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Kurt Russell prefers to keep his politics personal – CNN

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The actor told The New York Times that he views his job as an entertainer and keeps his political opinions to himself.
“I’ve always been someone who felt we are court jesters. That’s what we do,” Russell told the publication. “As far as I’m concerned, you should step away from saying anything so that you can still be seen by the audience in any character. There’s no reason entertainers can’t learn just as much as anybody else about a subject, whatever it is. But I think that what’s sad about it is that they lose their status as a court jester. And I’m a court jester. That’s what I was born to do.”
While his longtime partner and “Christmas Chronicles 2” co-star Goldie Hawn weighed in that he’s “not always funny,” Russell maintained that he just wants to be seen as a capable actor.
“A court jester isn’t always funny. A court jester is the only one who can walk into the castle and put the king down as long as he doesn’t hit too close to home,” he said, adding, “I think that’s been a big, important part of all cultures throughout history, and I’d like to see it stay in ours.”
Hawn said she feels that celebrities voicing their political opinions is a “personal choice.”

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Tackling Online Abuse and Disinformation Targeting Women in Politics – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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In 2017, soon after then Ukrainian member of parliament Svitlana Zalishchuk gave a speech to the United Nations on the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on women, a fake tweet began to circulate on social media claiming that she had promised to run naked through the streets of Kiev if Russia-backed separatists won a critical battle. Zalishchuk said, “The story kept circulating on the Internet for a year,” casting a shadow over her political accomplishments.

Zalishchuk is not alone in her experience. Around the world, women in politics receive an overwhelming amount of online abuse, harassment, and gendered defamation via social media platforms. For example, a recent analysis of the 2020 U.S. congressional races found that female candidates were significantly more likely to receive online abuse than their male counterparts. On Facebook, female Democrats running for office received ten times more abusive comments than male Democratic candidates. Similar trends have been documented in India, the UK, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

Social media companies have come under increasing pressure to take a tougher stance against all forms of hate speech and harassment on their platforms, including against women, racial minorities, and other marginalized groups. Yet their patchwork approach to date has proven insufficient. Governments and international institutions need to press for more action and develop new standards for platform transparency and accountability that can help address the widespread toxicity that is currently undermining online political debate. If effectively designed and implemented, the EU’s Digital Services Act and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed National Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse will represent steps in the right direction.

The Global Challenge

Online abuse against politicians is often misunderstood as inevitable: after all, most public figures occasionally find themselves on the receiving end of vitriolic attacks. Yet over the past several years, the gendered and racialized nature of the phenomenon has received increasing policy attention, as women appear to be disproportionately targeted by online abuse and disinformation attacks.

This pattern tends to be even more pronounced for female political leaders from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups; for those who are highly visible in the media; and for those who speak out on feminist issues. In India, for example, an Amnesty International investigation found that one in every seven tweets that mentioned women politicians was problematic or abusive—and that both Muslim women politicians and women politicians belonging to marginalized castes received substantially more abuse than those from other social groups.

Lucina Di Meco

Lucina Di Meco is a women’s rights and gender equality expert, advocate, and author. She currently serves as senior director of the Girls’ Education & Gender Equality program at Room to Read and as a member of the Advisory Board at Fund Her.

Female politicians are not only targeted disproportionately but also subjected to different forms of harassment and abuse. Attacks targeting male politicians mostly relate to their professional duties, whereas online harassment directed at female politicians is more likely to focus on their physical appearance and sexuality and include threats of sexual violence and humiliating or sexualized imagery. Women in politics are also frequent targets of gendered disinformation campaigns, defined as the spreading of deceptive or inaccurate information and images. Such campaigns often create story lines that draw on misogyny and gender stereotypes. For example, a recent analysis shows that immediately following Kamala Harris’s nomination as the 2020 U.S. vice presidential candidate, false claims about Harris were being shared at least 3,000 times per hour on Twitter, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort. Similar tactics have been used throughout Europe and in Brazil.

