An all too common argument among anyone who has had a post removed on Facebook or had an item pulled from eBay is that the tech giants were violating the individual’s “First Amendment” rights or “censoring” their right to free speech. Neither is accurate, and yet, this week former President Donald Trump has actually taken it a step further by filing a lawsuit against Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and the companies’ respective executives.
On Wednesday, Trump filed three separate class-action lawsuits in federal court in Florida against the tech giants and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’ Sundar Pichai, Bloomberg reported. The lawsuits seek court orders to restore his social media accounts, while the former president is also seeking punitive damages.
“We’re going to hold big tech very accountable,” former President Trump said during his Wednesday press conference at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster New Jersey. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”
Twitter had permanently banned Trump while Google-owned YouTube froze his account on January 6, following the deadly Capitol Hill riot. Facebook had suspended the former president from its network for at least two years.
All of the tech giants have declined to comment. However, NetChoice, whose members include Amazon, did release a statement on the matter.
“President Trump has no case,” NetChoice CEO Steve DelBianco said in a statement. “The First Amendment protects Americans and our media from government control. Mr. Trump’s mistaken view of the First Amendment would empower the government to direct, mandate, and ban political speech on the internet.”
Yet, Trump is making news – and getting headlines for his actions.
“Our former president isn’t the only person who is suing three large internet companies to use their respective services,” said technology industry analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics.
“It is unlikely that he will succeed as Republicans have significantly strengthened the rights of companies to do business with who they want to as well as strengthened the companies’ rights not to distribute speech that they disagree with,” added Entner.
The Legal View
It is unlikely that Trump will actually accomplish much, except perhaps the publicity it will generate.
“Two things are simultaneously true: this lawsuit is a shameless publicity (and fundraising) stunt, and it is a waste of time on the merits of the suit,” explained Chicago attorney Ari Cohn, who specializes in First Amendment issues.
“Both of Trump’s claims are frivolous nonsense,” suggested Cohn. “The bar for when a private party can be deemed a government actor for First Amendment purposes is set very high. While I think it is inadvisable for platforms to be consulting with government officials about content moderation as a general matter, nothing in the complaint rises to the level where Facebook’s actions could reasonably be attributed to the government. Ironically, the complaint includes the story of a plaintiff who was suspended after sharing an NIH link on Facebook—not exactly what you’d expect if Facebook was taking its marching orders from the federal government.”
Additionally, the attempt to overturn Section 230 could be best seen as equally bad.
“Trump wants to claim that Section 230 is unconstitutional because it gives platforms the power to moderate content where Congress would be prohibited from itself censoring the speech,” added Cohn. “But putting aside the fact that Facebook would have a First Amendment right to moderate content anyway, Section 230 is a wholly permissive law that does not dictate what types of content websites should moderate or how they should do so. The courts have been clear that a law enabling private actors to do something at their discretion, without any coercion by the government, doesn’t create a constitutional violation. On its face, Section 230 simply gives websites the discretion whether to moderate or not, and what rules to set if they do.”
Trump’s case could certainly be seen as one that lacks merit, and shouldn’t be seen in any way as a defense of the First Amendment as it applies to social media.
The kicker is Trump’s request that the court order Facebook to not place warnings or labels on content—a request wholly inconsistent with the First Amendment principles the lawsuit farcically claims to be vindicating,” noted Cohn. “This lawsuit is simply intended to stir up the ‘anti-big tech’ sentiments of his followers by way of a frivolous lawsuit that has no place being filed. Make no mistake: this lawsuit doesn’t defend the First Amendment. This lawsuit attacks it.”
A Vertical Wall
If the goal was to get publicity, mission accomplished. But if it was in fact to actually change the status quo for Trump’s social media status, the former president may a serious fight ahead.
“The rules are there to protect the citizens from censorship by the government,” said Robert Sanders, chair of National Security at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven.
“Private entities have a separate and distinct standard,” Sanders added. “There is the issue that some see these quasi-public forums and say the same standards should hold true, but that is not the law. Perhaps Trump thinks he could have Congress change the laws, but he is really climbing a steep vertical wall if he believes that will happen. Current law doesn’t give Trump the option to claim what he wants to claim in the courts. Will this go anywhere? I doubt it!”
