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Analyzing Trump's illness is humbling for media's med teams – OrilliaMatters

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NEW YORK — Here’s an assignment to humble even the most confident doctor: Assess a patient’s condition before millions of people without being able to examine him or see a complete medical chart.

That, in effect, is what medical experts at news organizations have been asked to do since President Donald Trump revealed Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

They have a fine line to walk, needing to decide what level of speculation — if any — that they’re comfortable with, how much to read into medications the president has been prescribed and how to explain the course of a virus so new that it still confounds the people who study it.

“You try to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” said CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who logged hours comparable to his residency days in the wake of Trump’s announcement.

A second or third opinion is only a click away. The question of whether Trump developed COVID 19-related pneumonia is one example of how media experts have differed despite access to the same information.

All would like to see images of Trump’s lungs, but they haven’t been made available. Dr. Vin Gupta (no relation to Sanjay), a pulmonologist who treats coronavirus patients and contributes for NBC News, is confident that Trump has pneumonia because the president has had shortness of breath, low oxygen levels in his blood and has COVID-19.

CBS News’ Dr. Jon LaPook is less definitive, but believes that’s the case “because if he had a chest x-ray and it was normal, they would be shouting it from the rooftops.”

But Dr. Jen Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, said that would be “quintessential speculation” because the president’s medical team hasn’t made that diagnosis publicly. His doctors said there were some pulmonary findings on imaging tests, but there are other things that could mean besides pneumonia.

“We don’t know what the findings were, and that is precisely why I didn’t jump to conclusions,” Ashton said.

For Vin Gupta, however, “this is my wheelhouse.

“What might be speculative for another journalist, for me there’s a level of concreteness that I feel exists that I try to pass along,” he said.

Ashton also objects to how some in the media have pinned percentages on Trump’s likely survival. Dr. Martin Makary said on Fox News Channel that Trump had a 99.4 per cent chance of surviving COVID-19; CNN’s Gupta said it’s “90 to 95 per cent” that he’ll get through.

“This has been very, very challenging,” Ashton said. “The way that I’ve handled this is that I do not speculate. And one of my pet peeves in this story, as it is in all medical media, is when everyone with an ‘MD’ after their name thinks that they can offer inside baseball.”

Imagine the confusion visitors to newsstands in Massachusetts might have felt on Monday. “Trump is improving, doctors say,” was the banner headline on the Wall Street Journal. “Fresh concerns on Trump’s health,” headlined the Boston Globe.

The New York Times, in a Monday story by Katherine J. Wu and Jonathan Corum, noted that while it’s too soon to tell whether Trump’s illness will follow a typical course, used it as a teachable moment to outline in detail what doctors have learned about its progression.

In The Washington Post on Tuesday, Dr. Kavita Patel, who has treated COVID-19 patients in Washington’s St. Mary’s Hospital, wrote a column suggesting Trump’s case made no sense.

“Is he strong and invincible, as his words and actions attempt to show?” Patel wrote. “Is he in need of experimental treatments reserved for severely ill patients, as his medical charts would indicate? Or are his doctors simply throwing everything at him to see what works? Five days into Trump’s illness, we don’t know.”

CNN’s Gupta has been particularly critical of Trump’s team for not releasing more medical information, and is a translator after medical briefings to outline what has and hasn’t been said and what it all means.

Yet after Gupta suggested at one point that he thought Trump was sicker than his doctors were letting on, a media critic hit back at him. “What is the point of this fact-free nonsense?” tweeted Steve Krakauer, who writes the Fourth Watch newsletter.

“It’s a lot harder than if they were just straightforward about it,” Gupta said in an interview. “I think about it a lot when I try to put these things together, and I don’t think I’m speculating when I do that. After all, we look at his age and risk factors. I’ve said from the start, the odds are very much in his favour.”

When Trump climbed an outdoor staircase upon his return to the White House and exhibited shortness of breath, that was pointed to by several commentators as a sign of his illness.

Then again, as Gupta noted, the president is 74 years old, clinically obese and just climbed a flight of stairs. That alone could make him breathe heavily.

It’s why, more often than not, the media medical reports have been dominated by careful couching. Doctors would explain, for example, what drugs like the antiviral remdesivir or the steroid dexamethasone that had been prescribed to Trump typically mean in clinical settings without being definitive on what it said about the president.

