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Answer to the media industry’s woes

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During the Progressive era, public outrage grew over commercial excesses such as yellow journalism and propaganda — the “clickbait” and “fake news” of the early 20th century. A nonprofit, municipal-owned newspaper seemed like an idea whose time had come. George H. Dunlop, a “good government” progressive and former Hollywood mayor, conducted a successful petition, and Los Angeles became a test case for this experiment.

In a December 1911 vote, a majority supported the proposal to establish a taxpayer-funded paper, and the Los Angeles Municipal News launched in April 1912. With a government-guaranteed annual subsidy of $36,000 (worth nearly $1 million today), the city helped finance the distribution of up to 60,000 copies. To ensure accountability, the mayor appointed a commission of three citizen volunteers to govern the paper. They served four-year terms but were subject to recall by voters at any time. Dunlop, the newspaper’s original architect, was chosen as one of the commissioners.

The newspaper sought to be nonpartisan and democratic by guaranteeing an equal amount of weekly column space to any political party that received more than 3 percent of the vote, including the Democratic, Republican, Socialist and Socialist Labor parties. Newspaper carriers delivered the weekly paper, which was usually eight to 12 pages, free of charge to homes. People could also subscribe via mail for one penny.

The inaugural editorial of this “people’s newspaper” declared itself “the first municipal newspaper in the world … owned by the people of the community in which it is printed.” It was described as “created by the people, for the people, and built for them under their control. It is in this sense unique.” The newspaper’s masthead read, simply and boldly: “A Newspaper Owned by the People.”

The newspaper’s editor and its 10 staffers covered local happenings such as government operations, the proceedings of various agencies and public school events. To maintain political neutrality, the paper provided equal space to arguments for or against specific city ordinances proposed to voters. Although the paper’s emphasis was on high-quality, fact-based information about civic issues and responsibilities, reporters also covered popular culture, including music, fashion and new products coming into the market.

The paper offered free classified and help-wanted ads, as well as other important information, but it banned ads camouflaged as news stories — what we would call “native advertising” today. However, it did accept commercial ads from local businesses. This revenue helped defray costs but didn’t generate enough money for the paper’s expansion as originally hoped.

Nonetheless, Dunlop and his fellow reformers believed that public newspapers offered the last best hope for democracy, reflecting the growing conviction among social critics that a commercial press could never rise above profit pressures and class allegiances to serve democratic imperatives.

Given the national scourge of sensationalistic and unreliable news, press reformers across the country watched the Los Angeles experiment closely. One article published in La Follette’s weekly magazine noted the public’s “growing realization” that “the commercialization of the great daily newspapers of the country presents one of the most serious problems connected with the movement toward democracy.” Therefore, it read, “the career of this newspaper owned by the taxpayers will be watched with interest everywhere.”

Despite such initial fanfare and high hopes from the local community and beyond, the experiment was ultimately short-lived. Feeling threatened by the rise of a popular public alternative, local commercial newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, banded together to oppose the initiative, charging that the paper presented unfair competition in the marketplace and was an illegitimate expenditure of public money. This opposition may have combined with some public complaints that the paper’s distribution, especially early on, was not always reliable.

When the question of public funding for the newspaper appeared on the ballot again in 1913 — written in a confusing, ambiguous way, according to some people — voters rejected it in a low-turnout election. Many supporters believed the paper fell victim to a misinformation campaign fueled by commercial publishers’ opposition. The editor blamed an “antagonism, carefully and consistently fostered by the private press and its representatives” that impeded progress and discouraged erstwhile supporters.

One post-mortem report described the paper as a “successful experiment” brought down by “active determined opposition” from the city’s local business community. The article concluded that more such newspapers were needed to fight political corruption with “civic service” and “impartial information” similar to that provided by schools and libraries.

Toward the end of its final run, the paper announced, at the top of its front page, “THE MUNICIPAL NEWSPAPER IDEA CANNOT BE KILLED.” The paper urged reformers in other cities to continue agitating for public newspapers dedicated to providing diverse views on government policies and local affairs. Dunlop hoped the idea — that citizens deserved a public-service newspaper that wasn’t simply the “private property of some millionaire” — would live on.

