companies have long resisted outside intervention in how their sites should be policed, but have come under increasing pressure from Western governments to do more to remove extremist content following a wave of militant attacks.
YouTube and Facebook have begun to use hashes to automatically remove extremist content.
But many providers have relied until now mainly on users to flag content that violates terms of service. Flagged material is then individually reviewed by human editors who delete postings found to be in violation.
Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts between February and August this year and has expanded the teams reviewing reports of extremist content.
Each company will decide what image and video hashes to add to the database and matching content will not be automatically removed, they said.
The database will be up and running in early 2017 and more companies could be brought into the partnership.
The European Union set up an EU Internet Forum last year bringing together the internet companies, interior ministers and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to find ways of removing extremist content.
The Forum will meet again on Thursday, when ministers are expected to ask the companies about their efforts and helping to provide evidence to convict foreign fighters.
Manipulation of public perception has risen to a new level with the emergence of powerful social media. Facebook, Twitter and Google are multibillion dollar corporate giants hugely influencing public understanding. Social media campaigns include paid ‘boosting’ of Facebook posts, paid promotion of Tweets, and biased results from search engines. Marketing and advertising companies use social media to promote their clients. U.S. foreign policy managers hire these companies to influence public perception to support U.S. foreign policy goals. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made sure that Twitter was primed for street protests in Iran following the 2009 election. She insured that Twitter was ready to spread and manage news of protests following the election and strange killing of a young woman. (p 423, Hard Choices hardback).
The results of media manipulation can be seen in the widespread misunderstanding of the conflict in Syria. One element of propaganda around Syria is the demonization of the Syrian government and leadership. Influenced by the mainstream and much alternative media, most in the West do not know that Bashar al Assad is popular with most Syrians. There were three contestants in the Syrian presidential election of June 2014. Turnout was 73% of the registered voters, with 88% voting for Assad. In Beirut, the streets were clogged with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees marching through the city to vote at the Syrian Embassy. Hundreds of Syrian citizens from the USA and other western countries flew to Syria to vote because Syrian Embassies in Washington and other western capitals were shut down. While John Kerry was condemning the Syrian election as a “farce” before it had even happened, a marketing company known as The Syria Campaign waged a campaign to block knowledge of the Syrian election. Along with demonizing President Assad, they launched a campaign which led to Facebook censoring information about the Syrian election.
The Syria Campaign was created by a larger company named “Purpose”. According to their own website they “incubated” The Syria Campaign.
The major achievement of The Syria Campaign has been the branding and promotion of the “White Helmets”. The “White Helmets”, also known as “Syria Civil Defense”, began with a British military contractor, James LeMesurier, giving some rescue training to Syrians in Turkey. Funding was provided by the US and UK. They appropriated the name from a real Syria Civil Defense.
The “White Helmets” are marketed in the West as civilian volunteers doing rescue work. On 22 September 2016 it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award, the so called “Alternative Nobel Prize”, is being given to the US/UK created White Helmets “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”
The Right Livelihood organizers may come to regret their selection of the White Helmets because the group is not who they claim to be. In fact, the White Helmets are largely a propaganda tool promoting western intervention against Syria. Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the “White Helmets” only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition. As shown in this video, the White Helmets pick up the bodies of individuals executed by the terrorists, they claim to be unarmed but are not, and they falsely claim to be neutral. Many of the videos from AlQaeda/terrorist dominated areas of Syria have the “White Helmets” logo because the White Helmets work in alliance with them. This primarily is a media marketing tool to raise public support for continuing the support to the armed opposition as well as the demonization of the Syrian government.
The Rights Livelihood press release says the White Helmets “remain outspoken in calling for an end to hostilities in the country.” That is false. The White Helmets actively call for US/NATO intervention through a “No Fly Zone” which would begin with attacks and destruction of anti-aircraft positions. Taking over the skies above another country is an act of war as confirmed by US General Dempsey. The White Helmets have never criticized or called for the end of funding to extremist organizations including Nusra/AlQaeda. On the contrary, White Helmets is generally embedded with this organization which is defined as “terrorist” by even the USA. That is likely why the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the USA.
