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Questions raised about angry social media commentary directed at health workers – BradfordToday

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Doctors and other health-care professionals are speaking out about the abuse they endure on social media for commenting on various medical topics.

The issue was described in a recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

The article highlighted numerous situations in Canada and the U.S. where physicians have received intimidating emails and negative comments for things they have said in public forums. 

Dr. Najma Ahmed, a Toronto trauma surgeon, was quoted in the article about experiencing “intense harassment” from pro-gun advocates after she spoke to the media about the need for tougher gun control. 

According to the article, Dr. Ahmed said she was surprised at the level of the online harassment directed at her after she spoke out after treating numerous victims of a mass shooting in Toronto’s Danforth Avenue district.  

Ahmed had been advocating to have legislators treat mass gun violence as a public health issue. 

“The objective of making these complaints is to cause hassle and stress for the physician, and it certainly did do that,” said Ahmed, in a radio news report.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be drumming up more angst and anger among citizens who believe that doctors should not be commenting on public health issues. In some cases it goes beyond social media commentary. 

In Saskatchewan, a crowd of angry citizens gathered outside the home of Dr. Saqib Shahab, the provincial chief medical health officer, to protest against pandemic public health restrictions implemented by the provincial government. 

The protest sparked an outcry from other citizens who felt it was wrong to take a political protest to the home of a provincial employee. Even Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe described the protesters as “idiots.”

In most jurisdictions in Canada, employers are responsible for ensuring their employees do not experience threats of violence, abuse or intimidation in their workplace. 

The CMAJ report said physicians across North America have experienced similar complaints about their presence online.

“In a recent survey of 460 American physicians published in JAMA Internal Medicine, nearly one in four reported being attacked on social media,” said the article. 

“According to the study authors, these attacks were not simple “spats.” The harassment ranged from posting fake reviews and complaining to physicians’ employers, to racist abuse, violent threats, and doxing (exposing private information, like a physician’s home address, without consent). Abuse levelled at women was much more likely to be sexually explicit. One in six female physicians reported they had been sexually harassed online, including receiving rape threats, compared to nearly one in 50 of their male colleagues,” said the article. 

A similar article was published in May 2020 in The Lancet, a world leading British medical journal, that revealed that since the beginning of the pandemic, health-care workers around the world have been subject to violence and abuse from people upset with health restrictions. 

“Nurses and doctors have been pelted with eggs and physically assaulted in Mexico. In the Philippines, a nurse was reportedly attacked by men who poured bleach on his face, damaging his vision. Across India, reports describe health-care workers being beaten, stoned, spat on, threatened, and evicted from their homes. These are just a few examples among many across numerous countries, including the USA and Australia,” said the report.

A JAMA Network article from August 2020 said much of the harassment and abuse is related to the anti-vaccine movement that began five years ago. 

“Since the 2015 measles outbreak that focused attention on vaccine policy, individuals opposed to vaccination mandates have attacked health officials and legislators online or in person in Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado,” said that report. 

“Some of the same groups, joined by other individuals frustrated with public health officials, are now actively resisting efforts to require masks, reinstitute business closures, and prepare for COVID-19 vaccination, jeopardizing the eventual acceptance of vaccines,” the report continued.

Some physicians say the best way to deal with online abusers is to ignore them. 

“Sometimes the most appropriate response is not to engage,” said Winnipeg surgeon Dr. Gigi Osler. 

“For social media trolls, engagement is their oxygen.”

To avoid abuse, some health advocates have quit social media, while others have reduced their online presence.

The CMAJ report said there are few formal supports for health care professionals who face online abuse.  The report quoted Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Ann Collins who said protection is needed for physicians who speak up on health issues. Collin spoke out against bullying two weeks ago.

“We must speak out against such intimidation, whether online or in-person, and urge those responsible for overseeing social media platforms and law enforcement bodies to put an end to this highly alarming conduct. Peaceful protests are an important feature of our democracy, but these recent demonstrations have crossed a crucial line between free speech and willful intimidation,” said Collins. 

“Public health officials and health care workers in Canada have been working tirelessly — under stressful and very challenging conditions — since the beginning of the pandemic to keep Canadians healthy and safe. They deserve nothing short of our full appreciation and respect.” 

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GOP pushes bills to allow social media 'censorship' lawsuits – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Republican state lawmakers are pushing for social media giants to face costly lawsuits for policing content on their websites , taking aim at a federal law that prevents internet companies from being sued for removing posts.

GOP politicians in roughly two dozen states have introduced bills that would allow for civil lawsuits against platforms for what they call the “censorship” of posts. Many protest the deletion of political and religious statements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats, who also have called for greater scrutiny of big tech, are sponsoring the same measures in at least two states.

