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A more heterodox digital rights movement is already emerging
And a note to readers
Firstly, thank you to the many new subscribers who joined since the publishing of #TwitterFiles #20, particularly those who signed up as paid. As noted in my Insider's Guide to Anti-Disinformation, private philanthropy has become increasingly conformist, to say nothing of its trenchant support for many a dubious “anti-disinformation” initiative. Much work is needed to develop financial models that allow us to speak more freely. Fortunately, there is Substack, but there is much more to do.
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My positions and opinions are certainly now very public. #TwitterFiles #20 received fewer views than some other releases (Musk unfortunately did not retweet as he had previously), but still garnered close to 7.5m impressions, and the Racket piece more than 265k reads. There is a lot of interest out there. A dozen or so people from the digital rights field subsequently reached out (many leaders or former leaders of NGOs) to share similar concerns regarding the “anti-disinformation” and digital rights fields.
Such outreach is encouraging and confirms my thinking that many had been keeping quiet. If a dozen people made the effort to make contact I can only assume there are dozens more who also share these sentiments, or at least have some doubts. Do reach out, I’d love to hear from you. A few dozen insiders are enough to make some substantial changes.
Some have asked regarding any backlash. So far I have been fortunate and have only received positive responses. That of course contrasts with the much higher profile Matt Taibbi, who has had visits from the IRS and threats of jail.
The coast may be however be clearer than many have imagined. On the inside the threat of defunding and social exclusion for breaking ranks feels very real. I have managed to de-coupled myself from those restrictions by developing other financial models, making speaking up less of an immediate risk.
The fact that anyone has to second guess themselves tells you you are in a dysfunctional system. In a functional system, people don’t fear social exclusion (or worse) for expressing a fairly obvious contrary opinion. Ending the self-censorship ASAP is critical. The field cannot learn, pivot, adapt, and update if it cannot hear, let alone take in, new knowledge.
Many seek to avoid change and continue with the censorship mission, but I believe this will only quicken the entropy as the core bleeds support.
Having now spent some time on the outside, I can see that a growing heterodox digital rights field and renewed movement for free speech is already taking shape – one that exists outside the control of the mega NGOs, Think Tanks, and oligarchic foundations. Initiatives include Racket, System Update, Public, Lee Fang, Tablet, the Foundation for Freedom Online, Disinformation Chronicle, Big Brother Watch, Reclaim the Net, and many more.
Given the overwhelming conformity of the ant-disinformation field it is easy to be a stone in the shoe, but it requires speaking up at conferences, broaching difficult conversations with colleagues, writing, publishing, and more.
On that note, at the same time as supporting Racket and Matt Taibbi, I am developing a new initiative to tackle digital authoritarianism. This will focus on themes including censorship, programmable currencies, biometric ID, surveillance, and more – previously core issues of the digital rights field that many now avoid for fear of ridiculously being labeled “right-wing”.
A small amount of seed funding is helping that new initiative get that off the ground. Any funders breaking ranks do reach out.
As noted by Matt when he introduced the Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex several new reports will soon be released. These will give more shape and detail to the leading protagonists.
In the interim, I recommend checking out Matt’s Who Helped Overturn the "Pentagon Papers Principle"? (including details from #TwitterFiles #20 on the Aspen Institute's Hunter Biden tabletop), Glenn Greenwald’s recent interview with Jacob Siegel on his seminal guide to the anti-disinformation industry, and Micheal Shellenberger on the growing push by NGOs to break into encrypted private messaging to combat misinformation, which also draws on #TwitterFiles #20.
More to come.