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Mar 20, 2024

Following years of pressure from Israel lobbyists and British spooks, I was finally banned by Twitter/X. What does my removal say about Elon Musk, who flaunts his opposition to censorship, while promising to build an “everything app” where you could lose access to banking and messaging for violating dubious speech codes? 

On February 17, I was suspended from Twitter/X without warning. The cause was mass-reporting by Zionist activists I’d offended. My removal was justified on the basis that I violated X’s “rules against violent speech.” Having endlessly condemned violence on the platform – in particular, the Gaza genocide – I’m flummoxed. Not least because a post from one of my Zionist detractors, which openly calls for me to be “battered on a weekly basis” over my political views, remains extant today.

Despite repeated requests for clarity from X, I have no idea whether I will ever be reinstated. In February, I received from “support” stating the suspension will only be reversed after three months. But just a few sentences later, the email contradicted itself, stating in closing that the ban would last just a month. Meanwhile, whenever I log into X, my profile appears to have zero followers or follows, I cannot view or search anyone’s tweets (including my own), and my DMs are inaccessible. Have they been erased? A landing page message reads:

“Your account is permanently in read-only mode, which means you can’t post, repost, or like content. You won’t be able to create new accounts.”

In January 2024, X purged a number of prominent, predominantly left-wing users without warning or explanation. Their suspensions were lifted only after a deluge of complaints poured in to the personal account of Elon Musk, the libertarian tech maven and self-proclaimed free speech warrior who purchased Twitter with his personal fortune.

I am grateful that scores of X users have done the same following my own suspension. However, Musk has kept mum about my case. While I may not have as many followers as those abruptly defenestrated in January, my work has been widely shared on X, with some posts gaining millions of impressions. Most-viewed was my December 2023 revelation that an unadvertised and unnoticed Russian government plane was parked in Washington DC’s Dulles airport, a visit which likely represented the beginning of the Ukraine proxy war’s end.

This is quite a remarkable turnaround, given the concerted effort to suppress my Twitter output for as long as I have used the platform. One of the most illuminating disclosures in the Twitter Files exposed how the hyper-censorious regime that controlled the social media platform before Musk’s takeover required explicit authorization from managers to throttle accounts with more than 100,000 followers. Until then, engineers had free rein to covertly censor, suppress and shadowban anyone they wished, however they wished, without any oversight whatsoever. 

This secret protocol offered a compelling explanation for curious developments regarding my own Twitter account in Summer 2022. For 18 months following my 2021 registration for Twitter, my follower count remained stubbornly low. This was until The Grayzone unmasked celebrity “journalist” Paul Mason as a British intelligence asset who directly coordinated attacks on anti-war figures and movements with a “friend” in the Foreign Office. I was the lead investigator on this series of reports.

The exposés generated significant attention the world over. My followers duly began multiplying by hundreds daily. Curiously, however, whenever I was a few dozen shy of 10,000, the total would crash back down. Evidently, Twitter staffers – and powerful forces breathing down their necks – were absolutely determined no one saw what I had to say. 

Besides the exposes of Mason I worked on, there was my October 2019 report revealing Gordon Macmillan, a senior Twitter executive, as a member of 77th Brigade, the British Army’s shadowy psychological warfare unit which specializes in the weaponization of social media. 

Had Macmillan and his fellow national security cadres exacted revenge on me when I was finally banned from Twitter/X? And what does my permanent removal say about X’s new boss, Elon, who advertises X as a platform that “champions free speech,” while promising to build an “everything app” where you could presumably lose access to your bank and messaging history for violating dubious speech codes? 

Frozen out of ‘everything’ by Elon

Gordon MacMillan was one of many high-ranking staffers rightly sacked from the company upon Musk’s acquisition. From my perspective, while the owner’s politics couldn’t be further removed from my own, I have largely defended and embraced the changes he has implemented. 

During an October 26, 2023 all-hands meeting at Twitter/X headquarters, Musk opened his remarks by announcing that he was “transforming the company from what it was, Twitter 1.0, to the everything app.”

He vowed to establish “a single application that encompasses everything. You can do payments, messages, video, calling, whatever you’d like, from one single, convenient place.” 

“We just don’t have that,” Musk lamented. “It doesn’t exist outside of China.”

I might not have been using X for “everything”, but it was an extremely useful tool in my personal and professional life. My banning offered me a stark illustration of the dangers of relying so heavily on a privately-owned social media app, especially one that provides features that are almost essential in a digital world.

Many are anxious about the rise of digital payments and currencies, for this would inevitably grant financial institutions, and governments, monopoly power over how citizens can spend their cash, and even more gravely, whether they can. Fall foul of such powerful forces, even accidentally, and you might find yourself frozen out of your life savings, perhaps forever. If X is to truly become an “everything” app, the implications of a ban will be greatly multiplied, with suspensions effectively locking a user out of every sphere of their public and private life.

We haven’t reached that point yet. But the consequences of X’s arbitrary suspension process are very real. There are now scores of people — comrades, collaborators, critics, and journalistic sources — from whom I’m now cut off, perhaps forever. Meanwhile, the contents of our conversations seem to have been rendered permanently inaccessible – except, perhaps, by Musk himself. 

The vaguely-explained, arbitrary suspension means I’m not only being deprived the ability to express my opinions in a public forum, hold the powerful to account, expose hypocrisy, criminality and even genocide, and directly engage with my supporters and detractors. It also means I’ve lost a platform through which to conduct sensitive conversations with sources across the globe.

The start of something worse?

In a June 2019 op-ed, United Nations special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer wrote that once WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been “dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide.” A key component of the WikiLeaks founder’s “isolation” was the Ecuadorian Embassy cutting off his internet access in March 2018.

