Archive for March 2nd, 2023

Partisans and other shallow thinkers often fail to grasp why censorship is always an evil, even when the speech being suppressed is that of those they view as political enemies.  Currently, authoritarians who describe themselves as “conservative” are the main characters in my “Thought Control” tag, but their counterparts who prefer the label “progressive” also blindly accept a whole menu of excuses for censorship, including “hate speech” and whatever the government chooses to call “disinformation”.  A recent article provides a perfect example of why outsourcing one’s judgment to politicians and bureaucrats is an absolutely terrible idea:

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is a British organization that evaluates news outlets’ susceptibility to disinformation.  The ultimate aim is to persuade online advertisers to blacklist dangerous publications and websites.  One such publication, according to GDI’s extremely dubious criteria, is Reason…The U.S. government evidently values this work; in fact, the State Department subsidizes it.  The National Endowment for Democracy—a nonprofit that has received $330 million in taxpayer dollars from the State Department—contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to GDI’s budget…The First Amendment prohibits the U.S. government from censoring private companies for good reason, and government actors should not seek to evade the First Amendment’s protections in order to censor indirectly or exert pressure inappropriately…Reason‘s rating was due to three factors, according to GDI: “no information regarding authorship attribution, pre-publication fact-checking or post-publication corrections processes, or policies to prevent disinformation in its comments section”…contrary to what GDI suggests, the authorship of Reason articles is clearly communicated to readers.  Reason writers link to their sources, and promptly make (and note) corrections whenever appropriate.  It’s true that Reason does not specifically police disinformation in the comments section; that is perhaps an area where Reason‘s philosophy—free minds and free markets—clashes with GDI’s.  When evaluated by a misinformation-tracking organization that uses transparent and objective metrics, Reason fares much better. NewsGuard—an evaluator co-founded by Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journalgives Reason a perfect score of 100/100 and does not steer advertisers away…It is also worth noting that GDI ranked the 10 so-called “lowest-risk” online news outlets, which include: NPR, The Associated Press, The New York Times, ProPublica, Insider, USA Today, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, The Wall Street Journal, and HuffPost

Though Reason‘s article understandably focused on its inclusion on this blacklist, it was the latter whitelist which most drew my attention.  Seven of the ten websites GDI ranks as “lowest risk for disinformation” have repeatedly published wild fantasies about the lives and experiences of sex workers and migrant workers, despite mountains of evidence that they were lies.  NPR & New York Times have been, in fact, two of the most active spreaders of the “sex trafficking” moral panic; despite both organizations being repeatedly appraised of the facts, they have doggedly refused to correct the disinformation they’ve spread, or even to stop spreading it.  This is what happens when governments are allowed to be arbiters of fact: they wrongly label as “disinformation” facts which those in power find inconvenient, such as criticism of government propaganda.  And this is why wiser heads recognize all censorship, including government funding of pro-censorship groups, as dangerous, regardless of how high-sounding the excuse.

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