“Medicine is eternally humbling,” LaPook said. “If you have any hubris left and you have been a doctor for five years, you are in the wrong profession. I think that’s why you hear a lot of us say ‘probably’ and ‘it makes sense’ and ‘it could be.’ We’re not the president’s doctors.”

___

This story corrects the first name of Dr. Jon LaPook, it is not John.

David Bauder, The Associated Press



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Nigeria considers social media regulation in wake of deadly shooting – National Post

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ABUJA/LAGOS — Nigeria’s information minister said “some form of regulation” could be imposed on social media just a week after protesters spread images and videos of a deadly shooting using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Images, video and an Instagram live feed from a popular DJ spread news of shootings in Lagos on Oct. 20, when witnesses and rights groups said the military fired on peaceful protesters.

The protesters had been demonstrating for nearly two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. The army denied its soldiers were there.

Social media helped spread word of the shootings worldwide, and international celebrities from Beyonce and Lewis Hamilton to Pope Francis since called on the country to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed told a panel at the National Assembly on Tuesday that “fake news” is one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria.

A spokesman for the minister confirmed the comments, and said “the use of the social media to spread fake news and disinformation means there is the need to do something about it.”

Officials have said some videos and photos posted during the protests were fake news but have not said that about the shootings.

In the weeks before the shootings, protesters had also used social media to organize, raise money and share what they said was proof of police harassment, which increased pressure on authorities to respond to their demands.

Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey Tweeted to encouraged his followers to contribute, and the hashtag #EndSARS was trending for several days, referencing the widely feared Special Anti-Robbery Squad that they successfully demanded be abolished. (Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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3 social media CEOs face grilling by GOP senators on bias – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google are facing a grilling by Republican senators making unfounded allegations that the tech giants show anti-conservative bias.

The Senate Commerce Committee has summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai to testify for a hearing Wednesday. The executives agreed to appear remotely after being threatened with subpoenas.

With the presidential election looming, Republicans led by U.S. President Donald Trump have thrown a barrage of grievances at Big Tech’s social media platforms, which they accuse without evidence of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views.

The chorus of protest rose this month after Facebook and Twitter acted to limit dissemination of an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, an unprecedented action against a major media outlet. The story, which was not confirmed by other publications, cited unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter that were reportedly disclosed by Trump allies.

Beyond questioning the CEOs, senators are expected to examine proposals to revise long-held legal protections for online speech, an immunity that critics in both parties say enables the companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content.

The Justice Department has asked Congress to strip some of the bedrock protections that have generally shielded the tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. Trump signed an executive order challenging the protections from lawsuits under the 1996 telecommunications law.

“For too long, social media platforms have hidden behind Section 230 protections to censor content that deviates from their beliefs,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the Commerce Committee chairman, said recently.

In their opening statements prepared for the hearing, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai addressed the proposals for changes to so-called Section 230, a provision of a 1996 law that has served as the foundation for unfettered speech on the internet. Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

“We don’t think tech companies should be making so many decisions about these important issues alone,” he said, approving an active role for government regulators.

Dorsey and Pichai, however, urged caution in making any changes. “Undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online,” Dorsey said.

Pichai urged lawmakers “to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers.”

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told congressional leaders in a letter Tuesday that recent events have made the changes more urgent. He cited the action by Twitter and Facebook regarding the New York Post story, calling the companies’ limitations “quite concerning.”

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency, recently announced plans to reexamine the legal protections, potentially putting meat on the bones of Trump’s order by opening the way to new rules. The move by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, marked an about-face from the agency’s previous position.

Social media giants are also under heavy scrutiny for their efforts to police misinformation about the election. Twitter and Facebook have slapped a misinformation label on content from the president, who has around 80 million followers. Trump has raised the baseless prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process.

Starting Tuesday, Facebook was not accepting any new political advertising. Previously booked political ads will be able to run until the polls close next Tuesday, when all political advertising will temporarily be banned. Google, which owns YouTube, also is halting political ads after the polls close. Twitter banned all political ads last year.

