News & Commentary

Rumble Pushes Back as UK MP Pressures Social Media Companies to Demonetize Russell Brand

Elon Musk has also criticized the MP, but his words ring rather hollow given that he has repeatedly censored at the behest of foreign governments

A member of the UK Parliament (MP), Caroline Dinenage, has been sending letters to social media companies like Rumble and TikTok, asking whether they intend “to join YouTube in suspending [Russell] Brand’s ability to earn money on the platform.”

Rumble shared a copy of the letter that they received – addressed directly to their CEO Chris Pavlovski – on Wednesday:

Here’s Rumbles reply, which they also published on X:

Today we received an extremely disturbing letter from a committee chair in the UK Parliament.

While Rumble obviously deplores sexual assault, rape, and all serious crimes, and believes that both alleged victims and the accused are entitled to a full and serious investigation, it is vital to note that recent allegations against Russell Brand have nothing to do with content on Rumble’s platform.

Just yesterday, YouTube announced that, based solely on these media accusations, it was barring Mr. Brand from monetizing his video content. Rumble stands for very different values. We have devoted ourselves to the vital cause of defending a free internet – meaning an internet where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform.

We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so. Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble. We don’t agree with the behavior of many Rumble creators, but we refuse to penalize them for actions that have nothing to do with our platform.

Although it may be politically and socially easier for Rumble to join a cancel culture mob, doing so would be a violation of our company’s values and mission. We emphatically reject the UK Parliament’s demands.

A similar letter was sent to TikTok. Letters were also sent to British media companies like Channel 4, the BBC, and GB News.

While Dinenage is the sole signatory of the missives, she says in her Rumble letter (shown in full above) that her “Committee is raising questions” about Brand with broadcasters and production companies, and that “we” are “also looking at his use of social media.” She uses the word “we” five more times in the letter after that, after only using the word “I” once.

A news release about (some of) the letters was also published to the committee’s official government website, further implying that Dinenage is writing them in her official capacity as Committee Chair – not just as a solo effort.

Brand – in case anyone isn’t aware – has recently been accused of “rape, sexual assault and abuse” in a number of high profile media reports based mostly (if not completely) on anonymous accounts.

He has not been convicted of anything, or even charged.

For his part, Brand has denied the allegations, calling them “extremely disturbing” and insisting that his relationships have been “absolutely always consensual”:

“This was never about Russell Brand,” opined lawyer and political commentator David Freiheit, better known as Viva Frei. “This was a political pretext so governments across the world can coordinate with social media companies to acquire total control over dissenting voices on the Internet.”

X (formerly Twitter) also reportedly received a letter about Brand from Dinenage, according to The Independent.

However, the paper does not appear to have provided an actual copy of the letter, nor explained where they allegedly got it from.

Either way, it does not look like X CEO Linda Yaccarino has commented on Dinenage’s campaign thus far.

Musk, on the other hand, did make several remarks, calling it “Outrageous behavior by this minister of censorship!” and saying “Good for you” to Rumble regarding their response to Dinenage.

Musk also said that Brand is not “suspended on this platform,” adding that “Innocent until proven guilty” is a “wise and fair maxim.”

“I support Russell Brand,” he said a few days earlier. “That man is not evil.”

It’s an interesting position for Musk and X to be in considering that they recently censored certain content in Turkey at the behest of the Turkish government one day before the country’s national election.

As reported by Decensored News at the time:

Musk has personally met and spoken with Turkey’s incumbent President Erdogan multiple times over the years, going back to at least 2017.

His company, SpaceX was contracted by the Turkish government to launch their Turksat 5A and 5B satellites in 2021 – a launch which sparked protests over concerns about potential military applications. SpaceX is a major Pentagon contractor.

According to Reuters, today’s election is “seen as one of the most consequential in Turkey’s modern history,” with Erdogan “facing the biggest political challenge of his two-decade rule.”

