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Republican debate: The US voters exhausted by their social media feeds – BBC



Wisconsin voters

How is social media affecting what Americans think about their presidential candidates and next year’s election? Ahead of the first Republican debate in Wisconsin, a diverse panel of voters explain what they’re seeing online and how it informs their views.

I’m at a bar in the Wisconsin city of Milwaukee, known for its cheese curds and beer, ahead of a key date in the election calendar. On Wednesday, it is set to host the first debate between Republicans hoping to be the party’s nominee in 2024.

I’m here because I want to better understand how social media is shaping next year’s election, so I’m meeting a group of voters with a range of different political views and experiences. Many of them rely on social media to keep up to date with the election.


For the past year, I’ve been running an experiment for the Americast podcast to see what different US voters are recommended and exposed to on social media.

But now I want to understand more about how this kind of content could be impacting real voters’ opinions on Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the election process.

‘Too much Trump’

Memes of former president Donald Trump are inescapable, my panel of voters all agree.

Sometimes he is dressed like a superhero or there are computer generated pictures of him in orange jail scrubs following his indictments.

These images are funny, says Andrew who doesn’t feel represented by mainstream political figures any more and uses social media as his main source of news.

Well it’s funny to a degree, he adds. There are times when he realises that politics is actually serious, these people are in charge and he’s losing trust in them.

Donald Trump

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The memes seem to have solidified in his mind the image of Trump as someone who’s a winner. But, like several of the other voters on my panel, the over-saturation of Trump-related content is turning him off the former president.

“Everybody cares about [Donald] Trump and [President] Biden. They don’t care about anything else in this country. It’s like ‘which one of these two is more screwed up?'”

Ken agrees. He’s a professor of justice and public policy at Concordia University Wisconsin, as well as a retired Milwaukee police lieutenant. He’s tired of the constant battle on social media and the way memes on all sides pit candidates against each other.

“I think Trump is both [a hero and a villain]. I think he’s done some good things and some bad things.”

“I’m seeing the same vitriol on both sides and for the first time in my life, I’m tired of politics”.

The Sleepy Joe imagery cuts through

Posts about the current president, who is running again, also come up a lot.

Videos frequently comment on President Joe Biden’s age and show examples of where he’s lost his footing or slurred his words.

He’s branded as Sleepy Joe, a nickname Trump has given him. That image has really cut through with all of the panel. They all say they’ve seen this kind of content and their main criticism of Biden is his age.

The memes are a little exaggerated but there’s some truth to them, says Mary, who is originally from Wisconsin but now lives in Florida in retirement.

“I mean, Joe Biden is old and sleepy. He hasn’t done a lot of positive things for the country. He needs to move on. And Donald Trump did some great things for the country when he was president. But Donald Trump has probably had his time as well.”

Other posts describe Biden as “Dark Brandon”, depicting him with bright red eyes and like an evil mastermind.

But there are positive images as well, presenting him as competent and on top of the economy, often with bar charts and animations.

Amanda, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, is more aligned to the Democrats and tends to see good things about Biden on her feed.

“I think he is old and slow. But I think he’s doing the best he can, given his age.”


What are the Undercover Voters?

  • I created five profiles a year ago to track what US voters are recommended and exposed to online.
  • My five voters were created to represent views from across the US political spectrum, based on data gathered by the Pew Research Centre. I gave each of them a profile on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, with names and computer-generated photos.
  • Their accounts are all private – and they don’t comment or talk to anyone real. They just like, follow and join groups, pages and accounts as per their interests and recommendations.
  • It’s been really interesting to see the kinds of content that is pushed to different people. But you don’t get a sense of how exhausting that can be until you meet real voters like my panel in Milwaukee.


‘Maybe the election WAS rigged’

Mr Trump has been charged by prosecutors in Washington and in Georgia with trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Joe Biden.

Most of the panel in Milwaukee condemned posts they had seen that falsely suggested the election was stolen from Mr Trump. They described him as a “sore loser”.

