BOSTON — One Twitter wag joked about lights flickering on and off at the White House being Donald Trump signalling to his followers in Morse code after Twitter and Facebook squelched the president for inciting rebellion.
Though deprived of his big online megaphones, Trump does have alternative options of much smaller reach. The far right-friendly Parler may be the leading candidate, though Google and Apple have both removed it from their app stores and Amazon decided to boot it off its web hosting service. That could knock it offline for a week, Parler’s CEO said.
Trump may launch his own platform. But that won’t happen overnight, and free speech experts anticipate growing pressure on all social media platforms to curb incendiary speech as Americans take stock of Wednesday’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a Trump-incited mob.
Twitter ended Trump’s nearly 12-year run on Friday. In shuttering his account it cited a tweet to his 89 million followers that he planned to skip President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration that it said gave rioters license to converge on Washington once again.
Facebook and Instagram have suspended Trump at least until Inauguration Day. Twitch and Snapchat also have disabled Trump’s accounts, while Shopify took down online stores affiliated with the president and Reddit removed a Trump subgroup. Twitter also banned Trump loyalists including former national security advisor Michael Flynn in a sweeping purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol insurrection. Some had hundreds of thousands of followers.
In a statement Friday, Trump said: “We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.”
Experts had predicted Trump might pop up on Parler, a 2-year-old magnet for the far right that claims more than 12 million users and where his sons Eric and Don Jr. are already active. Parler hit headwinds, though, on Friday as Google yanked its smartphone app from its app store for allowing postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.” Apple followed suit on Saturday evening after giving Parler 24 hours to address complaints it was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.” Public safety issues will need to be resolved before it is restored, Apple said.
Amazon struck another blow Saturday, informing Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service effective midnight Sunday. It reminded Parler in a letter, first reported by Buzzfeed, that it had informed it in the past few weeks of 98 examples of posts “that clearly encourage and incite violence” and said the platform “poses a very real risk to public safety.”
Parler CEO John Matze decried the punishments as “a co-ordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast,” he said in a Saturday night post, saying it was possible Parler would be unavailable for up to a week “as we rebuild from scratch.”
Earlier, Matze complained of being scapegoated. “Standards not applied to Twitter, Facebook or even Apple themselves, apply to Parler.” He said he “won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech.”
Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple — whose operating systems power hundreds of millions of smartphones — severely limits Parler’s reach, though it will continue to be accessible via web browser. Losing Amazon Web Services will mean Parler needs to scramble to find another web host — in addition to the re-engineering.
Gab is another potential landing spot for Trump. But it, too, has had troubles with internet hosting. Google and Apple both booted it from their app stores in 2017 and it was left internet-homeless for a time the following year due to anti-Semitic posts attributed to the man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Microsoft also terminated a web-hosting contract.
Online speech experts expect social media companies led by Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to more vigorously police hate speech and incitement in the wake of the Capitol rebellion, as Western democracies led by Nazism-haunted Germany already do.
David Kaye, a University of California-Irvine law professor and former U.N. special rapporteur on free speech believes the Parlers of the world will also face pressure from the public and law enforcement as will little-known sites where further pre-inauguration disruption is now apparently being organized. They include MeWe, Wimkin, TheDonald.win and Stormfront, according to a report released Saturday by The Alethea Group, which tracks disinformation.
Kaye rejects arguments by U.S. conservatives including the president’s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, that the Trump ban savaged the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from restricting free expression. “Silencing people, not to mention the President of the US, is what happens in China not our country,” Haley tweeted.
“It’s not like the platforms’ rules are draconian. People don’t get caught in violations unless they do something clearly against the rules,” said Kaye. And not just individual citizens have free speech rights. “The companies have their freedom of speech, too.”
While initially arguing their need to be neutral on speech, Twitter and Facebook gradually yielded to public pressure drawing the line especially when the so-called Plandemic video emerged early in the COVID-19 pandemic urging people not to wear masks, noted civic media professor Ethan Zuckerman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Zuckerman expects the Trump de-platforming may spur important online shifts. First, there may be an accelerated splintering of the social media world along ideological lines.
“Trump will pull a lot of audience wherever he goes,” he said. That could mean more platforms with smaller, more ideologically isolated audiences.
A splintering could push people towards extremes — or make extremism less infectious, he said. Maybe people looking for a video about welding on YouTube will no longer find themselves being offered an unrelated QAnon video. Alternative media systems that are less top-down managed and more self-governing could also emerge.
Zuckerman also expects major debate about online speech regulation, including in Congress.