The foreign and marketing company origins of the White Helmets was exposed over one and a half years ago. Since then, Vanessa Beeley has revealed the organization in more depth in articles such as “Who Are the White Helmets?” and “War by Way of Deception“.
Despite these exposes, understanding of the White Helmets is limited. Many liberal and progressive people have uncritically accepted the propaganda and misinformation around Syria. Much of the progressive media has effectively blocked or censored critical examinations amid a flood of propaganda about “barrel bombs” dropped by the ‘brutal dictator” and his “regime”.
In the last week, Netflix started showing a 40 minute documentary movie about the “White Helmets”. It is actually a promotion video. A substantial portion of it takes place in Turkey where we see trainees in hotel rooms making impassioned phone calls to inquire about their family in Syria. The “family values” theme is evident throughout. It’s a good marketing angle, especially effective with females. The political message of the video is also clear: after a bombing attack “It’s the Russians …. they say they are fighting ISIS but they are targeting civilians”. The movie includes video previously promoted by the White Helmets such as the “Miracle Baby” rescue. It’s debatable whether this incident is real or staged. The video includes self promoting proclamations such as “You are real heroes”. While no doubt there are some real rescues in the midst of war, many of the videos purporting to show the heroes at work have an unrealistic and contrived look to them as revealed here.
“Alternative media” in the West has sadly echoed mainstream media regarding the Syria conflict. The result is that many progressive individuals and groups are confused or worse. For example, the activist group CodePink recently issued a media release promoting the Netflix White Helmets propaganda video.
The White Helmets video is produced by Grain Media and Violet Films/Ultra-Violet Consulting. The latter advertises itself as a marketing corporation specializing in social media management, grant writing, crowd building and campaign implementation. The only question is who paid them to produce this video.
There is growing resistance to this manipulation and deception. In response to a petition to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets, there is a counter petition at Change.org. The Right Livelihood Awards have just been announced and there will soon be a petition demanding retraction of the award to the White Helmets.
The story of the White Helmets is principally a “feel good” hoax to manipulate public perception about the conflict in Syria and continue the drive for “regime change”. That’s why big money was paid to “Purpose” to “incubate” The Syria Campaign to brand and promote the White Helmets using Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s why big money was paid to create a self-promotional documentary. The judges at Rights Livelihood were probably influenced by the documentary since critical examination of facts around Syria is so rare. It’s a sad commentary on the media. As Stephen Kinzer recently said,
“Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook and Twitter have recently deleted thousands of posts, pages and accounts in response to demands from the Israeli ministry of justice, Quds Press reported on Wednesday.
“We succeeded to achieve our goals as around 70 per cent of our demands [to delete Facebook and Twitter content] were fulfilled,” Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked said, according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
She also added: “We succeeded to delete incitement contents calling for death and violence across the internet.”
During a meeting she held to discuss “fighting incitement and shameful content on social media” three-days ago, Shaked reiterated Israel’s “cooperation with Facebook, Twitter and google regarding the violent electronic Palestinian incitement”.
Shaked claimed that when internet incitement decreased, the attacks on Israelis decreased.
“This proves that there is a direct relationship between internet incitement and violence in Israel,” she said.
A new agreement between the European Commission and four major U.S. companies—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft—went into effect yesterday. The agreement will require companies to “review the majority of valid notifications for removal of hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content,” as well as “educate and raise awareness” with their users about the companies’ guidelines.
The deal was made under the Commission’s “EU Internet Forum,” launched last year as a means to counter what EDRi calls “vaguely-defined ‘terrorist activity and hate speech online.’” While some members of civil society were able to participate in discussions, they were excluded from the negotiations that led to the agreement, says EDRi.
The agreement has been met with opposition by a number of groups, including EDRi (of which we’re a member), Access Now, and Index on Censorship, all of which have expressed concerns that the deal with stifle freedom of expression. The decision has also sparked debate on social media, with a wide variety of individuals and groups opposing the decision under the hashtag #IStandWithHateSpeech.
But you don’t have to stand with hate speech to stand against this decision. There are several reasons to oppose this Orwellian agreement. First, while Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows states to limit freedom of expression under select circumstances, such limitations are intended to be the exception, and are permitted only to protect the following:
The rights or reputations of others,
public health, or
These limits must also meet a three-part test as defined by the ICCPR: be defined by law; have legitimate aim; and be truly necessary. While some of the speech that concerns the Commission may very well qualify as illegal under some countries’ laws, the method by which they’ve sought to limit it will surely have a chilling effect on free speech.
