Top Social Media Websites Caught Censoring Controversial Content

George Washington's picture

Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For example, Facebook deletes accounts created by Palestinian resistance groups.

Digg was caught censoring stories which were controversial or too critical of the government. See this and this.

Now, even social media site Reddit – which helped launch the anti-Sopa Internet blackout and publicize GoDaddy’s slimy Sopa support – is doing the same thing.

As just one example, posts from this website are being censored by Reddit. Specifically, a friend of this site who has submitted stories to Reddit has received the following messages of rejection from a Reddit moderator named davidreiss666:

from davidreiss666 via /r/worldnews/

WashingtonBlog is not something we consider a good source for r/Worldnews.


from davidreiss666 via /r/worldnews/

Please submit that story from an alternate domain. Thank you.


And another moderator named Maxion:

from Maxion via /r/worldnews/

I am sorry but this submission is not appropriate for this subreddit.


There are certainly also more open-minded moderators at Reddit. But a couple of censors can squash discussion on entire topics.




Why are they censoring?

Well, censorship is rampant in America … and social media has grown so big that it has become a target as well.

In addition, as I pointed out last year [for ease of reading, we'll skip indentation]:

Wired reported on Friday:

The Pentagon is looking to build a tool to sniff out social media propaganda campaigns and spit some counter-spin right back at it.


On Thursday, Defense Department extreme technology arm Darpa unveiled its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. It’s an attempt to get better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media. SMISC has two goals. First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself.


This is more than just checking the trending topics on Twitter. The Defense Department wants to deeply grok social media dynamics. So SMISC algorithms will be aimed at discovering and tracking the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” on social media, according to Darpa’s announcement.




SMISC needs to be able to seek out “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations” developing across the social sphere. SMISC is supposed to quickly flag rumors and emerging themes on social media, figure out who’s behind it and what. Moreover, Darpa wants SMISC to be able to actually figure out whether this is a random product of the hivemind or a propaganda operation by an adversary nation or group.


Of course, SMISC won’t be content to just to hang back and monitor social media trends in strategic locations. It’s about building a better spin machine for Uncle Sam, too. Once SMISC’s latches on to an influence operation being launched, it’s supposed to help out in “countermessaging.”




SMISC is yet another example of how the military is becoming very interested in what’s going on in the social media sphere.

Indeed, as I wrote in February:

I noted in 2009, in an article entitled “Does The Government Manipulate Social Media?”:

The U.S. government long ago announced its intention to “fight the net”.

As revealed by an official Pentagon report signed by Rumsfeld called “Information Operations Roadmap”:

The roadmap [contains an] acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.


“Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience,” it reads.


“Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” it goes on.




“Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system”.

Indeed, the Pentagon publicly announced years ago that it was considering using “black propaganda” – in other words, knowing lies.


CENTCOM announced in 2008 that a team of employees would be “[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.”


The Air Force is now also engaging bloggers. Indeed, an Air Force spokesman said:

“We obviously have many more concerns regarding cyberspace than a typical Social Media user,” Capt. Faggard says. “I am concerned with how insurgents or potential enemies can use Social Media to their advantage. It’s our role to provide a clear and accurate, completely truthful and transparent picture for any audience.”

In other words, the government is targeting “social media”, including popular user-ranked news sites.


In addition, when you look at what the Israeli lobby has done with Megaphone software to automatically vote stories questioning Israel down and to send pro-Israel letters to politicians and media (see this, this and this), you can start to see how the U.S. military – an even larger and better-funded organization – could substantially influence voting on social news sites with very little effort.


Moreover,the military has outsourced many projects to private contractors. For example, in Iraq, much of the fighting has been outsourced to Blackwater. And governmental intelligence functions have largely been outsourced to private companies.


It is therefore not impossible that the government is hiring cheap labor to downvote stories on the social media sites which question the government, and to post pro-government comments.

(other governments and large companies “astroturf” online as well. See this, this and this.)


