how to approach censorship

Censorship goes against basic fundamental rights guaranteed by our democratic constitutions and thus against democracy itself. Just like you need free elections for democracy, you need a free press and absence of censorship. This is why the German constitution states in article 5:

"Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate their opinion in word, writing and image and to obtain information from generally accessible sources without hindrance. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting through radio and film are guaranteed. Censorship does not take place."

However in practice this is far from true. Modern laws such as the Media State Law and the NetzDG grant undue powers to the government to remove any sort of information in an almost arbitrary fashion, without trial and without any effort. They do this under the pretense of removing information that does not meet journalistic standards, or is to be considered hate speech and other illegal forms of opinion under highly subjective criteria, that do not consider what is actually said, but rather how it might be received. The extreme and wild abuse of these laws have been documented during the Covid pandemic, and the Ukrainian war, where entire news outlets were shut down simply due to reporting in a different style of narrative. Journalists had their bank accounts frozen and were put on criminal charges. Novel laws like the Media State Law have been explicitly engineered to target individuals who somehow have a large public reach, but make exceptions for small outlets like this blog (insofar as that it is disconnected from public channels such as Youtube and Facebook) which don't reach a certain amount of viewers, to give off the false impression of a free democratic society. A very common scheme of censorship in Germany would look like this:

Due to reaching a certain amount of viewers, e.g. more than 20,000 per month, a blog like this one will be put under the same scrutinizing laws as a large media outlet such as the New York Times or Facebook, and any claims made and information put forward needs to be proven and triple checked, even if it is in the form of interviews and reader comments and even if it is run by just one person without financal backing, with a disclaimer about it, who cannot possibly put in the same effort, legal fights and standards held by billion dollar companies. Those laws also demand that whatever opinions are disseminated, must not contradict the opinions of authorative sources, such as the WHO or other government agencies, to be not classified as "misinformation". If for example an independent source, such as it has happend in the case of Julian Assange, states that war crimes have been commited by the government by proof of classified documents, this source is to be considered invalid and as misinformation, as classified documents do not constitute a valid source in the standards of journalistic conduct.

Another important pillar in censorship is deanonymization, which is heavily enforced and ensured by German law for people who publish any sort of content online. Once people start speaking about important issues, it is bound to create controversies and hate in some minority of those who are either in agreement or disagreement. This is just the very nature of public discourse. Some of those people with a more radical attitude then start various attacks on the speaker, such as threats against their lives and family. But most popular are unrelated fake criminal accusations by anonymous phone call, such as child pornography, drug dealing or fraud - which can be done without effort to someone who is required to have their full name and address listed right next to their publications. If the outcome is in line with state agenda, the police then starts acting on those fake accusations, however dubious and nonsensical they might be, by confiscating all computer equipment such as phones, servers, USB sticks, harddrives or notebooks for at least 1.5 years or longer. This is possible because in Germany probable cause is not required, and any sort of utter nonsense can be acted upon once a state attorney issues a search warrant. In the recent years, this has happened to some journalists and peace activists every few weeks dozens of times in a row, which crippled their ability to speak online. But it doesn't end there. In Germany it is also common to detain people for extended periods of time (half a year or longer) without trial, so again bogus charges have been used against peace activists to imprison them and shut them down. Which is arguably not only totalitarian censorship but a violation of their very human rights.

Furthermore double standards and undue outlandish scruteny will be employed at the arbirary disgression of the government to take down dissenting alternative news outlets. For example, the New York Times might publish hundreds of articles, such as on victims of  institutionally discriminated groups, such as black people or disabled people, without any cited statistical backing by the CDC, police or other authorative agencies. But as soon as alternative news outlets interview people who are as equally affected by discrimination on a topic that the government does not approve of, such as vaccine damage, the government will put anyone who defies their narrative at gunpoint to prove their position by backing of a wealth of authorative sources. In Germany, the goverment has all the legal powers to instantly remove this unwanted information, and laws like our constitution that gurantee freedom of the press are ignored, by the logic of being superseded by other laws. We know from the covid pandemic, that even expert politicians on pandemic outbreaks, who have been employed by the government in the past for precisely this matter, are discredited by the government, and not accepted as "valid sources" to give opinions on such topics, according to state institutions and censorship laws. Thus if interviewed, the government has the power to arbitarily choose what sources are acceptable and which are not, regardless of the qualifications of interviewed experts and regardless of how they have been employed and accepted in their fields of experitise.  To say then that those laws are designed to be used in a reasonable and appropriate fashion, is simply ill informed and naive. As it has already been proven to to not be the case multiple times, and all warnings about potential ill effects and abuse have long become a reality. No one has any idea about the true extent of this censorship, due to self-censorship and under-reporting.

