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Rioters accused of erasing content from social media, phones – 95.7 News

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PHOENIX (AP) — They flaunted their participation in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol on social media and then, apparently realizing they were in legal trouble, rushed to delete evidence of it, authorities say. Now their attempts to cover up their role in the deadly siege are likely to come back to haunt them in court.

An Associated Press review of court records has found that at least 49 defendants are accused of trying to erase incriminating photos, videos and texts from phones or social media accounts documenting their conduct as a pro-Donald Trump mob stormed Congress and briefly interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

Experts say the efforts to scrub the social media accounts reveal a desperate willingness to manipulate evidence once these people realized they were in hot water. And, they say, it can serve as powerful proof of people’s consciousness of guilt and can make it harder to negotiate plea deals and seek leniency at sentencing.

“It makes them look tricky, makes them look sneaky,” said Gabriel J. Chin, who teaches criminal law at the University of California, Davis.

One such defendant is James Breheny, a member of the Oath Keepers extremist group, who bragged in texts to others about being inside the Capitol during the insurrection, authorities say. An associate instructed Breheny, in an encrypted message two days after the riot, to “delete all pictures, messages and get a new phone,” according to court documents.

That same day, the FBI said, Breheny shut down his Facebook account, where he had photos that he taken during the riot and complained the government had grown tyrannical. “The People’s Duty is to replace that Government with one they agree with,” Breheny wrote on Facebook on Jan. 6 in an exchange about the riot. “I’m all ears. What’s our options???”

Breheney’s lawyer, Harley Breite, said his client never obstructed the riot investigation or destroyed evidence, and that Breheny didn’t know when he shut down account that his content would be considered evidence.

Breite rejected the notion that Breheny might have been able to recognize, in the days immediately after Jan. 6 when the riot dominated news coverage, that the attack was a serious situation that could put Breheny’s liberty at risk.

“You can’t delete evidence if you don’t know you are being charged with anything,” Breite said.

Other defendants who have not been accused of destroying evidence still engaged in exchanges with others about deleting content, according to court documents.

The FBI said one woman who posted video and comments showing she was inside the Capitol during the attack later decided not to restore her new phone with her iCloud content — a move that authorities suspect was aimed at preventing them from uncovering the material.

In another case, authorities say screenshots from a North Carolina man’s deleted Facebook posts contradicted his claim during an interview with an FBI agent that he didn’t intend on disrupting the Electoral College certification.

Erasing digital content isn’t as easy as deleting content from phones, removing social media posts or shutting down accounts. Investigators have been able to retrieve the digital content by requesting it from social media companies, even after accounts are shut down.

Posts made on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are recoverable for a certain period of time, and authorities routinely ask those companies to preserve the records until they get court orders to view the posts, said Adam Scott Wandt, a public policy professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who trains law enforcement on cyber-based investigations.

Authorities also have other avenues for investigating whether someone has tried to delete evidence.

Even when a person removes content from an account, authorities may still get access to it if it had been backed up on a cloud server. People who aren’t involved in a crime yet were sent incriminating videos or photos may end up forwarding them to investigators. Also, metadata embedded in digital content can show whether it has been modified or deleted.

“You can’t do it,” said Joel Hirschhorn, a criminal defense lawyer in Miami who is not involved in Capitol riot cases. “The metadata will do them in every time.”

Only a handful of the more than 500 people across the U.S. who have been arrested in the riot have actually been charged with tampering for deleting incriminating material from their phones or Facebook accounts.

They include several defendants in the sweeping case against members and associates of the Oath Keepers extremist group, who are accused of conspiring to block the certification of the vote. In one instance, a defendant instructed another to “make sure that all signal comms about the op has been deleted and burned,” authorities say.

But even if it does not result in more charges, deleting evidence will make it difficult for those defendants to get much benefit at sentencing for accepting responsibility for their actions, said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

Some lawyers might argue their clients removed the content to lessen the social impact that the attack had on their families and show they do not support what had occurred during the riot. But she said that argument has limits.

“The words ‘self-serving’ will come to mind,” Levenson said. “That’s what the prosecutors will argue — you removed it because all of a sudden, you have to face the consequences of your actions.”

Matthew Mark Wood, who acknowledged deleting content from his phone and Facebook account that showed presence in the Capitol during the riot, told an FBI agent that he did not intend on disrupting the Electoral College certification.

But investigators say screenshots of two of his deleted Facebook posts tell a different story.