Alberta Education investigating social media leak of provincial exam answers – CBC.ca
Alberta Education is investigating alleged answers for Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) leaking to social media, with at least one school cancelling exams.
The ministry notified schools of Grade 9 math answers reportedly circulating on June 18, according to education press secretary Katherine Stavropoulos. The ministry is “reminding school authorities to exercise their due diligence in supervising the remaining PATs.”
“Findings from this investigation may have an impact on future administrations to help minimize the chances of such a breach from occurring again,” she said in an emailed statement Friday.
The ministry is also aware of other photos and other subjects circulating online, which it will investigate.
The PATs — standardized tests administered annually to reflect what students are expected to learn — were written across the province between June 13 and June 24.
The exams were suspended for the 2019-2020 school year, and only language arts and mathematics were available as an option for 2020-2021.
Stavropoulos said schools started having the option to write PATs at different times in the 2018-2019 school year. Around a quarter of schools were asking to write on alternate dates due to local events, transportation, and other issues.
“The window is a way to provide school authorities with flexibility,” she said.
Calgary Catholic Schools spokesperson Sandra Borowski said in an email the division became aware the breach extended beyond the first part of the math PATs to other exams as students who had access to answer keys and wrote the exams earlier posted to social media.
She said St. Martin de Porres School in Airdrie, Alta. canceled PATs because the school runs on a quarter schedule with writing dates extending beyond June 24, “which would result in a more widespread security breach putting into question the validity of Grade 9 PAT results.”
Grade 9 students there were provided with an alternate optional final assessment, Borowski said.
Edmonton Public Schools said last week it was looking into the matter. The Calgary Board of Education said it was aware of a breach and was working with Alberta Education. The Edmonton Catholic School Board said communication was ongoing with the province but that it had not cancelled any PATs.
A search for “Alberta PAT answers” on TikTok shows several videos with thousands of views purporting to reveal the multiple choice answers for science and social studies.
‘They should be voided’
Sarah Elaine Eaton, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who studies cheating and academic misconduct, said it would be natural for the test takers to look at these answer keys, whether they are verifiably correct or not.
“It’s human nature to be tempted, especially when we think that if we don’t cheat, or we don’t take a peek at those answers, that others may gain an advantage over us,” Eaton said.
Eaton said the PATs have been compromised, making the results no longer valid and reliable. She said what happens next should be a straightforward matter — they should be voided.
“There’s no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube, if you will,” she said.
Eaton said there have been numerous cases of answers leaking online in the past several years, including the Ontario bar exams.
“I have heard of this in other jurisdictions, it’s really not that uncommon, so it really does call into question about standardized tests being an effective way for students to show their knowledge,” she said.
Ensuring devices are off, tests are in person using pencil and paper and administering exams at the same time are possible security measures to be employed, she said.
This Right-Wing Québec Media Website Has Mysterious Ties With Alberta's Oil Lobby – PressProgress
This article was originally published by Pivot, an independent, non-profit francophone news outlet based in Québec — PressProgress and Pivot are working together to translate and republish each other’s stories.
Québec Nouvelles, the online media outlet, has links to individuals close to the Conservative Party of Québec (CPQ) and to Alberta’s pro-oil lobby groups.
Mysteriously, after Pivot asked a few questions, evidence of these links began to disappear on the Internet. Well, almost.
Québec Nouvelles, the news and opinion website, was launched in the fall of 2019.
Québec Nouvelles claims to be different from other media outlets. Unlike those that “demand taxpayers’ money in the form of subsidies, taxes, and other imposed measures,” this “alternative independent media outlet” survives solely thanks to donations made by its readers, according to its website.
It claims the media outlet owes its survival to the fact that it “speaks to the people and defends the people against political corruption and the dishonesty of certain elites.”
But the articles that have disappeared suggest a slightly different story.
In spring 2020, a similar news site, but published in English, The Westphalian Times, came into being. At first glance, aside from the editorial position, the connection between the two publications is not obvious.
However, the page devoted to donations on the respective websites makes it clear that the two entities are, in fact, linked to a single company, named Dominion Media, which has links to the CPQ and pro-oil lobby groups.