The disproportionate and often strategic targeting of women politicians and activists has direct implications for the democratic process: it can discourage women from running for office, push women out of politics, or lead them to disengage from online political discourse in ways that harms their political effectiveness. For those women who persevere, the abuse can cause psychological harm and waste significant energy and time, particularly if politicians struggle to verify whether or when online threats pose real-life dangers to their safety.

What’s Driving Gendered Online Abuse

Some political scientists and social psychologists point to gender role theory to explain harassment and threats targeting female politicians. In many societies, the characteristics traditionally associated with politicians—such as ambition and assertiveness—tend to be coded “male,” which means that women who display these traits may be perceived as transgressing traditional social norms. Online harassment of women seeking political power could thus be understood as a form of gender role enforcement, facilitated by anonymity.

However, online abuse and sexist narratives targeting politically active women are not just the product of everyday misogyny: they are reinforced by political actors and deployed as a political strategy. Illiberal political actors often encourage online abuse against female political leaders and activists as a deliberate tactic to silence oppositional voices and push feminist politicians out of the political arena.

Saskia Brechenmacher

Fellow
Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program

Saskia Brechenmacher is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and a fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where her research focuses on gender, civil society, and democratic governance.

Laura Boldrini, an Italian politician and former UN official who served as president of the country’s Chamber of Deputies, experienced this situation firsthand: following sexist attacks by Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League party, and other male politicians, she was targeted by a wave of threatening and misogynistic abuse both online and offline. “Today, in my country, threats of rape are used to intimidate women politicians and push them out of the publish sphere—even by public figures,” notes Boldrini. “Political leaders themselves unleash this type of reaction.”1

What Can Be Done

In recent years, women politicians and activists have launched campaigns to raise awareness of the problem and its impact on democratic processes. Last August, the U.S. Democratic Women’s Caucus sent a letter to Facebook urging the company to protect women from rampant online attacks on the platform and to revise algorithms that reward extremist content. Similar advocacy initiatives have proliferated in different parts of the world, from the global #NotTheCost campaign to Reclaim the Internet in the UK, #WebWithoutViolence in Germany, and the #BetterThanThis campaign in Kenya.

Civil society organizations that support women running for office are also spearheading new strategies to respond to gendered online abuse. Some are offering specialized training and toolkits to help women political leaders protect themselves and counter sexualized and racialized disinformation. In Canada, a social enterprise created ParityBOT, a bot that detects problematic tweets about women candidates and responds with positive messages, thus serving both as a monitoring mechanism and a counterbalancing tool.

Yet despite rising external pressure from politicians and civil society, social media companies’ responses have so far been inadequate to tackle a problem as vast and complex as gendered disinformation and online abuse—whether it targets female politicians, activists, or ordinary citizens. For example, Facebook recently created an Oversight Board tasked with improving the platform’s decisionmaking around content moderation—yet many experts are highly skeptical of the board’s ability to drive change given its limited scope and goals. Twitter reportedly increased enforcement of its hate speech and abuse policies in the second half of 2019, as well as expanded its definition of dehumanizing speech. However, its policies to date lack a clear focus on the safety of women and other marginalized groups. Broader reforms are urgently needed.

Increase Platform Transparency and Accountability

Major social media platforms should do more to ensure transparency, accountability, and gender sensitivity in their mechanisms for content moderation, complaints, and redress. They should also take steps to proactively prevent the spread of hateful speech online, including through changes in risk assessment practices and product design.

To date, most tech companies still have inadequate and unclear content moderation systems. For example, social media companies currently do not disclose their exact guidelines on what constitutes hate speech and harassment or how they implement those guidelines. To address this problem, nonprofits such as Glitch and ISD have suggested that social media platforms allow civil society organizations and independent researchers to access and analyze their data on the number and nature of complaints received, disaggregated by gender, country, and the redress actions taken. According to Amnesty International, tech companies should also be more transparent about their language detection mechanisms, the number of content moderators employed by region and language, the volume of reports handled, and how moderators are trained to recognize culturally specific and gendered forms of abuse. To this day, most tech companies focus on tackling online abuse primarily in Europe and the United States, resulting in an enforcement gap in the Global South. Greater transparency about companies’ current content moderation capacity would enable governments and civil society to better identify shortcomings and push for targeted resource investments.

