Fighting “Information Disorder”: Aspen’s Orwellian Commission on Controlling Speech in America

The Aspen Institute has issued the results of its much heralded 16-person Commission on Information Disorder on how to protect the public from misinformation. The commission on disinformation and “building trust” was partially headed by Katie Couric who is still struggling with her own admission that she edited an interview to remove controversial statements by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Aspen recommendations however are a full-throated endorsement of systems of censorship.

The findings and recommendations are found in an 80-page report on how to combat “disinformation” and “misinformation,” which are remarkably ill-defined but treated as a matter of “we know when we see it.”  From the outset, however, the Commission dismissed the long-standing free speech principle that the solution to bad speech is better speech, not censorship. The problem is that many today object to allowing those with opposing views to continue to speak or others continue to listen to them.  The Commission quickly tosses the free speech norm to the side:

“The biggest lie of all, which this crisis thrives on, and which the beneficiaries of mis- and disinformation feed on, is that the crisis itself is uncontainable. One of the corollaries of that mythology is that, in order to fight bad information, all we need is more (and better distributed) good information. In reality, merely elevating truthful content is not nearly enough to change our current course.”

In addition to Couric, the Commission was headed by Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Robinson was also a notable choice since he has been one of the most outspoken advocates of censorship. While some of us have been denouncing the expanding system of censorship by companies like Facebook, Robinson was threatening boycotts if the companies do not “rein in” those considered racists or spreaders of misinformation.

The Commission also includes Prince Harry who has referred to free speech protections under the First Amendment as “bonkers.

Much of the report seems more aspirational in recommendations like “endorsing efforts that focus on exposing how historical and current imbalances of power, access and equity are manufactured and propagated with mis- and disinformation — and on promoting community-led solutions to forging social bonds.”

The Commission also appears to endorse the movement against “objectivity” and “both sideism” in the media: “Commissioners also discussed the need to adjust journalistic norms to avoid false equivalencies between lies and empirical fact in the pursuit of ‘both sides’ and ‘objectivity,’ particularly in areas of public health, civil rights, or election outcomes.”

Former New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones was one of the journalists who pushed the New York Times to denounce its own publication and promise to curtail columns in the future. In so doing, she railed against those who engage in what she called “even-handedness, both sideism” journalism.  Likewise,  Stanford Communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser has publicly called for an end of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters in seeking “social justice.” In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Glasser insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”

However, the most chilling aspect of the report is the obvious invitation for greater forms of censorship. It calls for the government to become involved in combatting misinformation, the scourge of free speech and an invitation for state controls over speech. Ironically, there is no need for such direct government involvement when social media companies are acting as the equivalent of a state media in the censorship of public debates.

The import of the recommendations are abundantly clear:

 “Reducing Harms: Mitigating the worst harms of mis- and disinformation, such as threats to public health and democratic participation, and the targeting of communities through hate speech and extremism.

  • Comprehensive Federal Approach: Establish a comprehensive strategic approach to countering disinformation and the spread of misinformation, including a centralized national response strategy, clearly-defined roles and responsibilities across the Executive Branch, and identified gaps in authorities and capabilities.

  • Public Restoration Fund: Create an independent organization, with a mandate to develop systemic misinformation countermeasures through education, research, and investment in local institutions.

  • Civic Empowerment: Invest and innovate in online education and platform product features to increase users’ awareness of and resilience to online misinformation.

  • Superspreader Accountability: Hold superspreaders of mis- and disinformation to account with clear, transparent, and consistently applied policies that enable quicker, more decisive actions and penalties, commensurate with their impacts — regardless of location, or political views, or role in society.

  • Amendments to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996: 1) Withdraw platform immunity for content that is promoted through paid advertising and post promotion; and 2) Remove immunity as it relates to the implementation of product features, recommendation engines, and design.”