With the triumph of the commercial newspaper, this nonprofit experiment has receded into the past, forgotten by all save for a smattering of scholars over the years. Meanwhile, structural alternatives to profit-driven news outlets in the United States have remained relatively underfunded and pushed to the margins over the past century. Nonetheless, a publicly owned municipal newspaper that informs a community about local affairs remains a viable alternative to the dying commercial model.

Indeed, with local journalism’s importance to democracy more evident and more at risk than ever before, it may be time to reconsider this model. Local news outlets cover stories and offer community-level information — potentially lifesaving during a global pandemic — that national outlets will never provide. Study after study shows that losing local journalism doesn’t just come with political costs such as decreased voting and civic engagement, municipalities also pay significant economic costs when they lack a community news outlet that uncovers corruption and waste.

Instead of building something from scratch, municipalities could expand existing city information sites, build on public infrastructure or outright purchase their local paper. Given cities’ budget shortfalls, a federally funded network of municipal newspapers might be more feasible. With the imminent collapse of many local news outlets — what’s been called a “media extinction event” — today’s journalism crisis presents a rare opportunity to introduce a “public option” to towns and cities across the country. The municipal newspaper is an idea whose time has returned.

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What is Section 230, the U.S. law protecting social media companies – and can Trump change it? – National Post

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U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a federal law known as Section 230, which protects internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s Google from being responsible for the material posted by users.

WHAT IS SECTION 230?

The core purpose of Section 230 is to protect the owners of any “interactive computer service” from liability for anything posted by third parties. The idea was that such protection was necessary to encourage the emergence of new types of communications and services at the dawn of the Internet era.

Section 230 was enacted in 1996 as part of a law called the Communications Decency Act, which was primarily aimed at curbing online pornography. Most of that law was struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, but Section 230 remains.

In practice, the law shields any website or service that hosts content – like news outlets’ comment sections, video services like YouTube and social media services like Facebook and Twitter – from lawsuits over content posted by users.

When the law was written, site owners worried they could be sued if they exercised any control over what appeared on their sites, so the law includes a provision that says that, so long as sites act in “good faith,” they can remove content that is offensive or otherwise objectionable.

The statute does not protect copyright violations, or certain types of criminal acts. Users who post illegal content can themselves still be held liable in court.

The technology industry and others have long held that Section 230 is a crucial protection, though the statute has become increasingly controversial as the power of internet companies has grown.

WHAT PROMPTED THE CREATION OF SECTION 230?

In the early days of the Internet, there were several high-profile cases in which companies tried to suppress criticism by suing the owners of the platforms.

One famous case involved a lawsuit by Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage firm depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” against the early online service Prodigy. The court found that Prodigy was liable for allegedly defamatory comments by a user because it was a publisher that moderated the content on the service.

The fledgling internet industry was worried that such liability would make a range of new services impossible. Congress ultimately agreed and included Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act.

WHAT DOES SECTION 230 HAVE TO DO WITH POLITICAL BIAS?

President Trump and others who have attacked Section 230 say it has given big internet companies too much legal protection and allowed them to escape responsibility for their actions.

Some conservatives, including the president, have alleged that they are subject to online censorship on social media sites, a claim the companies have generally denied.

Section 230, which is often misinterpreted, does not require sites to be neutral. Most legal experts believe any effort to require political neutrality by social media companies would be a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

CAN PRESIDENT TRUMP ORDER CHANGES TO SECTION 230?

No. Only Congress can change Section 230. In 2018, the law was modified to make it possible to prosecute platforms that were used by alleged sex traffickers. As the power of internet companies has grown, some in Congress have also advocated changes to hold companies responsible for the spread of content celebrating acts of terror, for example, or for some types of hate speech.

A draft of Trump’s May executive order, seen by Reuters, instead calls for the Federal Communications Commission to “propose and clarify regulations” under Section 230. The order suggests companies should lose their protection over actions that are deceptive, discriminatory, opaque or inconsistent with their terms of service.