Democrats have focused their criticism of social media mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that can incite violence or keep people from voting. They have criticized Big Tech CEOs for failing to police content, homing in on the platforms’ role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the U.S.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have scrambled to stem the tide of material that incites violence and spreads lies and baseless conspiracy theories.

The companies reject accusations of bias but have wrestled with how strongly they should intervene. They have often gone out of their way not to appear biased against conservative views — a posture that some say effectively tilts them toward those viewpoints. The effort has been especially strained for Facebook, which was caught off-guard in 2016, when it was used as a conduit by Russian agents to spread misinformation benefiting Trump’s presidential campaign.

The unwelcome attention to the three companies piles onto the anxieties in the tech industry, which also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department, federal regulators, Congress and state attorneys general around the country.

Last week, the Justice Department sued Google for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising — the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.

With antitrust in the spotlight, Facebook, Apple and Amazon also are under investigation at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

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3 social media CEOs face grilling by GOP senators on bias – Powell River Peak

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WASHINGTON — The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google are facing a grilling by Republican senators making unfounded allegations that the tech giants show anti-conservative bias.

The Senate Commerce Committee has summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai to testify for a hearing Wednesday. The executives agreed to appear remotely after being threatened with subpoenas.

article continues below

With the presidential election looming, Republicans led by President Donald Trump have thrown a barrage of grievances at Big Tech’s social media platforms, which they accuse without evidence of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views.

The chorus of protest rose this month after Facebook and Twitter acted to limit dissemination of an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, an unprecedented action against a major media outlet. The story, which was not confirmed by other publications, cited unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter that were reportedly disclosed by Trump allies.

Beyond questioning the CEOs, senators are expected to examine proposals to revise long-held legal protections for online speech, an immunity that critics in both parties say enables the companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content.

The Justice Department has asked Congress to strip some of the bedrock protections that have generally shielded the tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. Trump signed an executive order challenging the protections from lawsuits under the 1996 telecommunications law.

“For too long, social media platforms have hidden behind Section 230 protections to censor content that deviates from their beliefs,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the Commerce Committee chairman, said recently.

In their opening statements prepared for the hearing, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai addressed the proposals for changes to so-called Section 230, a provision of a 1996 law that has served as the foundation for unfettered speech on the internet. Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

“We don’t think tech companies should be making so many decisions about these important issues alone,” he said, approving an active role for government regulators.

Dorsey and Pichai, however, urged caution in making any changes. “Undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online,” Dorsey said.

Pichai urged lawmakers “to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers.”

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told congressional leaders in a letter Tuesday that recent events have made the changes more urgent. He cited the action by Twitter and Facebook regarding the New York Post story, calling the companies’ limitations “quite concerning.”

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency, recently announced plans to reexamine the legal protections, potentially putting meat on the bones of Trump’s order by opening the way to new rules. The move by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, marked an about-face from the agency’s previous position.

Social media giants are also under heavy scrutiny for their efforts to police misinformation about the election. Twitter and Facebook have slapped a misinformation label on content from the president, who has around 80 million followers. Trump has raised the baseless prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process.

Starting Tuesday, Facebook was not accepting any new political advertising. Previously booked political ads will be able to run until the polls close next Tuesday, when all political advertising will temporarily be banned. Google, which owns YouTube, also is halting political ads after the polls close. Twitter banned all political ads last year.

Democrats have focused their criticism of social media mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that can incite violence or keep people from voting. They have criticized Big Tech CEOs for failing to police content, homing in on the platforms’ role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the U.S.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have scrambled to stem the tide of material that incites violence and spreads lies and baseless conspiracy theories.

The companies reject accusations of bias but have wrestled with how strongly they should intervene. They have often gone out of their way not to appear biased against conservative views — a posture that some say effectively tilts them toward those viewpoints. The effort has been especially strained for Facebook, which was caught off-guard in 2016, when it was used as a conduit by Russian agents to spread misinformation benefiting Trump’s presidential campaign.

The unwelcome attention to the three companies piles onto the anxieties in the tech industry, which also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department, federal regulators, Congress and state attorneys general around the country.

Last week, the Justice Department sued Google for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising — the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.

With antitrust in the spotlight, Facebook, Apple and Amazon also are under investigation at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

___

Follow Gordon at https://twitter.com/mgordonap

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