I pointed out the same month:

Government propagandists, their hired private contractors and useful idiots are creating “downvote bots” or scripts to bury stories which question the government.




One free, simple scripting program to create automatic downvotes of certain topics or news posters is called “Greasemonkey”, which is commonly used on large social news sites such as Reddit.


For example, there are some 2,480 hits … for the google search greasemonkey downvote. This is some 2,480 times that Reddit users are publicly admitting to using greasemonkey (see also this).


Propaganda agents obviously aren’t going to publicly brag about what they are doing, and you can bet that their use of downvote bots is much greater. Moreover, they probably have more sophisticated software than Greasemonkey.

Today, Raw Story reports that the Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people:

Internet users would be well advised to ask another question entirely: Are my “friends” even real people?


In the continuing saga of data security firm HBGary, a new caveat has come to light: not only did they plot to help destroy secrets outlet WikiLeaks and discredit progressive bloggers, they also crafted detailed proposals for software that manages online “personas,” allowing a single human to assume the identities of as many fake people as they’d like.


The revelation was among those contained in the company’s emails, which were dumped onto bittorrent networks after hackers with cyber protest group “Anonymous” broke into their systems.


In another document unearthed by “Anonymous,” one of HBGary’s employees also mentioned gaming geolocation services to make it appear as though selected fake persons were at actual events.


“There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas,” it said.


Government involvement


Eerie as that may be, more perplexing, however, is a federal contract from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, located south of Tampa, Florida, that solicits providers of “persona management software.”


While there are certainly legitimate applications for such software, such as managing multiple “official” social media accounts from a single input, the more nefarious potential is clear.


Unfortunately, the Air Force’s contract description doesn’t help dispel their suspicions either. As the text explains, the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be “replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent.”


It continues, noting the need for secure virtual private networks that randomize the operator’s Internet protocol (IP) address, making it impossible to detect that it’s a single person orchestrating all these posts. Another entry calls for static IP address management for each persona, making it appear as though each fake person was consistently accessing from the same computer each time.


The contract also sought methods to anonymously establish virtual private servers with private hosting firms in specific geographic locations. This would allow that server’s “geosite” to be integrated with their social media profiles, effectively gaming geolocation services.


The Air Force added that the “place of performance” for the contract would be at MacDill Air Force Base, along with Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad. The contract was offered on June 22, 2010.


It was not clear exactly what the Air Force was doing with this software, or even if it had been procured.


Manufacturing consent


Though many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology, the reasonable fear should be perfectly clear. “Persona management software” can be used to manipulate public opinion on key information, such as news reports. An unlimited number of virtual “people” could be marshaled by only a few real individuals, empowering them to create the illusion of consensus.




That’s precisely what got DailyKos blogger Happy Rockefeller in a snit: the potential for military-run armies of fake people manipulating and, in some cases, even manufacturing the appearance of public opinion.


“I don’t know about you, but it matters to me what fellow progressives think,” the blogger wrote. “I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn’t credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can’t be trusted, I won’t base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight.


“That’s me. I believe there are many people though who will base their judgment on rumors and mob attacks. And for those people, a fake mob can be really effective.”




“Team Themis” [tasked by the Chamber of Commerce to come up with strategies for responding to progressive bloggers and others] also included a proposal to use malware hacks against progressive organizations, and the submission of fake documents in an effort to discredit established groups.


HBGary was also behind a plot by Bank of America to destroy WikiLeaks’ technology platform, other emails revealed. The company was humiliated by members of “Anonymous” after CEO Aaron Barr bragged that he’d “infiltrated” the group.

And see this, this, this, this.

Postscript: Gaming social media is only one propaganda technique employed by the government:

  • The New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages
  • A 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques
  • The Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda
  • And one of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
HungrySeagull's picture

I love ZH.

The day the Comments are moderated is going to be a bad day indeed.

I rather be piled and boo'ed by a bunch of you than snipped out by a 13 year old who has emotional feelings of powers when the balls aint dropped yet.

