top of page

Freedom of Speech, Not Reach

Freedom of Speech, Not Reach A business strategy to maintain corporate media monopolies while avoiding constitutional first amendment breaches ROBERT W MALONE MD, MSSEP 9 READ IN APP In a segment of the CNBC program “Squawk on the Street” titled “X Corp. now a much healthier and safer platform than a year ago, says Linda Yaccarino” (link here), this cable channel “business” division of NBC and its parent media company Comcast provided a forum for Ms. Yaccarino (newly appointed “X” CEO and formerly Chairman of Global Advertising & Partnerships at NBC/Universal Media) to discuss “Brand Safety”. To provide further context, the new CEO also serves as the Chairman of the WEF's Taskforce on Future of Work and sits on the WEF's Media, Entertainment and Culture Industry Governors Steering Committee. Linda Yaccarino (01:17): Since acquisitions, we have built brand safety and content moderation tools that have never existed before at this company. And we've introduced a new policy, to your specific point, about hate speech, called Freedom of Speech, not Reach. So if you're going to post something that's illegal or against the law, you're gone, zero tolerance. But more importantly, if you are going to post something that is lawful, but it's awful, you get labeled. You get labeled, you get de-amplified, which means it cannot be shared, and it is certainly demonetized. While the key issue presented and defended is brand safety, there are two main subtexts. The first is revealed in the marketing (ergo propaganda) catchphrase “Freedom of speech, not reach” - “for those who post things that are judged” (How? By whom?) “as lawful, but awful, you get labeled, you get de-amplified, it cannot be shared, and it is demonetized”. Who is Robert Malone is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Upgrade to paid This is clearly a strategy specifically designed to evade US Constitutional Bill of Rights First Amendment restrictions- the central topic of the lawsuit “Missouri vs Biden” which is yet again in the news (below). However, it is also a strategy which acts to sustain the monopolistic protections and practices which corporate “mainstream” media is desperate to defend as citizens throughout the world are turning to “alternative” media sources for news, opinions, and other information which does not align with governmentally “approved” narratives (ergo government propaganda). USA Today’s coverage of recent events in Missouri vs. Biden was posted at 9:00 PM EST yesterday (Friday Sept 08, 2023): Biden administration coerced social media giants into possible free speech violations: court The White House, health officials and the FBI may have violated the First Amendment rights of people posting about COVID-19 and elections on social media by pressuring technology companies to suppress or remove the posts, a federal appeals court ruled late Friday. The decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals partly upheld an order from a Louisiana federal judge that blocked many federal agencies from having contact with companies like Facebook, YouTube and X, formerly Twitter, about content moderation. But the 75-page opinion from three-judge panel also significantly narrowed the scope of the order that was a major victory for conservatives. ~~~~~~~ The lawsuit accused administration officials of coercing platforms into taking down controversial content including election fraud, the FBI's handling of Hunter Biden's laptop and the COVID pandemic. The 5th Circuit panel found that the White House coerced the platforms through “intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” and commandeered the decision-making processes of social media companies, particularly in handling pandemic-related and 2020 election posts. “It is true that the officials have an interest in engaging with social media companies, including on issues such as misinformation and election interference. But the government is not permitted to advance these interests to the extent that it engages in viewpoint suppression,” the judges wrote. The appeals court pared down U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s July 4 ruling, saying it was "overbroad." Doughty said the lawsuit may involve "the most massive attack against free speech in United States' history." In it’s coverage, The New York Times’ “misinformation” beat reporter Steven Lee Myers spins a predictably more pro-government and anti-Republican narrative, noting that both Biden and Trump administrations engaged in what is increasingly recognized as constitutionally prohibited behavior: The debate over how far companies can go to limit content online — known as moderation — has become increasingly vehement and polarizing. On one side, government officials have argued that they have a duty to protect public health and national security from false or misleading information. Republicans and others, however, have accused the social media giants of colluding with government officials in violation of First Amendment protections of free speech. They have focused their anger at the Biden administration even though previous administrations regularly had contacts with social media companies and some of the instances cited in the lawsuit occurred during the Trump administration. Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, noted recently that Mr. Trump’s White House had asked the company in 2019 to remove a tweet in which the model Chrissy Teigen called the president several expletives. (The company did not, after what Mr. Roth called Kafkaesque internal deliberations.) What is really going on here? The weapon, the sword of Damocles which the US Government uses to threaten the social media giants and get them to comply with the propaganda and censorship demands of the administrative state is known by the legal statute name 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1). Informally known as Section 230 (it was originally part of the Congressionally approved Communications Decency Act), it was ostensibly passed to protect Americans’ freedom of expression online by protecting the intermediaries we all rely on. It states: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)). What this really does is provide broad indemnification (protection against lawsuits) for social media companies and their platforms in the situation where a user posts illegal, defamatory or otherwise malicious content which they might otherwise be held legally liable for because they hosted and transmitted this content. Such protection is NOT extended to more traditional corporate media outlets, which (in the USA) rely on judicial precedent (for example Sullivan vs New York Times) for protection against defamation lawsuits filed against their organizations and/or employees (ergo, “reporters”). Pity the poor social media company CEO. As if the business model and constant revenue challenges were not bad enough. Section 230 is a Congressionally passed law which is interpreted and applied by the Administrative State bureaucracy, at any time it could be rescinded, revised, or reinterpreted. And if this protection is removed, then the entire “social media” business model currently practiced by “X”, Facebook, GETTR, GAB, Truth Social, Substack, YouTube, Rumble, Instagram, TikTok and so many others would immediately become untenable due to legal liability issues. In other words, it is quite easy for congresspersons, Senators, officials and bureaucrats to intimidate social media companies to do the bidding of the government. “Nice business you have there, it would be a shame if we had to revoke Section 230”. Make sense now? Nice government control weapon, that Section 230. Enter alternative media and it’s independent, non-governmentally approved information and narratives. Entering from both stage left, right, and center, by the way. The social media companies have become reluctant hosts to alternative media sources. In a sense, alternative media outlets and voices leverage (or parasitize, depending on your POV) the large social media providers to basically advertise their content. Content which leads to “clicks”, “likes”, “follows” and various off ramps from the host social media platform onto the alternative media platform, which in turn lead to revenue which is outside of the reach of the ability of the social media platform to tax or otherwise extract revenue from. The larger truth is that established corporate media also seeks to leverage social media for both paid and unpaid advertising. Everyone wants to extract money and value from the host platform and its installed user base. And in some cases (for example Substack), one sees a smaller social media platform functionally parasitizing larger ones (such as “X”) in a very decentralized manner driven by users (or authors, in the case of Substack). Which apparently was seen as an intolerable loss of revenue by “X” leadership, resulting in algorithmic “throttling” of the “reach” (ability to be viewed by other users) of Substack-related content and links posted on “X”. An alternative point of view is that people subscribe to “X” in large part because that has been the most efficient way to access breaking news and alternative points of view. If that is blocked, then why bother? Here comes the “monopoly” part of this analysis of the current media ecosystem. The “traditional” business model pursued by corporate media and the frenemy oligopolies that have come to control virtually all large information outlets has been one in which they have been allowed to completely control the Overton Window - the window of allowed discourse and range of politically acceptable policies made available to the mainstream population at a given time. One set of consequences of the consolidation of corporate media has been a creeping investigational laziness and comfort with the status quo. In an information ecosystem where sincere investigational (independent reporting) challenge is rare, the simplest and most lucrative path forward for these media oligopolies is to push out information which is consistent with governmental and corporate needs and desires, as governments, corporations, and their public-private partnerships have become the main customers of the media oligopolies. Functionally, a self-licking ice cream cone. The end consumer of media product wants it fast and cheap, if not free, and so is no longer the main customer. The current primary customers of corporate media see the end consumers more as objects to be manipulated, propagandized and marketed to. Social media has also largely adopted and consolidated this same business model through mechanisms such as the WEF promoted GARM agreement (Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), a cross-industry initiative founded by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)), the BBC-led Trusted News Initiative, and Google AdSense. The “Trusted News Initiative” has grown to become the umbrella organization which unites Social Media and Corporate Media under a monopolistic trade organization which seeks to defend the global corporate media oligopoly against the intrusion of alternative media. Google and its AdSense operation has become the tool used to systematically deny advertising dollars to alternative media which is determined to have transgressed by circulating content which Google determines to go against the approved narrative (or interests of the administrative state). To illustrate this policy in action, see for example “Google will ban ads from running on stories spreading debunked coronavirus conspiracy theories“. The traditional subscriber and advertising-based business model of Corporate or “Main Stream” media has been failing for quite a while now, resulting in hollowing out of the depth and complexity of staffing and