But Andrew is not so sure. The content he’s seen online suggesting the election is rigged appears to have undermined his faith in democracy.

“There’s a lot of distrust in government,” he says. “Maybe Trump is a sore loser. Maybe we [Republicans] lost. Maybe they cheated and maybe he didn’t. How am I suppose to tell?”

Wisconsin voters

Despite being unsure if the election was rigged he still plans to vote in the next one but fears his vote may just “go in the trash”.

But Ken, the retired police officer, pushes back.

“I think there needs to be more transparency, right? I’ve worked polls, I’ve been a chief poll inspector for Milwaukee during an election.”

If people like Andrew understood more about how the process worked, says Ken, maybe they would be able to trust the process.

The common ground

They all appreciate having a positive conversation in person free from the polarisation they encounter online.

“I don’t think people are nearly as divided as they make it seem like,” says Andrew. “I feel like at the end of the day, the five of us would all kind of agree on something similar.”

Amanda says she finds it really hard to even post about politics anymore.

“Sometimes I’ll post one thing and then all of a sudden I get a lot of hate and I’m like, Okay, I wasn’t trying to have an argument.”

That division, in Ken’s mind, can be blamed on social media and its algorithms, which reinforce opinions on both sides.

“I wish we spent more time getting to know people different from us here in Wisconsin than bothering with who the next president is going to be.”

For more about the Undercover Voters and the Republican debate, listen to Americast on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts

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Elon Musk’s X Slapped With Trademark Lawsuit From Social Media Ad Agency



X CORP., THE company formerly known as Twitter that ditched its bird logo in July, has notched another lawsuit in its growing pile of legal woes.

That ad agency, X Social Media, sued X. Corp in Florida on Monday, arguing that consumers are likely to to confused their ad services with the Elon Musk

The complaint, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law, states that X Social Media, LLC “has continuously used the X Social Media Mark in commerce since at least early 2016,” and that the Elon Musk-owned company was aware of X Social Media’s pre-existing rights to the trademark its brand overhaul.

In the filing, X Social Media — an advertising agency service geared towards law firms — claims that it has invested over $400 million in advertising, $2 million of which was dedicated to brand awareness, and that X. Corp’s name change will be “financially and strategically harmful” to the Florida-based agency.


“In a short time, X Corp. has wielded its social media clout, marketing resources, and overall national notoriety to dominate consumer perception of its ‘X’ mark,” the complaint states.

It is seeking an order that would block X Corp. from continuing to use the X name and requested an unspecified amount of money damages.

Elsewhere on Monday, Musk was also sued for libel after falsely claiming Ben Brody, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Riverside, California, was a government agent posing as a neo-Nazi. The lawsuit accused the billionaire of making “reckless false statements” and “promotion of disinformation,” and seeks $1 million in damages.

Texas firm Farrar & Ball attorney Mark Bankston, Brody’s legal counsel, wrote in an X post that Brody and his family were doxxed as a result of the conspiracy theory Musk promoted on his site, and had to flee their home during “weeks of terror.” Brody, he wrote, has a reputation now “catastrophically damaged” by the wealthiest man on the planet and has suffered mental anguish “at the crucial moment when he exits college and enters his career path.”

Despite his lawyers being informed of Brody’s defamation claim in August, Bankston has said that Musk declined to either retract his unfounded accusation or apologize for it.


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Sources – James Harden, seeking trade, not at 76ers media day



CAMDEN, N.J. — It took nearly four minutes Monday morning for Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to say James Harden‘s name. But, after rattling off the names of several other players and speaking confidently about the team’s chances to contend this season, Morey turned to the matter of Harden’s absence from media day.

“I want to address James Harden,” Morey said, sitting on a dais next to coach Nick Nurse, both wearing matching blue blazers to kick off the interviews. “He’s not here today. He continues to seek a trade, and we’re working with his representation to resolve that in the best way for the 76ers and, hopefully, all parties.”