In the posts, Wood reveled in rioters sending “those politicians running” and declared that he had stood up against a tyrannical government in the face of a stolen election, the FBI said in court records. “When diplomacy doesn’t work and your message has gone undelivered, it shouldn’t surprise you when we revolt,” Wood wrote. His lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

Even though she is not accused of deleting content that showed she was inside the Capitol during the riot, one defendant told her father that she was not going to restore her new phone with her iCloud backup about three weeks after the riot, the FBI said.

“Stay off the clouds!” the father warned his daughter, according to authorities. “They are how they are screwing with us.”

Jacques Billeaud, The Associated Press

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How HuffPost Canada's digital impact and untimely demise changed Canadian news media – Poynter

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Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.

The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.

It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.

Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.

“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.

HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.

“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”

The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”

But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.

The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.

“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”

Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.

Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.

The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.

HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.

CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.

“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”

BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.

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OPINION/EDITORIAL: Will social media companies ever make fighting online abuse a priority? – moosejawtoday.com

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Is it just me who believes we’ve lost our ability to have civil discourse? 

Every day, we rely on social media platforms to engage with like-minded people, promote ourselves, our work, and/or business. Unfortunately, the downside of increasing your visibility, especially when you wade into an online discussion with an unpopular opinion, is you become a lightning rod for online abuse. Online abuse can be especially relentless if you are a woman, identified as a member of a race, religion, ethnicity, or part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I believe social media companies can reduce, even come close to, eliminating, online abuse. The first step: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, et al. becoming more serious and urgent about addressing the toxicity they’re permitting on their respective platform. The second step: Give users more control over their privacy, identity, and account history.  

Here are five features social media companies could introduce to mitigate online abuse.

Educate users on how to protect themselves online.

I’ll admit social media companies have been improving their anti-harassment features. However, many of these features are hard to find and not user-friendly. Platforms should have a section within their help center that deals specifically with online abuse, showing how to access internal features along with links to external tools and resources. 

Make it easy to tighten privacy and security settings.

Platforms need to make it easier for users to fine-tune their privacy and security settings and inform how these adjustments impact visibility and reach. Users should be able to save configurations of settings into personalized “safety modes,” which they can toggle between. When they alternate between safety modes, a “visibility snapshot” should show them in real-time who’ll see their content.

Distinguishing between the personal and professional

Currently, social media accounts are all-encompassing of your professional life and personal life. If you want to distinguish between your professional and personal life, you must create two accounts. Why not be able to make one social media account that toggles between your personal and professional identities as well as migrate or share audiences between them? 

Managing account histories

It’s common for people to switch jobs and careers and their views over time. Being able to pull up a user’s social media history, which can date back more than a decade, is a goldmine for abuse. Platforms should make it easy for users to easily search old posts and make them private, archive, or delete.

Credit cards and/or phone number authentication.

All social media platforms allow the creation of anonymous accounts. Ironically, much of the toxicity permeating social media stems from people hiding cowardly behind anonymous accounts. 

Anonymity enables toxic behavior by facilitating and backhandedly encouraging “uncivil discourse.” Eliminating the ability to create an anonymous account would literally end online abuse. 

Anonymity allows people to act out their anger, frustrations, and their need to make others feel bad, so they feel good. (I’m unhappy, so I want everyone else to be unhappy.). Being anonymous allows someone to say things they wouldn’t even think of or have the courage to, speak publicly, let alone face-to-face. 

All credit cards and telephone numbers are associated with a billing address. Social media platforms could prevent anonymous accounts by asking new joiners to input their credit card information, to be verified but not charged, or a telephone number to which a link, or code, can be sent to authenticate. (Email authentication is useless since email addresses can be created without identity verification.) 

Undeniable fact: When people know they can easily be traced they’re unlikely to exhibit uncivil behaviour.

Yeah, I know — for many, handing over more data to social media giants isn’t appetizing, even if it eliminates the toxic behavior hurting our collective psyche. Having to go through a credit card or telephone authentication will be pause for many to ask themselves why the feel they must be on social media. Such reflection is not a bad exercise.

Online attacks have a negative impact on mental and physical health, stops free expression, and silences voices already underrepresented in the creative and media sectors and in public discourse. 

Respective platform user guidelines (aka. Community Standards) are open to interpretation and therefore not enforced equitably. Content moderators (human eyes) and AI crawling (searching for offensive words and content) aren’t cutting it. 

Social media companies can’t deny they could be doing a much better job creating a safer online environment. Unfortunately, a safer online environment will only evolve when social media companies begin taking online abuse seriously.

Nick Kossovan writes the column ‘Digitized Koffee With Nick’ which appears in several newspapers and is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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Online Presence For Physicians: Appropriate Use Of Social Media – Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts

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Canada:

Online Presence For Physicians: Appropriate Use Of Social Media

To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on Mondaq.com.

