For years, social media platforms have fueled political polarization and hosted an explosion of hate speech. Now, with four months until the U.S. presidential election and the country’s divisions reaching a boiling point, these companies are upping their game against bigotry and threats of violence.
What’s not yet clear is whether this action is too little, too late — nor whether the pressure on these companies, including a growing advertiser boycott, will be enough to produce lasting change.
Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites , on Monday banned a forum that supported President-Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Also on Monday, live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules.
YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Social media companies, led by Facebook, now face a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform.
Companies such as the consumer goods giant Unilever — one of the world’s largest advertisers — as well as Verizon, Ford and many smaller brands have joined the boycott, some for the month of July and others for the rest of the year. New companies have been signing on to the boycott almost every day. While some are pausing ads only on Facebook, others have also stepped back from advertising on Twitter and other platforms.
On Monday, Ford Motor Co. put the brakes on all national social media advertising for the next 30 days. The company says hate speech, as well as posts advocating violence and racial injustice, need to be eradicated from the sites.
While the ad boycott has dinged Facebook’s and Twitter’s shares, analysts who follow the social media business don’t see it as having a lasting effect.
Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler noted that YouTube has faced several ad boycotts in the past over hate speech and other objectionable material. Each time, it adjusted its policies and the advertisers returned. In addition, July is generally a slow month for advertising. Companies have also been cutting their ad budgets due to COVID-19, so the spending declines are not a surprise for investors. Kessler called Facebook’s stock pullback — its shares fell more than 8% on Friday, then rallied a bit Monday — a “buying opportunity.”
Reddit’s action was part of a larger purge at the San Francisco-based site. The company said it took down a total of 2,000 forums, known as the site as “subreddits,” most of which it said were inactive or had few users.
The Trump Reddit forum, called The_Donald, was banned because it encouraged violence, regularly broke other Reddit rules, and defiantly “antagonized” both Reddit and other forums, the company said in a statement. Reddit had previously tried to discipline the forum.
“We are cautiously optimistic that Reddit is finally working with groups like ours to dismantle the systems that enable hateful rhetoric on their platform,” Bridget Todd, a spokeswoman for the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement.
The group said its members met with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman via Zoom last week, encouraging him to address racism and hate speech on the platform.
Despite optimism from some critics, others said it is not clear if such measures will be enough. For years, racist groups “have successfully used social media to amplify their message and gain new recruits,” said Sophie Bjork-James an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in white nationalism, racism and hate crimes.
“However, limiting access to a broader public will have unintended negative consequences. Far-right and white nationalist groups are increasingly gathering on encrypted apps and social media sites that do not monitor for offensive speech or violent content,” she added. “This shift allows for co-ordinating more violent and radical actions.”
The algorithms tech companies developed to keep users glued to their services “have provided perhaps the biggest boon to organized racism in decades, as they help racist ideas find a much larger and potentially receptive audience,” Bjork-James said, adding that she is hopeful that the same companies that “helped this anti-democratic movement expand” can now help limit its impact.
For its part, Twitch pointed to comments the president made at two rallies, videos of which were posted on the site.
In one, a livestream of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into someone’s home. The other was from a 2015 campaign rally that was recently posted on Twitch, in which Trump said Mexico sends rapists and criminals to the U.S. Twitch declined to say how long the suspension will last.
The White House referred a request for comment to Trump’s reelection campaign. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, said that people who want to hear directly from the president should download the campaign’s app.
Reddit has tweaked its rules and banned forums for white nationalists over the years in an attempt to rid its platform of vitriol, sometimes producing significant user backlash as a result.
CEO Steve Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit was working with moderators to explicitly address hate speech.
Joseph Pisani in New York and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this article.
Barbara Ortutay And Tali Arbel, The Associated Press
Victoria police respond to social media posts alleging sexual assault at tattoo parlour – CityNews Vancouver
VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Police in Victoria are asking possible victims of sexual abuse involving a local tattoo artist to contact their Special Victims Unit.
No charges have been recommended, but Carne Tattoo posted a message online Monday confirming an artist was let go for his “betrayal of young women” and references an incident dating back to 2019.
Other social media posts indicate the alleged abuse was initially reported in 2019.
After seeing reports on social media, Victoria Police ask anyone who might have experienced “sexualized violence” during tattoo appointments to get in touch.
“We want everyone in those threads who have experienced sexualized violence to know that if you report what you’ve experienced to our Special Victims Unit detectives, you will be listened to, you will be treated with respect, and you will be believed,” reads a statement from police.
“If you do think that you may want to consider a criminal process, it is important to know that for potential future court processes, it is best that you provide your statement to the police prior to speaking to any media outlets or posting details of your story publicly on social media. This is to ensure that your statement belongs to you and you only.”
The Instagram account of a man identified as the artist has been taken down.
To speak to a detective, call the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 and select extension 1 for the report desk. Or, reach out to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at 250-383-3232, if you aren’t sure about getting in touch with police.
Editor’s note: The screenshots in this article have been edited to hide the name of the tattoo artist because he has not been charged.
New book echoes conference on classics, media theory | Cornell Chronicle – Cornell Chronicle
A new edited volume, “Classics and Media Theory,” features participants from a Cornell media studies conference exploring the interactions between media and antiquity.