The move to more automated content moderation is unlikely to solve the problem of widespread and culturally specific gendered and racialized online abuse. Until now, social media companies have used automated tools primarily for content that is easier to identify computationally. Yet these tools are blunt and often biased. So far during the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all relied more heavily on automation to remove harmful content. As a result, significantly more accounts have been suspended and more content has been flagged and removed than in the months leading up to the pandemic. But some of this content was posted by human rights activists who had no mechanism for appealing those decisions, and some clearly hateful content—such as racist and anti-Semitic hate speech in France—remained online. “Machine learning will always be a limited tool, given that context plays an enormous part of how harassment and gendered disinformation work online,” notes Chloe Colliver, the head of digital policy and strategy at ISD. “We need some combination of greater human resources and expertise along with a focus on developing AI systems that are more accurate in detecting gendered disinformation.”2

The proliferation of online harassment, hate speech, and disinformation is not only driven by gaps in content moderation but also by a business model that monetizes user engagement with little regard for risk. At the moment, Twitter and other platforms rely on deep learning algorithms that prioritize disseminating content with greater engagement. Inflammatory posts often quickly generate comments and retweets, which means that newsfeed algorithms will show them to more users. Online abuse that relies on sensational language and images targeting female politicians thus tends to spread rapidly. Higher levels of engagement generate more user behavior data that brings in advertising revenue, which means social media companies currently have few financial incentives to change the status quo.

Advocates and experts have put forward different proposals to tackle this problem. For example, social media companies could proactively tweak their recommendation systems to prevent users from being nudged toward hateful content. They also could improve their mechanism for detecting and suspending algorithms that amplify gendered and racialized hate speech—a step that some organizations have suggested to help address pandemic-related mis/disinformation. As part of this process, companies could disclose and explain their content-shaping algorithms and ad-targeting systems, which currently operate almost entirely beyond public scrutiny.

In addition, they could improve their risk assessment practices prior to launching new products or tools or before expanding into a new political and cultural context. At the moment, content moderation is often siloed from product design and engineering, which means that social media companies are permanently focused on investigating and redressing complaints instead of building mechanisms that “increase friction” for users and make it harder for gendered hate speech and disinformation to spread in the first place. Moreover, decisions around risk are often taken by predominantly male, white senior staffers: this type of homogeneity frequently leads to gender and race blindness in product development and rollout. Across all of these domains, experts call for greater transparency and collaboration with outside expertise, including researchers working on humane technology and ethical design.

Step Up Government Action

Given tech companies’ limited action to date, democratic governments also have a responsibility to do more. Rather than asking social media companies to become the final arbiters of online speech, they should advance broader regulatory frameworks that require platforms to become more transparent about their moderation practices and algorithmic decisionmaking, as well as ensure compliance through independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms. Governments also have an important role to play in supporting civil society advocacy, research, and public education on gendered and racialized patterns of online abuse, including against political figures.

The first wave of legislation aimed at mitigating abuse, harassment, and hate speech on social media platforms focused primarily on criminalizing and removing different types of harmful online content. Some efforts have targeted individual perpetrators. For example, in the UK, legal guidelines issued in 2016 and in 2018 enable the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute internet trolls who create derogatory hashtags, engage in virtual mobbing (inciting people to harass others), or circulate doctored images. In 2019, Mexico passed a new law that specifically targets gendered online abuse: it punishes, with up to nine years in prison, those who create or disseminate intimate images or videos of women or attack women on social networks. The law also includes the concept of “digital violence” in the Mexican penal code.

