Social media censors are using ‘disinformation’ claims to silence free speech, 136 academics, historians and journalists have warned Rishi Sunak. The Telegraph has the story.
Social networks, Government officials, universities and NGOs are attempting to label legitimate opinions as fake news, according to the group of influential thinkers.
Figures from all sides of the political spectrum, including comedian John Cleese, author Jordan Peterson and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, raised concerns over the “censorship of ordinary people, journalists and dissidents” in a statement delivered to the Prime Minister.
Their intervention comes after the Telegraph revealed that a secretive Government unit was flagging criticism of lockdown as Covid “disinformation”.
The Counter Disinformation Unit, which operated out of Whitehall, worked with intelligence agencies to monitor the online posts of journalists and members of the public.
At least three people whose legitimate opinions about Covid were flagged by Government monitors have co-signed the statement sent to Mr. Sunak, which warned that labels such as ‘disinformation’ were being abused.
Their ‘Westminster Declaration’ said: “We are all deeply concerned about attempts to label protected speech as ‘misinformation’, ‘disinformation’ and other ill-defined terms.
“What’s more, time and time again, unpopular opinions and ideas have eventually become conventional wisdom. Free speech is our best defence against disinformation.
“By labelling certain political or scientific positions as ‘misinformation’ or ‘malinformation,’ our societies risk getting stuck in false paradigms that will rob humanity of hard-earned knowledge and obliterate the possibility of gaining new knowledge.”
The signatories expressed alarm over the widespread use of such terms, adding: “We do not want our children to grow up in a world where they live in fear of speaking their minds.”
Journalists Julia Hartley-Brewer and Peter Hitchens, and free speech activist Toby Young – all of whom signed the statement – were flagged for Covid disinformation by Government units.
Ms. Hartley-Brewer was referred over a conversation about vaccine passports, whilst Mr. Hitchens had shared an article suggesting the data used to justify lockdown were incomplete.
The 136 signatories also included the writer Richard Dawkins, the historian Robert Tombs and the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, who warned of “increasing international censorship that threatens to erode centuries-old democratic norms”. They said this included “visibility filtering, labelling and manipulation of search engine results” as well as “deplatforming and flagging” of controversial content.
“Social media censors have already silenced lawful opinions on topics of national and geopolitical importance,” they wrote.