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There is no better time to invest in diverse independent media – Al Jazeera English

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As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, journalism around the world seems to face increasing difficulties. In my country, Denmark, local media outlets are suffering major economic set-backs and are already seeking state support. Such is the fragility of media operations that even in one of the most affluent countries in the world, with ample resources for public and private outlets, the disruption of social and economic life has immediate repercussions.

So, it comes as no surprise that independent media and local outlets in a majority of the world are running on life support amid this global crisis. No part of the world and no economic sector has gone unscathed.

Amid indefinite border closures, restricted entry and grave health risks, getting a full picture of this pandemic is no easy feat, even for media giants.

Meanwhile, community reports from local journalists with unique access, have become essential tools in fighting a growing information vacuum. It is indeed a paradox that, while hundreds of millions of people across the globe scramble for factual information to navigate the crisis, media outlets themselves are fighting for their existence. As we mark World Press Freedom Day, it is more urgent than ever that we support independent media platforms, especially those organically emerging within their local eco-systems.

As we, at Copenhagen-based International Media Support (IMS) transitioned into “crisis management” mode in this period, our media partners across the global south reacted with remarkable composure. While the western world is learning to hunker down in home offices, adaptability is in the very DNA of independent journalism.

The results of our partners’ work, from Syria to the Philippines, are clear. They are playing vital and at times life-saving roles in this pandemic period.

Amid persisting conflict, community radio stations like ARTA in northern Syria are relaying information about symptoms and prevention measures to local populations. Amid panic and paranoia in Pakistan, outlets like Humsub (All of Us) are producing a combination of citizen testimonies and expert insights. In the Philippines, there has been a proliferation of podcasts, like PUMA, that are dispelling coronavirus-related myths, with significant reach. Amid restricted media landscapes, all of these outlets are helping overlooked communities to combat the spread.

As a direct result, independent media across the world are also experiencing increased trust among their viewers. This is particularly true in countries where state media is failing to deliver timely information and where partisan media is creating biased coverage. For example, in Lebanon, Daraj Media, a pan-Arab platform that provides in-depth reporting, experienced a 46 percent audience growth in this period. In the Philippines, Rappler, a social news network, had 2.5 million viewers during a live Facebook session on COVID-19 awareness. In Iraq, al-Menasa, one of the few independent media in the country, experienced a 25 percent growth in audiences.

While the pandemic has instilled a renewed sense of purpose among media of all sizes, it has also wreaked havoc on the field of journalism. We are seeing a palpable increase in attacks on the press across the globe. The International Press Institute has been recording the intensified violations since the pandemic, from physical assaults in the US, to greater censorship in the Middle East, to arrests and false charges in several African and Asian countries.

For this very reason, “accountability journalism” has never been more important on a global scale. The accountability is twofold. First, journalists are investigating government responses to the pandemic, and holding officials and institutions accountable when they have failed to protect their citizens. Second, newsrooms are challenging authorities that manipulate COVID-19-related emergency legislation to curb freedoms.

The unique access and in-depth coverage of our media partners prove that a well-working prototype for community-based reporting that can plug into the larger global media picture already exists. It is a matter of strengthening the capacity and longevity of these outlets.

Poignantly, this pandemic has revealed that despite our seemingly connected world, a “one size fits all” remedy simply does not work. Whether it is in combating the disease, the economic and social consequences of the lockdowns, or relaying life-saving information, each country and its context warrant different approaches.

For example, South Korea’s approach of contact tracing and aggressive testing might suit some of the densely populated countries of the world, while a “shelter-in-place” mechanism is more feasible in Scandinavian countries. Only through transparent information sharing can countries learn from each other’s experiences while keeping in mind differences in their circumstances.

This is an opportune moment for governments, international foundations and citizens to financially support independent media across the globe as an investment in our collective futures. Amid shrinking newsrooms and restricted access due to contagion, there is great value in media of different sizes and capacities collaborating to present a more comprehensive view. I see this as a period of transformation. The current crisis has proven beyond doubt that we cannot turn a blind eye to an event in a faraway corner of the world, as it will eventually make its way to our door-step.