Such legal reforms are important steps, particularly if they are paired with targeted resources and training for law enforcement. Female politicians often report that law enforcement officials do not take their experiences with online threats and abuse seriously enough; legal reforms and prosecution guidelines can help change this pattern. However, efforts to go after individual perpetrators are insufficient to tackle the current scale of misogynistic online harassment and abuse targeting women politicians and women and girls more generally: even if applicable legal frameworks exist, thresholds for prosecution are often set very high and not all victims want to press charges. Moreover, anonymous perpetrators can be difficult to trace, and the caseload easily exceeds current policing capacity. In the UK, for example, fewer than 1 percent of cases taken up by the police unit charged with tackling online hate crimes have resulted in charges.

Other countries have passed laws that make social media companies responsible for the removal of illegal material. For example, in 2017, Germany introduced a new law that requires platforms to remove hate speech or illegal content within twenty-four hours or risk millions of dollars in fines. However, this approach has raised strong concerns among human rights activists, who argue that this measure shifts the responsibility to social media companies to determine what constitutes legal speech without providing adequate mechanisms for judicial oversight or judicial remedy. In June 2020, the French constitutional court struck down a similar law due to concerns about overreach and censorship. French feminist and antiracist organizations had previously criticized the measure, noting that it could restrict the speech of those advocating against hate and extremism online and that victims would benefit more from sustained investments in existing legal remedies.

In light of these challenges, many researchers and advocates have started . One example of this approach is the UK’s 2019 Online Harms White Paper, which “proposes establishing in law a new duty of care towards users” to deal proactively with possible risks that platform users might encounter, under the oversight of an independent regulator. The proposed regulatory framework—which is set to result in a new UK law in early 2021—would “outline the systems, procedures, technologies and investment, including in staffing, training and support of human moderators, that companies need to adopt to help demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care to their users.” It would also set strict standards for transparency and require companies to ensure that their algorithms do not amplify extreme and unreliable material for the sake of user engagement. The EU’s Digital Services Act, currently in development, is another opportunity to advance a regulatory approach focused on harm prevention. The act should demand greater transparency from social media platforms about content moderation practices and algorithmic systems, as well as require better risk assessment practices. It also should incentivize companies to move away from a business model that values user engagement above everything else.

Of course, governments can take action beyond passing and enforcing platform regulations. They can promote digital citizenship education in school curricula to ensure that teenagers and young adults develop the skills to recognize and report inappropriate online conduct and to communicate respectfully online. In Europe, as part of negotiations around the Digital Services Act, activists are demanding that governments dedicate part of the Digital Services Tax to fund broader efforts to tackle online abuse, including additional research on patterns of gendered and racialized online harassment. In the United States, Biden’s proposal to set up a national task force—bringing together federal and state agencies, advocates, law enforcement, and tech companies—to tackle online harassment and abuse and understand its connection to violence against women and extremism represents a welcome and important step toward developing longer-term solutions. Equally welcome are his proposals to allocate new funding for law enforcement trainings on online harassments and threats and to support legislation that establishes a civil and criminal cause of action for unauthorized disclosure of intimate images.

Who Is Responsible

The problem of gendered and racialized harassment and abuse targeting women political leaders extends far beyond the online realm: traditional media outlets, political parties, and civil society all have crucial roles to play in committing to and modeling a more respectful and humane political discourse.

However, social media companies have the primary responsibility to prevent the amplification of online abuse and disinformation—a responsibility that they are currently failing to meet. As the coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the global shift to online campaigning and mobilization, there is now an even greater need for governments to hold these companies accountable for addressing all forms of hate speech, harassment, and disinformation on their platforms. Both Biden’s proposed national task force and the EU’s Digital Services Act represent key opportunities for developing new regulatory approaches mandating greater transparency and accountability in content moderation, algorithmic decisionmaking, and risk assessment.

