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Doublespeak: State Department warns about online censorship then threatens to “hold platforms accountable”

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In a startling display of doublespeak at the Summit for Democracy 2023, United States (US) Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned about more countries “using the internet to try to control speech” and claimed that the Biden administration is trying to promote an open internet before threatening to “hold platforms accountable” for so-called “harms.”

Blinken raised the alarm about the internet “growing more closed, more insecure, more siloed by the day.”

He continued by stating: “More countries are putting up firewalls and shutting down access, using the internet to try to control speech, quash dissent, spread misinformation and disinformation.”

The Secretary of State followed up by claiming that the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (a 60-country commitment to bolstering “resilience to disinformation and misinformation”) reaffirms the US’s commitment to an “open network of networks that respects democratic principles and human rights.”

After lambasting other countries for closing off the internet and positioning the Biden admin as a paragon of openness, Blinken pivoted and said, “We have to do better at addressing some of the risks that come with the open internet.”

He then proposed a “delicate balance” between “openness and security,” “protecting speech and preventing incitement,” and “fostering innovation and limiting the power of Big Tech.”

Not content with suggesting a balance between protecting speech and censoring speech that the Biden administration deems to be “incitement,” Blinken then threatened consequences for platforms that don’t fall in line.

“The President’s…made clear that we need to be able to hold platforms accountable when they fail to address the harms caused by their technology, from the content they spread to the algorithms that they use.”

Blinken’s comments come days after the introduction of the RESTRICT Act — a bill that would give the US federal government additional powers to crack down on free speech. The bill claims to target “foreign adversaries” and is widely thought to be aimed at China’s TikTok. But the powers in the bill are so vast that it would give the federal government the authority to ban a wide range of apps and online services if they’re deemed to be “national security” threats.

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