What can you learn from this?

There are a couple of very easy answers to this:

  1. The censor is always wrong. It does not matter at all why censorship takes place. But if it does, the censor always loses the argument. It is not important why someone censors, or what their motives are, only that they do. If for example, the government feels like censoring holocaust history, or the Ukrainian war - by whatever personal interpretation - then whoever gets censored wins the argument. There is no middle-ground in this. If you feel like punching someone in the face, because they offended you, then you lose the argument. No one cares if they did beat first, did beat your wife, if they burned small children or an angry mob wanted to lynch them. As the arbiter of justice, you simply lose due to gross misconduct, no matter the circumstance. The same must be true in  the case of censorship as well. Trying to look for a quick fix in censorship is harmful, because it destroys democratic foundations. If we have granted voices undue credit, due to censoring them, then we can fix this situation by removing the censorship and having an open discussion. If there are laws in place which provide loopholes to censor free speech, such as misinformation laws, then we must fight and abolish those laws. Many people are censored because their content is unpopular or apprehensive, and the government hides those amongst them who were censored for illegitimate reasons. Censoring people only suggests that there is truth to what they are saying, which the government and powerful groups are not able to deal with, if that truth became widely known. We must not give people who make illegitimate claims undue credibility, by censoring free speech and public debate, such as it happened in the case of Zundel. Now with censorship running rampant, and government and large institutions discrediting themselves with 1984 style actions, we only erode trust and empower large groups of people capable and willing of critical thought, to question all kinds of other established historic facts in retrospective. The only sane way out of this is to censor less, not more.
  2. Protect yourself from censorship. Use search engines like Yandex for political searches, don't use Google (as of 2023 the censorship is extreme). Don't put blind faith into herd mentality and large institutions. Use alternative platforms first.
  3. Put your content into censorship-resistant and decentralized alternatives to big-tech outlets, such as Facebook or Instagram. Use Pixelfed and Mastodon instead. The software we elect to use is just as important as the political parties we elect. You don't want to vote for the NSDAP or the communist party, just because it gives you certain benefits and is more comfortable for whatever reason. You want to vote for and decide for what is best for society. Also consider alternative anonymous networks, such as LokinetI2P and TOR.
  4. Governments are the single biggest source of disinformation, and this disinformation is replicated without critique by large media institutions. It does not matter if that is foreign media or domestic media: both sides do this. You should therefore either rely on primary sources or on friends and people of trust to determine what is going on in the world.
  5. Misinformation is a ruise to justify censorship - People in power try to sell the idea that being misinformed warrants censoring those who provide poor infromation. But what information is "poor" or false to begin with? Many stories such as the Hunter Biden Laptop or the inefficacy of the Covid vaccines and various measures, later turned out to be true by no mistake, regardless of whether or not large institutions like the WHO or CNN have put forward conflicting viewpoints. In the end, without a 1984-style ministry of truth, no one has the authority to say what is true or false. If they did, we would live in a totalitarian state. In the end, misinformation laws can only exist as so far as they violate our freedom of speech, which makes any cosideration or discussion about "misinformation" in a legal context invalid and inherently anti-democratic and dangerous.
  6. Protect democracy - by not voting for large established parties which have proven to trample on our rights and are undermined by lobbyists and fools. In many places of the world, the elites have managed to steal people's votes by not making them vote for anything at all, but simply against the other party. Defy the system, reclaim your democratic sovereignty. Don't fall for tribalism, polarization and false promises.

I want to encourage anyone to study the history of soviet Russia and China as well as Nazi Germany. The parallels to nowadays shift towards totalitarianism are absolutely mind-blowing.

Further reading:

JACOB SIEGEL - Thirteen ways of looking at disinformation
"Medienstaatsvertrag" - Zensur freier Medien?
Zensur durch die Hintertür via neuem Medienstaatsvertrag
Apolut - Zensur russischer Sender und Gegenmaßnahmen