These reform efforts need to include a gender lens. As Boldrini emphasizes, “It is extremely important to speak out against sexism and misogyny in our societies, particularly in light of the global movement against women’s rights inspired by the far right. The time has come to start a new feminist revolution to defend the rights we already have—as well as to acquire new rights.” Ensuring that all women political leaders and activists can engage in democratic processes online without fear of harassment, threats, and abuse will be a central piece of this struggle.3

Notes

1 Authors’ interview with Laura Boldrini, written communication, November 1, 2020.

2 Authors’ interview with Chloe Colliver, video call, October 28, 2020.

3 Authors’ interview with Laura Boldrini, written communication, November 1, 2020.

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Politics Podcast: Why Did Down-Ballot Democrats Have Such A Mediocre Showing? – FiveThirtyEight

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Biden’s 2020 electoral map was ultimately a pretty good one for Democrats. While several states may have been closer than Democrats would have liked, Biden won back the “blue wall” states in the Upper Midwest and expanded Democrats’ map in the Sun Belt. He also won a record breaking 80 million votes nationally. Democrats down-ballot can’t quite say the same, though. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the challenges that the party faced in House, Senate and state legislature races. They also ask whether it was a good use of polling to survey preferences for the 2024 Republican primary before Trump has even left the White House.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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Shelburne Councillor shares his journey into politics – Toronto Star