ALPO's picture

It isn't censorship going on at /r/Worldnews.

That board, by definition, is for is for major news from around the world except US-related news (especially no US politics).

Washingtonblog is precisely the sort of thing that doesn't belong on /r/Worldnews.  Period.


George Washington's picture

Washington's Blog often writes about Fukushima, the effect of fallout on other parts of the world, the European's deliberations of ACTA and other legislation, the Euro, Libor, European banks' derivatives exposure, etc., etc.

These and many other topics have very little to do with U.S. politics....

azzhatter's picture

I saw a blonde slut(I get them all confused) on Fox News this morning saying Ron Paul only get's support from pot smokers. Wonder if she realizes she only gets support from old men in the underwear working off their last boner?

Quinvarius's picture

You won't get censored here:

Best terms of service I ever read.'s picture

A couple of things here.

1. As a redditor, you should know to post into appropriate subreddit. World news is for global international news. While I may agree with you that your blog content is indeed news worthy, but I understand why the admins may have removed your posts. My suggestion is, open your own subreddit and post there, then cross-list. Best of luck.

2. There will always be online censorship. ZH may be the only blog that does not censor, but eventually even ZH may be pressured into censoring posts. There is no such thing as free speech in private domain, and you are always subject to terms and conditions of site proprietors. It's their site and they do what they want, just like you do on your site.

??'s picture

ZH may be the only blog that does not censor,



you are so out of touch it hurts 

dated but one of many examples



JohnKozac's picture

George, how did you like the Tapper Carney exchange:


TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are, who've been killed-- 

CARNEY: I don't know about "keep." I think-- 

TAPPER: You've done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court? You're--currently I think that you've invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You're--this is the sixth time you're suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that's something that's in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don't want it in the United States.

Paul Bogdanich's picture

Duh.  And like what else is new?  On the other side of the equation places like Zero Hegde who don't censor comments are littered with worthless posts by half wits and children or adults who behave like them.  So basically all I can conclude is that social media is functionaly worthless.   

Zero Govt's picture

Power to your elbow/pen GW

Keep swinging and thrusting the enlightening sword of truth

??'s picture

With all respect to the host, ZH has been known to both ban commenters and remove comments, which of course is the prerogative of a site owner.

hardcleareye's picture

Ok can you give specific examples?

You have to be WAY out of line to be removed.

Shit look at all the junks posters like Robo, Hammy or Trav777 have gotten and they are still commenting.  I for one would miss them if they weren't part of ZH.

??'s picture

I an not sure what triggers the trap door but I suspect it relates to being disrespectful to the host as opposed to being generally obnoxious, ignorant etc...  why not conduct an experiment and  give it a try?  of course we will never know if you just wandered away or if  you were "eliminated"

smb12321's picture

Of course you are right.  Despite GW'S lengthy proclamation, the main reason for banning is ideological.  Many sites ban anything harmful about BO or the administration or (most important) anthing contradictory of current policy.  It could be the real rate of inflation or unemployment or recently, when studies showed SS & Medicare losing 100K/individual (payout vs payin) the item is too "controversial".

GW attempts to find spooks under every bed when in reality, lots of it is simple politics.'s picture

how's that tin foil hat,not too tight?

thruid's picture

Hearts and minds !!   The U.S. Gov and military are well aware that if Americans have unfiltered news/information all bets are off.   Thats why Julian Assange was public enemy number one.   I suspect the rape charges were completely false.  Americans could figure out that Ron Paul is not the one that is "extreme" in his views on foreign policy.   Some powerful politicians could lose their jobs.  Lobbying could be shut down as one perk politicians often enjoy.   Politicians might lose their retirement and health care plans.  They may even have to live under the same laws as everyone else !!!!    

smb12321's picture

The reason folks think RP is extreme is entirely due to his "supporters" and many of their rather exotic ideas.   In '08 it was all we could do to keep the haters,  conspirators and religious nuts from "speaking for Ron."