The federal liability shield has long been a target of former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, whose complaints about Silicon Valley stifling conservative viewpoints were amplified when the companies cracked down on misleading posts about the 2020 election.

Twitter and Facebook, which are often criticized for opaque policing policies, took the additional step of silencing Trump on their platforms after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Twitter has banned him, while a semi-independent panel is reviewing Facebook’s indefinite suspension of his account and considering whether to reinstate access.

Experts argue the legislative proposals are doomed to fail while the federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, is in place. They said state lawmakers are wading into unconstitutional territory by trying to interfere with the editorial policies of private companies.

Len Niehoff, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, described the idea as a “ constitutional non-starter.”

“If an online platform wants to have a policy that it will delete certain kinds of tweets, delete certain kinds of users, forbid certain kinds of content, that is in the exercise of their right as a information distributer,” he said. “And the idea that you would create a cause of action that would allow people to sue when that happens is deeply problematic under the First Amendment.”

The bills vary slightly but many allow for civil lawsuits if a social media user is censored over posts having to do with politics or religion, with some proposals allowing for damages of $75,000 for each blocked post. They would apply to companies with millions of users and carve out exemptions for posts that call for violence, entice criminal acts or other similar conduct.

The sponsor of Oklahoma’s version, Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, said social media posts are being unjustly censored and that people should have a way to challenge the platforms’ actions given their powerful place in American discourse. His bill passed committee in late February on a 5-3 vote, with Democrats opposed.

“This just gives citizens recourse,” he said, adding that the companies “can’t abuse that immunity” given to them through federal law.

Part of a broad, 1996 federal law on telecoms, Section 230 generally exempts internet companies from being sued over what users post on their sites. The statute, which was meant to promote growth of the internet, exempts websites from being sued for removing content deemed to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” as long as the companies are acting in “good faith.”

As the power of social media has grown, so has the prospect of government regulation. Several congressional hearings have been held on content moderation, sometimes with Silicon Valley CEOs called to testify. Republicans, and some Democrats, have argued that the companies should lose their liability shield or that Section 230 should be updated to make the companies meet certain criteria before receiving the legal protection.

Twitter and Facebook also have been hounded over what critics have described as sluggish, after-the-fact account suspensions or post takedowns, with liberals complaining they have given too much latitude to conservatives and hate groups.

Trump railed against Section 230 throughout his term in office, well before Twitter and Facebook blocked his access to their platforms after the assault on the Capitol. Last May, he signed a largely symbolic executive order that directed the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the companies.

“All of these tech monopolies are going to abuse their power and interfere in our elections, and it has to be stopped,” he told supporters at the Capitol hours before the riot.

Antigone Davis, global head of safety for Facebook, said these kinds of proposals would make it harder for the site to remove posts involving hate speech, sexualized photos of minors and other harmful content.

“We will continue advocating for updated rules for the internet, including reforms to federal law that protect free expression while allowing platforms like ours to remove content that threatens the safety and security of people across the United States,” she said.

In a statement, Twitter said: “We enforce the Twitter rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service – regardless of ideology or political affiliation – and our policies help us to protect the diversity and health of the public conversation.”

Researchers have not found widespread evidence that social media companies are biased against conservative news, posts or materials.

In a February report, New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights called the accusations political disinformation spread by Republicans. The report recommended that social media sites give clear reasoning when they take action against material on their platforms.

“Greater transparency — such as that which Twitter and Facebook offered when they took action against President Trump in January — would help to defuse claims of political bias, while clarifying the boundaries of acceptable user conduct,” the report read.

While the federal law is in place, the state proposals mostly amount to political posturing, said Darrell West, vice-president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a public policy group.

“This is red meat for the base. It’s a way to show conservatives they don’t like being pushed around,” he said. “They’ve seen Trump get kicked off Facebook and Twitter, and so this is a way to tell Republican voters this is unfair and Republicans are fighting for them.”

___

Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York

___

Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Anthony Izaguirre, The Associated Press

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GOP lawmakers push bills to allow social media ‘censorship’ lawsuits – Global News

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Republican state lawmakers are pushing for social media giants to face costly lawsuits for policing content on their websites, taking aim at a federal law that prevents internet companies from being sued for removing posts.

GOP politicians in roughly two dozen states have introduced bills that would allow for civil lawsuits against platforms for what they call the “censorship” of posts. Many protest the deletion of political and religious statements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats, who also have called for greater scrutiny of big tech, are sponsoring the same measures in at least two states.

The federal liability shield has long been a target of former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, whose complaints about Silicon Valley stifling conservative viewpoints were amplified when the companies cracked down on misleading posts about the 2020 election.

