2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-08-18 13:49:50 UTC
2019-08-19 13:33:31 UTC
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Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube's decision to ban right-wing shock jock Alex Jones and his media site, Infowars, from their platforms in early August has reignited a debate about what, if any, obligations these companies have to provide access to ideologically diverse users in the name of free speech. Twitter came under enormous criticism for refusing to go along, but on Tuesday announced that they were suspending Jones's account for one week due to violations of its rules. Jones was banned after years of public outrage over lies spread by Infowars, including the infamous "Pizzagate" conspiracy and the false claim that the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 26 elementary school children and staff members were killed, was a hoax. Jones is also known for tirades against Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people.
Some critics have claimed that, given the monopoly-like power that Silicon Valley giants now exert over the internet, encouraging them to regulate content based on ideology, hate speech, or arbitrations of "truth" and "falsity" will jeopardize internet freedom and vest a handful of corporate executives too much control over it. But others have defended the choice to ban Jones, citing the anti-hate speech rules and nonviolence policies almost universally adopted by major internet platforms. Because terms of service are open to interpretation — "hate speech," for example, can be difficult to define — there is a significant risk that standards will be inconsistently applied. The ambiguous policies also present a threat to controversial speech from the left — think, for example, of speech related to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or expressive speech about bad cops or white men.
Twitter had been heavily criticized in the days following a Aug. 8 statement by CEO Jack Dorsey explaining that Alex Jones and InfoWars had not been banned because they had not violated Twitter's rules.
Many of the banned pages look like parodies of some paranoid bureaucrat's idea of dangerous speech. A page called "Black Elevation" shows a picture of Huey Newton and offers readers a job. "Aztlan Warriors" contains a meme celebrating the likes of Geronimo and Zapata, giving thanks for their service in the "the 500 year war against colonialism." And a banned "Mindful Being" page shared this, which seems culled from Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts bit: "We must unlearn what we have learned because a conditioned mind cannot comprehend the infinite." Facebook also wiped out a "No Unite The Right 2" page, appearing to advertise a counter-rally on the upcoming anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Facebook was "helped" in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you'll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.) These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It's hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors.
Deplatforming: does it work?
The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.
The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.
[...] Though its effects could be far-reaching, the proposal to limit citizenship to immigrants who have not used public assistance does not appear to need congressional approval. As the Clinton administration did in 1999, the Trump administration would be redefining the term "public charge," which first emerged in immigration law in the 1800s in order to shield the U.S. from burdening too many immigrants who could not contribute to society.
The Democratic National Committee on Friday officially served its lawsuit to WikiLeaks via Twitter, employing a rare method to serve its suit to the elusive group that has thus far been unresponsive.
As CBS News first reported last month, the DNC filed a motion with a federal court in Manhattan requesting permission to serve its complaint to WikiLeaks on Twitter, a platform the DNC argued the website uses regularly. The DNC filed a lawsuit in April against the Trump campaign, Russian government and WikiLeaks, alleging a massive conspiracy to tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump's favor.
All of the DNC's attempts to serve the lawsuit via email failed, the DNC said in last month's motion to the judge, which was ultimately approved.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador's London embassy for six years, is considering an offer to appear before a U.S. Senate committee to discuss alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, his lawyer said on Thursday.
WikiLeaks published a letter from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday which asked Assange to make himself available to testify in person at a closed hearing as part of its investigation into whether Moscow meddled to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. "The U.S. Senate Select Committee request confirms their interest in hearing from Mr Assange," lawyer Jennifer Robinson said in a statement.
Lawyers for Julian Assange say they are "seriously considering" a request from a US Senate committee to interview the WikiLeaks founder as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The Senate select committee on intelligence has written to Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living for more than six years.
[...] The chairman of the committee, Richard Burr, wrote: "As you are aware, the Senate select committee on intelligence is conducting a bipartisan inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. As part of that inquiry, the committee requests that you make yourself available for a closed interview with bipartisan committee staff at a mutually agreeable time and location."
The ultimate irony would involve Julian Assange avoiding Metropolitan Police arrest by somehow fleeing to the United States.
President Donald Trump appears to have changed his story about a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that is pivotal to the special counsel's investigation, tweeting that his son met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer to collect information about his political opponent.
[...] That is a far different explanation than Trump gave 13 months ago, when a statement dictated by the president but released under the name of Donald Trump Jr., read: "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago."
TechCrunch has written about the FCCs pre-emptive reaction to the new inspector general report regarding an alleged attack on the FCC comment system last year which the FCC had long alluded to concerning the net neutrality debate. The FCC now admits that the attacks never actually took place, after a report from its inspector general found a lack of evidence supporting the idea. Chairman Ajit Pai immediately turned around and blamed both the previous CIO and ... wait for it ... Obama.