In addition, as EDRi points out, despite a lengthy negotiation between companies and the Commission, “hate speech” remains vaguely-defined. Companies have been tasked with taking the lead on determining what constitutes hate speech, with potentially disastrous results.
In fact, social media companies have an abysmal track record when it comes to regulating any kind of speech. As Onlinecensorship.org’s research shows, speech that is permitted by companies’ terms of service is often removed, with users given few paths to recourse. Users report experiencing bans from Facebook for 24 hours to up to 30 days if the company determines they’ve violated the Community Standards—which, in many cases, the user has not. Requiring companies to review complaints within 24 hours will almost surely result in the removal of speech that would be legal in Europe.
By taking decision-making outside of the democratic system and into backrooms, and granting corporations even greater control, the European Commission is ensuring a chill on online speech.
Hamas has slammed Twitter for closing several accounts linked to the Palestinian resistance movement, saying the company is biased in favor of the Israeli regime.
The Hamas military wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement on Friday that its English- and Arabic-language accounts had been shut down for the third time in a fortnight.
Twitter is showing a “clear bias to the Israeli occupation where it should (adopt a) neutral position toward both sides,” the statement added.
It said that the closure comes while Twitter allows Israeli officials to encourage “racism, extremism and terrorism” on the social networking site.
Qassam also urged Twitter to reopen its accounts, saying one of those closed accounts had been followed by over 140,000 followers.
Twitter declined to comment, saying in a statement that the company does not comment on individual accounts citing “privacy and security reasons.”
Since its establishment in December 1987, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and adopted resistance against the Israeli occupation, which it believes is the sole way of bringing about the liberation of occupied Palestinian territories. The movement says its goal is to liberate the entire Palestine.
The Palestinian resistance movement scored a landslide victory in Palestinian elections in 2006. Hamas has ruled the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, while Fatah has set up headquarters in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Israel has waged three large-scale aerial and ground wars on Gaza in the past seven years. In its latest act of aggression in the summer of 2014, which lasted for 50 days, the regime killed about 2,200 Palestinians and inflicted heavy damage on Gaza’s infrastructure and economy. In that latest Israeli aggression, Twitter shut down most of Hamas’ accounts.
No Chinese Spring
BEIJING – Foreign companies will be banned from publishing online in China from March 10, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a joint statement Friday.
“Sino-foreign joint ventures and foreign businesses shall not engage in online publishing services,” the regulations state.
The rules apply to “informative, ideological content text, pictures, maps, games, animation, audio and video digitizing books and other original works of literature, art, science and other fields.”
Joint projects are required to apply for special permission to carry out such activities from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, according to the new rules.
Domestic online media are required to inform the relevant authorities about their sources of funding, expenditure, personnel, domain name registration as well as being required to keep all servers and equipment in China.
Online outlets are prohibited from publishing information that may cause “harm to national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” “spread rumors, disturb social order or undermine social stability,” and harm “social morality or endanger national cultural tradition,” among others.
Foreign websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a number of Western publications remain inaccessible in China. Beijing has adopted a series of normative and ideological directives in recent years requiring national internet providers and media to closely monitor the quality of information disseminated online.
New Project Will Gather Users’ Stories of Censorship from Around the World
San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Visualizing Impact launched Onlinecensorship.org today, a new platform to document the who, what, and why of content takedowns on social media sites. The project, made possible by a 2014 Knight News Challenge award, will address how social media sites moderate user-generated content and how free expression is affected across the globe.
Controversies over content takedowns seem to bubble up every few weeks, with users complaining about censorship of political speech, nudity, LGBT content, and many other subjects. The passionate debate about these takedowns reveals a larger issue: social media sites have an enormous impact on the public sphere, but are ultimately privately owned companies. Each corporation has their own rules and systems of governance that control users’ content, while providing little transparency about how these decisions are made.
At Onlinecensorship.org, users themselves can report on content takedowns from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube. By cataloging and analyzing aggregated cases of social media censorship, Onlinecensorship.org seeks to unveil trends in content removals, provide insight into the types of content being taken down, and learn how these takedowns impact different communities of users.