AnAnonymous's picture

The big bad government...

What can kicking... Impressive. World record.

The reality at hand: US citizens do not need the big bad government to wish for and exert censorship.

Once again, smearing an elite for the doing of the base.

Part of the elite's job in US citizenism, taking blame for base's doings.

Who could come with the fantasy that US citizens support freedom of speech?

The group is all for US citizens. US citizens want 'freedom of speech' to expose other groups' little dirty secrets but when it comes to themselves, it is either blatant censorship or the scam named self criticism, that other form of censorship.

Sophist Economicus's picture

WashingtonBlog is not something we consider a good source...

I agree with Reddit

azzhatter's picture

isn't that something the individual reader should decide?

AndTheRest's picture

Generally it is not the modus operandi of the Anglosphere to censor its people.  They prefer to monitor and hammer you down if you step out of line.


Why not block access to child pornography with a nationwide web filter?  Because they'd prefer to put you in prison, seize all your assets, and milk you for profits for the law enforcement/judicial/prison system.


Same goes for any of the other things you might logically think should be censored (bomb making, terrorist sites, jihad sites).  The American surveillance/law enforcement/intel police state prefers to give you just enough rope to hang yourself.


It ain't about protecting you, it's about punishing you for misbehavior.

Dr. Acula's picture

I support the Pentagon's use of any means, including social media tools, if it helps make me safer. It's hard to see who is exactly being victimized by playing games with posts so it should only be a question of the efficacy of the tool employed.

The security of the nation is one of the most crucial purposes of the government. Minarchists like Ludwig von Mises would agree with this proposition. And given that government exists, defense is surely the most legitimate purpose. I think even Murray Rothbard would agree with that.


hardcleareye's picture

Dr A,

This is not like your "normal" post...  did you forget to put <sarc> at the end or are you bored and trolling??????

Now that I think about it, maybe ZH needs to find a way to "prove" that the pople commenting are "real" flesh and blood humans?

Acula are you human?

KRYPTOS's picture

Due to the latest developments in human pattern recognition, a ninja from 1968 has been summoned to say a few things about your blithe dismissal of the damaging effects of government's relentless attacks on the Fouth Estate and their accompanying disdain for the spirit of free speech.

whstlblwr's picture

Free exchange of ideas is safer.

Dr. Acula's picture

Goods can be mass-produced, instead of being individually hand-crafted.

It is the same with information.

As I said, it's not clear who is being victimized by the use of these tools.


hardcleareye's picture

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

whstlblwr's picture

Ok, Dr. CIA, I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of what is going on.

The Alarmist's picture

Just be glad, GW, that they have not yet instituted their plans for operators of domains and blogs to have what in effect amounts to an Internet license.

Conax's picture


"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

Or maybe use software to multiply a liar's output by 500%.


Dr. Acula's picture

>See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again

That is also one of the strategies employed in teaching.

hardcleareye's picture

WTF....  NOT!!!!! 

"One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year." Albert Einstein

Dickweed Wang's picture

Repetition of a phrase or concept was a key tool used in Hitler's speeches also.

Malachi Constant's picture

What do you expect from Reddit, where /r/Anarchism has moderators, and 23,000 subscribers don't see the irony? It is said that smart people go to feign stupidity to 4chan while dumb people go to feign intelligence to reddit.

Dr. Acula's picture

>Anarchism has moderators, and 23,000 subscribers don't see the irony?

There is no irony.

A society of anarchists would not comprise a rabble of violent brutes. They still need security and arbitration services, i.e. police and courts. They will seek the removal of their felt uneasiness and the market will find these solutions, just as it did with the creation of the Lex Mercatoria among merchants in the Middle Ages.

Tunga's picture

Tunga is not feigning surprise.

Uncle Remus's picture

Top Social Media Websites Caught Censoring Controversial Content

I am truly shocked.

Oh hey, saw a bunch of Ron Paul supporters and their banners on the I-240 pedestrian bridge in OKC last evening.

