After years of steadily accumulating power, 2021 is the year that Big Tech well and truly flexed its muscle. Gone are the days of banning mere Twitter pundits and demonetizing YouTube channels. In 2021, Big Tech silenced the sitting US president. They stopped the elected chief executive of the world’s largest economy and most powerful military from communicating with the American people. He lost the ability to tweet, post videos, or even send out a mass email.
The past year has shown that no celebrity or official is so powerful they are beyond the reach of the tech ban hammer.
Yet with all the focus on censorship of big names, conservatives risk forgetting about an all-important right in today’s tech-dominated age: The right to anonymous speech. Revolver readers don’t need to be told that it’s more dangerous than ever in America and the West more broadly to voice an opinion at odds with the official, regime-sanctioned one mandated in Washington. A wrong word, or any word mentioned to the wrong person or in the wrong venue can destroy a career, a reputation, a livelihood. As America becomes an increasingly unfree society under the reign of the Globalist American Empire, the right to speak anonymously, as Revolver itself does on most articles, is crucial.
Yet at this very moment, anonymity is also in more danger than ever. In the UK, anti-anonymity activists are capitalizing on the stabbing death of Conservative British MP David Amess to curtail online privacy.
British MP’s death intensifies calls for end to online anonymity
LAST FRIDAY, DAVID AMESS, a 69-year-old British member of parliament, was stabbed to death while hosting an open house for his constituents at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, a town in southeastern England. Ali Harbi Ali, the 25-year-old son of a former advisor to Somali’s prime minister, was later arrested and charged with Amess’s murder. In the aftermath of the incident, Mark Francois, another MP, asked for an amendment to the country’s Online Safety Bill—a proposed law that has been making its way through the legislative process for several years—that he called “David’s Law,” which would bring an end to online anonymity by forcing users of social platforms and other services to reveal their real identities.
These calls were surprising to some, since Amess’s death, at this point in time, doesn’t appear to have anything to do with online anonymity, or even the internet Francois, a former defense minister and a close friend of the deceased MP, said he wanted to name an amendment to the Online Safety Bill after Amess because his former colleague had become “increasingly concerned” about what he called the “toxic environment” online, and the amount of abuse directed at British politicians, especially women.
Damian Collins, a British MP and chair of the parliamentary committee reviewing the law, said he believes there is a “strong case” for requiring Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to record the real identities of users, so that those who engage in abuse online can be more easily identified. “People would then understand that if they post abusive material, they could be traced back, even if they posted under an assumed name,” he told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. [Columbia Journalism Review]
Amess’s killer was Ali Harbi Ali, the 25-year-old son of Somali immigrants. Ali wasn’t making anonymous online threats toward Amess before the attack, so this murder has exactly nothing to do with online anonymity. Instead, it’s just a classic example of the “heads I win, tales you lose” nature of modern diversity politics. David Amess, a conservative, was butchered by the radicalized son of a Muslim immigrant, but immigration and diversity are sacred, so the only politically acceptable response is a push to abolish the online anonymity that Britain’s dwindling body of conservatives depend on to speak freely without being censored, fired, or even killed.
But this new assault on anonymity isn’t restricted to the UK. It’s happening all over, and sadly conservatives are routinely playing along or even taking the lead. In May, Republican Congressman John Curtis of Utah began circulating draft legislation that would entirely abolish anonymity on social media platforms:
While most of these government efforts to end online anonymity have been widely covered in the media, America’s recent proposals have managed to stay out of the spotlight.
But despite flying under the radar, these proposals do exist in a discussion draft that was introduced by Congressman John Curtis in May.
The discussion draft aims to “require a provider of a social media service to verify the identity of users of the service, and for other purposes” and prevent anyone from creating a social media account without verifying their identity.
Not only does this discussion draft intend to make ID verification mandatory for anyone who wants to create a social media account but it also wants to force social media companies to report users to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) whenever they suspect users have submitted fake IDs. Additionally, it contains a requirement for the FTC to submit these reports to the United States (US) Department of Justice (DOJ). [Reclaim the Net]
In Australia, lawmakers are considering the ironically named “Online Privacy Bill,” which would mandate age verification (and by extension, ID verification) for users of virtually any major online platform: Facebook, WeChat, Zoom, Reddit, Bumble, gaming websites, and so forth. In Canada, lawmakers are considering a law that would make tech platforms liable any time a minor encounters sexual material on their platforms unless rigorous ID-verification requirements are imposed; this law would essentially eradicate anonymity on any website with user-generated content.
This is not an issue where patriots and critics of our corrupt Regime can afford to capitulate, or worse yet, collaborate in abolishing individual privacy. Protecting and expanding online anonymity should be a central priority of the modern right, especially in America.
