Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and longtime confidant of Julian Assange, has been fastidiously reporting on the Australian publisher’s extradition hearing to the United States. Yet few people have been reading it. This, according to Murray, is because of a deliberate decision by online media giants to downplay or suppress discussion of the case. On his blog, Murray wrote that he usually receives around 50 percent of his readers from Twitter and 40 percent from Facebook links, but that has dropped to 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively during the hearing. While the February hearings sent around 200,000 readers to his site daily, now that figure is only 3,000.
To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline,” he added.
Asked about the situation by former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, Murray explained that
Anybody who is at all radical or takes any view of anything that is outwith the official establishment view gets used to occasional shadow banning, but I have never seen anything on this scale before.”
“90% of my traffic has just been cut off by what seems to be a general algorithm command of some kind to downplay Assange,” he added. “I think it is as simple as that.”
There has been considerable public interest in the court proceedings, but very little mainstream attention given to them. To be fair, British authorities have made it inordinately difficult to cover the case, allowing only a small handful of journalists into the Old Bailey court system, where they can watch a live television link up but cannot bring in recording devices. An online stream can only be watched if one registers and signs in between exactly 9:30 and 9:40 a.m., and if they suffer even a momentary lapse in wifi connection, they are shut out of the session. The court system has also blocked human rights groups, including Amnesty International, from monitoring proceedings.
Still, considering the implications for the future of journalism, the lack of coverage might surprise some. The New York Times, the flagship outlet of American print media (and a Wikileaks partner) printed only two articles on the subject and has not mentioned Assange in over two weeks. Its broadcast journalism equivalent CNN, meanwhile, has not touched the issue at all. …