social media censorship google facebook twitter
A group of self-identified 'fake news victims' recently published an open letter in Avaaz.org to social media giants and their CEOs: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Susan Wojcicki (Youtube). Their plea goes as follows:
"This week victims of disinformation from across the world have come to Silicon Valley to confront social media companies for the first time. The meetings were highly emotional, bringing social media employees to tears, as they came face-to-face with the human cost of the crisis fueled by their platforms. Following their meetings, these victims have issued an open letter calling for urgent action to stop the spread of disinformation and to recognize the deadly damage it can cause."
One of the 'victims' is Finnish mainstream media journalist, Jessikka Aro, who focuses almost exclusively on bashing Russia and Putin, and 'exposing the trolls in our midst'.

Aro became a visible 'Russia-expert' in Finland after writing an article in 2015 filled with wild speculations about the St. Petersburg 'Troll Factory', i.e the Internet Research Agency (IRA). In reality the IRA was revealed to be not much more than a low-level social media marketing (spamming) company with zero impact on the 2016 elections. Just as the whole Russia-collusion story has been proven to be false, the basis of Aro's journalistic career rests on similar outlandish conspiracy theories. Aro has won international awards for her work, and in March this year was set to travel to Washington and claim a $5,000 grant for winning the International Women of Courage Award issued by the US State Department, until it was rescinded because someone there came across her bashing of Trump as 'Russian agent' on Twitter.

Aro Tweet
In one hilarious episode, Aro's hysterical Russian troll-themed news reports provoked some level-headed ordinary Finns to create a satirical Facebook group called 'Russian Troll Army'. But Aro's fanatical belief that evil Russians are everywhere meant that she missed the point of the group and instead took it as further evidence that 'Russian trolls' are out to get her!

Later, when a Finnish mainstream newspaper published an article critical of her work, she used it as 'evidence' of how ideas made by 'trolls' and 'fake news propagandists' infiltrate into mainstream media (min 31:00 in this video). Aro seems to really enjoy indulging in self-fulfilling prophecies, and she sure loves to play the victim card. Then again, who knows, maybe 'someone' really did send those scary messages she says she keeps receiving, just to watch her descend into further fits of hysteria because she's such an easy mark.

Aro bears all the hallmarks of a so-called 'useful idiot' (of which there are many when it comes to anti-Russia hysteria in the West) and is either oblivious or nonchalant enough to be used as a willing propagandist. That said, her efforts are not without some reward; her constant agitating against Russia and promotion of the pathological idea of 'hate speech' has certainly raised her profile.

In October last year, Aro participated in a court case brought by the Finnish state against Ilja Janitskin, the founding editor of MV-Lehti - a popular Finnish alternative news site - and a candidate in Finland's presidential election until his arrest last year following extradition from Spain. Janitskin was charged on 16 counts - most of them minor infractions like copyright infringement - and convicted on all counts. The two serious charges concerned aggravated defamation - specifically against Jessikka Aro - the primary evidence for which was a series of articles criticising her and her work on 'Russian trolls'.

Those articles were written by Johan Bäckman, an author and prominent social activist in Finland, and published on MV-Lehti. Here is Bäckman outlining the legal case against Janitskin during an interview in 2017:

Since then, Bäckman and another person working for MV-Lehti were charged alongside Janitskin. Despite suffering from cancer, the court found Janitskin guilty and sentenced him to 22 months in prison - essentially for publishing Bäckman's articles - while Bäckman received a one-year suspended sentence. Both were fined a combined 136,000 euros, to be paid to Jessikka Aro - all on the basis that they were waging a 'hate campaign' against her. Russophobes everywhere rejoiced, and - with very twisted logic - Finland's World Press 'Freedom Index' was raised.