“We want to know how social media companies enforce their terms of service. The data we collect will allow us to raise public awareness about the ways these companies are regulating speech,” said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression and co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org Jillian C. York. “We hope that companies will respond to the data by improving their regulations and reporting mechanisms and processes—we need to hold Internet companies accountable for the ways in which they exercise power over people’s digital lives.”
York and Onlinecensorship.org co-founder Ramzi Jaber were inspired to action after a Facebook post in support of OneWorld’s “Freedom for Palestine” project disappeared from the band Coldplay’s page even though it had received nearly 7,000 largely supportive comments. It later became clear that Facebook took down the post after it was reported as “abusive” by several users.
“By collecting these reports, we’re not just looking for trends. We’re also looking for context, and to build an understanding of how the removal of content affects users’ lives. It’s important companies understand that, more often than not, the individuals and communities most impacted by online censorship are also the most vulnerable,” said Jaber. “Both a company’s terms of service and their enforcement mechanisms should take into account power imbalances that place already-marginalized communities at greater risk online.”
Onlinecensorship.org has other tools for social media users, including a guide to the often-complex appeals process to fight a content takedown. It will also host a collection of news reports on content moderation practices.
Jillian C. York
Director for International Freedom of Expression
Co-founder and co-director of Visualizing Impact
Ex-DHS Director Michael Chertoff: The Public Spying On Famous People With Their Smartphones Is A Bigger Issue Than NSA Spying
Former director of Homeland Security (and current profiteer off of any “security” scare) Michael Chertoff has penned quite an incredible op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he argues that the real threat to privacy today is not the NSA spying on everyone, but rather all you people out there in the public with your smartphones, taking photos and videos, and going to Twitter to post things you overheard more important people say. Seriously. It starts out by claiming this is a “less-debated threat”:
So it is striking that two recent news stories illustrate a less-debated threat to privacy that we as a society are inflicting on ourselves. Last week, a passenger on an Acela train decided to tweet in real time his summary of an overheard phone conversation by Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA (and my current business partner). The same day, a photo was published of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler at a summer party where he was surrounded by underage youths who apparently were drinking.
But he then goes on to argue that this kind of thing is more troubling than the NSA revelations, which Chertoff suggests is no big deal:
Of course, the delicious irony is obvious: In one case, the former NSA chief becomes a victim of eavesdropping. In the other, a politician critical of teen drinking fails to intervene when he is surrounded by it. But both stories carry a more troubling implication. The ubiquitousness of recording devices — coupled with the ability everyone has to broadcast indiscriminately through Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms — means that virtually every act or utterance outside one’s own home (or, in Gansler’s case, inside a private home) is subject to being massively publicized. And because these outlets bypass any editorial review, there is no assurance that what is disseminated has context or news value.
It would appear that Chertoff seems to believe that there should be no expectation of privacy for the things you actually do in private — generating metadata about who you call, where you go, what websites you visit, etc. But, stuff that you actually do in public should never be “broadcast” because it might embarrass famous people.
And, yes, it’s the famous people being embarrassed that seems to most concern Chertoff:
If a well-known person has an argument with a spouse or child at a restaurant, should it be broadcast? If a business personality expresses a political opinion at a private party, should that opinion (or a distortion of it) be passed on to the rest of the world? If a politician buys a book or a magazine at an airport, should a passerby inform everyone?
See? Think of those poor well-known people, having people telling others about what they do. What a shame! Incredibly, he argues that it’s this exposing of the public actions of famous people that creates real chilling effects — and not the NSA’s spying, which he calls “exaggerated.”
Are we creating an informant society, in which every overheard conversation, cellphone photograph or other record of personal behavior is transmitted not to police but to the world at large? Do we want to chill behavior and speech with the fear that an unpopular comment or embarrassing slip will call forth vituperative criticism and perhaps even adversely affect careers or reputations? Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do in restaurants, at sporting events, on public sidewalks or even private parties?
I don’t know what clueless PR flack thought this was a good strategy, but the clear connotation is hard to miss: Look, we the powerful people get to spy on everyone, but the second you turn the tables and spy on us and the things we do in public, what a horrible shame! Something must be done!