Daily Media Links 1/6

January 6, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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The Courts

Reuters: U.S. judge blocks Trump sanctions targeting human rights lawyers, war crimes tribunal

By Jonathan Stempel

A U.S. judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration from sanctioning human rights lawyers for supporting the work of the world’s war crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Court.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla in Manhattan issued a preliminary injunction against the White House from imposing criminal or civil penalties against four law professors under an executive order from President Donald Trump last June.

Trump had authorized economic and travel sanctions against employees of the Hague-based ICC and anyone supporting its work, including a probe into whether U.S. forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.

Failla said the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that Trump’s order unconstitutionally stifled their speech, resulting in irreparable harm.


Reclaim the Net: Democrats propose bill preventing lawmakers sharing “manipulated” memes

By Didi Rankovic

A resolution presented in the House of Representatives seeks to punish members of congress and their staffers found to be spreading “manipulated media content.” On social media included. 

The new rules would be incorporated in the Code of Official Conduct, while the resolution, introduced by Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyner, would instruct the Committee on Ethics to see to amending the existing code in a way that would limit speech of Congress members and staff for spreading “misinformation.”…                                                             

Just like tech giant’s terms of service and other rules that are cited in cases of censorship and deplatforming, the proposed bill doesn’t go into any of these details and doesn’t offer a clear definition of what would be considered distorted or manipulated content.

ACLU: New Law Requires Federal Agents to Identify Themselves to Protesters

By Kate Oh

Tucked inside the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395), which just became law, is a new requirement for federal military and civilian law enforcement personnel involved in the federal government’s response to a “civil disturbance” to wear visible identification of themselves and the name of the government entity employing them. That’s good news, because requiring such identification should be a no-brainer in a democracy. When government employees are interacting with members of the public and exercising government authority, such as the power to arrest people, the public should have the right to know who the employees are and which agency employs them.

Online Speech Platforms

Politico: Facebook to restart political ad ban after Georgia Senate runoffs

By Elena Schneider

Facebook will clamp down on political ads again on Wednesday, after temporarily lifting part of its self-imposed ban for the Senate runoffs in Georgia, where Tuesday is Election Day.

In a statement released to its blog, Facebook said that it will no longer allow candidates or groups to run ads about the Georgia runoff elections, and the company did not indicate when it might lift the broader ban on political ads on its platform. Instead, Facebook urged political clients to post “organic” content to its site, which previously banned political ads since the November election as part of the company’s efforts to fight misinformation.

Advertisers in Georgia have been able to get their messages out during the early voting period and in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote. But political strategists in both parties noted that Facebook’s re-implementation of its ban will prevent campaigns from airing digital ads about a potential recount or a “ballot curing” process (the process of contacting voters who are missing information on their absentee ballots to provide that information before a post-election deadline).

Input: Parler doesn’t understand censorship, supports Section 230 repeal

By J. Fergus

Committed to somehow being the biggest fools in social media, Parler released a statement on Monday announcing its support of a Section 230 repeal – an action that would either expose it to incessant and costly legal challenges or compromise its anti-censorship mission statement…

A repeal of Section 230 would open the company up to endless lawsuits spawned from its laissez-faire free speech experiment and would force it to implement stricter moderation policies to try and keep legal challenges at bay. 

The Markup: In Georgia, Facebook’s Changes Brought Back a Partisan News Feed

By Corin Faife

In the fall, Facebook…clamped down on sponsored posts about politics in order to ensure that misinformation would not spread the way that it had during the 2016 presidential election. But a few weeks before the Georgia race, Facebook turned off this safeguard in Georgia. The Markup decided to take a look behind the curtain to see if we could determine the impact on Georgia voters’ news feeds. We recruited a panel of 58 Facebook users in the state and paid them to allow us to monitor their feeds, starting in late November, using custom software we built for our Citizen Browser project. The Citizen Browser project is a data-driven initiative to examine what content social media companies choose to amplify to their users.