The ill-defined terms of “misinformation” and “disinformation” become more menacing when those terms are used as the basis for a government and private sector system to take “decisive actions and penalties” against those who spread such information.  The Commission is more focused on harm than the specific definition:

“Disinformation inflames long-standing inequalities and undermines lived experiences for historically targeted communities, particularly Black/African American communities. False narratives can sow division, hamper public health initiatives, undermine elections, or deliver fresh marks to grifters and profiteers, and they capitalize on deep-rooted problems within American society. Disinformation pours lighter fluid on the sparks of discord that exist in every community.”

In the end, the Commission dismisses the classic defense of free speech while calling for greater regulation of speech to address “deep-rooted problems in American society.” However, the deepest rooted problems in our society include the denial of free speech. Indeed, the First Amendment is premised on the belief that this right is essential to protecting the other freedoms in the Constitution. It is the right that allows people to challenge their government and others on electoral issues, public health issues, and other controversies.

The Aspen report is the latest evidence of a building anti-free speech movement in the United States. It is a movement that both rejects core free speech values but also seeks to normalize censorship. In the last few years, we have seen an increasing call for private censorship from Democratic politicians and liberal commentators. Faculty and editors are now actively supporting modern versions of book-burning with blacklists and bans for those with opposing political views. Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll has denounced the “weaponization” of free speech, which appears to be the use of free speech by those on the right. So the dean of one of the premier journalism schools now supports censorship.

Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new and more limited role for free speech in society.



92 thoughts on “Fighting “Information Disorder”: Aspen’s Orwellian Commission on Controlling Speech in America”

  1. Leftists are all about using brute force to enforce unwritten laws inside their heads that were never adopted by a law-making body,
    but they don’t want you to act within the law that were actually written down in a law book somewhere.

  2. Minorities should not decide and define what is “racist”. They cannot be objective about it.

  3. White people with guns get demonized by the liberal media like Jews were demonized in Germany.
    They hate whiteness just like Jewishness was hated, so it’s no wonder they are cruel and unfair. It is to be expected.
    They are the ones with the problem.

  4. Often the receiver of a message is left out of the equation, as when a problematic statue is torn down
    by the American Taliban (brainwashed college students) because of the messages it puts out.
    What about your right to receive whatever messages? It used to be the religious right that
    wanted to control pornography and heavy metal records, now it is the loony left
    that wants to control everything under the sun.

  5. If it is printed or the electronic equivalent and is not true it becomes grounds for a defamation lawsuit. Let a jury decide.

  6. Cultural appropriation is an irrelevant concept, because a culture cannot be trademarked.
    It is not intellectual property. So the next time someone brings it up as though it were
    a concept to be taken seriously, tell them to kiss your grits as you rock your feathered headdress.

    1. In my experience, the phenomenon of “cultural appropriation” was created by a group of college students who disparaged an American (i.e. white person) for having a “permanent” hair style, reminiscent of the hair of Africans. The degree of preposterous cultural appropriation on the part of blacks and minorities defies measurement – the ultimate consists of Mexicans and Africans being insinuated into European fairy tales. A movie depicting Cinderella as a Mexican, with Africans integrated into the group of dancers at a very European ball in a Castle, demonstrates the absurdity, ridiculousness and impossibility of affirmative action, quotas, compulsory “diversity,” imposed assimilation and forced integration, all of which, incidentally, are unconstitutional.

  7. This is nothing new. Throughout history information that was not accepted was known as heresy and the punishment for discretions was burning at the stake. The woke declare themselves to be against religion because of the atrocities of the past but they have become exactly what they say they hate. One characteristic that all the worst killers in history have in common is their belief that only they were in the right and it justified any means necessary to bring down the boot and twist it on the heads of those who would not comply. If we allow it they will only continue to prepare the fire. There will be no alternative destination.

  8. “The problem is that many today object to allowing those with opposing views to continue to speak or others continue to listen to them.”

    Umm, not quite. The actual problem is the those on the left object to views of those on the right. And the left controls the media, big tech and government. That THE problem.

  9. Free speech. Suicide is dangerous. Opioids kill over a 100,000 humans in the U.S. in a year. 480,000 die from tobacco and vaping. Covid is way up there too. Many Americans refuse the vaccine and are suicidal.
    The opiods and tobacco are ignored in the media.