Our interactions and presence on social media have continued to
increase, especially during the pandemic when the need and desire
to stay connected with one another has been heightened. Many
professionals, including physicians, use social media in their
practice as an effective tool to communicate and interact with
colleagues and patients, market their practice and their business,
and to share content and information with a broad audience. Along
with the opportunities for networking, business development and
socializing that social media presents, there are also risks
associated with its use by physicians and other professionals. It
is important for physicians and other professionals to understand
the risks associated with their online presence and ensure that
their behaviour and actions on social media are in line with the
professional, legal and ethical obligations of their
profession.

Guidance from the CPSO: Should physicians be active on social
media?

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
recognizes the benefits and opportunities that the participation in
social media provides to physicians, including the enhancement of
patient care, medical education and the fostering of collegiality
among fellow physicians and health professionals. However,
physicians continue to be expected to comply with all professional
obligations, including legal obligations, ethical obligations, and
CPSO policies, when creating an online presence and engaging in the
use of social media. These professional, legal, and ethical
obligations must be upheld at all times.

The CPSO has published guidelines to assist physicians with
ensuring that their presence online and their use of social media
complies with their professional obligations. A selection of these
guidelines are as follows:

  • Assume all content on the internet is public
  • Ensure compliance with legal and professional obligations to
    maintain patient privacy and confidentiality
  • Refrain from providing clinical advice to patients through
    social media
  • Protect your reputation, the reputation of the profession and
    public trust
  • Refrain from establishing personal connections with patients or
    people who are closely associated with patients

The CPSO has published several other guidelines with respect to
the use of social media which can be found here.

Best practices for physicians when engaging on social
media

Considering the guidelines of the CPSO outlined above, it may be
helpful for physicians to consider the following best practices
when using social media and creating their online presence:

Uphold Moral Principals and Integrity

As a professional, it is very important to ensure that
integrity, morals and ethics are upheld at all times, including
online. As the CPSO indicates in its guidelines for the use of
social media, it is strongly advised that physicians refrain from
providing clinical advice to specific patients through social
media.

Social media is a great tool to use for the dissemination of
general medical or health information for educational or
informational sharing purposes. When sharing information on social
media, it is important to ensure that physicians are very clear
that their posts are not intended as medical advice and that they
are not providing a medical opinion. It may also be helpful to
indicate the basis of the information that is being shared, whether
based on scientific studies, professional experience or personal
opinion.

Ensure Patient Privacy is Protected

Trust is essential to a sound patient-physician relationship.
Physicians have a statutory obligation to protect and maintain
patient privacy and confidentiality. The Personal Health
Information Protection Act
(PHIPA) places unique
responsibilities on individuals that control and collect health
information, and requires health information custodians, including
physicians, to take steps that are reasonable in the circumstances
to ensure that personal health information in the custodian’s
custody or control is protected against theft, loss and
unauthorized use or disclosure. When posting to social media, the
duty of privacy and confidentiality must be maintained at all
times, by ensuring that any posts that are made have been clearly
removed of any identifying information. Physicians must not post
identifiable patient information or images to social media. It is
possible for an unnamed patient to be identifiable through minimal
information such as the area of residence or a description of the
patient’s condition. Failure to protect patient health
information and comply with the requirements under PHIPA may result
in a host of liability issues, including significant fines and
disciplinary action by the College.

Maintain Professionalism

Physicians have an obligation to maintain professionalism and
act in a manner that upholds the professional standards and ethics
of the medical profession. Whether the physician is interacting in
person or online, such professionalism expectations remain the same
in all scenarios. Inappropriate behaviour on social media,
including the publishing of offensive or damaging statements, may
have the effect of bringing the professionalism of the physician
into question. This in turn could serve to weaken the public’s
opinion of the physician and of the profession itself. Physicians
who engage in the use of social media should ensure that all
communications are professional and are in line with the
expectations and obligations of the profession.

Additionally, as the CPSO suggests in its guidelines, physicians
should refrain from establishing personal connections with patients
online. If the physician receives a request on his or her personal
social media page, the physician may consider guiding the patient
to connect on their professional social media page, or to contact
the office. Forming personal connections with patients may blur
professional boundaries and compromise the physician’s ability
to remain objective.

Social media platforms have created opportunities for physicians
to increase professional and patient engagement, to advocate for
the profession and to build and maintain connections with
colleagues, peers and the public. It is important for physicians to
understand the risks associated with the improper use of social
media and to always be mindful that their legal, professional and
ethical obligations also extend to their online presence.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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