Harden’s decision not to come Monday was the latest push in a summer full of them to fulfill his desire to be dealt to the LA Clippers. But although the two teams have talked recently, there’s been no traction on a deal, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.


The Sixers’ asking price remains high, and the Clippers don’t seem inclined to bid against themselves in a marketplace that is cool to unloading significant trade assets for Harden, sources told Wojnarowski.

As a result, Harden is still a member of the 76ers — and the franchise clearly would love for him to return and help in what the 76ers still believe is a group good enough to compete for a championship, even in the wake of the moves the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics made to get Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday, respectively, over the past few days.

“Who said they surpassed us?” reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid responded to a reporter. “We still gotta go out there and compete. You can do whatever you want off the court, but you still gotta go out there and put the ball in the hoop.

“I believe that any team that I’m on, we always gonna have a chance. Just need to be a little bit lucky. Just need to stay healthy — be healthy and stay healthy — and, you know, as a team, just come together.”

Harden exercised his $35.6 million contract option for the season in June with hopes of the Sixers trading him before camp, but Morey has shown a willingness to wait out Harden and try to get him reinvested in the team.

To that end, the message over and over again from the 76ers was that they hope they can get Harden to come back and take part alongside them. Harden on Friday was paid the 25% of his contract that he was scheduled to receive by Sunday, sources said, after already having received the 25% payment he was scheduled to receive on July 1.

It remains unclear when, or if, Harden is going to rejoin the team, which is flying to Fort Collins on Monday afternoon before holding training camp at Colorado State University for the next several days.

Morey, when asked if Harden would be fined for missing Monday, said the team would “treat James like every other player on the roster as required by the CBA.”

In August, Harden publicly called Morey a “liar” and suggested he wouldn’t fulfill his contractual services with the Sixers as long as Morey remained president. The league fined Harden $100,000.

In a call with league and union officials during the NBA’s investigation into the comments, Harden insisted he would be fulfilling his contractual obligations with the Sixers should he remain without a trade, sources said.

Morey, who has previously had a close relationship with Harden going back to when he acquired him as the general manage of the Houston Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, admitted this summer was difficult for him given how it’s all played out in the public sphere.

“I would say it was hard,” Morey said. “I think there are many people who worked with him for some time, but I’ve been right there with anyone else.

“Look, I think he’s a heck of a basketball player. I like him as a person. It was hard, I think, that he felt like that was the right course of action for him at that point. What else can I say? I think he’s a tremendous player that will help us if he chooses to be here. And, right now, that’s not where he wants to be.”

Morey did, however, push back on Harden’s assertion that he is a liar.

“I don’t think I have to interpret it,” Morey said. “He said what he meant. I think that was well reported on.

“I haven’t responded to that because I think it falls flat on its face. In 20 years of working in the league, always followed through on everything. Every top agent knows that. Everyone in the league knows. You can’t operate in this job without that. So, you know, privately I’ve appreciated all the key people in the league reaching out to me and knowing obviously that’s not true. But like I said before, obviously it was disappointing that he chose to handle it that way.”

Now, Philadelphia begins preparations for training camp — its first under Nurse, who replaced Doc Rivers earlier this summer — unsure of when — or if — its star point guard will join them. To that end, Nurse said he and the team will be preparing for both possibilities and will address them as things unfold.

“For me, it’s, it’s obviously we’ve kind of got Plan A, Plan B, right? We’ve gotta get the team ready regardless. We’re expecting him to show up.

“He shows up? We go. If he doesn’t? We go. There’s two ways to look at it. And we proceed and we really get to work in building our foundation of what we want to do, getting all our principles in, all the things that we want to do, and play the style of play we want to play regardless.”

Perhaps the best summation of the situation, however, came from Harden’s longtime friend and teammate P.J. Tucker, who was asked whether he thought Harden would be back anytime soon.

“That ain’t for me to answer,” Tucker said with a laugh and a shake of his head. “I have no idea.

“I hope they figure it out soon. But if not, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.”


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James Harden skips 76ers media day to take trade demand to next level – SB Nation



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