Anonymity has played a crucial role in advancing liberty from the earliest days of the American experiment.
The United States was essentially founded by the 1700s equivalent of an online shitposting cabal. John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” uniting the colonies against the Townshend Acts, were published anonymously. Common Sense? Published anonymously. The Federalist Papers? An anonymous collaboration of John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. The anti-federalists “Brutus,” “Cato,” and the “Federal Farmer,” whose arguments were crucial in bringing about the Bill of Rights, weren’t just anonymous at the time; their identities remain uncertain and speculative to this day.
Repeatedly, the Supreme Court has affirmed a right to anonymous speech, and with good reason. As the Court wrote in McIntyre vs. Ohio Election Commission:
Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation. [Cornell]
Today, the First Amendment is under attack and less popular than ever with the progressives who once posed as its champions. Still, we have enough tradition, accumulated case law, and old-fashioned jurists so that laws directly targeting anonymous speech are unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge for the time being.
But new laws aren’t the only threat to anonymous speech today. The United States government’s strategy of outsourcing violations of constitutional rights to the private sector works perfectly when it comes to censorship. Sure, the Biden Administration and the Deep State can’t ban Donald Trump from speaking. But as long as Big Tech is their ally, they can simply count on the big tech players to aggressively “deboost” Trump’s speech whenever they regard him as a threat. Similarly, while the federal government may not be able to simply ban anonymity online, Big Tech may go ahead and do it for them.
At this very moment, anonymity is facing an existential threat in the form of high-tech artificial intelligence research. The European Union, the Pentagon, and Big Tech giants have spent billions building capabilities that are well-understood among those who work in the field, but remain obscure to ordinary people. With the power of modern artificial intelligence, tech-driven censorship can extend far beyond simply deleting Twitter accounts or suppressing links to Hunter Biden’s sex tape. It will also include the power to effectively destroy the right to anonymous speech online.
An AI researcher affiliated with a top American university spoke to Revolver about the technological advances that have been made just in the past few years.
“It’s an open secret that most AI development has been for surveillance, and much of the data that exists to be surveilled, perhaps most of it, is from anonymous sources,” the researcher said. As a result, he said extensive advances have already been made into using AI to remove the anonymity of statements made online, and track individuals across multiple different websites.
“The technology exists, at this moment, that would allow someone to take an anonymous essay or even a batch of comments, and use an AI to figure out who the author is,” he said. According to the researcher, it is also an “open secret” that AI is already being used for this purpose—not just by the intelligence community, but also by progressive organizations targeting “hate speech.” The researcher pointed toward the Network Contagion Research Institute, a little known group that brands itself “the world’s foremost expert in identifying and forecasting the threat and spread of misinformation and disinformation across social media platforms,” as a group using the most-advanced AI techniques.
Public evidence exists to support the source’s claims. For instance, it is widely believed that US intelligence services have already identified Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, using AI textual analysis:
“According to my source,” Mr. Muse explained, “the NSA was able to the use the ‘writer invariant’ method of stylometry to compare Satoshi’s ‘known’ writings with trillions of writing samples from people across the globe. By taking Satoshi’s texts and finding the 50 most common words, the NSA was able to break down his text into 5,000 word chunks and analyse each to find the frequency of those 50 words.This would result in a unique 50-number identifier for each chunk. The NSA then placed each of these numbers into a 50-dimensional space and flatten them into a plane using principal components analysis. The result is a ‘fingerprint’ for anything written by Satoshi that could easily be compared to any other writing.”
Mr. Muse was ultimately unable to get just who Satoshi is. Instead he was left with the conclusion DHS does know, and that bitcoin’s first billionaire was probably a collection of folks. [Bitcoin.com]
Using AI to identify Satoshi might just be sound intelligence practice. But as Revolver highlighted in March, the FBI is also an eager consumer of Babel Street AI software to identify and track domestic political dissent.
Babel X has access to over 25 social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, and to Twitter’s firehose… Babel X can also surveil millions of URL’s including the deep web. The software can instantly translate over 200 languages, and can set up geo-fences around areas of special interest, and has highly customizable filtering options including for hashtags, emojis, handles, names, and keywords. Users can also filter for numerical sequences like credit card or social security numbers.
Babel Street’s filtering options are extremely precise, and allow for the user to screen for dates, times, data type, language, and—interestingly enough—sentiment. Their website includes a short paragraph on this sentiment aspect which claims that they “possess the most sophisticated sentiment analysis tool on the market. Derived from collaboration with top university linguistic programs, Babel Street boasts the ability to evaluate sentiment in 19 languages—far exceeding the capacity of any other competitor. [Vice]
Today, in 2021, the technology is out there for powerful tech companies and the organizations they assist to de-anonymize, dox, and crush even the most marginal anonymous Twitter account, blog commenter, or essayist. And where technology exists and is legal to use, it will be used.