“Polls show [challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s] support is near the critical 50% threshold,” says the same Reuters article. “The vote will decide not only who leads Turkey, a NATO-member country of 85 million, but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed amid a deep cost of living crisis, and the shape of its foreign policy.”

Musk just met with Erdogan yet again earlier this week – Monday, September 18, 2023 – while the latter was in New York City for the UN General Assembly.

The two reportedly discussed a potential Tesla factory in Turkey, further collaboration between SpaceX and Turkey’s space program, Artificial Intelligence, Starlink licensure in Turkey, and “Turkey’s armed aerial drone program.”

Quoting from the same Decensored News article from May:

According to recent reporting by Rest of World, Twitter has – per their own self-reported data – been complying with a higher percentage of “government orders for censorship or surveillance” under Musk than before, “especially in countries such as Turkey and India.”

They further explain: “Under previous ownership, Twitter actively resisted requests from many of these same regimes. For two weeks in 2014, the platform was banned from Turkey, in part due to its refusal to globally block a post accusing a former government official of corruption. . . . In July 2022, the company sued the Indian government over an order to restrict the visibility of specific tweets. After Musk’s takeover, however, Twitter complied with more than 100 block orders from the country, including those against journalists, foreign politicians, and the poet Rupi Kaur.”

Musk also claimed in May that this type of censorship is “par for the course,” drawing pushback from “alt tech” platforms Minds and Gab.

“False,” wrote Gab’s CEO Andrew Torba at the time. “We turn down requests from governments to censor on a weekly basis. We’ve been clear that it is happening and we reject it every time, unlike Twitter.”

“Many companies refuse to censor for China,” wrote Minds in response to Musk’s comment. “Why is Turkey, Pakistan, Germany or India different?”

In addition to routinely censoring at the behest of foreign governments, X has repeatedly banned and shadowbanned dissident accounts, particularly critics of Musk.

In most of these cases, the billionaire’s self-described “wise and fair maxim” of “innocent until proven guilty” did not apply, as these actions were taken without the users having even been accused – let alone charged or convicted in court – of any crime. In fact, no reason is usually even cited by X at all.

The company’s official policy is to censor “lawful” speech that they subjectively decide is “awful”:

This kind of vaguely-defined and selectively-enforced censorship regime predates Yaccarino by many months.

See, for instance: “Musk: Twitter Will ‘Max Deboost’ & Demonetize ‘Negative’ & ‘Hate’ Speech,” from December of 2022.

Yaccarino wasn’t hired until May of 2023, and she reports to Musk, not the other way around.

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UPDATE: According to reporting by The Grayzone‘s Kit Klarenberg, Dinenage “was responsible for London’s crackdown on dissent during the Covid-19 pandemic” while serving as the UK government’s Digital and Culture minister through September of 2021.

Her husband, Mark Lancaster, also “helped lead London’s blitz on pandemic dissent as deputy commander of 77th Brigade, the British Army’s psychological warfare division” – a role he held from June of 2018 until July 2022.

Specialized in “behaviour and attitudinal change,” the 77th Brigade maintains a vast militia of real, fake, and automated social media accounts to disseminate and amplify pro-state messaging, and discredit domestic and foreign enemies.

During the pandemic, the 77th Brigade targeted people within Britain and across the West with advanced psychological manipulation strategies honed on battlefields against enemy militaries. The online profile of a 77th Brigade veteran notes they were deployed straight from a tour of the Middle East – where they “successfully implemented behavioral change strategies against ISIS” – to “countering dis- and misinformation during the Covid-19 crisis.”

Additionally, Dineage was “personally responsible for overseeing construction of the repressive, World Economic Forum-endorsed Online Safety Bill, which has been criticized by rights groups for threatening the rights to free expression, and privacy.”

“For her leading role in crafting the speech-muzzling bill, Dinenage was honored by Princess Royal with the title of Dame Commander of the British Empire,” writes Klarenberg.

You can read his full article with more details here.

Image Credit: Raph_PH (CC BY 2.0). May be modified from original.