Since the COVID-19 pandemic, authoritarians have used claims of “disinformation” to censor ordinary people and stifle dissent about various topics, including the efficacy of masks and vaccines, the war in Ukraine, the Middle East situation, and Hunter Biden’s laptop.
With this in mind, a group of 136 academics, historians, and journalists from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum have come together to warn President Biden that this rapidly growing censorship regime “undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy.”
In their “Westminster Declaration,” released Wednesday, the international group points out that the best way to combat actual disinformation is with free speech. They rightly state that discourse is the central pillar of a free society, and is essential for holding governments accountable, empowering vulnerable groups, and reducing the risk of tyranny.
The group that has signed the declaration to fight censorship includes Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, UK biologist Richard Dawkins, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, actor Tim Robbins, evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, economist Glenn Loury, filmmaker Oliver Stone, whistleblower Edward Snowden, British comedian John Cleese, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, British journalist Matt Ridley, Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya, Harvard professor of medicine Martin Kulldorf, Australian journalist Adam Creighton, French science journalist Xavier Azalbert, and German filmmaker Robert Cibis, among others.
The Westminster Declaration comes as the European Union attempts to impose an expanded censorship regime on social media platforms and search engines, including X, Google, and Facebook, using “vetted researchers” from selected NGOs and academia. The signatories are all “deeply concerned about attempts to weaponize the words’misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ and other ill-defined terms.”
The declaration contends that censorship is ultimately counterproductive: it sows mistrust, encourages radicalization, and de-legitimizes the democratic process. The signatories call on tech companies to refrain from censorship, and on governments and NGOs to respect free speech as protected by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. They also implore an increasingly complacent public to reject the “climate of intolerance that encourages self-censorship … Instead of fear and dogmatism, we must adopt investigation and debate.”
In addition to Biden, the declaration was sent to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other heads of state. The free speech lawsuit Missouri v. Biden has been at the forefront of exposing an entrenched censorship scheme cooked up between the federal government and Big Tech. More than 60 officials or agencies, including the FBI, stand accused of violating the First Amendment by pressuring Facebook, Twitter, and Google to censor users for alleged misinformation or disinformation.