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The NYT discovers free speech — after years calling for Big Tech censorship | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

The New York Times editorial board declared Friday that people should be able to express “unpopular” positions without being canceled or “shut out of public discourse.” A free flow of information is essential for democracy to function, the editors argued.

The Times declaration — under the headline “America Has a Free Speech Problem” — marks a stunning reversal. For years, the paper has called for Big Tech to censor what it considers “misinformation” — like the Hunter Biden laptop story it helped squelch before the election.

Soon after Donald Trump rode down the golden elevator at Trump Tower to announce his presidential candidacy in 2015, the Times shifted from “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to All the News That Fits an Anti-Trump Agenda.

Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg announced in 2016, “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue,” you “have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using” and reject “normal standards.”

Bravo to the Gray Lady for Friday’s reversal — assuming the paper actually lives by its new commitment to “competing ideas.” Time will tell.  

But even more important is what happens next on social media. Half of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook, Twitter and other such platforms, far more than rely on the Times. The paper, along with the Democratic Party, has pushed hard to deputize Silicon Valley to censor what we can see in the digital public square.

When Trump entered the political arena, New York Times pushed for more digital censorship.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
President Biden is under the spotlight right now, due to his son’s laptop files.

One of the stories that didn’t fit the Times’ anti-Trump narrative or Silicon Valley’s political goals was the incriminating content on Hunter Biden’s laptop, detailing his business dealings in Ukraine and China and linking his father, then presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The New York Post broke that story in October 2020. But the Times smeared it as “unsubstantiated” and quoted former Democratic officials calling it, without evidence, Russian disinformation.

Then, last Wednesday, the Times sneakily admitted in the 24th paragraph of a news story that the information on Hunter Biden’s laptop was authenticated and relevant — 17 months after voters went to the polls, largely unaware of Hunter and his father’s covert multimillion-dollar deals with the Chinese.

Here’s where social media come in. Twitter locked the New York Post’s account, and Facebook used algorithms to slow dissemination of the Post coverage.

Democrats know Silicon Valley serves them. More than three-quarters of Democrats want tech companies to delete “false” information. More than half of Republicans say “No,” according to Pew Research.

Since Trump’s debut, the Times has demanded more digital censorship. In 2016, the editorial board complained that “companies like Facebook and Google” allow “fake news to be shared nearly instantly with millions of users” and are too slow to block it.

Majority of Americans receive their news from social media platforms like Facebook.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes the public has a right to political speech.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “continues to let liars and con artists hijack his platform,” the Times griped. The paper actually claimed, “Blocking misinformation will help protect the company’s brand and credibility.” We see now where that got it.

In another editorial that year, the Times board revealed its disdain for the public, suggesting ordinary folks are lost without “a Walter Cronkite to guide them.”

Tellingly, in 2018, the board added that digital censorship “can change the course of elections.”

Fast forward to 2021, after Biden defeats Trump. Times editorial-board member Greg Bensinger applauds Facebook for blocking President Trump’s account on Jan. 7 and castigates Silicon Valley for allowing “posts to stay up from other leaders spewing rancor and disinformation.”

Zuckerberg insisted “the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech.” Bensinger called that “a red herring.”

Justice Clarence Thomas
Justice Clarence Thomas does not like that three people have large control of the digital space.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP

It’s not a red herring. It’s essential to democracy.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas holds a different view; he’s appalled by Big Tech’s power: “One person controls Facebook,” he notes, “and just two control Google.” Three people can erase anyone from the digital public square, in other words.

Whether the Times really does an about-face or not, the public should learn from the Hunter Biden laptop coverup: Don’t trust Silicon Valley to decide what you can see.  

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

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