WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump escalated his war on Twitter and other social media companies Thursday, signing an executive order challenging the lawsuit protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.
Announced with fanfare, the president’s action yet appeared to be more about politics than substance. He 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 amounting to political activism and that such actions should cost social media companies their liability protection for what is posted on their platforms.
Trump, who personally relies heavily on Twitter to verbally flog his foes, has long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives by fact-checking them or removing their posts.
“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming his order would uphold freedom of speech.
Technology industry groups disagreed, saying it would stifle innovation and speech on the internet. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce objected, “Regardless of the circumstances that led up to this, this is not how public policy is made in the United States.”
The executive order 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.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement: “This debate is an important one. The Federal Communications Commission will carefully review any petition for rulemaking filed by the Department of Commerce.”
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.
“They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said of social media companies as he prepared to sign the order. “There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction.”
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.”
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.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and advocate for internet freedoms, said Trump was “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 repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that a TV news host had murdered an aide years ago.
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 one political party over the other.
The trouble began in 2016, two years after Facebook launched a section called “trending,” using editors to curate popular news stories. 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, and experts suggested his 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.
As the White House claimed that Trump was the subject of a fact check but Chinese disinformation about the coronavirus was not, Twitter moved Thursday to add a warning to a March tweet from a Chinese government spokesman falsely claiming the U.S. military spread the virus.
Even as he and his supporters complain of bias on the platform, Trump has used Twitter to build a potent and vocal online following. The president’s account currently has more than 80 million followers.
Trump’s success on social media suggests that his proposal may be more about politics than an actual interest in regulation, according to Rutgers University media professor John Pavlik, who studies the impact of technology on society and government.
Pavlik said that by trying to intimidate the platforms now, he’s seeking to control how the 2020 campaign plays out online and “about appealing to his base.”
AP writers Amanda Seitz, Barbara Ortutay and David Klepper contributed.
Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
After issuing social media plea, Saint John, N.B., woman still waiting for live kidney donor – Globalnews.ca
A Saint John woman who made a social media plea last year for someone to donate a kidney to her is still waiting and hoping.
Kara Phinney was born with small kidneys. She said her health has been pretty good since childhood, despite numerous medical appointments and constant bloodwork.
“I’m working two jobs, so, I mean, I’m doing okay,” said the 26-year-old.
“You have your good and bad days.”
A bad day can include extreme fatigue, among other things.
Phinney has been on home dialysis for more than year. It runs nine hours per day. She said she does it at night and sleeps through the majority of it, but it does wake her up if she inadvertently rolls over on the tubing.
Phinney’s mother, Patti, went through a lengthy testing process to become a potential donor for her daughter, but was rejected.
“All in all it was quite a disappointment, thinking you’re going to give her this gift and it’s not going to happen,” Patti Phinney said.
“And then, you know, what’s the next phase?”
Just over a year ago, Kara posted a plea on Facebook asking for someone to donate a kidney to her. She said it was shared thousands of times, and got another round of shares when it popped up as a memory on her profile.
She said she turned to social media to help raise awareness about the need for donations, both for herself and others.
“I don’t really tell people about it,” Kara said of her condition.
“A lot of people found out from it because you don’t really see that I’m sick. It looks like everything is fine, but it’s not.”
Emergency goalie David Ayres supports Green Shirt Day organ donation campaign
Interim Health Services Manager of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) of Atlantic Canada Shelby Kennedy said social media is becoming a more common way for people seeking organs to try to find someone willing to make a live donation.
However, she cautioned that some posts include too much personal information, which could be misused.
Kennedy said she sees merit in the use of social media, but stressed that it needs to be done safely.
“So we’re trying to work with recipient and donor sides to make that more of an option if that’s the route that you choose to go to try to get a transplant,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve seen some successes across Canada with those, but we have not seen it happen here in Atlantic Canada.”
MOTP performs all transplants for Atlantic Canadians in Halifax. Kennedy said there have been nine kidney transplants on New Brunswick residents in 2020, including two live donations.
She admits that’s about half the usual figure for this time of year, but the numbers were impacted by COVID-19-related cancellations of all transplants for more than six weeks.
The Phinneys are hopeful New Brunswick follows Nova Scotia’s lead in enacting a presumed consent law, which will require people to opt out of donating organs, rather than opting in.
That Nova Scotia law comes into effect in January.
“I think it’s going to help a lot of people,” Kara said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Patti. “And I think they’re going to have to encourage doctors and specialists to come to Halifax to be able to perform (these surgeries).”
Kara’s brother-in-law is now being tested to see if he could donate to her. He went through testing once before, but the tests expired and had to be redone.
As she seeks a live donor, Kara is not on the wait list for a kidney from a deceased person. She said people on the wait list have to drop everything and rush to the hospital once they get the call that a kidney is available for them.
As long as she stays reasonably healthy, she said, she’ll continue to aim for a live donor.
“You get stressful some days,” she said. “I think if you overthink about it, is when it gets a little more stressful and frustrating.
“And it is frustrating, you know. It’s a wait.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Packed, Maskless Great White Show Reminds Social Media of Band’s Tragic Concert Past – Variety
Unsafe concert conditions seem to know no genre boundaries in the mid-pandemic era. Two weekends ago, it was country artists Chase Rice and Chris Janson stirring outrage when they proudly posted videos of themselves playing to packed crowds of fans with no masks in sight. Last weekend, it was hip-hop star DaBaby in the hot seat for playing a show in a large, packed nightclub where his unmasked female fans were literally reaching out and grabbing him.
