Pandemic censorship: Democrats, media pushing China-like restrictions on free speech

by WorldTribune Staff, May 3, 2020

Leftist politicians and major media are telling Americans on a daily basis that they must become accustomed to the “new normal” ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic.

What they mean by “new normal” is the rolling back of free speech rights, analysts say.

Hannah Yoest / Shutterstock

Democratic politicians are calling for censorship from the Internet of what they determine to be “fake news”.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has decided that Americans who protest draconian stay-at-home orders are spreading “disinformation” and removed posts on organized protests from his platform.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that “anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations” on COVID-19 would be taken down from the video sharing site.

Twitter suspended the account of conservative commentator Candace Owens after she dared to encourage Michigan residents to “go back to work.”

In a May 2 op-ed for The Hill, Jonathan Turley slammed “the politicians and academics who have called for the censorship of social media and the Internet,” including Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, Hillary Clinton, and others.

“The only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus has been censorship and the loud calls for greater restrictions on free speech,” Turley wrote.

Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube “have all engaged in increasing levels of censorship and have a well known reputation for targeting conservative speech,” wrote Turley, a liberal constitutional scholar at George Washington University.

Turley also cited an article last week in the leftist publication The Atlantic by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods. In the article, the professors called for Chinese-style censorship of the Internet in the USA.

They declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong” and “significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing Internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the Internet is compatible with society norms and values.”

Just The News columnist Christian Toto noted: “Now, with a majority of Americans eager for the economy to open, tech platforms are siding selectively with elected officeholders to maintain the status quo.”

Facebook “is experiencing backlash from critics, including Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley and Donald Trump, Jr., after the platform silenced some voices rallying support for lockdown protests. The platform took down posts tied to anti-quarantine gatherings in Nebraska, California and New Jersey,” Toto wrote.

“YouTube, in turn, vowed to remove videos running counter to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN system global health body which has peddled dubious information from the Chinese government about the country’s pandemic fight and echoed the regime’s claim the virus wasn’t transmissible by humans.”

The WHO was highly critical of Trump’s ban on incoming flights from China, a move which eventually had been viewed widely on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. as a vital step in preventing the spread of the virus in the U.S.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained its philosophy on so-called “misinformation” on CNN: “But then we also talk about removing information that is problematic — of course anything that is medically unsubstantiated … anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy. And so remove is another really important part of our policy.”

David Keating, president of the D.C.-based Institute for Free Speech, said: “One thing we’ve learned over history is that governments often lie. And WHO, while not being a government, shares many of the same characteristics.”

Keating suggests that blindly following conventional wisdom can lead to other ill effects: “What would have happened if these platforms had these kind of policies, blindly following government advice, in the Jim Crow era? Would they have taken down NAACP videos?”

On Saturday, Owens received a notification from Twitter informing her that her account was suspended over the following tweet: “Apparently [Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer] believes she is a duly elected dictator of a socialist country. The people of Michigan need to stand up to her. Open your businesses. Go to work. The police think she’s crazy too. They are not going to arrest 10,000,000 people for going to work.”

Owens told Breitbart News: “I refuse to admit to a violation, because none were committed,” Owens told Breitbart News. “Hence the reason they did not list a rule that was violated. “I unequivocally stand by every single word of my tweet. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can use Twitter’s platform to encourage workers to walk out and boycott — I should be allowed to encourage lawful citizens to resume work.”

Owens added: “The only person breaking any laws is Governor turned Dictator Gretchen Whitmer who is impoverishing millions, ignoring the votes of her state legislature, and as a result, rolling over the constitutionally protected rights of Michigan citizens. Twitter was unable or unwilling to provide me with any specific rule that I violated, which is why I have appealed their decision. While I am not an expert on twitter TOS, I cannot see how suggesting people ought to work would be a violation of anything other than socialist reverie.”

Meanwhile, Twitter had no problem with a tweet from Rep. Ted Lieu, who accused protesters of spreading the coronavirus at a May 1 demonstration against stay-at-home orders in Huntington Beach, California.

“#COVID__19 is a highly contagious virus. These folks at Huntington Beach undoubtedly spread the virus even more,” the Democrat tweeted.

Twitter did not suspend Lieu’s account despite the fact that there is no evidence that the demonstrators “undoubtedly” spread the virus.

Dr. Dan Erickson, one of the urgent care doctors whose video panning stay-at-home orders was removed from YouTube, told Fox News on Saturday: “Look at what George Soros said about Facebook back in February. He said Mark Zuckerberg should no longer have control of Facebook. Well, YouTube, you’re going to be next. Soros will say that you should no longer have control, and government should have control of Facebook, according to George Soros.”

Erickson pointed to how Sweden has tackled the virus without a nationwide lockdown.

“Basically, looking at the Swedish model. … I think that Dr. Giesecke and Dr. Tegnell have done a great job at taking a more conservative approach where kids under 16 are in school, businesses are open, people are practicing social isolation, and groups less than 50 are limited. And when I look at their numbers compared to ours and compared to the United Kingdom, I think they’re doing quite well.”

American politicians and corporate media have heavily criticized Sweden for not enforcing a nationwide lockdown on citizens. Children in the country are still able to attend school despite the coronavirus, and many businesses have remained open. Modeling data suggested 20 percent of Stockholm’s population is already immune to the virus.

“They’re trusting their people to make good decisions about social isolation. Also, they don’t have a several trillion-dollar free-falling economy that they may not come back from for a long time. They don’t have people out of work in food lines,” Erickson said.

“We’ve gone backward so far,” Erickson added. “I’m a physician. I want to care for people the best I can, and when I see collateral damage that’s significant in our country and people are calling me with depression, with anxiety. I had a friend’s relative who committed suicide or tried to commit suicide yesterday from depression because he got laid off from his job. There’s so many things happening that I’m calling collateral damage from COVID that I think it’s really time to take a look and say, ‘Is the collateral damage outweighing the virus itself?’ And the damage that is causing to the medical field?”

In his op-ed for The Hill, Turley concluded that American citizens “now will have to decide, as Goldsmith and Woods insist, if ‘China was right.’ For my part, I remain hopeless in my desire for old fashioned free speech before the pandemic. You see, this ‘new normal’ seems a lot like the old normal that the Framers changed with the First Amendment. China may be right for many in Congress and academia, but it remains on the wrong side of history. Not even a pandemic will change that.”

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