Now more than ever, we need contextual media coverage of this unfolding situation in order to return to some semblance of normal life. We must also be able to link the social, economic and environmental causes of this contagion to combat future instances. Our new normal must include a plurality of voices in news media across the globe.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Trump escalates war on Twitter, social media protections – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his war on social media companies, signing an executive order Thursday challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.

Still, the move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets.

Trump said the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter and amounted to political activism. He said it should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms.

Trump and his allies, who rely heavily on Twitter to verbally flog their foes, have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts.

“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.

It directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

President Donald Trump is escalating his war on social media companies, preparing to sign an executive order Thursday challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.

Still, the move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets.

The proposed order would direct executive branch agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new rules on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.

Trump and his allies, who rely heavily on Twitter to verbally flog their foes, have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts. The executive order was expected to argue that such actions should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms.

Companies like Twitter and Facebook are granted liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because they are treated as “platforms,” rather than “publishers,” which can face lawsuits over content.

A similar executive order was previously considered by the administration but shelved over concerns it couldn’t pass legal muster and that it violated conservative principles on deregulation and free speech.

Two administration officials outlined the draft order on the condition of anonymity because it was still being finalized Thursday morning. But a draft was circulating on Twitter — where else?

“This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!” Trump tweeted.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the Twitter fact checks reflected “bias in action” and Trump aimed to sign the order by the end of the day.

Trump and his campaign reacted after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted “mail boxes will be robbed.” Under the tweets, there’s now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

Trump accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 presidential election” and declared “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” In fact, Twitter has banned political advertising since last November.

Late Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”

Dorsey added: “This does not make us an `arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”

On the other hand, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News his platform has “a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this.”

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.

The president’s critics, meanwhile, scolded the platforms for allowing him to put forth false or misleading information that could confuse voters.

“Donald Trump’s order is plainly illegal,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and advocate for internet freedoms. He is “desperately trying to steal for himself the power of the courts and Congress. … All for the ability to spread unfiltered lies.”

Trump’s proposal has multiple, serious legal problems and is unlikely to survive a challenge, according to Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a Washington-based organization that represents computer and internet companies.

It would also seem to be an assault on the same online freedom that enabled social media platforms to flourish in the first place — and made them such an effective microphone for Trump and other politicians.

“The irony that is lost here is that if these protections were to go away social media services would be far more aggressive in moderating content and terminating accounts,” Schruers said. “Our vibrant public sphere of discussion would devolve into nothing more than preapproved soundbites.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was “outrageous” that while Twitter had put a fact-check tag on Trump’s tweets asserting massive mail-in election fraud, it had not removed his tweets suggesting without evidence that a TV news host had murdered an aide years ago.

“Their business model is to make money at the expense of the truth and the facts that they know,” she said of social media giants, also mentioning Facebook. She said their goal is to avoid taxes “and they don’t want to be regulated, so they pander to the White House.”

The order was also expected to try to hold back federal advertising dollars from Twitter and other social media companies that “violate free speech principles.”

The president and fellow conservatives have been claiming, for years, that Silicon Valley tech companies are biased against them. But there is no evidence for this — and while the executives and many employees of Twitter, Facebook and Google may lean liberal, the companies have stressed they have no business interest in favouring on political party over the other.

The trouble began in 2016, two years after Facebook launched a section called “trending,” using human editors to curate popular news stories. Facebook was accused of bias against conservatives based on the words of an anonymous former contractor who said the company downplayed conservative issues in that feature and promoted liberal causes.

Zuckerberg met with prominent right-wing leaders at the time in an attempt at damage control, and in 2018, Facebook shut down the “trending” section,.

In August 2018, Trump accused Google of biased searches and warned the company to “be careful.” Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t so: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Experts, meanwhile, suggested that Trump’s comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.

Last year, Trump again blasted social media companies after Facebook banned a slew of extremist figures including conspiracy peddler Alex Jones from its site and from Instagram.

Meanwhile, the companies are gearing up to combat misinformation around the November elections. Twitter and Facebook have begun rolling out dozens of new rules to avoid a repeat of the false postings about the candidates and the voting process that marred the 2016 election.

