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Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have all taken recent measures to combat coronavirus misinformation, but some First Amendment advocates think these are steps in the wrong direction and could limit free speech.
“It honestly doesn’t matter whether or not they think they are doing the right thing, as the old saying goes ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions,’” conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News.
“At some point we have to recognize that there are limits to what governments and big tech can do to protect people. At some point we have to trust in people to do the right thing,” Barron said. “We are at that point. We must stop the urge to trade away unthinkable amounts of power to the government and big tech companies in exchange for empty promises of safety.”
Twitter expanded its guidelines Wednesday on “unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity” related to the pandemic.
The company noted that some of the more popular unverified claims that it will clamp down on include theories that “could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder.”
Twitter said it has removed more than 2,230 tweets containing “misleading and potentially harmful content” since March 18. The company cited an example of a bogus tweet: “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for two months — run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything”
Another example of misinformation the platform would remove was, “5G causes coronavirus — go destroy the cell towers in your neighborhood!”
Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor, who oversees the group’s TechWatch initiative designed to defend conservative speech online, told Fox News that the problem is big tech uses “an impossible standard that guarantees errors and abuse” of its guidelines.
“Twitter says it will delete posts that ‘could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.’ That could be absolutely anything,” Gainor said. “Will it delete posts that show China lied and tens of thousands of Americans died? Will it delete posts about protests? Or just protests Twitter disagrees with?”
Earlier this month, Twitter announced that it was broadening its definition of “harm” to combat tweets that go against “guidance from authoritative sources” of public health information.
“Twitter has served as a news wire showing breaking news photos and video from around the world. Now Twitter wants to restrict that information,” Gainor said. “It’s a rule only a dictator could love.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced similar plans on Sunday, which included removing any content deemed “problematic” by the tech giant.
“Anything that is medically unsubstantiated, so people saying, like, ‘Take Vitamin C… take turmeric, those cure you,’ those are examples of things that would be a violation of our policy. Anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy,” Wojcicki told CNN.
Guy Benson, a Facebook executive with the title “vice president of integrity,” penned a blog post last week about what he’s doing to “limit misinformation” about COVID-19.
“Liberal activist groups see this as a hopeful sign that Facebook will crack down more on freedom of speech in the future with the use of liberal fact-checkers,” TechWatch staff writer Alexander Hall wrote when analyzing Benson’s blog.
The Facebook honcho detailed that the company now works with “over 60 fact-checking organizations that review and rate content” across 50 different languages.
“Once a piece of content is rated false by fact-checkers, we reduce its distribution and show warning labels with more context,” Benson wrote.
“We’ve also removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm. Examples of misinformation we’ve removed include harmful claims like drinking bleach cures the virus and theories like physical distancing is ineffective in preventing the disease from spreading.”
New initiatives announced by Facebook included “informing people who interacted with harmful COVID-19 claims” and “making it easier for people to get the facts.” Facebook has banned some pages promoting protests of stay-at-home mandates that challenge the government’s advice about social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson recently told Fox News that Facebook “is acting on instructions from state governments to silence lawful political speech” when it comes to removing content that advocates for in-person gatherings during the pandemic.
“As such, Facebook may have crossed the line from platform ‘misinformation’ control, which arguably is lawful as a private entity, to acting as an extension of government,” Jacobson said.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday to offer his thoughts on what is considered “harmful misinformation.”
“We do classify that as harmful misinformation, and we take that down,” Zuckerberg said when asked about protests that go against social distancing guidelines. “At the same time, it’s important that people can debate policies… but more than normal political discourse, a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false, around a health emergency like this, can be classified as harmful misinformation.”
One critic of Facebook’s policy is the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who took to Twitter to call the situation “very dangerous.”
“Why is @Facebook colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech? Regardless of what you think about the lockdowns or the protests against them, this is a chilling & disturbing government directed shutdown of peoples 1st Amendment rights,” Trump Jr. wrote. “Very dangerous!”
China media, Hong Kong government bristle at Trump's pledge of curbs, sanctions – Cape Breton Post
By James Pomfret and Stella Qiu
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s state media and the government of Hong Kong lashed out on Sunday at U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to end Hong Kong’s special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws on the city, which is bracing for fresh protests.
Trump on Friday pledged to “take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory”, and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals over Beijing’s new laws on the Asian financial centre.
But China’s state media pushed back, saying this would hurt the United States more than China.
“The baton of sanctions that the United States is brandishing will not scare Hong Kong and will not bring China down,” China’s Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, wrote in a commentary. It used the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give the paper’s view on foreign policy issues.
The Global Times wrote, “China has already prepared for the worst. No matter how far the U.S. goes, China will keep its company.”