the resulting work product. Thus, a tidal wave of failure to fulfill the traditional competitive “investigational news” role which has served as a historic brake on government and corporate corruption and malfeasance has occurred. Into the breach has stepped a variety of largely volunteer “minutemen” journalists which fuel alternative media information streams. And of those, the most threatening of all is Joe Rogan with his 11 million subscriber base, which dwarfs the reach of most Corporate or “Main Stream” media. But Rogan is not the only one. Increasingly edgy disaffected journalists and authors such as Matt Taibbi (formerly the heir apparent to Rolling Stone’s Hunter S Thompson), Alex Berenson (formerly of the NY Times), Glenn Greenwald (founder with Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras of The Intercept) all the way down to local broadcast anchors who just could not tolerate the centralized propaganda edits of their corporate overseers (like my friend Allison Morrow) have joined or launched their own alternative media platforms. And these alternative media sources now increasingly fill the niche for true investigative journalism which has been abandoned by corporate media. For example, this particular substack (Who is Robert Malone) frequently meets or exceeds the daily viewership of CNN. And while the subscription model is failing for most of corporate media, paid subscriptions are sustaining these new entrants who often produce quality video, audio and written content which targets both general and specific niche audiences. Today’s media consumer is increasingly investing in a decentralized menu-driven model for their information, rather than paying for one or more of the large corporatized aggregate providers which, as discussed, are more responsive to government and corporate interests than to primary consumers. So what is the corporate media oligopoly to do? One adaptive response would be to assimilate their competition. Find ways to embrace alternative media and its content providers. But that is not how monopolies act. The other way is to seek ways to exclude, demonetize, and neutralize the threat. Which is the road which most large media have chosen. They have chosen to line up with the Google AdSense mafia, with the Trusted News Organization Trade organization/Guild, and with the censorship-industrial-government complex. It does not have to be this way. In contrast, the Epoch Times news organization, which has grown to become the fourth largest published newspaper (by circulation) in the United States, has chosen to actively seek out and embrace alternative media contributors. They also have established their own journalism school based on “old school” journalistic practices rather than the new “advocacy journalism” taught in American universities backed by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Which provides a perfect segue to a recent substack posting from Rocket News, the outlet which features the journalistic work products of Matt Taibbi. Mr. Taibbi has recently summarized how the Empire of corporate media is Striking Back at alternative media and its contributors. And yes, speaking personally, I gladly pay to subscribe to “Rocket News”. In a September 08, 2023 essay titled “Note to Subscribers. A few frosty observations, and a question”, Mr. Taibbi writes- Algorithmic blanketing of independent media is reaching levels unimaginable even a year ago. Obviously the decision by Twitter/X to depress Substack links is a big factor for those on this platform, but the story’s not much different elsewhere. Subscription-based content was an effective hack of the censorship loop for a time, but new deamplification tools reduce visibility to the point where effective marketing has become difficult even if you can afford to pay for it. I would be less irritated by this had I not spent much of the last eight months seeing academic researchers and legacy news organizations snitch out alternative media to platform censors, both in Twitter emails and some recent FOIA results (another reason I’m in a bad mood today). They’re doing this while larger corporate outlets that according to “anti-disinformation” trackers score highest for trustworthy practice are tossing out standards. The New York Times since eliminating its public editor has lacked basic accountability mechanisms, leaves even infamous oopsies unadorned by editor’s notes (here’s one of Judith Miller’s worst WMD goofs flying free), and routinely publishes whole articles about topics or events without linking to source material, as “contextualizing” in place of allowing audiences to judge for themselves becomes standard. Leaving news stories mostly or totally uncovered if they feature inconvenient narratives is similarly a norm. Washington Post coverage of the Missouri v. Biden Internet censorship case has been thin to the point of being amusing: Meanwhile, in what might be a double or triple-irony, platforms like Google that score papers like the Post high for “authority” plant warning flags on sites like mine for, no kidding, editorial commentary about Orwellian practice: This is in addition to the litany of preposterous warning categories (“adult content,” “unsafe content”) and economic sanctions (like the recent hold on a Grayzone fundraiser) that have been cooked up to apply almost exclusively to non-legacy outlets and individual users. This entire system is also corrupted by the fact that many of the larger news companies that benefit from de-ranking of independents either partner with or subsidize review organizations. For whatever reason, once organizations or governments allow themselves to reach for totalitarian information control-based methods to influence and control populations of human beings, they rarely if ever back off from this unless they are forced to do so, and usually reach deeper and deeper into the totalitarian’s tool kit. For