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Shelburne Deputy Mayor, Steve Anderson is a crusader for inclusivity of all people in his com-munity and fervently believes that one should be judged on their aims and accomplishments.He also serves as the County Councillor of Dufferin and is the first born Canadian in a fam-ily of six siblings, with Jamaican parents.Steve grew up in Jane Finch, in Toronto, attended the University of Windsor for his Hon-ours Baccalaureate in criminology, started Law School at the University of Detroit Mercy and finished his degree at the University of Ottawa. He was subsequently hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to work in their legal department as a litigator. Considering his present position as a vocal advocate for civil rights and the inclusion of all people and races in todays society, it begs the question why choose litigation law rather than civil rights of some similar field?Steve’s answer was simple. He did not start out imagining himself leading some great advocacy charge. Rather, he knew he wanted to make a dif-ference in the world and saw the law as a poten-tial pathway to achieving it. Steve said the TTC gave him the chance to build his own platform. Once he found himself working for such an iconic institution, people saw him as a possible resource.He was a lawyer when working for the TTC and someone who could go into schools to speak with youth. This resulted in many opened many doors for Steve. He was asked to speak to schools and many organizations about his experiences. This, in turn, reverberated with his bosses and their bosses and they supported it wholeheartedly. In part, because of its benefit to the youth of the community and in part, because it reflected positively on them. Steve and a friend of his, Ian, worked together in Steve’s old neighbourhood of Jane Finch, to help youth there. They assisted in achievement awards for academics, community service and other accomplishments. They have done this for over ten years and still continue today, but with COVID-19 precautions.From Steve’s work in Toronto he learned a lot about the potential to impact change through politics and a seed was planted. The seed sprouted when he had just moved to Shelburne with his family and the munici-pal elections were underway. He thought about entering the race, but realized that he knew noth-ing about the issues of his new community, so he waited. But while he waited, he began to follow the local political scene and learned about issues affecting ShelburneHe did not yet know the community, but he knew the issues. It was then that the Town asked for members to become a part of the Transit Task Force. It was a perfect fit for a TTC veteran. The task force was composed of CAO John Telfer, Ron Monroe and Steve. The plan was to run a transit system in town for two years and then have Go Transit take it over. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition, but it made Go Transit aware of the town and its desire for tran-sit.Several years later, Steve was part of bringing Grey County transit buses to Shelburne.It was shortly after the task force dissolved, that Councillor Tom Egan suddenly passed, creating a vacancy on Town Council. Steve decided that he should throw his hat in the ring and try to become a part of the commu-nity’s political machine. He faced an uphill battle. Tom Egan had been a much loved member of the community for many years and he left very big shoes to fill, no matter who took over, let alone a new resident, not well known in the community. After going through the selection process, Steve won the appointment and the rest is his-tory, but, not history without effort. Realizing how big of an achievement he had just accomplished, Steve decided that he had to hit the ground running if he was to have any chance of wining the hearts and minds of Shel-burne’s residents and continue in his political endeavours.His first goal was to honour Tom Egan and he did so by getting Council to create the Tom Egan Community Service Award.When Steve was going through the selection process and even before that, on the Transit Task Force, the question came up as to what he thought could be done to make the old and new resident communities more inclusive of each other.The slogan, “Shelburne Stronger Together” originated from this thought. This is what char-acterizes Steve’s community involvement, bring-ing the community together. He was the first councillor in Shelburne, to hold a “meet and greet “ at the Town Library, where constituents could come and meet him, hear his views and present their questions and opinions.Following his first 10 months, Steve let the community know who he was and what to expect. Then came the 2018 municipal elections. As he tells it, Steve never wanted to be Deputy Mayor. He had formed a close friendship with Geoff Dunlop, the Deputy Mayor preceding him and he wanted to see Geoff remain in that posi-tion. I would have been happy just to win a full term on council, he said. But life had other plans and Geoff decided to bow out of politics, leaving Steve feeling like he should run for the position after all. He revealed that his reason for doing so, almost reluctantly, is because if he did not, he felt the community “was going to go off in a direction that he did not think it should be going.”Steve knew he would have to be exceptional to win the seat, but he believed in his vision for the direction of the community and so he took up the challenge.Following his election to the position of Dep-uty Mayor, his political life has become almost as demanding as his career as an attorney.Partially, the reason for this is because of his dedication to welcoming and supporting all the different cultures and populace diversities of Shelburne, while working to help solve the many municipal government problems in the Town. When looking back on his campaign to become Deputy Mayor, one of the things Steve feels most strongly helped him was going door to door with Councillor Walter Benotto. Walter is the longest serving member of council and is very well known in the town, yet together they complimented each other in going door to door. In the newer subdivisions, frequently Steve was recognized and introduced Walter, while in the established parts of town, it was the other way around, but together, they made a solid impres-sion of cooperation and a shared commitment to a Shelburne both embracing the new and holding onto the establishment.When asked if he would consider running for Mayor, Steve was adamant, he will not. He thinks Wade Mills is a good Mayor and a good working partner. They share a similar vision of the Town and Steve is happy being the Deputy Mayor. Serving as Mayor is demanding rand requires a considerable amount of time, which Steve feels, for him, would be better spent continuing his current efforts. One of those efforts was epitomized for Steve in the Black Lives Matter March that was held in Shelburne. He was overwhelmed by the turnout and by the diversity of people who participated. “Black, white, you name it,” said Steve. It was then that the realization came that if he and the Mayor and the Town ever needed a man-date, it was there. The people overwhelmingly were in support of the fundamental right for all people to be included in society as equals. It was a clear indi-cation that it was time to take action and that action became the Anti Racism and Discrimina-tion Taskforce, established by Shelburne Town Council.The task force was established to confront social issues and seek to correct them. One point that was brought up by Steve in the context of having difficult conversations about racism, was that having these conversations does not mean pointing fingers at people. Pointing fin-gers defeats the purpose of discussion. What is needed is collaboration and a willing-ness to listen and work towards rectifying issues, said Steve.Council has set aside $20,000 in its 2021 Bud-get to follow the task force recommendations and advocated for money in future budgets to con-tinue the work and to support new initiatives that may come from this.With the next election only two years away, Steve has put thought into what he wants to do and what he has been able to accomplish. He told the Citizen he isn’t interested in pro-vincial or federal politics, nor the Mayor position but is content being Deputy Mayor and staying in municipal politics, where he can get things accomplished. Steve likes to be able to point to the promises he made and kept, he is proud of his personal brand and what he stands for. He has not done all that he wants to do in Shelburne, he may never, but he wants to try. Steve believes that a man is judged by his accomplishments, not just by his promises and in municipal politics he can live by his own stan-dard and not the will of the party. He can listen to the people and he can try to get them what they want and so for the foreseeable future he is happy being on Town Council.

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