A Hong Kong government spokesman expressed regret the United States continued to “smear and demonise the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign” to safeguard national security.
In a sign of diplomatic manoeuvring, the U.S. government said it would put one of its prime Hong Kong properties up for sale – a luxury residential complex worth up to HK$5 billion ($650 million).
A spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong said this was part of a global programme that “reinforces the U.S. government’s presence in Hong Kong” through reinvestment in other areas.
China and Hong Kong officials have justified the laws that will be directly imposed by China to restore order to a city that has been wracked by sometimes violent anti-China, anti-government protests over the past year. They said the laws will only apply to a small number of “troublemakers.”
Protesters, however, have said they are railing against China’s deep encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms despite Beijing’s promise to grant the city a high degree of autonomy under a so-called “one-country, two systems” formula since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
More protests are planned in the coming weeks.
Countries including the United States, Canada and Britain have expressed deep concerns about the law, with Britain saying it may grant expanded visa rights to large numbers of Hong Kongers.
Demosisto, an advocacy group led by prominent young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, said the security law will be “the death of freedom in Hong Kong”.
A senior Hong Kong official, Erick Tsang, said he couldn’t care less if he were sanctioned by the Washington. “I wouldn’t even go to Canada, just in case they try to catch me” there, Tsang told local radio.
Details of the laws remain unclear, even to Hong Kong officials, but are expected to be enacted by China’s parliament this summer. The laws will outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, and will be imposed without any local legislative scrutiny.
(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Stella Qiu in Beijing; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Christopher Cushing and William Mallard)
China media bristles at U.S. moves on Hong Kong over national security push
HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s state media lashed out on Sunday at possible retaliatory moves by the United States to impose sanctions and end Hong Kong’s special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws, as the city braces for fresh protests.
The state-backed China Daily said U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to “take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory”, and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals, would hurt the United States, and unite Hong Kong with mainland China.
“China has already prepared for the worst. No matter how far the U.S. goes, China will keep its company. If Trump’s plan continues, Washington will soon run counter to the interests of most Hong Kong people,” the state-run Global Times tabloid wrote.
“The extreme tactics of a superpower like the U.S. are nothing less than chronic suicide.”
In a sign of diplomatic manoeuvring, the U.S. government said it would put one of its prime Hong Kong properties up for sale – a luxury residential complex worth up to HK$5 billion ($645.09 million).
A spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong told Reuters this was part of the U.S. government’s global reinvestment programme that “reinforces the U.S. government’s presence in Hong Kong” through reinvestment in other areas.
China and Hong Kong officials have justified the laws that will be directly imposed by China to restore order to a city that has been wracked by sometimes violent anti-China, anti-government protests over the past year.
They have said more protests are planned in the coming weeks.
Demosisto, the advocacy group led by prominent young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, said the security law will be “the death of freedom in Hong Kong”.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong insist the legislation will target only a small number of “troublemakers” who threaten China’s national security.
(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Stella Qiu in Beijing; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Edited By Harry Miller)
Edited by Harry Miller
Tainted water series from Global News, media consortium wins Canadian Association of Journalists award – Globalnews.ca
A nationwide investigation that exposed the prevalence of lead contamination in drinking water has been honoured by the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Tainted Water received the group’s award for data journalism during a ceremony hosted via Zoom on Saturday.
The series was produced by the Institute for Investigative Journalism (IIJ) at Concordia University, along with Global News and outlets such as Le Devoir, the Toronto Star, the Regina Leader-Post and the National Observer.
“We are incredibly honoured to be recognized alongside our partners and the IIJ with such a prestigious award,” said Chris Bassett, Global News’ national director for content and editorial standards.
“This series had an immediate impact across the country and was a collaborative effort supported by many outstanding journalists across the country to expose an issue impacting the health and safety of thousands of Canadians.”
In total, more than 120 reporters were involved in the project, which was published and broadcast during the fall. More than 220 hours of interviews were recorded by members of the consortium and the journalists filed over 700 access-to-information requests.
The investigation found that, out of 12,000 tests conducted by 11 cities, 33 per cent exceeded safe lead levels as defined by Health Canada.
The findings sparked immediate action from leaders. In Quebec, the government announced it would adopt stronger standards for acceptable lead content, in line with Health Canada guidelines. The mayor of Montreal vowed to test the water at more than 100,000 homes and accelerate a program for replacing lead pipes.
Halifax extended an offer to replace lead pipes on private property for free. And in Alberta, at least 50 school divisions contacted the provincial health authority asking for support or information regarding lead testing in the weeks following the investigation.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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