Meg Lee Chin

I remember being taught at school that the Russians were brainwashed by their government. It was the 1960's and we were in the midst of the Cold War. Miss Macgregor said Russian people were fed false information by their government who controlled every aspect of their lives. I didn't know what "brainwash" meant but visions of zombies filled me with horror as I imagined scenes from a dystopian sci-fi novel.

But in 1990 my band Crunch became one of the first western bands to perform behind the former iron curtain. So I finally got a chance to actually go there and see for myself.

Imagine my surprise at discovering that the average 12 year old Russian child knew more about global politics than the average American adult?

This changed my view of the world entirely. How could our "free" and "open" media actually create a less informed society? The answer was simple: The Russians knew their news was propaganda. We Americans believed our news to be free. Knowing their news was not to be trusted, the Russians supplemented their state-sponsored news with gossip on the street. By contrast we Americans had an almost blind faith in our mainstream news.

The truth was that US media had not been "free" or "open" since Reagan deregulated the media in the 1980s. Prior to this time, there were anti-monopoly laws. But today 90% of all mainstream media and entertainment in the US is owned by just 6 multinational corporations. Hence the mainstream media has become merely a mouthpiece for a handful of special interests. Journalists rarely do any actual reporting anymore.

Instead, mainstream news has become more like press releases coming from the head office. By contrast, internet news is more like gossip on the shop floor of the factory. Any worker with little access to the head office would do well to pay attention to both the press releases and the gossip. We all know there's a lot of rubbish on the internet. We all know anyone can post anything. But like the Russians, we can decide for ourselves what is real.

This created an opportunity for us to become one of the most informed generations in history. But this victory could be short-lived. For information equality is under threat. Not only have the most powerful people already seized control of our mainstream media, they now want to micromanage the gossip on the shop floor too. The entertainment industrial complex has created a new enemy called "fake news". Today billionaires like George Soros and governments invest millions into algorithms and methods to censor information on social media. Hence through special interests, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Youtube are headed in the same direction as the mainstream press.

In March of 2019 - just 3 days before the UK was scheduled to leave, the EU passed Article 13 which has effectively crippled independent media, bloggers and vloggers. Worryingly, the UK didn't leave. So will Britain remain ringfenced into a Digital Fortress Europe? Is this the template for totalitarian control of the internet?

Who should decide what is fake news? Should these decisions be made by the powerful few? Regardless of where your allegiances lie, no matter if you are Republican, Democrat, Green Party or otherwise, the monopoly of information is one of the greatest threats facing us today.

We must resist the movement toward the sanitization of digital information. Don't believe the hype. It is all just merely an excuse to maintain control. Just say "no" to the censorship of our internet. We the people can decide for ourselves what is "fake news".