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American Thought Leaders


March 19, 2023
Join us for our ATL Sunday Watch Party! During the Watch Party this Sunday at 7:30pm ET, everyone can watch part one of our episode with Mike Benz for FREE—even without a subscription. Feel free to share this link with your friends and family! This episode was originally published in Feb 2, 2023. “Whoever can control the Department of Dirty Tricks is able to use it to remove all opposition," says Mike Benz. He is the executive director of the Foundation for Freedom Online and a former State Department diplomat under the Trump administration. The Twitter Files were just the tip of the iceberg, says Benz, who has been tracking the rise of the West’s censorship industry for years. "22 million tweets were categorized as misinformation for purposes of takedowns or throttling through [the Election Integrity Partnership]," Benz said. “It wasn't just government individual takedown requests. It was government pressure … to create whole new categories of things to censor and then arming them with the artificial intelligence to then automatically scan and ban the new thought violations.” In this comprehensive two-part interview, Benz breaks down the major players in today’s censorship regime and how tactics once used abroad were deployed to target Americans and so-called election “delegitimization” or COVID “misinformation” online. “Graphika was immediately working with NATO's essentially psychological warfare branch—the Hybrid Center of Excellence—in January 2020 … They had this sophisticated typography of what right-wing media was saying, what left-wing media was saying, what was being shared, the nodes and links between nodes of all the different narrative discourses on social media.” “They will have a revolving door at the professional level. That is, people who are in government roles, for example, in Misinformation, Disinformation, and Malinformation at DHS, will get their next jobs at the German Marshall Fund or the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab … It is a career path. It is a path to power,” Benz says. WATCH PART TWO HERE FULL TRANSCRIPT Jan Jekielek: Mike Benz, it's such a pleasure to have you on "American Thought Leaders". Mike Benz: Thanks for having me. Mr. Jekielek: Mike, in our conversations, you told me that you have a mission of fostering a free and open internet. Where are we at now? You're basically saying that this is not the case here. Mr. Benz: We're very far removed from the days of what I consider to be the golden age of the internet between 2006 and 2016, when you had this combination of a mature social media ecosystem where people could share information, basically a pure information meritocracy. After that, the political turbulence of the events of 2016, instituted a revenge of the gatekeepers, an increasingly, incrementally more regimented system of censorship that we are now in the process of negotiating our opposition to. Mr. Jekielek: You're saying that something profound happened in 2016 that changed the ecosystem dramatically. You said it was political turbulence, but what actually happened? How did the system change? Mr. Benz: There ...
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          About the show
          At a time when our nation is becoming increasingly polarized, media often ignore viewpoints and stories that are worthy of attention. American Thought Leaders, hosted by The Epoch Times Senior Editor Jan Jekielek and his reporting team, features in-depth discussions with some of America’s most influential thought leaders on pertinent issues facing our nation today.
          About Jan Jekielek
          Jan Jekielek is a Senior Editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, “American Thought Leaders.” Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, & international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as Website Chief Editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film “Finding Manny.“
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