The EU’s best weapon against free speech isn’t working

Lazy eyes listen


The European Commission determined in a new investigation that, despite making pinky-promises to “mitigate the reach and influence of Kremlin-sponsored disinformation,” significant social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook were “unsuccessful” in doing so. What a surprise that this research by oversight supporters has resulted in a need for more oversight. Russia is simply the most convenient scapegoat.

Using the same smear tactics as before, such as including Russia alongside the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in a security and threat report, the bloc this time confounded “pro-Kremlin” social media accounts with those it considers to be “Kremlin-aligned” or “Kremlin-backed.” In other words, simply disagreeing with the Western narrative is enough to put someone on the “pro-Kremlin” list.

“Platforms rarely reviewed and removed more than 50 percent of the clearly violative content we flagged in repeated tests,” according to the research. What kind of content exactly would that be? It’s difficult to determine because their examples mix the legitimately contentious with the plainly ludicrous, implying that both merit banning. They cite content that accuses Ukraine of being run by Nazis, which is a legitimate concern given that the Western press has extensively reported on the powerful role played by neo-Nazis in Ukraine, who are “aggressively attempting to impose their agenda on Ukrainian society, including by using force against those with opposing political and cultural views,” according to a prior publication by the Washington-based Freedom House.”

The West also trained the neo-Nazi Azov brigade to fight Russians, and Reuters reported in 2018 that then-President Petro Poroshenko “would risk major repercussions” if he took action against neo-Nazis.

That sounds like there’s a neo-Nazi problem that’s at the very least worth noting and debating. Nonetheless, the EU dismisses such speculation as Russian disinformation.

The study also criticizes reports “denying war crimes,” citing the events in Bucha as an example. I’m sorry, but did we overlook a war crimes tribunal? We’re talking about incidents that happened in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. Trying to sort through facts, realities, and manipulations is exactly what social media is designed to help with. By this time, everyone understands the importance of having access to as much raw data as possible. We expect a chaotic jumble online, not a carefully manicured set of Encyclopedia Britannica or the nightly news. What gives Brussels the right to monopolize that process?

The article juxtaposes these inconvenient conversations with a clearly ludicrous example of sh*tposting in which someone made up the name of a bogus media outlet and announced that Ukraine was launching a radioactive cloud towards Europe. Look, if somebody is so stupid as to think something like that, the EU is not going to save them from their own ignorance. At least not for long. Allow them to spend the next week digging a fallout shelter while their neighbors laugh.

The report states, in a paragraph that begs to be read repeatedly out of sheer amazement that someone could be so tone-deaf, that so-called Kremlin disinformation campaigns are “designed to foment political and social instability among its citizens.”

How dare Europeans demand that their politicians focus on the significant challenges confronting their own country and citizens, which have long been aggravated by erroneous national and EU-level policies, rather than Ukraine! Indeed, if it weren’t for those meddling Russians, Europe would be a utopia of sunshine and rainbows, with everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya with nothing else to worry about except what’s going on in Ukraine.

According to the EU, “the Kremlin and its proxies captured growing audiences with highly produced propaganda content, and steered users to unregulated online spaces, where democratic norms have eroded and hate and lies could spread with impunity.” They’ve got everything backwards. People who want to debate and discuss topics and opinions that the EU — in its arrogance as the self-appointed arbiter of truth — wants to censor have been driven to other platforms especially because they encourage free speech in all its splendor and imperfection.

“Over the course of 2022, the audience and reach of Kremlin-aligned social media accounts increased significantly across Europe,” according to the report, adding that “the reach and influence of Kremlin-backed accounts grew further in the first half of 2023, driven in particular by the dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards.” In other words, Elon Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” bought Twitter, leveled the playing field by opening up debate and reducing censorship, and people flocked to the platform as a refreshing alternative to the curated and censored Western establishment narrative that they’re spoon-fed elsewhere.

So, what is the EU going to do now? As of last month, mandatory compliance with its Digital Services Act became mandatory. This means that, in theory, all of the main social media platforms are required to collaborate with the EU’s designated “civil society” players to regulate and control content – no doubt in accordance with the EU’s narrative. Musk should comply and take notes on the types of restriction requests made of him by Brussels. Then, in the sake of radical transparency and the kind of uncompromising protection of democracy to which the EU continuously pays lip service as a pretext for its crackdowns on our fundamental freedoms, he should disclose them on Twitter.