And right now, America is rapidly racing towards a world where AI will be used for “woke” ends. On Tuesday, news broke that the FTC is planning to offer a senior advisory position to former Google AI researcher Meredith Whittaker.
Whittaker had been employed at Google for around a decade when she entered the spotlight in 2018 as one of the lead organizers of the Google Walkout, in which 20,000 of the tech giant’s employees around the world protested its perceived failure to tackle sexual harassment internally.
Upon leaving the company, Whittaker published a blog post in which she warned that tech giants like Amazon and Google were “gaining significant and largely unchecked power to impact our world” in the pursuit of profit.
Since then, Whittaker has set up the AI Now Institute at NYU, a research unit dedicated to investigating the social ramifications of AI in daily life, and has remained an outspoken critic of her former employer. [Business Insider]
Whittaker’s public activism has focused on denouncing all the ways that artificial intelligence is dangerous for being racist. Whittaker herself is a deranged zealot who routinely denounces others for racism on Twitter.
Pedro Domingos is a racist and a creep. He has been for years. And in spite of it, he managed to retain his standing in the AI field.
The rot is coming from inside the house. https://t.co/LU9ZXqLFxT
— Meredith Whittaker (@mer__edith) December 14, 2020
Despite her fire-breathing insanity, Whittaker’s hiring might seem superficially positive at first. She is a critic of Google and Facebook and the power they hold, she’s critical of certain advanced AI technologies like facial recognition. But in the long run, Whittaker is absolutely a threat: Her demand isn’t that AI be curtailed, but rather that AI, like everything else in American life, must be made woke. Functionally, Whittaker is much like phony Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a “critic” of big tech who actually wants to radically increase its power over American society by turning it into an explicit ideological enforcement operation.
The potential reach of Big Tech and Big Government in a world stripped of anonymity and bolstered by powerful AIs is frightening to think about. It’s not just a matter of preserving the right to mock, question, criticize, or defy the government without being shamed, fired, or arrested. As the website Reclaim the Net showed recently, many other freedoms are at stake as well:
Not only do these proposals to end online anonymity threaten citizens’ rights to protest and criticize the government but by forcing social media platforms to collect real IDs, they also create a huge privacy risk. Numerous vaccine passport systems which impose similar ID collection requirements have already exposed the personal data and IDs of millions of people. Forcing social media companies to collect real IDs would create an even larger honeypot that could be leaked or breached.
Even more concerning is that these attacks on online anonymity serve as a gateway to a dystopian digital ID system that would give governments even more control of people’s digital activities. COVID passports are already paving the way for such a system in the physical world by making access to certain premises and events contingent on showing a vaccine passport. Forcing users to associate their social media accounts with real ID would make it easy for governments to expand this control to the digital realm and dictate which websites and online services people are allowed to use. [Reclaim the Net]
Today, conservatives realize that Big Tech (and corporate America) are just as much of a threat to fundamental liberties as the federal government has ever been. Now is the time for conservatives and all critics of our corrupt Regime to realize that online anonymity vis-à-vis Big Tech is a crucial component of this fight to defend American freedom.
Patriots of all stripes must be prepared to win the war for anonymous speech, but inexcusably, many in the GOP seem unaware it is even being fought. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is a pretty good Republican senator, who has fought hard against vaccine mandates and the lies about January 6. Yet last January, even he speculated that abolishing online anonymity might be a better fix for online censorship than, say, actually curtailing the power of tech companies.
I'm concerned that Congress’s involvement in Section 230 reform may lead to more harm than good.
One solution may be to end user anonymity on social media platforms. Social media companies need to know who their customers are so bad actors can be held accountable. https://t.co/9FCmG4OopU
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) January 27, 2021
A House Republican is circulating draft legislation to ban anonymity on social media. To the extent other Republicans seem better on the issue, it’s only because they are silent, not because they are going to bat for anonymity.
This has to change, and it must change quickly. Since the dawn of the digital age, the right has allowed the left to “own” issues like data privacy and consumer privacy. There is no reason for this to continue. Today, handing more data to mega-corps is handing more power to people who despise your way of life. And right now, the corrupt ruling class of the Globalist American Empire is poised to sweep away the last outposts of freedom online in a single climactic offensive, and the right will only be able to stop them if they are aware the danger exists.
Fortunately, there are many things conservatives can do to protect anonymity online, and with it the power to dissent against the Globalist American Empire and its big tech adjuncts. In Part 2, Revolver explores these policy options in detail.