monopolies and oligarchies, this seems to be a particularly attractive approach to maintaining their non-competitive, maladaptive and anti-innovative dominance once alternative competition begins to rise up. Unfortunately, modern communication technologies and algorithmic AI-driven computational technologies including computational propaganda are being actively exploited to maintain government-corporate information ecosystem public-private partnerships. And, to no-ones surprise, these media corporations, their lawyers and managerial caste are actively seeking ways to circumvent the body of established law and precedent which cannot seem to be able to keep up with the changing landscape so that they can pursue their business interests at the expense of both emerging competitors and the general public. What can you do? As a start, the way to counter the strategy of “Freedom of Speech, not Reach” is to independently post and share alternative media voices which you find useful. For those who are financially supporting alternative media sources, thank you. For the rest, if you value your ability to think for yourself, you might wish to invest a bit more treasure to help maintain access to alternative voices. And to all who may still have some modicum of political autonomy and ability to influence election outcomes, please keep these issues in mind as you help select the next round of national, state and local leaders. Finally, for those who have interest in the plans and doublespeak of the new CEO of “X” and her justification for censorship, as embodied in her cute marketing turn of phrase “Freedom of Speech, not Reach”, I hope that you find the following transcript of her interview with CNBC of interest. Timestamps correspond to this video clip. Donate Subscriptions Thank you for reading Who is Robert Malone. This post is public so feel free to share it. Share "Squawk on the Street" (00:00): There's also a lot of hate and there's a lot of vitriol and conspiracy theories, and those attract a lot of eyeballs too. And so if you're a brand and a business, why would you feel safe advertising? Linda Yaccarino (00:13): I think that's an appropriate question. I think some of the headline comments or phrases need to be continually brought to light and debunked, and I'm glad you asked. But I want to be clear; for almost 11 years, my previous experience was at NBCUniversal, and a large part of my remit was overseeing all the advertising revenue and partnerships for the company. And our number one social partner was Twitter. And Twitter was safe, and we felt comfortable always being there. "Squawk on the Street" (00:56): But not all brands, and a lot of brands have left. Linda Yaccarino (00:58): Okay, hang on, I'm going. I hear you. And I want to take that last 10 years and put it in perspective, because by all objective metrics, X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago. Since acquisitions, we have built brand safety and content moderation tools that have never existed before at this company. And we've introduced a new policy, to your specific point, about hate speech, called Freedom of Speech, not Reach. So if you're going to post something that's illegal or against the law, you're gone, zero tolerance. But more importantly, if you are going to post something that is lawful, but it's awful, you get labeled. You get labeled, you get de-amplified, which means it cannot be shared, and it is certainly demonetized back to your direct point about... "Squawk on the Street" (02:08): Brand safety. Linda Yaccarino (02:08): ... Brands. Brand safety. So they are protected from the risk of being next to that content. And it's also why it's really important to note that once a post is labeled and it can't be shared, and the user sees that, 30% of the time, they take it down themselves. Staggeringly, they take it down. And that reducing that hateful content from being seen is one of the best examples how X is committed to encouraging healthy behavior online. And today, I can confidently sit in front of you and say that 99.9% of... "Squawk on the Street" (03:01): Is healthy? Linda Yaccarino (03:01): ... all posted impressions are healthy. "Squawk on the Street" (03:04): How do you define healthy though? Is porn healthy? Are conspiracy theories healthy? Linda Yaccarino (03:10): It goes back to my point about our success with Freedom of Speech, not Reach. And if it is lawful, but it's awful, it's extraordinarily difficult for you to see it. "Squawk on the Street" (03:27): But how many millions of people follow Kanye West, lawful but awful, and he's allowed back on? Linda Yaccarino (03:35): Kanye, who hasn't rejoined the platform yet but is planning to do so, will operate within the very specific policies that we have established, that we're clear on, that everyone who's watching this or listening on spaces can access themselves. And we have an extraordinary team of people who are overseeing, hands on keyboards, monitoring all day, every day, to make sure that that 99.99% of impressions remain at that number. (04:12): But we also have to remember what's at the core of free expression. You might not agree with what everyone is saying. We want to make it a healthy debate and discourse, but free expression at its core will really, really only survive when someone you don't agree with says something you don't agree with. And what a great place we would live in if we were able to return to a healthy, constructive discourse amongst people that we don't agree with. So labeling certain people or deciding certain people are good or bad is not a universal thing, because there are some people that disagree with us and our individual opinions. That's why we are doubling down on brand safety. It's why our trust and safety team is so good at what they do. Who is Robert Malone is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Trump Tees Coming Soon

bottom of page