Very close ties with the Quebec Conservative Party
Headlines such as “I support Éric Duhaime, the only politician who can save Quebec,” leave little doubt as to Québec Nouvelles’s editorial position.
In fact, the website’s content shows that the media outlet maintains particularly close ties with Duhaime and his party.
For example, on November 22, 2020, the media outlet acquired exclusive access to the logo the former radio host was about to unveil during the launch of his Conservative Party leadership campaign.
More recently, Québec Nouvelles published an article announcing, in advance, the results of a poll on voting intentions in Quebec, even before they were released by Utica Resources, the oil and gas company that had commissioned the poll.
The results had also been given to the CPQ ahead of time, which raised questions about the possibility of a breach of the rules governing donations to political parties.
We asked Québec Nouvelles who — from Utica Resources or from the CPQ — gave the survey to the media outlet, but we did not get an answer.
Strangely, the day after we tried to get clarification, the article in question had disappeared. However, an archived version is available.
Furthermore, the business registry indicates that Samuel Racine sits on the board of Dominion Media, which owns both Québec Nouvelles and The Westphalian Times.
He publishes under the pseudonym Samuel Rz in both media outlets. From his LinkedIn profile, we learn that at the Université de Montréal he was president of the Conservative Party of Canada’s campus association.
Samuel Racine, under the pseudonym “Sam Rz,” is also the moderator of a Facebook group in support of Éric Duhaime: “Appuyons Éric Duhaime, chef du PCQ.”
This group appears to have the party’s backing, since its administrators and moderators include such CPQ figures as Fred Têtu (Éric Duhaime’s friend and biographer), Donald Gagnon (national vice-president of the CPQ), André Valiquette (chair of the CPQ’s political commission) and Raffael Cavaliere (executive director of the CPQ).
Ties with the Québec Fier pressure group
Another administrator of the “Appuyons Éric Duhaime” Facebook group is Nicolas Gagnon. He’s also an active contributor to the Québec Nouvelles website in addition to being one of the people in charge of the Québec Fier pressure group.
A report submitted by Québec Fier to Elections Canada during the 2019 federal election states that Samuel Racine was also paid by Québec Fier. His name does not appear on the list of expenses submitted by the organization for the 2021 election.
Québec Fier is a pressure group that is part of an ecosystem of similar groups that belong to the Canada Strong and Proud network.
Nicolas Gagnon is also an administrator with the Proudly New Brunswick, West Coast Proud, NS Proud, and Québec Fier organizations. This network fights mainly for the development of the fossil fuel industry in Canada.
Québec Fier was co-founded by Maxime Hupé, the former director of communications for Maxime Bernier. According to a report in the Huffington Post, Éric Duhaime offered advice to Jean Philippe Fournier, one of the former hosts of Québec Fier’s Facebook page. Fournier was himself a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada and the CPQ. He no longer has ties with Québec Fier.
During the 2019 federal election, Québec Fier received $45,000 from the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a conservative advocacy group that was recently renamed Canada Strong and Free Network. This organization has also contributed $240,500 to the Canada Strong and Proud network.
During the 2021 federal election, Québec Fier received close to $93,000 from Canada Strong and Proud and nearly $2,500 from the Modern Miracle Network, a fossil fuel advocacy group.
We asked Québec Nouvelles if the media outlet received any money from the Modern Miracle Network, from the Canada Strong and Free Network, or from the oil industry. All responses, which were written by a certain Michael Binnion, have also disappeared, without explanation, from the Québec Nouvelles website. Fortunately, a number of archived versions are still available.
Michael Binnion and the influence of Alberta oil
On April 1 of this year, an open letter published in The Westphalian Times defended “the moral imperative” of exploiting Canadian hydrocarbons within the context of the war in Ukraine. The author of this letter is Michael Binnion, an Alberta businessman.
On April 4, Québec Nouvelles published this letter in translation, but without naming its author.
Michael Binnion is the CEO of Questerre, an Alberta oil and gas producing company that has interests in the Saint Lawrence Valley.
This little detail is not mentioned by either The Westphalian Times or by Québec Nouvelles. Binnion is also the chairman of the Québec Oil and Gas Association.
Binnion also chairs the board of directors for the Canada Strong and Free Network (formerly the Manning Centre) and is the founder of the Modern Miracle Network.