The coronavirus pandemic has further escalated the platforms’ response, leading them to take actions against politicians — a move they’ve long resisted — who make misleading claims about the virus.

Last month, Twitter began a “Get the Facts” label to direct social media users to news articles from trusted outlets next to tweets containing misleading or disputed information about the virus. Company leaders said the new labels could be applied to anyone on Twitter and they were considering using them on other topics.

The Democratic National Committee said Trump’s vote-by-mail tweets should have been removed, not just flagged, for violating the company’s rules on posting false voting information.

“After taking too long to act, Twitter once again came up short out of fear of upsetting Trump,” the party said in a statement.

——

AP writers Amanda Seitz, Barbara Ortutay and David Klepper contributed.

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'Pathetic clown': Chinese state-backed media attacks Canada after Meng Wanzhou ruling – National Post

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Wednesday’s ruling against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has set off a range of barbed commentary in China’s state-backed media, much of it deriding Canada’s role in the affair.

On Wednesday, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the charges Meng faces in America could also be a crime in Canada, and said the case should proceed. Meng is accused of misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Skycom Tech Co. and making false statements to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Her arrest by the RCMP at the Vancouver airport in December 2018 has placed Canada in the middle of rising tensions between the U.S. and China, and in Chinese state media, the reaction to the ruling was swift and furious. In China, Canada’s role in Meng’s detention is often described as Ottawa doing the dirty work of the U.S., which China claims wants to cripple its tech giant Huawei.

In an article in the Communist Party-run Global Times soon after the ruling, an expert was cited as saying that the decision won’t hurt Huawei “because the company will not succumb to the US because of any individual.” But, citing the same expert, it said the decision will “make Canada a pathetic clown and a scapegoat in the fight between China and the US.”

Expressing the views of Xiang Ligang, a veteran industry analyst, the paper wrote:

“Huawei will not bow to US over the unjustified detention of any individual, and the Chinese technology giant, which has survived the US’ relentless crackdown, will push forward amid headwinds — like a jet riddled with bullets yet still flying its mission.”

The paper wrote that He Weiwen, a former senior trade official, told its reporters that the verdict will make Canada-China relations “worse than ever,” and that this will play out when it comes to future trade. “You can always give some projects or orders to other countries, instead of just one county alone,” he said.

Mei Xinyu, described by the outlet as “an expert close to China’s Commerce Ministry,” feared that Canada will detain Meng as a “hostage” indefinitely.

“Being kept by the US as a key hostage to contain China’s industrial upgrading and maintain its parasitic hegemony, the US will hardly let Meng free,” Mei was quoted as saying. “Canada has been under US pressure since the beginning, or it could have benefited from the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.”

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Communist Party-run China Daily had a headline that read: “Abuse of their extradition treaty by US and Canada is deplorable.”


Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“The ruling means the US and Canada are continuing to abuse their bilateral extradition treaty to attack Huawei,” the editorial read. “The hounding of Meng is part of the US witch hunt against the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant, which Washington is doing all it can to strangle.”

The editorial had stinging words for Canada, which it accused of acting like an innocent party in the affair, when in fact it was anything but.

“Ottawa is trying to portray itself as innocent of any wrongdoing, claiming it is a legal matter that should be left to the courts,” it read. “Yet its move to arrest Meng was quite clearly politically motivated — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say economically motivated, since it came when it is was engaged in trade talks with Washington. It should have acted with caution to avoid being dragged into Washington’s shenanigans.”

It said the decision shows that “the US and Canada are continuing to abuse their bilateral extradition treaty to attack Huawei,” and has “effectively dashed hopes of an end to the incident and a mending of Canada-China relations.”

Arguments

In the next phase of the proceedings against Meng, the court will hear arguments about whether her arrest was unlawful.

Her lawyers have alleged the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a “covert criminal investigation” at the airport and violated Meng’s charter rights.

Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti will still have the final say on whether Meng should be extradited to the U.S.

Two Canadians, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, were detained in China nine days after Meng’s arrest, in a move seen as a retaliation. They remain in custody.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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Trump preparing order targeting social media protections – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Donald Trump, the historically prolific tweeter of political barbs and blasts, threatened social media companies with new regulation or even shuttering after Twitter added fact checks to two of his tweets. He turned to his Twitter account — where else? — to tweet his threats.