Read more:
Twitter crackdown on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation will see repeat offenders removed

Story continues below advertisement

Twitter and Facebook, which are often criticized for opaque policing policies, took the additional step of silencing Trump on their platforms after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Twitter has banned him, while a semi-independent panel is reviewing Facebook’s indefinite suspension of his account and considering whether to reinstate access.

Experts argue the legislative proposals are doomed to fail while the federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, is in place. They said state lawmakers are wading into unconstitutional territory by trying to interfere with the editorial policies of private companies.

Len Niehoff, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, described the idea as a “constitutional non-starter.”

“If an online platform wants to have a policy that it will delete certain kinds of tweets, delete certain kinds of users, forbid certain kinds of content, that is in the exercise of their right as a information distributer,” he said. “And the idea that you would create a cause of action that would allow people to sue when that happens is deeply problematic under the First Amendment.”

The bills vary slightly but many allow for civil lawsuits if a social media user is censored over posts having to do with politics or religion, with some proposals allowing for damages of $75,000 for each blocked post. They would apply to companies with millions of users and carve out exemptions for posts that call for violence, entice criminal acts or other similar conduct.

Story continues below advertisement


Click to play video 'MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended'



1:57
MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended


MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended

The sponsor of Oklahoma’s version, Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, said social media posts are being unjustly censored and that people should have a way to challenge the platforms’ actions given their powerful place in American discourse. His bill passed committee in late February on a 5-3 vote, with Democrats opposed.

“This just gives citizens recourse,” he said, adding that the companies “can’t abuse that immunity” given to them through federal law.

Part of a broad, 1996 federal law on telecoms, Section 230 generally exempts internet companies from being sued over what users post on their sites. The statute, which was meant to promote growth of the internet, exempts websites from being sued for removing content deemed to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” as long as the companies are acting in “good faith.”

Story continues below advertisement

Read more:
Twitter adding more labels to identify government, world leader accounts

As the power of social media has grown, so has the prospect of government regulation. Several congressional hearings have been held on content moderation, sometimes with Silicon Valley CEOs called to testify. Republicans, and some Democrats, have argued that the companies should lose their liability shield or that Section 230 should be updated to make the companies meet certain criteria before receiving the legal protection.

Twitter and Facebook also have been hounded over what critics have described as sluggish, after-the-fact account suspensions or post takedowns, with liberals complaining they have given too much latitude to conservatives and hate groups.

Trump railed against Section 230 throughout his term in office, well before Twitter and Facebook blocked his access to their platforms after the assault on the Capitol. Last May, he signed a largely symbolic executive order that directed the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the companies.

“All of these tech monopolies are going to abuse their power and interfere in our elections, and it has to be stopped,” he told supporters at the Capitol hours before the riot.

Antigone Davis, global head of safety for Facebook, said these kinds of proposals would make it harder for the site to remove posts involving hate speech, sexualized photos of minors and other harmful content.

Story continues below advertisement


Click to play video 'President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message'



2:04
President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message


President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message – Feb 13, 2021

“We will continue advocating for updated rules for the internet, including reforms to federal law that protect free expression while allowing platforms like ours to remove content that threatens the safety and security of people across the United States,” she said.

In a statement, Twitter said: “We enforce the Twitter rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service – regardless of ideology or political affiliation – and our policies help us to protect the diversity and health of the public conversation.”

Researchers have not found widespread evidence that social media companies are biased against conservative news, posts or materials.

Read more:
Fact or Fiction: Does ‘cancel culture’ work in holding people accountable?

In a February report, New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights called the accusations political disinformation spread by Republicans. The report recommended that social media sites give clear reasoning when they take action against material on their platforms.

Story continues below advertisement

“Greater transparency — such as that which Twitter and Facebook offered when they took action against President Trump in January — would help to defuse claims of political bias, while clarifying the boundaries of acceptable user conduct,” the report read.

While the federal law is in place, the state proposals mostly amount to political posturing, said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a public policy group.

“This is red meat for the base. It’s a way to show conservatives they don’t like being pushed around,” he said. “They’ve seen Trump get kicked off Facebook and Twitter, and so this is a way to tell Republican voters this is unfair and Republicans are fighting for them.”

___

Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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GOP lawmakers push bills to allow social media ‘censorship’ lawsuits – Global News

Published

 on


Republican state lawmakers are pushing for social media giants to face costly lawsuits for policing content on their websites, taking aim at a federal law that prevents internet companies from being sued for removing posts.