There is a monument in neighboring Estonia called the 'Bronze Soldier of Talinn', a symbol of that country's liberation from the Nazis (alternatively, to revisionists, a symbol of Soviet oppression). Bäckman, long-known in Finland for his pro-Russian views, had made a habit of giving miniature Bronze Soldiers to Finnish journalists and other public figures, as part of his activism on behalf of a group called Finland Without Nazism. In 2015, he gifted one to Jessikka Aro, who accepted it in good humor at the time.
jessikka aro

Finnish journalist Jessica Aro (left) 'replying' to Bäckman's gift of a miniature Bronze Soldier. Does she seem violently threatened?
But during the trial against him, this exchange was submitted by Aro's legal team as evidence of Bäckman's 'hateful harassment' of her, with the judge's decision agreeing that it constituted a "violent threat":
"Given the military symbolism associated with the monument, the court finds that the journalist Aro regarded the miniature as violently threatening, despite the fact that she at first treated the miniature playfully and with a touch of humor."
In the letter Aro recently co-authored to social media chiefs, she stated:
I, Jessikka Aro, decided to defend my country's freedom. As a journalist, I investigated Russian troll farms and the spread of disinformation attacking my nation. Although my work has been celebrated internationally, I am now a constant victim of disinformation, death threats and harassment on your platform.

From being called an agent, to being accused of being a criminal NATO drug-dealer, I am being attacked. But this is not just about me: all of Europe, the US and many other regions are under threat, and as a journalist, it strikes me how little you are doing to protect free citizens and democracies.
Aro bases her victimhood here on two claims that need to be addressed. The first one is the drug-dealer claim. MV-Lehti (the Finnish alt-media site that was sued) reported years ago - with court files attached - details about her past drug abuse:
Court documents from the Finnish city court of Hyvinkää show that Ms. Jessikka Henni Maria Aro, born in 1980, was convicted of dealing extremely dangerous illegal drugs and long-lasting daily-injected amphetamine usage, which lasted for at least a year.

The Finnish prosecutor demanded a prison term for Ms. Aro, but as a result she was only fined on the basis that she allegedly tried to stop dealing and using illegal drugs. [...]

According to the court documents, Ms. Aro was obtaining random treatment, but did continue to use drugs. She was convicted together with a gang consisting of five persons, all of Finnish nationals.

J.Aro court verdict

Court document of J.Aro drug abuse verdict. According to the document she was using amphetamine daily for at least a year and was passing these drugs to her friends.
The fact that she has been convicted in court of using and dealing amphetamines shows that this is not disinformation. Since she is an award-winning journalist and a public figure with wide influence - as she said, her work has been celebrated internationally - shedding light on her past illegal behavior is, journalistically and ethically, justified (but not in Finland).

The second claim - accusations questioning her journalistic impartiality - are also valid. Besides the fact that she's been a panel expert at a NATO conference (Warsaw Summit Experts' Forum), where she spoke about the fabled "Russian threat", there's also the connection with groups of shady NGOs such as Integrity Initiative/Institute for Statecraft, which were exposed through leaked documents to be vehicles of an orchestrated disinformation/influence campaign by British intelligence.

Journalists Max Blumenthal and Mohamed Elmaazi, among others, wrote about this six months ago:
Recent hacked documents have revealed an international network of politicians, journalists, academics, researchers and military officers, all engaged in highly deceptive covert propaganda campaigns funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), NATO, Facebook and hardline national security institutions.

This "network of networks", as one document refers to them, centers around an ironically named outfit called the Integrity Initiative. And it is all overseen by a previously unknown England-based think tank registered in Scotland, the Institute for Statecraft, which has operated under a veil of secrecy.

The whole operation appears to be run by, and in conjunction with, members of British military intelligence.
Another Finnish alternative news site, Vastavalkea, also exposed how Jessikka Aro is connected to this network: she was part of a proposed panel composed of several different NGOs, including the aforementioned Institute for Statecraft.

This proposed UK-funded program is called EXPOSE-Network and its budget was to be nearly £10 million for the 2018-2021 period.