The president can’t unilaterally regulate or close the companies, and any effort would likely require action by Congress. His administration has shelved a proposed executive order empowering the Federal Communications Commission to regulate technology companies, citing concerns it wouldn’t pass legal muster. But that didn’t stop Trump from angrily issuing strong warnings.

Tech giants “silence conservative voices,” he claimed on Twitter early Wednesday. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.” Later, also on Twitter, he threatened, “Big Action to follow.” And in one more late-night tweet, he said “Big Tech” was “going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!”

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Trump would sign an executive order relating to social media companies but provided no further details. White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said Trump would sign it Thursday.

In his tweet, he repeated his unsubstantiated claim — which sparked his latest showdown with Silicon Valley — that expanding mail-in voting “would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots.”

Late Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”

Dorsey added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”

Twitter’s decision to mark the president’s tweets regarding mail-in balloting came as the president was sparking another social media firestorm, continuing to stoke a debunked conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of killing a former staffer. Prominent Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney, urged Trump to drop the attack — which has not been marked with a fact check by the social media company.

Trump and his campaign had lashed out at the company Tuesday after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted that “mail boxes will be robbed,” among other things. Under the tweets, there is now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a Twitter “moments” page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

Trump replied on Twitter, accusing the platform of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and insisting that “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” Twitter has banned all political advertising since last November.

Trump did not explain his threat Wednesday, and the call to expand regulation appeared to fly in the face of long-held conservative principles on deregulation.

Trump and his allies have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts. The president’s critics, meanwhile, have scolded the platforms for allowing him to put forth false or misleading information that could confuse voters.

Some Trump allies have questioned whether platforms like Twitter and Facebook should continue to enjoy liability protections as “platforms” under federal law — or be treated more like publishers, which can face lawsuits over content.

The protections have been credited with allowing the unfettered growth of the internet for more than two decades, but now some Trump allies are advocating that social media companies face more scrutiny.

“Big tech gets a huge handout from the federal government,” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley told Fox News. “They get this special immunity, this special immunity from suits and from liability that’s worth billions of dollars to them every year. Why are they getting subsidized by federal taxpayers to censor conservatives, to censor people critical of China?”

Twitter’s first-ever use of a label on Trump’s tweets comes as platforms gear up to combat misinformation around the U.S. presidential election. Twitter and Facebook have begun rolling out dozens of new rules to avoid a repeat of the false postings about the candidates and the voting process that marred the 2016 election.

The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has further escalated the platforms’ response, leading them to take actions against politicians — a move they’ve long resisted — who make misleading claims about the virus.

Last month, Twitter began a “Get the Facts” label to direct social media users to news articles from trusted outlets next to tweets containing misleading or disputed information about the virus. Company leaders said at the time that the new labels could be applied to anyone on Twitter, and that it was considering using them on other topics.

Twitter has said it will decide internally when to use a label, and on which tweets, and it will draw from information curated from news outlets.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the matter during a Fox News interview Wednesday. “We have a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this,” he said. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

Meanwhile, Republicans were turning their fire on one of the Twitter executives responsible for adding the fact checks: Yoel Roth, its head of site integrity. They are pointing to tweets he sent in 2016 and 2017 railing against the president and his allies.

“From their bogus ‘fact check’ of @realDonaldTrump to their ‘head of site integrity’ displaying his clear hatred towards Republicans, Twitter’s blatant bias has gone too far,” tweeted Republican National Chairman Chair Ronna McDaniel.

Jack Balkin, a Yale University law professor and First Amendment expert, said any attempt to regulate social media companies for the content on their sites would likely need congressional input and approval — and probably face strong legal challenges.

“The president can’t do very much, but that’s not the point,” he said. “This is an attempt by the president to, as we used to say in basketball, work the refs.”

“He’s threatening and cajoling with the idea that these folks in their corporate board rooms will think twice about what they’re doing, so they won’t touch him.”

AP writers Amanda Seitz and David Klepper contributed

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