TruthDetector's picture

So: I copied and pasted this article's URL to Facebook. NORMALLY it posts the entire ARTICLE.  This time, it posted ONLY the URL.


GeezerGeek's picture


Several possibilities exist, not necessarily mutually exclusive.

1) If they don't, TPTB will force them to, or even shut them down.

2) They are already appendages of TPTB.

3) They could get sued.

Freedom of expression is no longer unqualified; too much of what we say is anti-establishment and therefore equivalent to yelling FIRE in a theater. Apparently telling the truth or even issuing an opinion are dangerous actions, depending on the contents. And if you doubt the extent of the surveilance, remember those British would-be tourists who, not too long ago, got in trouble for sending a text message (or something similar) about 'destroying' L.A. in the sense that they were going there to party till they dropped. That euphemism got them in trouble, and they weren't even in the USA if I remember correctly.

I wouldn't be surprised if they knew what color your poop was this morning.


whstlblwr's picture

Or it's about money. RP popular and his budget takes from CIA, think it boosts the local enforcement so probably helps FBI (I don't know this for sure). Maybe it's CIA worried about budget and no more printing so they make case for terrorists taking over the internet to keep their money.

AndTheRest's picture

It's pretty much 1 and 2.  Except they're already so far down the road of option 2 that they are in the government's pocket forever.


When Facebook has a problem they call a three letter agency.  When a three letter agency has a problem they email their permanent assignee to Facebook and tell him/her to work the issue on Facebook's end.

the grateful unemployed's picture

i quit FB because i thought it was ANTI-social, looks like that might be the case

gwar5's picture

Socialism depends on force and coercion. Control of the currency, food, energy, and the media to control speech and thought is essential.

The old totalitarians, including the 20th century ones, used weapons and threat of death to control the masses. Today's Socialistas especially Obama's regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein, believe in "Scientific Socialism," which is indoctrination and turning our lives into a controlled maze of rewards and punishments to get you to do what they want. Orwellian infiltration of websites was one of Sunsteins' stated goals in order to help create government approved automotons. 

They never stopped to ask themsselves if this is even desireable in a free and diverse democracy where exchange of ideas is essential for best outcomes. This is the West's version of China's disasterous Great Leap Forward.



engineertheeconomy's picture

Greece is is a perfect example of socialism for the rich, I feel sory for the bankers that have to share all that gold that they stole with other bankers

AndTheRest's picture

You live in a free Democracy?  What country is that so I may move there?  It surely isn't any English speaking nation, or any part of the European Union.


As individuals we are free.  As citizens of nations we are enslaved.  Nation states are the problem.  And they aren't doing it for our own good, or in the name of socialism.  Socialism is the guise under which they solidify their family line's power eternally.  Same reason the rich stay rich, while ever increasing income taxes insures that those not born rich never become so and must continue trading their lifeblood to earn a living unto death.

the grateful unemployed's picture

in americas case the great creep lower

seataka's picture

A Prophetic Warning from Dr Robert Oppenhiemer from the Journal of the Atomic Scientists from a presentation to the American Psychological Association in 1955

"In the last ten years physicists have been extraordinarily noisy about the immense powers, largely through their efforts, but through other efforts as well [that] have come into the possession of man, powers notably and strikingly for very large scale and dreadful destruction. We have spoken of our responsibilities and our obligations to society in terms that sound very provincial, because the psychologist can hardly do anything without realizing that for him the acquisition of knowledge opens up the most terrifying prospects of controlling what people do and how they feel. This is true for all of you who are engaged in practice, and as the corpus of psychology gains in certitude and subtlety and skill. I can see that the physicists pleas that what he discovers be used with humanity and be used wisely will seem trivial compared to those pleas which you will have to make and for which you will be responsible."

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture



the real George Washington would probably know that.

Can see the difference between the typical islamic republic blocking large swaths of the internet from the entire country type of censorship vs private corporations doing whatever they fukk they want with their own private property.