News Round-Up: European Union Warned Elon Musk, Video Platform Rumble under Attack and Biased Publishing Rules of Climate Science
Every week, the editorial team of Freedom Research compiles a round-up of news that caught our eye, or what felt like under-reported aspects of news deserving more attention.
Over the past week, the following topics attracted our attention:
The European Commission has warned social media platform X for spreading "disinformation".
Climate scientist admits: 'I left out the full truth to get my climate change paper published'.
Free speech video platform Rumble: we are under attack from governments and mainstream media on various fronts.
Musk would rather go to jail than force workers to vaccinate.
Germany falsifies statistics to show a rise in 'right-wing' attacks.
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The European Commission has warned social media platform X for spreading "disinformation"
A report by the European Commission has shown that the social media platform X, owned by Elon Musk, is most active in sharing what they claim to be disinformation, reports The Guardian.
The Commission's report comes in the context of the Digital Services Act (DSA), which came into force in August and obliges social media platforms to remove content deemed illegal. If they fail to do so, they could face hefty fines of up to 6% of their global turnover. They could also face closure in the European Union. However, the definition of "illegal content" covers a very wide range of potential postings – from the sharing of truly criminal child pornography to messages simply declared disinformation or hate speech by the authorities. We have written at length about the problems with DSA here.
In the same report, Facebook came second, but they are said to be part of a voluntary code of practice to fight disinformation. However, Musk's Twitter withdrew from this agreement in the spring.
Commenting on the report, European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said that by leaving this voluntary code of practice, Musk would not escape possible sanctions and should be aware of this. "There are obligations under the hard law. So my message for Twitter/X is you have to comply. We will be watching what you do," she warned.
At the same time, it is worth bearing in mind what is really meant when there is talk about mis- or disinformation. Often it does not mean that the information is false or it is Russian propaganda, but that it is simply inconvenient and misrepresented by the authorities for whatever reason. A good example of this is the actions of the US government during the Covid pandemic when government agencies demanded that social media companies remove posts that were true but deemed inappropriate. For example, discussions about the origin of Covid, anything about the vaccines' lack of efficacy and side effects, etc., were censored. The dissemination of content was also restricted for clearly political reasons. The situation seemed so bad to US Federal Judge Terry A. Doughty that in early July he banned many officials and agencies of the Biden administration from interacting with social media companies about moderating content, saying that it seemed to him as if the US government had assumed the role of an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'. The Court of Appeal softened the injunction a little but also condemned this kind of censorship by the government. Now the case has reached the US Supreme Court. We've written more about the case here.
Climate scientist admits: 'I left out the full truth to get my climate change paper published'
In late August, climate scientist Patrick T. Brown and colleagues published an article in the scientific journal Nature on the effects of climate warming on wildfires. The paper looked at how wildfires in the US state of California are behaving as a result of climate warming, and the risks of them becoming more widespread: "Climate warming increases extreme daily wildfire growth risk in California".
After the paper was published, however, Brown wrote an article for The Free Press in which he said he had omitted some important information as otherwise the editors of the scientific journal would not have considered publishing the paper. "I just got published in Nature because I stuck to a narrative I knew the editors would like. That’s not the way science should work," he wrote.
The thing is that the paper focuses only on that part of the wildfires that specifically relates to global warming, but that's not the right approach, he says. He points out that other important variables should not be ignored. Brown is not claiming that he is somehow artificially showing the impact of global warming but explains that he has glossed over other causes of the increase in fires, such as poor forest management and the increasing number of people who start wildfires either accidentally or purposely. 80% of such fires in the United States are ignited by humans.
Brown writes that he deliberately ignored all the other important aspects, apart from climate change. "I knew not to try to quantify key aspects other than climate change in my research because it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell," he noted.
According to Brown, the editors of such journals have made it quite clear you have to support the mainstream narrative to get published on climate issues. At the same time, publication in such journals is critically important for scientists, because in many ways it is on this that their future scientific careers depend. Climate science, he said, has become less about understanding the complexities of the world and more about urgently warning the public about the dangers of climate change. "However understandable this instinct may be, it distorts a great deal of climate science research, misinforms the public, and most importantly, makes practical solutions more difficult to achieve," Brown notes.