Submitted to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the leaked document called 'Network of NGOs', this group had a modus operandi of counter-propaganda that "goes beyond fact-checking or myth-busting":
To effectively counter disinformation we must therefore deploy a broad suite of approaches which go beyond fact-checking or myth-busting, and use audience-centric communications to undermine the credibility of disinformation sources for specific target audiences whilst building their resilience in the long term. [...] Bringing together organisations including ZINC Network, the Institute for Statecraft, Aktis Strategy, Bellingcat, DFR Lab, the Media Diversity Institute, Toro Risk Solutions and Ecorys, our Consortium combines recognised market leaders in understanding, monitoring, and countering Kremlin-backed disinformation. [...]

Our consortium comprises experts in safeguarding and risk management, including [...] Jessikka Aro, a Finnish journalist and advisor on withstanding personal attacks as a result of exposing disinformation.
Jessikka Aro Network

Jessikka Aro, presented here as one of the experts in the leaked document.
Many of these organisations are well known for their connection to and participation in propaganda warfare. For example, Bellingcat, whose founder has worked previously at the Atlantic Council think-tank, is backed by the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has long been known to act as CIA front to push for regime change around the world. Bellingcat has, conveniently, always confirmed the narrative which supports the Western geopolitical agenda.

Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is another Atlantic Council project that basically offers modern-day witch-hunt services for the establishment through its extremely biased group of "digital sherlocks". They are also Facebook's official election time partners in "monitoring for misinformation and foreign interference and also working to help educate citizens as well as civil society."

And as I mentioned earlier, these seemingly impartial organisations would in reality have worked for the British security services. Riikka Söyring, author of Vastavalkea news site, writes:
"Leaked terms of reference document reveals that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office was searching for subcontractors in order to create a network of NGOs, which then would reveal disinformation under the payroll of the UK government. In other words, these 'non-governmental organizations' would be funded by the UK Foreign Office. NGOs and journalists hired by the government would be part of FCO's Counter Disinformation and Media Development (CDMD) programme."
So rather than campaigning against online harassment and victimization, there seems to be a more insidious reason behind this call for internet censorship. The more plausible reason is actually found in the letter written by Aro and others to social media chiefs. There is already a purge ongoing against dissidents of all stripes on social media platforms, where ordinary people attempting to exercise their right to free speech are being silenced, and this letter is just another pathetic attempt to give credibility to that ongoing suffocation of free speech:
"You couldn't protect us, but you can protect others. And we have a number of ideas to help. Why don't you send corrections to every person exposed to malicious disinformation?

Why don't you continue to detox your algorithms to make them less focused on likes and addictive content, and more focused on positive connections and accurate information? Key elections are approaching around the world, creating a toxic political ecosystem where extremists are using your platforms to polarise our democracies - and people like us are paying the highest price.

How much more pain, death and suffering will it take for you to clean up your social platforms and defend us all against disinformation? It can end here. It has to end here."
Aside from looking totally ridiculous by thinking that having a heated Twitter exchange is equivalent to being in a war zone, the underlying agenda seems to be to remove all alternative voices ahead of the coming 2020 US elections. Apparently Facebook maintains a list of 'hate agents' (including conservative voices like Candace Owens) that is used to monitor and potentially ban anyone for 'hate crimes', with hate crimes defined as anything that does not fit the personal, social, cultural or political bias of the censors.

Indeed, it is increasingly dangerous for the average person to express thoughts that challenge the politically correct ideas and pro-establishment narratives of the official censors, and the message of Aro's open letter apparently resonated strongly enough with Twitter and Facebook executives that they decided to hold private meetings with the group.

Official and widespread censorship of opinion and thought is a very dangerous path to follow. History is replete with examples of what happened to regimes which pursued that kind of policy. In our modern era however, these pernicious policies are more difficult to recognize for what they are because they are not being imposed by an obvious dictatorship but instead by misguided proponents of 'social justice' and under the guise of 'freedom' itself.