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The Censors Who Rigged the 2020 Election Are Looking to Do It Again This Year

Federal agencies are manipulating online speech and threatening democracy through a vast censorship-industrial complex.

In a riveting interview with Tucker Carlson, Mike Benz, the Executive Director of the Foundation For Freedom Online, detailed the alarming reality of how the U.S. defense and foreign policy establishment has evolved into what he describes as a “military rule” through an extensive online censorship industry. This interview sheds light on the profound and unsettling ways in which federal agencies and publicly-funded institutions have manipulated the digital landscape to influence electoral outcomes and suppress free speech under the guise of combatting “misinformation.”

Benz’s narrative is not just a story of recent events; it traces the roots of this issue back to the post-World War II era, highlighting how the strategic use of free speech online has shifted dramatically over the decades. For more than twenty years, the internet was seen as a tool to support global dissidence against authoritarian regimes, facilitating U.S.-backed efforts to promote democracy and effect regime changes through what Benz terms “insta-regime change operations.”

The zenith of this strategy was the Arab Spring, where social media platforms were harnessed to topple governments in the Middle East, viewed unfavorably by the Obama administration. These platforms were kept operational in authoritarian regimes specifically to aid protesters and dissident groups, marking a high point in the use of internet free speech to further U.S. foreign policy objectives.

However, the narrative took a drastic turn in 2014 following the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine and the subsequent Russian seizure of Crimea. This marked a pivotal moment leading to a complete reversal in the stance of NATO, the CIA, and the State Department towards internet free speech. Faced with what they perceived as Russian propaganda and the rise of populist right-wing groups in Europe, these entities embarked on a campaign of information warfare aimed at censoring online content that contradicted their objectives.

This shift in strategy was further cemented with the Brexit movement and the election of Donald Trump, prompting an intensified focus on domestic surveillance and censorship to combat so-called “misinformation” and “domestic extremism.” Benz outlines how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) became a central figure in these efforts, outsourcing censorship operations to third-party organizations like the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), which targeted Americans’ online activities under the pretext of protecting “critical cognitive infrastructure.” The Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) was a collaboration between the Stanford Internet Observatory, the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and Graphika, focusing on identifying and mitigating the spread of what they deemed misinformation online.

The involvement of private sector “partners” in these censorship efforts is particularly concerning, with figures like former Facebook executive Alex Stamos playing significant roles in advocating for the suppression of conservative voices and alternative viewpoints. The pre-election censorship campaign ahead of the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic are highlighted as peak moments of this censorship-industrial complex’s influence, with massive online post suppression and revenue undermining for outlets expressing dissenting views.

Facebook’s censorship is continuing. Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, disclosed that the company employs approximately 40,000 individuals dedicated to censoring content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, a significant force influencing the digital discourse ahead of this year’s election.

Benz’s interview with Carlson is a clarion call to recognize and confront the dangers posed by this burgeoning censorship-industrial complex. The manipulation of the digital discourse by federal agencies and their proxies not only undermines the foundational principles of democracy and free speech but also signals a troubling move towards authoritarian control under the guise of protecting national security and democratic integrity.

As this narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that the battle against this insidious form of censorship is not just about safeguarding individual freedoms but about preserving the very essence of the democratic process and the rule of law in the United States. The revelations brought forth by Benz and the ongoing efforts to expose and challenge these practices are critical steps in reclaiming the digital public square and ensuring that the voice of the people remains heard and respected.

Robert Chernin

Robert Chernin

Robert B. Chernin has brought his years of political consulting and commentary back to radio. As a longtime entrepreneur, business leader, fundraiser and political confidant, Robert has a unique perspective with insights not heard anyway else. Robert has consulted on federal and statewide campaigns at the gubernatorial, congressional, senatorial, and presidential level. He served in leadership roles in the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush as well as McCain for President. He led Florida’s Victory 2004’s national Jewish outreach operations as Executive Director. In addition, he served on the President’s Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Robert co-founded and served as president of the Electoral Science Institute, a non-profit organization that utilizes behavioral science to increase voter participation and awareness. Robert can be heard on multiple radio stations and viewed on the “Of the People” podcast where you get your podcasts.