Free speech video platform Rumble: we are under attack from governments and mainstream media on various fronts
In last week's news round-up, we wrote how Chris Pavlovski, head of the video platform Rumble, received a demanding letter from Caroline Dinenage, Chair of the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee at the UK Parliament, asking what Rumble was going to do about an actor, comedian and TV host Russell Brand who is now doing his establishment critical shows online – on Rumble and YouTube. Brand has come under heavy allegations, made anonymously, which have been widely reported in the British press in recent weeks – one of them involving alleged rape. Brand himself denies the allegations.
Dinenage wrote that Brand had also used Rumble to counter these accusations, and since rival platform YouTube had already announced that it would no longer transfer advertising revenue from Brand's channel to him, the head of the parliamentary committee was also asking Rumble if they have a plan to cut off his earning potential?
Pavlovski, in his response, called the letter extremely disturbing. He added that he, of course, condemns sexual crimes, but that both the accused and the alleged victims have the right to be investigated. In addition, he called it inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament is trying to control who has the right to speak on the platform and make a living from it and who does not.
As expected, such a statement was not without consequences for the company. For example, an online expert told The Sun that the new Online Safety Bill, recently passed by the British Parliament and due to be introduced next month, would also allow the platform to be shut down in the UK.
In the wake of the Brand scandal, burger restaurant chain Burger King, for example, has also announced that it will stop publishing its ads on the platform. However, the decision has also led to calls for a boycott of the chain itself.
As a result of all this, Rumble announced this week it was currently under relentless attack from governments and mainstream media on various fronts. "What they fail to understand is that every attack only emboldens our community and makes us stronger,” the company said. Rumble assured that they are prepared for such pressure and their infrastructure, advertising system, and staff have never been more prepared for whatever comes at them. They stressed that what they need most of all is support for the content creators on their platform. They also announced a campaign to support freedom of expression, asking platform creators to offer discounts on their paid content as part of the campaign.
Musk would rather go to jail than force workers to vaccinate
Elon Musk, the owner of the social media platform X, posted a video clip on his account on the same platform on Tuesday that presented a compilation of news headlines from the time of the coronavirus crisis, which initially reported the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines as 100%, but as time went on, the effectiveness numbers in the headlines dropped. Musk also posted an ambiguous question in the clip: “Have you heard dis information?”.
When another X user commented that it is of course silly to promise 100% effectiveness, but it is logical that efficacy will decline as virus strains change, Musk explained the reasoning behind his critical remark in a longer post. "My concern was more the outrageous demand that people *must* take the vaccine and multiple boosters to do anything at all. That was messed up," he noted. He pointed out that until the US Supreme Court overturned the order imposed by President Joe Biden, his companies would also have had to fire any employees who refused to be vaccinated. "We would not have done so. I would rather go to prison than fire good people who didn’t want to be jabbed," he wrote.
Musk also pointed out a fact he has referred to before – a personal bad experience with the side effects of the mRNA vaccine. "I got original Covid before the vaccine was out (mild cold symptoms) and had to get three vaccines for travel. The third shot almost sent me to hospital. How many other people out there have symptoms that are actually from the vaccine or Covid treatment, rather than Covid itself?" Musk asked, adding that some who refused to be vaccinated – like tennis player Novak Djokovic – are still doing very well. Djokovic recently won another Grand Slam to break the former winning record.
Musk also added that it is not that he does not believe in vaccines. "However, the cure cannot be potentially worse than the disease. And public debate over efficacy should not be shut down," he noted. Musk also sees potential in the mRNA platform itself to cure diseases, so he says it should not be abandoned.
Germany manipulates statistics to show a rise in 'right-wing' attacks
The German Federal Ministry of the Interior is accused of manipulating statistics on crimes committed against asylum centres to show that they are linked to so-called far-right crime, Remix News reports.
An investigation by a German publication Nius showed that of the 80 incidents reported by the ministry in the first half of 2023, only eight were actually attacks against such centres. In other words, 90% of these incidents were not related to asylum centres at all. In this respect, 'far-right sympathies' in the motives of the perpetrators of the attack can be suspected in only one case. This was the case of an attack on June 6 this year in the town of Teterow, where three drunk German citizens attacked a security guard and set off firecrackers at premises being used to house refugees. There are no known suspects in six cases related to asylum centres, so it is not possible to say anything about their motives. Five of the eight attacks involved breaking windows. In the last confirmed attack, however, the suspect was of Syrian origin. He attacked a security guard of Lebanese origin in front of the asylum centre. The ministry had also categorised this case as a case of right-wing extremism.