WE at TCW were fascinated and somewhat surprised to read the ‘revelations’ in the Telegraph at the weekend of what we already knew: that the Government has been running a Counter Disinformation Unit dedicated to censoring and banning lockdown ‘influencers’, and still is. Unremarked by the Telegraph is that it never was a secret. A Government press release in March 2020 announcing a Government crackdown on ‘false coronavirus information’ detailed the work of a ‘Counter Disinformation Cell’ led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and which was ‘made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector’.
The Telegraph article dramatically details how this Stasi-sounding unit had ‘assembled 21 men and women, with the purpose – the chairman explained – of “addressing the threat posed by Covid-19 mis- and disinformation”,’ and that ‘those present at the meeting included senior executives working for Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as the BBC and Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator’.
Well, yes, we always knew this. We have been pretty certain from the start that TCW’s banning by Google, Twitter and Facebook, and most ominously, the ban on TCW from being accessed via UK mobile phone networks, was directly or indirectly at the behest of the government. This was the type of censorship that the ‘Misinformation in the COVID-19 Infodemic’ (Inquiry report) of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was pressing for more of from July 2020, with much emphasis on bringing the big social media companies into line with the BBC’s ‘Trusted News Initiative’ which they applauded. Worthies such as Julian Knight MP and Philip Davies MP didn’t think Government was cracking down hard enough on these companies or on individual influencers, of whom President Trump was the demon mentioned most.
The Telegraph story adds some important detail. In November 2020, Mr Hancock wrote to Sir Nick Clegg in America, mid-way through a ’round table’ meeting that the Government was holding with UK executives from Facebook and other technology companies.
‘I’m just on a Zoom about tackling anti-vax with [Culture Secretary] Oliver Dowden – obviously vital,’ he wrote. ‘Your team have been working really well with the department and the advertising ban is great – but we need to have a timeframe for removal of antivax material and how do [sic] to demonetise.‘
What is of particular concern to us is that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has previously appointed the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) as their designated regulator, which regular readers will recall banned UK mobile operators from displaying content from TCW, stopping readers from accessing us.
The BBFC also works closely with OFCOM overseen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Our site was duly blocked by the mobile operators without informing TCW or our readers, who, many will recall, were simply presented with an error page, showing the site as unsafe and insecure, which it was not.
We were alerted at the time that our banning by the BBFC (we were to find out later how they’d trawled hundreds of thousands of comments in their quest for incrimination – they managed to identify a handful) with a full-page denunciation of us (still there on the BBFC website) was instigated from Whitehall, though it was never possible to prove.
The evidence of the July 2020 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report makes clear that the pressure was coming from politicians and Government on Google, Twitter, Facebook and Ofcom (not the other way around) to deplatform and demonetise sites like ours that disagreed with or questioned the Government approved Covid narrative. This is exactly what happened to us. Demonetise us they nearly did, but for the support of loyal readers.
So here, as reminder, is a timeline of some of the bans and restrictions to which TCW has been subject, not only to remove our major revenue streams (Google Ads), but to block our own advertising, block and restrict accounts, and absolutely, definitely, try to kill the site.
Firstly, in August 2021, Facebook stopped TCW from promoting our articles on the platform, a major source, at the time, for acquiring new readers. This was presumably at the behest of Matt Hancock to Nick Clegg, as detailed in the Telegraph.
The next month, September 2021, Google stopped us showing all Google advertising after repeated warnings and after previously removing all advertising on anything Covid-related. This was a huge financial blow, and made us reliant on reader donations from then on.
Then there are the YouTube (owned by Google) warnings and content removals (one a considered interview with Pat Cash advising young athletes to make sure they were fully informed about the mRNA vaccine) and even as recently as February this year.
After Google banned us, we moved to Taboola.com, which generated much less revenue, only to receive this email in November 2021, months after ads stopped working. It reads: ‘Your site was reviewed by our compliance team and they concluded that the content was not aligned to our policies. For this reason the partnership was discontinued. You should have received an email explaining this at the start of August. Unfortunately, we are unable to work with you again in the future.’
We had received no such warning email from Taboola.
Then there were the repeated Twitter bans and suspensions for both our editors, Kathy and Laura:
Finally Kathy, after further 7 day bans, was permanently suspended. This was for sympathising with a vaccine injured victim. This ban stayed in place until after Elon Musk bought Twitter and her account was reinstated upon our third appeal.
On Saturday, Elon Musk described the censorship as ‘terrible’. Does he not know that Twitter was involved too?
After all this, we are still here, but apparently despite the best efforts of the Government. Kathy Gyngell’s account been reinstated on Twitter, but TCW is still deplatformed by Google Adsense, Facebook, Taboola and YouTube.
We suspected that the government were behind this, and said so in May 2022. It seems that the timeline provided by the Telegraph, and the evidence above showing the systematic bans and deplatforming of TCW, prove us right. It is a pity the Telegraph chose not to draw this unit to public attention any time in the last three years.
As a result of all the above restrictions and bans, we now rely on you, our readers, to support us and fund our continuing efforts. Don’t let those who would silence us win.
What else are they trying to hide?
You can donate here. Thank you!