(PatriotWise.com) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that other countries are using the internet to suppress free expression. He went on to further warn that American online platforms will be held to account for “harms.” Blinken appeared not to notice the contradiction and said, “More countries are putting up firewalls and shutting down access, using the internet to try to control speech, quash dissent, spread misinformation and disinformation.” Speaking at the Biden administration’s Summit for Democracy, Blinken said a balance needs to be struck between openness and security, as well as between “protecting speech and preventing incitement.” He did not say what constitutes “incitement” or who gets to make that call.
Government use of the words “misinformation” or “disinformation” rapidly escalated during the pandemic. It is a controversial concept because it leaves the federal government to decide what does or doesn’t qualify. In other words, it is perfectly feasible for governments to simply label facts as “misinformation” if those facts are inconvenient or troublesome. It is also increasingly common for governments to hunt down ways to have greater control over what people can read on the internet. Last year, 60 governments, including the US, signed an agreement to work together to target “disinformation” online. The agreement was also shrouded in doublespeak as politicians promised to uphold free speech while censoring what people may read.
In the name of protecting national security from communist China, Congress has been presented with the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or RESTRICT. This will push back against the Chinese Communist Party-linked TikTok, and is being promoted in that vein. However, the legislation is vague and broad and could be interpreted to give sweeping censorship powers to the federal government which would be authorized to ban any foreign platforms in the future. RESTRICT has so far enjoyed the support of Republicans and Democrats and has been praised by the White House.
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