The MRC's 'Free Speech' Authoritarians
Media Research Center writers are having a love affair with some of the world's most censorship-loving right-wing leaders -- because they spout the MRC's anti-"Big Tech" narrative.
By Terry Krepel
In a December 2020 post, Kayla Sargent touted how "one nation is looking to change the way Big Tech can censor speech." by citing how Poland "announced a legal initiative on Thursday [Dec. 10] aimed at enabling internet users to file complaints against the removal of online posts as well as the creation of a special court for freedom of speech," adding that "Not only will users be able to sue Big Tech companies in some instances, but there will reportedly be consequences for Big Tech companies if they do not comply with Poland’s law."
Sargent repeated her cheerleading for Poland in a Jan. 15 post:
Conservatives have faced a barrage of censorship in the last few weeks, but at least one European country is standing up against Big Tech.
But in both posts, Sargent censored the fact that Poland's government does, in fact, embrace censorship of anyone critical of it or is otherwise independent of the government. In July, Reporters Without Borders detailed a planned "repolonization" law that would limit foreign investment in media outlets and limit the number of outlets a non-state owner can have, whose thinly veiled purpose is to censor and intimidate non-state-owned media. Meanwhile, the Polish state oil company purchased a top newspaper chain in the country, leading to fears of it becoming a propaganda outlet, while state-owned media are increasingly moving toward becoming mouthpieces for the same government that Sargent is lionizing.
The idea that a government official who's actively working to shut down speech he doesn't agree with in his own country is somehow a champion of "free speech" is laughable, but Sargent doesn't want you to know all the facts.
Hall gushed over Poland's authoritarian neighbor in a Feb. 3 post:
Yet another major European power has joined the growing alliance of nations against censorship by American Big Tech companies.
Hall didn't note the irony of Vargas announcing this on social media, where it was apparently not censored. And he certainly didn't note that Hungary has had its own issues with imposing censorship on its citizens.
Orban has been cracking down on Hungary's free press for years, trying to squeeze out critics of his regime or even anyone who reports on it. Last year, Orban's government OK'd a law seeking to punish anyone issuing "disinformation" about the coronavirus pandemic -- which, in practice, amounts to criminalizing any criticism of how Orban has handled it. In August, Orban issued a decree that heavily restricts sales of LGBTQ-themed books. Orban is even trying to change pop music to make it less rebellious and more pro-government. The MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, has been gushing for years over Orban's repressive anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant policies.
Hall claims to oppose "technological tyranny," but he seems totally cool with actual tyranny from the likes of Orban.
Cheering Putin's attacks on "big tech"
Hall was bizarrely excited in a March 10 post:
Russia has decided to fight back against Silicon Valley, suing five companies to force removal of posts supporting anti-Putin protests. This is part of a tidal wave of opposition to Big Tech around the world.
That's right -- Hall is cheering Russia taking on "Big Tech" in order to squelch dissent. Hall's problem here is not with Putin trying to censor political opposition, it's with "Big Tech" for not letting him censor it.
Hall cheered further:
In the weeks following Trump’s censorship on Twitter, Hungary joined Poland as one of the premier European powers taking on Big Tech. Hungarian Minister of Justice Varga Judit announced in a January 26 Facebook post: “After consulting with the heads of the involved state institutions, the Ministry of Justice will propose a law to the Parliament this spring about the regulation of the great tech companies’ Hungarian [operation].”
Hungary is ruled by Viktor Orban, a right-wing authoritarian currently bent on exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to make a power grab that would let him rule by decree. Like Putin, Orban is trying to suppress political dissent, and his attacks on social media can be seen as part of that. Poland is, again, led by right-wingers who, like Hungary, are spouting the MRC's bogus narrative that social media is exclusively "censoring" conservative points of view.
Cheering authoritarian censorship to own the libs -- er, "Big Tech"? That's quite the stance, Mr. Hall.
But in the MRC's world, "big tech" must always be the enemy, so a flip-flop on Putin was inevitable. Indeed, a Sept. 27 post by Catherine Salgado attacked Google and Apple for removing apps from its Russian stores designed to help opponents of Putin and supporters of Navalny, describing it as a "cave to the Russian government." Salgado did not mention her employer's previous praise of Putin for criticizing "big tech" over their alleged help for Navalny.
Hall took the side of another right-wing authoritarian leader in a July 22 post:
Big Tech platform YouTube has censored yet another head of state for the unforgivable: He dared to question the liberal narrative concerning COVID-19.
But YouTube is not the one that made those dubious treatments "extremely politicized" -- right-wingers like Trump and the MRC did. And Hall offered no credible scientific evidence that hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin are effective treatments for COVID. And all his partisan ranting aside, Hall also offered no evidence that YouTube is trying to do anything other than get reliable health information out there when there is so much unreliable information that may be getting people killed.
Neither Hall nor Ryan mentioned that the real censor here is Bolsonaro. In 2020, Bolsonaro enacted a law that effectively opens his critics to arrest under the guise of "national security." Since then Bolsonaro revived a law from the country's dictatorship era to arrest critics of his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, last year Facebook suspended a network of accounts it said were run by employees of Bolsonaro and his family to spread divisive political messages, so it's clear Bolsonaro knows his way around misinformation.
Still, that didn't keep Gabriela Pariseau from nonsensically portraying Bolsonaro as a free-speech hero in a Sept. 9 post:
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro made a bold move, marking one up for free speech in his nation. The embattled president signed a provisional measure that will make it illegal for Big Tech to arbitrarily remove legal social media content.
Pariseau was grimly determined to make him a part of the MRC's bogus "victimhood" narrative:
The Brazilian president is up for reelection, and like former President Donald Trump, has been repeatedly censored by Big Tech. YouTube removed 15 of his videos for so-called COVID-19 misinformation in July, according to the BBC. The New York Times reported that “[l]ast year, Facebook removed statements by Mr. Bolsonaro after he promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus. Around the same time, Twitter deleted posts from the far-right Brazilian president for pushing [allegedly] false remedies and calling for an end to social distancing.”
Only at the MRC can a right-wing authoritarian infamous for squelching the free speech of critics be hailed as a hero and a victim.