DO OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE AN EQUIVALENT TO SECTION 230?

The legal protections provided by Section 230 are unique to U.S. law, although the European Union and many other countries have some version of what are referred to as “safe harbor” laws that protect online platforms from liability if they move promptly when notified of illegal content.

The fact that the major internet companies are based in the United States also gives them protection.

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Creators of 6ixBuzz possibly doxed via social media – insauga.com

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The enigmatic and polarizing figures behind 6ixBuzzTV, a controversial social media presence known for inciting vitriol, may have been outed and doxed—when someone releases a person’s personal information including their address.

Doxing has become an insidious part of Internet Culture—it’s often used as a weapon to incite fear and potentially violence by people hiding behind a computer screen and keyboard.

While it’s unclear whether the information is accurate, or who released it, people have been sharing a screenshot of a snapchat image that displays the names and addresses of the people behind 6ixBuzz, who have otherwise remained anonymous since their rise to prominence over the last few years.

According to the oft-shared image, two of the people behind the page are from Toronto, one is from Markham, and one is from Brampton—although all of this is still unverified.

6ixBuzz is known for sharing wild, embarrassing, and uncouth images and videos of people from around the GTA as much as it shares music and promotes artists.

It’s also known for inciting divineness through the content and captions that it shares.

Further, largely due to the fact it’s an unregulated account, many creatives have found their content stolen and repurposed by 6ixBuzz’s account, oftentimes without even an acknowledgement that it came from someone else.

The page, which started as a meme sharing platform in 2010, evolved into a major part of Toronto and the GTA’s media scene—albeit mainly among the younger generations, and mostly for the wrong reasons.

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Town of Outlook passes social media policy for employees, council – The Outlook

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The Town of Outlook recently passed a social media policy for its employees, as well as those on the local council.

The objective of the policy, which is titled ‘Social Media Practices’ is “To provide clear direction to employees and council on the Town’s standards to be observed when using social media.”

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What follows are highlights of the policy, which was provided to The Outlook by the Town:

The Social Media Practices policy is implemented to establish the roles and appropriate forms of communications to the public for all employees and council of the Town of Outlook, both professionally and personally.

SCOPE

This policy applies to all Town employees and council on the following social media and networking platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, TikTok, Youtube, forums, message boards, blogs, and the Town’s official website.

POLICY

1. Administration staff and selected department heads may be granted access to the Town’s social media platforms as determined by the CAO.

2. Council will not be granted authority to the administration permissions of the Town’s social media platforms, however will be able to view, share, and engage on posts from the Town.

PROCEDURE

1. All posts, comments, message initiations or replies on behalf of the Town must be communicated from the Town of Outlook’s account, not an employee’s personal account.

2. Direct messages to individuals or businesses via messenger and chat platforms must be signed with the first name of the employee who sent the message.

3. Direct messages on behalf of the Town should only be made by approved personnel and during regular working hours, except in the case of an urgent notification or request.

4. Memorandums, public notices, and social media campaigns must be approved by the CAO prior to being posted.

5. Posts, messages, comments, and any other communications containing profane, derogatory, or defamatory language will be hidden or deleted from the Town’s public social media platforms; users who initiate these forms of communications may be banned from Town pages.

EMPLOYEE GUIDELINES

Employees are welcome to engage in personal social media activities outside of working hours, however when engaging in conversations regarding the Town, we expect employees to observe the following guidelines:

• Be respectful and polite

• Avoid speaking on matters outside of your field of expertise

• Exercise caution when answering questions or making statements

• Follow the Town’s confidentiality policy

• Be mindful of copywrite, trademarks, plagiarism, and fair use standards

• Refrain from using profane, derogatory, or defamatory language

• Ensure others know that their personal statements do not represent the Town

• Advise your immediate supervisor when you come across any misleading or false information

Employees who disregard their job duties, disclose confidential information, or engage in offensive behaviour on personal or professional social media accounts may face disciplinary action as per the Town’s Progressive Discipline Policy.

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