The book, in the Oxford University Press “Classical Presences” series, gathers expert analysis from scholars engaging with myriad aspects of classical Greece and Rome, with a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives from fields including classical literature, art history, cultural studies, film studies, media theory and media history.
The contributors include Verity Platt, professor of classics and the history of art and visual studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Revolving around issues of philosophy, cultural history, literature, aesthetics and epistemology, the volume highlights interactions between classical studies and media theory, why they matter and how they can be developed further. The book also explores the implications of the study of media for the study of culture, including the processes of cultural production and reception; and it encourages scholarly attention to media in the study of Greco-Roman antiquity.
The volume highlights several emergent fields within media studies ranging from cultural techniques to media archaeology; the persistence of Greco-Roman paradigms across different strands of media theory; and the conceptual underpinnings of cultural practices in the transformation of ancient Greece and Rome into “classics.”
Platt has joined researcher Till Heilmann and media studies professor Jens Schroeter of the University of Bonn, and the book’s editor, Pantelis Michelakis, reader in classics at the University of Bristol, to establish a network for the study of media and the premodern.
All participated in the international conference “Siren Echoes: Sound, Image, and the Media of Antiquity,” presented by the Media Studies Initiative on campus in November 2019.
Themes and topics at the two-day conference included “Antiquity in Media Theory,” “Sounds of the Anthropocene,” “Media Pathologies,” “Genealogies of the Image,” “Sacred Resonances” and “Image, Medium and Light.” The event “was a huge success,” said Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English.
Michelakis, a Greek literature and classical theater scholar, organized a similar conference in Bristol, which also provided content for the book.
“Although the ancient world has played an important role in media theory, especially in scholarship on orality and literacy, ‘media studies’ tends to be associated with the technologies of the industrial and computer age,” Platt said.
There are many scholars at Cornell who focus on “modes of transmission, communication and reproduction in the premodern world and later cultural reception,” she said, “all of which can be put into fruitful dialogue with scholars focused on more contemporary issues.”
A second Cornell conference, “Media Objects,” planned for March 2020, was to feature content ranging from film screenings and internet art to architectural installations, exhibitions and digital collections.
Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference will be staged during the 2020-21 academic year as a series of virtual panels, lectures and related events, Braddock said, with plans to culminate in an event in fall 2021 at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. A follow-up to “Siren Echoes” in spring 2021 is also a possibility, Platt said.
Pop Smoke's social media posts led suspects to L.A. home, say police – CBC.ca
Authorities believe rising rapper Pop Smoke was shot and killed during a Los Angeles home-invasion robbery in February after his social media posts led five suspects to the house he was renting, police said after detectives arrested the group Thursday morning.
Los Angeles police had initially discounted a robbery theory in the days after the 20-year-old rapper’s death Feb. 19 at a home in the Hollywood Hills. Pop Smoke’s legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson.
Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division, said three men and two teenage boys likely went to the home because they knew Pop Smoke was there from social media posts.
They stole items from the home, though Tippet said he could not divulge what was taken. The teens were 15 and 17 years old.
“We believe that it was a robbery. Initially we didn’t really have the evidence but then we discovered some other evidence that showed this was likely a home invasion gone bad,” Tippet told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The five suspects were arrested Thursday morning as detectives served several search warrants in Los Angeles. All are believed to be members of a South Los Angeles gang, which Tippet would not name, and at least some of them are believed to be linked to the 2019 homicide of an 18-year-old man when a fight escalated into a shooting outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The three men were identified as Jaquan Murphy, 21, Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre D. Rodgers, 18, all of Los Angeles. Walker and Rodgers were arrested on suspicion of murder and Murphy was held on suspicion of attempted murder, police said. The men were being held in lieu of $1 million bail apiece.
The 15-year-old and the 17-year-old also were booked on suspicion of murder. It wasn’t immediately known whether any of those arrested had attorneys.
Pop Smoke and his entourage staying at the home are not believed to be associated with the gang, Tippet said. No one else was shot during the incident.
The Los Angeles Times reported in February that the rapper had posted pictures of him posing by an infinity pool in the home’s backyard, as well as a picture of the Los Angeles skyline from what was likely the house’s backyard. In another post, Pop Smoke or a member of his entourage put a picture of a gift bag tagged with the Hollywood Hills address and a different photo showed him posing by a Range Rover in a spot where the home’s address was partly visible in the background.
“It’s our belief that [the home-invasion robbery] was based on some of the social media” posts, Tippet said. “It’s based on the fact that he was posting his information may have contributed to knowing where to find him.”
The home where the shooting occurred is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter of Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer John Mellencamp and a star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Teddi Mellencamp previously said on Instagram that the couple had been notified of the shooting at their rental property but knew no more than what they had seen in media reports.
Pop Smoke arrived on the rap scene in 2018 and broke out with Welcome to the Party, a gangsta anthem with boasts about shootings, killings and drugs that became a huge sensation, and prompted Nicki Minaj to drop a verse on a remix.
Earlier this year, Pop Smoke released the mixtape Meet the Woo 2, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow up to his first official release, Meet the Woo. The rapper also had the popular hit Gatti with Travis Scott and Jackboys and the track Dior.
His major label debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, was executive produced by 50 Cent. It was released posthumously last Friday to mostly positive reviews and features appearances from popular artists including Future, DaBaby and Quavo.
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