Pai's statement was issued before the OIG publicized its report, as one does when a report is imminent that essentially says your agency has been clueless at best or deliberately untruthful at worst, and for more than a year. To be clear, the report is still unpublished, though its broader conclusions are clear from Pai's statement. In it he slathers Bray with the partisan brush and asserts that the report exonerates his office
TechCrunch is still waiting to hear back from the FCC and its Office of the Inspector General for more information, including the report itself.
Abortion rights advocates are exploring how technology might preserve or even expand women's access to abortion if the Supreme Court scales back Roe v. Wade. A nonprofit group is testing whether it's safe to let women take abortion pills in their own homes after taking screening tests and consulting with a doctor on their phones or computers. Because the study is part of an FDA clinical trial, the group isn't bound by current rules requiring the drugs be administered in a doctor's office or clinic.
The group, called Gynuity Health Projects, is carrying out the trial in five states that already allow virtual doctors to oversee administration of the abortion pill, and may expand to others. If the trial proves that allowing women to take the pill at home is safe — under a virtual doctor's supervision — the group hopes the FDA could eventually loosen restrictions to allow women to take pills mailed to them after the consult. If FDA took that step, it could even help women in states with restrictive abortion laws get around them, potentially blurring the strict boundaries between abortion laws in different states if — as is likely — the Senate confirms a high court justice who is open to further limits on Roe.
[...] Right now, even in states that allow a licensed provider to administer the abortion pill by video hookup, the provider must watch, in person or by video, as a woman takes the first medication in a clinic or other health care setting. The drugs abort the fetus without surgery but are safe and effective only in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. If the group's study shows it's safe for women to administer the drug themselves after an online consultation with a health care provider, it will petition the FDA to lift the requirement.
Or: Get a drug printer, download drug plans, print desired drug.
In related news, CBS News notes that "while the White House can act on its own, those changes could always be undone by future administrations" while reporting that members of Congress have prepared several bills which would revise the Endangered Species Act.
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked a proposal that would split the state into three from the November ballot.
The court wrote that it took the step "because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition's validity and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election."
Last week, an environmental group sued to have the measure removed from the ballot. To substantially alter the state's governance under the California constitution, the group argued, a constitutional convention would need to be called -- and that requires a supermajority of both houses of the state's legislature. A ballot initiative, the group said, was constitutionally insufficient.
Asked if he would continue fighting for the measure, Draper said in an email to Bloomberg News that "the same six lawyers are going to make the decision. What would be the point? They have just proven that California has a runaway government and the people have no say."
Draper, a venture capitalist, sought the initiative because he said the world's fifth-largest economy is "nearly ungovernable" under the current system. Asked if there was anything else he planned to do to make the government more accountable, he said he was "still recovering from the shock."
Against the constant warnings of a bipartisan group of senators, the U.S. has finalized its deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, lifting its April ban.
The Commerce Department announced the decision to lift the ban on the Chinese-linked company after it completed its side of the terms of the deal by placing $400 million in a U.S.-approved escrow account. ZTE paid a $1 billion fine and replaced its board of executives as well.
“While we lifted the ban on ZTE, the department will remain vigilant as we closely monitor ZTE’s actions to ensure compliance with all U.S. laws and regulations,” Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote in a statement, Reuters reported.
A bipartisan group of senators led by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are vocally opposing the White House’s deal. Other senators opposing the agreement include Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, and Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri.
The bipartisan group of senators wrote an open letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees asking them to make amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes provisions against ZTE.
“We strongly oppose the June 2018 deal with ZTE negotiated by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to lift the seven-year ban against the export of U.S. parts and components to ZTE,” the senators wrote.
Schumer was able to make an amendment to the Senate’s version of the NDAA that includes that keeps in place[sic] the provisions against ZTE.
Common Dreams reports
Hundreds of thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators took to the streets of London and in separate protests across the U.K. on Friday [July 13] in a massive and historic show of opposition to a sitting U.S. president.
After Donald Trump was greeted with angry protesters as he arrived in London on Thursday to meet with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, a 20-foot-tall Trump baby blimp took flight over the city early on Friday as the massive "Carnival of Resistance" protests--which are slated to last through the weekend--kicked off.
[...] Several of the events have been organized by the Stop Trump Coalition, which played a key role in Trump's previous canceled trips and [who] warns that "Trumpism directly threatens steps towards tackling" several issues including inequality, peace and disarmament, climate change, fighting discrimination--"particularly against already marginalized groups like migrants and Muslims"--and corporate greed. The Trump administration's family separation policy has further fueled widespread outrage and opposition to his visit.
 I'm not crazy about their page construction, but WOW! are they ever organized otherwise.
Metro News notes