    1. ROTFLMAO!

      If a person was Suicidal they’d just need to go take these mRNA Death Jabs/Clot Shots with all the Boosters.

      It’s nice people now having cameras everywhere in life. Now we all can see the videos of the mRNA deaths one after the next, like one of the latest video I viewed earlier today.

      And I’m Cock Sure Freddie & his circles all say Phk U Dr Fauci, Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab.

      ( Dr Fauci’s AIDs), (Freddie knew who was & at least attempted to look good while doing it. And many of us knew those cancer patients that got the Fauci AIDs tainted blood transfusions)

      1. Look, Listen to me now & hear me later.

        Accord to Fauci, Gates, Pfizzer & other “Experts” if one goes to Las Vegas enough times you’re bound to be one of the “Lucky Ones”. 😉

        Why Do YOU Think Athletes Are Dropping Dead All Over the World?


        Nov 17, 2021
        Bill Gates Is EVIL
        Bill Gates Is EVIL

        We know the answer and eventually the world will wake up, but not until more people die.


        It Puts The Needle In The Skin


        Oct 12, 2021

        The Silence of the Sheep

  10. Where would today’s sacred truths- the equal rights of lgbt, women, people of colour- be without freedom of speech? Despite the “misinformation” of these advocates, their speech was protected, their voices heard, people listened and the world changed. I remember that some people thought that such speech was dangerous, disruptive, harmful-and should be squelched. But they were not silenced. Now it appears many who have benefited from our freedom want to crush it. this slippery slope leads to an abyss of tyranny.
    Do we really want to live in a world where people barking “shut up”, “do what you are told”, “don’t backtalk” and “we don’t want to hear this” are the words of the day?

  11. Free Speech Shouldn’t Mean ‘Right To Misinform’

    One realizes that censorship is one form of tyranny. But misinformation campaigns are another form of tyranny. The internet and social media have created broad avenues for misinformation that was never imagined possible just 30 years ago. Professor Turley has to realize that ‘both’ present dangers to democracy.

    1. One realizes that censorship is one form of tyranny. But misinformation campaigns are another form of tyranny. The internet and social media have created broad avenues for misinformation that was never imagined possible just 30 years ago.

      Censorship and misinformation have been around as long mankind has existed. The internet and social media have merely exposed the fundamental problem: not everyone is qualified to safely “drive” on the information superhighway. He!!, many shouldn’t get behind the wheel, let alone exit their driveway.


        Obese Olly says:

        “Censorship and misinformation have been around as long mankind has existed”.

        Olly, until the internet age, people seeking to spread literature shunned by mainstream media had only pamphlets and underground newspapers to get their message out. And those vehicles were generally inadequate for widespread consumption.

        1. And that’s how you earned the title Paint Chips.

          Those aren’t “vehicles,” for information/disinformation consumption. They are the roadways consumers of information/disinformation access. Consumers have gone from 1 lane dirt roads to information/disinformation super highways. And in a world where driving on this super highway requires an even greater ability to think critically, more and more people are proving to be horrible drivers.

          You’d be doing a public service by finding the nearest exit ramp.

    2. “Free Speech Shouldn’t Mean ‘Right To Misinform’”

      I must’ve missed the “misinform” exception in 1A.

      Who decides what it means to “misinform?” And how is that decision enforced?

      I suppose your comment could be considered “misinformation.”

  12. “In addition to Couric, the Commission was headed by Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”
    Now that’s an Algonquin Round-table to be sure. Now with Prince Harry the Beard and throwing in Doc, Sleepy, Grumpy and Dopey and you’ve Katie and the Seven Fascists.

  13. The truth that leftists always lose in the arena of ideas, gets validated repeatedly.

    There is only one reason the left is focused on censorship. Free and open debate exposes their ideas as failures.

    (as a side note. the left really hates The People, and double hates Federalism. Our form of govt that puts The People, and The States as soveriegn. Not ruled by the Federal Government.)

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