“I suspect you will see efforts from the right arguing that there shouldn’t be regulations on acceptable speech,” he said. “I think you will see arguments from the democratic side that speech is a public health issue.”
Associated Press writers Barbara Ortutay in Oakland, California, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.
Three New Cases of COVID-19 – Government of Nova Scotia
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GameStop shares surge more than 100 per cent – CTV News
GameStop shares climbed rapidly and were halted twice for volatility ahead of the closing bell Wednesday. The gaming retailer’s stock was priced at $91.71 at market close, up nearly 104% from the previous day.
Shares were halted once around 3:40pm ET after climbing nearly 74%, and again just over 10 minutes later after gaining 104%. GameStop’s trading volume was roughly three times higher the five-day average for the stock, according to data provider Refinitiv.
Less than an hour after the closing bell, the stock was on the move again — gaining nearly 90% in after-hours trading.
Having déjà vu yet? The surge comes about a month after a wild GameStop trading frenzy caused its stock to jump around 1,600% in a matter of days, though it quickly fell from highs around $350. The late January surge was fueled by individual retail investors, many from the Reddit page WallStreetBets, some of whom believed the GameStop was undervalued and others who wanted to squeeze hedge funds that had shorted the stock.
The jump in GameStop also comes a day after the company announced its chief financial officer would resign next month to help “accelerate GameStop’s transformation,” which could fuel investors who believe in the long-term value of the retailer and its ability to shift from relying on physical stores to an e-commerce sales model.
AMC, another “meme stock” involved in the trading frenzy last month, also jumped around 18% on Wednesday.
Redditors on WallStreetBets cheered as GameStop soared. Posts on the subreddit included diamond emojis (a reference to holding a stock long term) and titles like “NEXT STOP IS THE MOON BABY” with rocket emojis, representing a belief that the stock will continue its upward trajectory.
Some GameStop investors have talked publicly about not selling their positions in the company during last month’s trading frenzy because they believe in its long-term potential.
Around 4pm, the entire Reddit site was down for many users, though the company did not identify the cause of the outage. Within about half an hour, Reddit said it had identified the underlying issue and “systems are beginning to recover.”
RBC warns of credit performance dependence on government aid after profit beat
By Nichola Saminather and Noor Zainab Hussain
(Reuters) – Royal Bank of Canada executives cautioned on Wednesday that the company’s 2021 credit performance hinges on the outlook for government support after its quarterly profit beat estimates on much lower than expected provisions for loan losses.
RBC, Canada‘s top lender, also flagged a moderation in trading activity this year.
National Bank of Canada, which also beat profit expectations, said trading revenues could decline if volumes come off following recent surges, some of which Chief Executive Louis Vachon attributed to “pockets of irrational exuberance” and distortions caused by quantitative easing.
Both banks posted record earnings in their capital markets businesses in the first quarter.
RBC and National Bank, the smallest of Canada‘s six major lenders, followed rivals Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia in posting better-than-expected profits that have also now surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
Canadian banks have largely avoided an increase in soured loans thanks to several government assistance measures, expected to end this summer.
While BMO and RBC released some reserves on performing loans during the quarter, signaling an improving outlook for loan losses, RBC said delinquencies will still increase for the remainder of 2021, accompanied by a rise in impaired loan provisions.
RBC Chief Risk Officer Graeme Hepworth told analysts the degree to which the government support is extended or transformed “will drive … the expectations and implications for our credit performance in the latter half of the year.”
National Bank executives said that while loan losses could be lower than initially thought, the bank is maintaining its provisions on performing loans.
Despite the somewhat murky credit picture, RBC executives said they were heartened by expected improvement in the second half on expectations of growth in higher-margin loans like commercial and credit cards as businesses reopen and the economy recovers.
RBC shares rose 0.3% to C$112.53 in afternoon trading in Toronto, while National Bank stock was up 4.6% at C$79.30, both heading for their highest close on record. The Toronto stock benchmark was up 0.9%.
Canadian lending rose 6% in the three months through January at RBC but this was driven entirely by increases in residential mortgages.
RBC expects continued mortgage growth will help drive a consumer-led recovery in its Canadian banking unit, based on a forecast of high-single-digit growth in Canadian housing prices this year, following a record year in 2020 for resale activity.
RBC reported adjusted cash earnings of C$2.69 per share versus analysts’ expectations of C$2.26. National Bank’s adjusted income rose to C$2.15 per share, compared with estimates of C$1.71.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sohini Podder in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel, Matthew Lewis and Marguerita Choy)
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