from Strategic Culture:
Are we witnessing a move towards global censorship of the internet? In particular, are we seeing the gradual attempt to shut off Russia and its news media from a normal free-flow of international communications?
A kind of global apartheid system whereby nations are excommunicated from internet contact with the rest of the world?
The concept may seem an outrageous, impossible idea. Imagine, say, the analogy of the international aviation system being policed by certain nations to the exclusion of others being able to fly civilian airliners to any destination.
Imagine, say, old-fashioned telephone global networks being blacked out for certain countries.
The whole notion of large areas of the world being made off-limits to transport and communications for certain nations seems on the face of it to be unimaginable in terms of violation against internationalism.
Yet, are we not already seeing this nefarious development underway? The US-dominated global system of financial banking transactions is already being suborned to the political determination of Washington.
Russia, Iran, Venezuela and other nations are steadily being excluded by American political decisions to conduct what one would define as normal conduct of financial business under the rubric of “economic sanctions”.
It is therefore only a step-change for the same process of blackballing by Washington in the realm of global communications, specifically the internet.
This week saw another notch towards this reprehensible situation. The US-owned internet company Facebook made a determination to ban a media company affiliated with the Russian-based RT news network.
The decision came on the back of US news media claims that the Russian-affiliated news service was “Kremlin-linked”. Consequently, hundreds of internet pages and millions of citizens who subscribe to the service have had their means of communication terminated. All on the politically based claim that said services were somehow acting to extend “Russian influence”, which by prejudice is deemed to be “bad”.
When the worldwide web, or internet, was conceived decades ago by a British scientist it was intended to be a global forum for all ideas, discussion and exchange. It so happens that much of the internet has come to be based in and controlled by Western states, primarily the US. Analogous to the international financial system.
Facebook, the social media platform, claims to conduct communications for two billion users – or nearly a quarter of the world’s population. For a US-based company to take the decision to shut off its network to parts of a Russian news network is a hugely political act. All the more so because the decision was based on the claims of a US-based news company that made dubious pejorative allegations against the Russian news network.
What is at issue here is freedom of information. That is supposed to be a bedrock principle of democracy and human rights. By what right has a US-based internet company to determine that large swathes of the global communication system is to be made off-limits, or in a word “censored”?
There is a reasonable suspicion that the real problem is simply that the American political system and the US media companies have a political problem dealing with news and information that happens to contest their view of the world, and the view that they would prefer global citizens to adhere to. The RT-affiliated news network banned this week by Facebook claims that the ban was motivated because of its recent critical views on US attempts to destabilize Venezuela for regime change.
Criticism, freedom of speech and alternative viewpoints are supposed to be a pillar of any democracy. Yet here seems to be a case of a media service performing its democratic function, and then being blackballed for doing so.
“Information warfare” is a term most often cited by American and Western allies to describe Russian news media. The reality is it is the US and its allies who have for decades gotten away with information warfare directed at their own citizens to keep them in a state of fear and paranoia against designated external enemies, such as the Soviet Union. That was the Cold War. Nothing, it seems, has changed.
In an open world of communications, news and information, all citizens regardless of nationality should be free to decide for themselves what is accurate and reliable in terms of describing the world around them and major developments. It betrays the Orwellian, insecure nature of so-called democratic Western countries when their self-appointed authorities decide that their citizens are prone to “Russian influence”. It so happens that Russian news media organizations like RT are well respected by international audiences, including Western populations, for providing critical and accurate reportage and analysis.
To shut off Russian news media services on the tendentious claim that they are “Kremlin propaganda” is a sign of deep distrust among Western authorities of their own people and their own political rationales.