In this year of lockdown, it is not just our movements, social lives and work that have been restricted. Big Tech has also stepped up its efforts at closing down what we can say and read. Two issues in particular have been central to Silicon Valley’s escalating war on wrongthink: the Covid-19 pandemic and the US presidential elections.
Within hours of the publication of a New York Post article on October 14th, Twitter users began receiving strange messages. If they tried to share the story—a dubious “exposé” of emails supposedly from the laptop of Hunter Biden, son of the Democratic presidential nominee—they were told that their tweet could not be sent, as the link had been identified as harmful. Many Facebook users were not seeing the story at all: the social network had demoted it in the news feed of its 2.7bn users while its fact-checkers reviewed it.
Taxpayer money was used to pay social media influencers and reality TV stars to promote the NHS Test and Trace system, the government has admitted.
The Mirror cited a social media expert as saying the influencers would usually be paid between £5,000 and £10,000 for an ad post.
Swarms of accounts are amplifying Beijing’s brash new messaging as the country tries to shape the global narrative about the coronavirus and much else.