GOP politicians in roughly two dozen states have introduced bills that would allow for civil lawsuits against platforms for what they call the “censorship” of posts. Many protest the deletion of political and religious statements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats, who also have called for greater scrutiny of big tech, are sponsoring the same measures in at least two states.

The federal liability shield has long been a target of former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, whose complaints about Silicon Valley stifling conservative viewpoints were amplified when the companies cracked down on misleading posts about the 2020 election.

Read more:
Twitter crackdown on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation will see repeat offenders removed

Story continues below advertisement

Twitter and Facebook, which are often criticized for opaque policing policies, took the additional step of silencing Trump on their platforms after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Twitter has banned him, while a semi-independent panel is reviewing Facebook’s indefinite suspension of his account and considering whether to reinstate access.

Experts argue the legislative proposals are doomed to fail while the federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, is in place. They said state lawmakers are wading into unconstitutional territory by trying to interfere with the editorial policies of private companies.

Len Niehoff, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, described the idea as a “constitutional non-starter.”

“If an online platform wants to have a policy that it will delete certain kinds of tweets, delete certain kinds of users, forbid certain kinds of content, that is in the exercise of their right as a information distributer,” he said. “And the idea that you would create a cause of action that would allow people to sue when that happens is deeply problematic under the First Amendment.”

The bills vary slightly but many allow for civil lawsuits if a social media user is censored over posts having to do with politics or religion, with some proposals allowing for damages of $75,000 for each blocked post. They would apply to companies with millions of users and carve out exemptions for posts that call for violence, entice criminal acts or other similar conduct.

Story continues below advertisement


Click to play video 'MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended'



1:57
MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended


MPP Hillier twitter account temporarily suspended

The sponsor of Oklahoma’s version, Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, said social media posts are being unjustly censored and that people should have a way to challenge the platforms’ actions given their powerful place in American discourse. His bill passed committee in late February on a 5-3 vote, with Democrats opposed.

“This just gives citizens recourse,” he said, adding that the companies “can’t abuse that immunity” given to them through federal law.

Part of a broad, 1996 federal law on telecoms, Section 230 generally exempts internet companies from being sued over what users post on their sites. The statute, which was meant to promote growth of the internet, exempts websites from being sued for removing content deemed to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” as long as the companies are acting in “good faith.”

Story continues below advertisement

Read more:
Twitter adding more labels to identify government, world leader accounts

As the power of social media has grown, so has the prospect of government regulation. Several congressional hearings have been held on content moderation, sometimes with Silicon Valley CEOs called to testify. Republicans, and some Democrats, have argued that the companies should lose their liability shield or that Section 230 should be updated to make the companies meet certain criteria before receiving the legal protection.

Twitter and Facebook also have been hounded over what critics have described as sluggish, after-the-fact account suspensions or post takedowns, with liberals complaining they have given too much latitude to conservatives and hate groups.

Trump railed against Section 230 throughout his term in office, well before Twitter and Facebook blocked his access to their platforms after the assault on the Capitol. Last May, he signed a largely symbolic executive order that directed the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the companies.

“All of these tech monopolies are going to abuse their power and interfere in our elections, and it has to be stopped,” he told supporters at the Capitol hours before the riot.

Antigone Davis, global head of safety for Facebook, said these kinds of proposals would make it harder for the site to remove posts involving hate speech, sexualized photos of minors and other harmful content.

Story continues below advertisement


Click to play video 'President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message'



2:04
President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message


President Biden speaks against racism against Asian Americans in Lunar New Year message – Feb 13, 2021

“We will continue advocating for updated rules for the internet, including reforms to federal law that protect free expression while allowing platforms like ours to remove content that threatens the safety and security of people across the United States,” she said.

In a statement, Twitter said: “We enforce the Twitter rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service – regardless of ideology or political affiliation – and our policies help us to protect the diversity and health of the public conversation.”

Researchers have not found widespread evidence that social media companies are biased against conservative news, posts or materials.

Read more:
Fact or Fiction: Does ‘cancel culture’ work in holding people accountable?

In a February report, New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights called the accusations political disinformation spread by Republicans. The report recommended that social media sites give clear reasoning when they take action against material on their platforms.

Story continues below advertisement

“Greater transparency — such as that which Twitter and Facebook offered when they took action against President Trump in January — would help to defuse claims of political bias, while clarifying the boundaries of acceptable user conduct,” the report read.

While the federal law is in place, the state proposals mostly amount to political posturing, said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a public policy group.

“This is red meat for the base. It’s a way to show conservatives they don’t like being pushed around,” he said. “They’ve seen Trump get kicked off Facebook and Twitter, and so this is a way to tell Republican voters this is unfair and Republicans are fighting for them.”

___

Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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