In 2019, the Globe and Mail revealed that some conservative politicians and heads of oil companies held a meeting at the invitation of the Modern Miracle Network. The goal of the meeting: Come up with strategies for overturning Justin Trudeau’s government.
Québec Nouvelles claims, in all seriousness, that while several Québec media outlets have forsaken impartiality for ideology, it provides “quality information.”
This statement would be much easier to take seriously if Québec Nouvelles owned up to its political and financial ties and if articles didn’t disappear each time a reporter asked a question.
Our journalism is powered by readers like you.
We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.
Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.
Company set to buy Trump’s social media app faces subpoenas – Global News
The company planning to buy Donald Trump’s new social media business has disclosed a federal grand jury investigation that it says could impede or even prevent its acquisition of the Truth Social app.
Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. dropped 10% in morning trading Monday as the company revealed that it has received subpoenas from a grand jury in New York.
The Justice Department subpoenas follow an ongoing probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Digital World broke rules by having substantial talks about buying Trump’s company starting early last year before Digital World sold stock to the public for the first time in September, just weeks before its announcement that it would be buying Trump’s company.
Trump’s social media venture launched in February as he seeks a new digital stage to rally his supporters and fight Big Tech limits on speech, a year after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The Trump Media & Technology Group – which operates the Truth Social app and was in the process of being acquired by Digital World – said in a statement that it will cooperate with “oversight that supports the SEC’s important mission of protecting retail investors.”
The new probe could make it more difficult for Trump to finance his social media company. The company last year got promises from dozens of investors to pump $1 billion into the company, but it can’t get the cash until the Digital World acquisition is completed.
Stock in Digital World rocketed to more than $100 in October after its deal to buy Trump’s company was announced. The stock traded at just around $25 in morning trading Monday.
Digital World is a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, part of an investing phenomenon that exploded in popularity over the past two years.
U.S. Capitol siege hearings focus on Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn 2020 election
Such “blank-check” companies are empty corporate entities with no operations, only offering investors the promise they will buy a business in the future. As such they are allowed to sell stock to the public quickly without the usual regulatory disclosures and delays, but only if they haven’t already lined up possible acquisition targets.
Digital World said in a regulatory filing Monday that each member of its board of directors has been subpoenaed by the grand jury in the Southern District of New York. Both the grand jury and the SEC are also seeking a number of documents tied to the company and others including a sponsor, ARC Global Investments, and Miami-based venture capital firm Rocket One Capital.
Some of the sought documents involve “due diligence” regarding Trump Media and other potential acquisition targets, as well as communications with Digital World’s underwriter and financial adviser in its initial public offering, according to the SEC disclosure.
Digital World also Monday announced the resignation of one of its board members, Bruce Garelick, a chief strategy officer at Rocket One.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
B.C. Premier John Horgan to resign in the fall after leadership review
M2 MacBook Pro SSD pales in comparison to M1 predecessor and Windows laptops – Windows Central
Clean fuel standards allow companies to get both tax credits and sell carbon credits
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Global Media Markets, 2015-2020, 2020-2025F, 2030F – TV and Radio Broadcasting, Film and Music, Information Services, Web Content, Search Portals And Social Media, Print Media, & Cable – GlobeNewswire
Tech10 hours ago
It's official: Xiaomi 12S series with Leica-tuned cameras is coming on July 4 – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com
Tech24 hours ago
iQOO will debut the Dimensity 9000 Plus processor in the upcoming 10-series flagship smartphones – Notebookcheck.net
Health21 hours ago
Sudbury news: Northern agencies highlight national HIV testing day | CTV News – CTV News Northern Ontario
Real eState23 hours ago
Calls increase for more money as Montreal and rest of Quebec facing housing crunch
Health20 hours ago
Monkeypox case count rises to more than 3400 globally, WHO says – The Globe and Mail
Sports19 hours ago
Makar gets love from Orr after winning 2022 Norris, Conn Smythe Trophies – NHL.com
Real eState20 hours ago
U.S. real estate giant Blackstone says it will not target single-family homes in its Canadian expansion – The Globe and Mail
News20 hours ago
Ottawa police say they're ready to shut down Canada Day occupation attempts – CBC.ca