As I previously revealed, that act was just one aspect of a wide-ranging black propaganda campaign executed by a British intelligence cutout called the Integrity Initiative. By falsely framing Assange as a Russian agent, London successfully pressured Quito into banning his personal visits as well as any and all communication with the outside world. Immediately thereafter, British police launched ‘Operation Pelican,’ a scheme designed to extract Assange from the embassy and ultimately transfer him into US custody. 

Operation Pelican succeeded one year later, and Assange has festered in Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s Gitmo, ever since. As he awaits extradition to Washington, where he could face 175 years in a supermax prison, Assange has been blocked from communicating with the outside world. Press photographers were even prohibited from capturing his wedding day inside the jail on the grounds of national security. Is my Twitter/X suspension part of a similar effort to isolate me, so when the British state deprives me of my most fundamental rights, it won’t provoke public outrage?

Alternatively, recall the role Twitter/X played in the case of independent journalist Steve Sweeney, who was arbitrarily detained in Mexico while on his way to cover Nicaragua’s November 2021 election, which the US State Department had condemned. Sweeney might have languished in prison for an interminable period had word not immediately spread across Twitter, resulting in his release after three nightmarish days in custody without food or clean water. Activists in Mexico were at the forefront of the push to free Sweeney. 

Since May 2023, when British counter-terror officials detained, interrogated, and digitally strip searched me for six hours without granting my right to silence or privacy, I have found travel unnerving — particularly the act of arriving at, walking through, and exiting airports. 

I don’t know what information global databases display about me, which claims regarding my character have been shared with foreign governments, or whether I’ve been erroneously flagged as an international security threat. 

Influential security state-tied figures like Paul Mason have openly clamored for me to be jailed as punishment for my journalistic activities. Heidi Bachram, the British pro-Israel activist who led the campaign to mass-report me on X over my solidarity with Palestine, has expressed hope that I “will never again be allowed to visit” my homeland. Her supporters have echoed the sentiment.

There are clear indications that a number of shadowy, intelligence-linked elements are monitoring my activity online. In November 2023, an Irish defense consultant who claims to have “advised government, military and civil society actors in Ukraine and other European countries regarding defence policy,” bizarrely alleged: “Klarenberg…showed his FSB signature training as [sic] early 2014.” 

I have no idea what they were alluding to, and certainly have never received any training by Russian intelligence. But it’s not unreasonable to think I’d be in the military alliance’s crosshairs. That same month, the NATO Stratcom Center of Excellence described me as one of the “agents and sympathizers” of a “hostile regime” in a report which effusively advocated for the cyberbullying, harassment, stalking, and doxxing of anti-imperialists.

British censorship org targets The Grayzone?

Apparently not content with simply targeting me personally, these same forces have relentlessly attacked The Grayzone as well. In August 2022, longtime British intelligence operative Ross Burley publicly smeared The Grayzone as a “Russian propaganda outfit” and asserted it was “incredibly irresponsible for YouTube and other social media companies” to platform our journalists. The cause of his ire may have been our 2021 report on leaked files that exposed details of Britain’s wide-ranging, clandestine intelligence operations targeting Russia.

In response, Twitter took the unprecedented step of applying a “warning” label to each and every tweet linked to this report, cautioning users it contained “materials obtained through hacking.” The policy backfired, however, after countless users mocked the label and turned it into a meme. Others, meanwhile, suggested Twitter’s label simply amounted to a seal of authenticity that confirmed the leaked material’s veracity. As to the question of why the social network chose to slap this label on The Grayzone exclusively, and overlook Western-funded “OSINT” collectives such as Bellingcat which routinely publish stolen material, recent developments may provide some clue.

In February, Politico revealed that Britain’s Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee had been unsuccessfully attempting to woo major social media platforms to join its board. The Committee is a Ministry of Defence-run censorship mechanism tasked with dictating which security-related stories mainstream media is authorized to report. When the Committee asks British journalists and editors to withhold information from the public, they almost always comply.

Politico quoted Geoffrey Dodds, a DSMA secretary and former military official, as saying Google and Meta were among the social media giants on the Committee’s wishlist. He proposed that tech firms monitor their platforms for content relating to Britain’s “national security,” then seek the Committee’s advice on whether to censor. Yet his effort has so far been unsuccessful, as the companies reportedly “felt that they couldn’t sit on [the board] because it was too linked to government.”

Still, Dodds remained optimistic that the British government would “come up with a grand bargain with the tech giants…then hopefully, we’ll be able to get the tech giants back on board.” Politico said the Committee was “steadfast” in its determination to get social media firms aboard. Dodds remarked that moving forward, “there’s probably going to be less print, just as much broadcasting, and a continued increase in social media and online [news]…So we need to get into this game.”

Publicly-available minutes of the DSMA Committee’s June 2023 meeting show that the body’s Deputy Secretary, retired Navy Captain Jon Perkins, disclosed that between October 2022 and April 2023, material of “extreme sensitivity (in national security terms)” had been “protected from inadvertent disclosure” thanks to the Committee’s interventions with journalists. This material was “of the most sensitive nature he had seen” since joining.

While the “nature” of that “material” was unstated, Perkins may well have been referring to a series of investigations The Grayzone published throughout that precise period detailing London’s secret and pivotal role in escalating the Ukraine proxy war. Given this outlet’s reputation as a leading source of insight on the cloak-and-dagger machinations of the US and British-led Western national security state, the DSMA Committee would welcome its suppression on Twitter/X and other platforms at least as much as it did my indefinite suspension.

After years of pressure from Western security state operatives, I was finally banished from Twitter/X under the watch of the billionaire owner who has flaunted his ideological opposition to censorship. On his coming “everything app,” it seems that everything you say can and will be used against you.

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