UnHerd, Shellenberger Unmask Censorship Industrial Complex, Reveal Sinister Origins

May 10th, 2024 3:35 PM

Journalist/author Michael Shellenberger joined forces with UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers and Tablet Magazine Senior Writer Jacob Siegel to discuss the inner workings of censorship in the West.

On Thursday, UnHerd released an interview featuring the three men, who discussed the complex web of NGOs and state agencies that make up the “Censorship Industrial Complex,” the origins of the industry and the techniques it uses, as well as the underlying ideology driving the players behind it.   

Shellenberger did not hold back in his criticism of these entities, describing their mission as driven primarily by a sense of bigotry and religious zeal.   

“But the other one is in this mania to — which I really think is driven by intolerance and dogmatism — censor and disparage different voices, dissident voices, they end up widening the circle too broad,” Shellenberger said. “So you end up censoring people for things that are factually true.”

Shellenberger concluded that the drive for “misinformation” really came into being as a way to counter undesirable political ideologies that saw a resurgence in 2016, notably with the election of Donald Trump. 

“But when you see all these people working together over time, you get a much clearer picture that this is what we would consider counter-populism,” Shellenberger observed. “This was clearly [an] orchestrated event after the revolutions of 2016 to fight against populism.”

According to Sayers, the convoluted nature of the censorship industry makes it very difficult to avoid and leads companies and online advertisers to inadvertently support censorship, such as with the Global Disinformation Index, a non-profit that creates advertising blacklists designed to starve “harmful” news sources and dissident voices of ad revenue.

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“I actually corresponded with Elon Musk about it,” Sayers said. “Twitter is apparently using GDI via something called ‘Integral Ad Services,’ which is another one of these ad buyer platforms, and now he was on Twitter saying, ‘GDI should be shut down and the miscreants should be published.’ So you’ve got this weird situation where the heads of these companies don’t even understand the beast that is happening further down.”

GDI was exposed last month by UnHerd for placing the outlet on a “dynamic exclusion list” of news sources to be boycotted by advertisers. 

GDI’s 2022 report featured a list of “the ten riskiest” online news outlets that exclusively included right-leaning and libertarian news outlets while “the ten lowest-risk” list was filled exclusively with hyper-partisan leftist outlets like Buzzfeed and NPR.

According to UnHerd, the GDI is funded by many governments including the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (until 2023), the European Union, the German Foreign Office and Disinfo Cloud, a body created and funded by the U.S. State Department.

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Responding to external pressures raised by UnHerd’s reporting, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron sent a letter on May 8 to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch declaring that the UK government will no longer fund the GDI.

Cameron wrote, “The FCDO has not funded GDI since 2023, and there are no current plans to do so.” 

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