Now the attention has turned to veteran hard-rock band Great White, which performed an outdoor show Thursday night for a general admission audience in North Dakota, many of whom posted videos giving no indication of even a single mask in the crowd, with fans jammed together, and even shirtless in some instances.
As the lack of protocols at the show came up for scorn on social media, it was not lost on many commenters that, if there is any band that might want to avoid being mentioned in the same breath as “unsafe concert conditions,” it’s Great White,
“Great White doing a precaution-free concert right now is like if Great White were to do a precaution-free concert right now,” jabbed writer Evie Nagy — one of countless references Twitter users made to the 2003 tragedy in which 100 people were killed and 230 more injured in a pyrotechnic-related fire at a Great White show in Rhode Island.
In the tradition of Rice and Janson posting photos and videos of their caution-to-the-wind packed crowds, it was Great White singer Mitch Malloy himself who posted the most circulated video from the show.
Late Saturday night, the group issued a statement that emphasized that emphasized that the show went well while saying they consider themselves “far from perfect” and offering an apology “to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement.”
“We understand that there are some people who are upset that we performed this show, during this trying time,” the group said. “We assure you that we worked with the Promoter. North Dakota’s government recommends masks be worn, however, we are not in a position to enforce the laws. We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement. The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions. Our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town. We value the health and safety of each and every one of our fans, as well as our American and global community. We are far from perfect.”
The group’s statement did not specify what safety precautions the promoter assured them about.
One difference between the show performed by Great White in North Dakota and the controversial gigs by Rice, Janson and DaBaby is that there wasn’t even the promise of social distancing Thursday, as organizers said ahead of time that none would be enforced or even encouraged.
“We do not have restrictions, believe it or not, we don’t have any,” event coordinator April Getz told the local Dickinson Press in touting the city’s “First On First: Dickinson Summer Nights” programming last month. (Grand White was the only act of national renown announced for the series.) ““I guess it’s one of the first events this year that didn’t get canceled and was approved by the city; we’re all very, very excited about it… It’s one of those things where if people feel comfortable coming down and mixing and mingling, that’s their personal choice. We’re leaving it up to everybody that chooses to attend.”
Although they were in the minority, there were some on social media defending Dickinson’s and the band’s right to put on shows with no coronavirus-related restrictions and fans’ right to attend.
“People are INSANE about masks right now,” wrote one Twitter user. “People are actually looking for pictures around the country of people not wearing masks to get pissed about. If you’re mad people in North Dakota at a Great White concert aren’t wearing masks, get out of the house and get a hobby.”
The version of the band that played Thursday in North Dakota has three members who have been with the group since the 1980s, along with lead singer Mitch Malloy, who joined in 2018. It is not to be confused with “Jack Russell’s Great White,” a spinoff group started by original singer Russell in 2011.
Russell is probably hoping no one associates him with this version of Great White or the North Dakota show, judging from recent omments he made strongly favoring the use of masks.
“There’s no need to be out [in public places],” Russell said in an interview with Austria’s Mulatschag that was found and publicized by Blabbermouth. “People don’t take it seriously — they don’t take the virus seriously. It’s sad. …It’s no small wonder that when you open all these places up, ‘Gee, the numbers [of coronavirus cases] rose up.’ It’s, like, what did you think was gonna happen? It’s, like, ‘I took my mask off and I got COVID.’ Well, what a big surprise that is.” Russell added, “If you don’t wanna help yourself, help everybody else. ‘Well, it’s my right. It’s my human right.’ Well, look, dude, you’ve gotta pay for your car to get smogged, you’ve gotta have a seat belt, you have a driver’s license, you have to have a license to be born, you have to have a marriage license. I mean, so you have to wear a mask for a while so you don’t die. What’s the problem?”
The version of Great White fronted by Malloy doesn’t have any other dates listed on its tour schedule before August 7, when it is booked for Riverfest FM in Fort Madison, Iowa, billed as “Southeast Iowa’s largest rock and roll festival.” That five-day festival in four weeks is “absolutely happening,” according to posts on the fest’s Facebook page. “With all of the uncertainty, it would have been easy to throw in the towel on this year,” Riverfest said, “but we firmly believe that ‘If we rock it, they will come’ and boy, do we have a line-up that is prepared to do just that!”
North Dakota has not been ravaged by COVID-19 as much as other states have, largely by virtue of a mostly rural population. Nonetheless, the state has seen rapid recent upticks. As of Saturday, North Dakota’s Department of Health reported 623 active cases, double the number from just 10 days earlier. Ninety of those cases were being newly reported Saturday. Earlier in the week, the state’s total case count was reported at 4,070.
Two missing in south China biofuel plant blast – state media – TheChronicleHerald.ca
SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) – Two people were missing and two injured after an explosion on Sunday at a biofuel plant in China’s Fujian province, the local fire department and state media said.
The blast occurred around 10:10 a.m. (0210 GMT) at Longyan Zhuoyue New Energy Co Ltd, a Shanghai-listed biofuel producer based in the southern city of Longyan, as workers were doing maintenance, CCTV said.
Video on state television showed thick dark smoke bellowing into the sky.
The fire was continuing as of 0600 GMT, as more than 100 firefighters were dispatched to the site and nearby residents had been evacuated, CCTV said.
Longyan Zhuoyue New Energy processes gutter oil into biodiesel, the company website says.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore and Liangping Gao in Beijing; Editing by William Mallard)
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