While Facebook’s controls were in place, we found that links to traditional news sites were present in almost all election-related posts that appeared on our Georgia panelists’ feeds. After Dec. 16, however, when Facebook flipped the switch to turn on political advertising for the Georgia election, we noticed that partisan content quickly elbowed out news sites, replacing a significant proportion of mentions of the election in our users’ feeds.

Politico: To Thrive, Our Democracy Needs Digital Public Infrastructure

By Eli Pariser and Danielle Allen

Platform apologists often argue that polarization and bad behavior on social platforms is an inevitable result of human nature – our animal spirits, our narcissism, our need to be right. This is a bit like saying noise and fights at bars exist because of human nature: It’s true to an extent, but the function, design and norms of the space – not to mention the alcohol – sure help. Recent peer-reviewed research from three professors at the University of Virginia demonstrates how dramatically the design of platforms can affect how people behave on them. In their study, in months where conservative-leaning users visited Facebook more, they saw much more ideological content than normal, whereas in months where they visited Reddit more they “read news that was 50 percent more moderate than what they typically read.” (This effect was smaller but similar for political liberals). Same people, different platforms, and dramatically different news diets as a result.

This is why a growing group of scholars and technologists have started looking at new ways of supporting flourishing online public life by focusing on parks and libraries for the Internet – what scholar Ethan Zuckerman calls “digital public infrastructure.”

Candidates and Campaigns

The Hill: We lost in November – we’re proud we didn’t take corporate PAC money

By Former Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Max Rose (D-N.Y.)

When we both ran for Congress in 2018, we promised voters we’d stand up for them in Washington instead of special interests and corporate donors. We followed through on our word by making one of the most important decisions of our campaigns – refusing to accept corporate PAC money — and flipped competitive districts as a result.

We lost our races for reelection in November. The losses hurt, but at the end of the day, we’re proud of what we accomplished in Congress. We’re equally proud that we did it while fulfilling our promises to refuse corporate PAC money. We kept our word to stand up against the special interests that have outsized influence over Washington…

And we weren’t alone.

Just over half of our 2019 Democratic freshman class pledged not to take corporate PAC money, helping bring the total number of members of Congress who refused the money from less than 10 to 60. In 2020, even more candidates pledged not to take corporate PAC money and two thirds of the incoming freshman class have made this commitment, as well as all three incoming Democratic senators. The movement is growing.

Center for Responsive Politics: Georgia Senate races shatter spending records

By Karl Evers-Hillstrom

The Georgia contests that will decide party control of the Senate are the top two most expensive congressional elections ever – by a large margin…                     

The race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is the most expensive Senate contest ever, with the candidates and outside groups spending nearly $470 million through Monday. The special election featuring Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rev. Raphael Warnock has drawn nearly $363 million, good for the No. 2 spot. Both those figures – which include spending in the primary and general elections – will increase when the candidates file their post-election spending figures with the Federal Election Commission.

The States

San Francisco Chronicle: Source of mysterious $500,000 donation to recall Gavin Newsom is revealed

By Dustin Gardiner

An Orange County company that contributed $500,000 to the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom says its sole donor is a man who believes pandemic restrictions on indoor worship services violate religious freedom…

[The man was identified] as the source of Prov. 3:9’s funding the day after Ann Ravel, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission, filed a complaint urging state officials to investigate whether the firm was a “shell company” designed to conceal the true source of the recall contribution…

Ravel…said she is pleased her action motivated the firm “to admit this information,” but added that state officials should still investigate.

She said the original source of the Dec. 18 contribution should have been reported within 10 days. Ravel has asked the California attorney general and state Fair Political Practices Commission to review the lack of disclosure.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Despite bribery scandal, influence of dark money in Ohio remains unchecked

By Jessie Balmert

[I]n the months since Householder’s arrest, Ohio lawmakers have done nothing to curtail dark money’s influence in Ohio…

Reps. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, introduced a bipartisan fix. They wanted to disclose the original source of donations so Ohioans knew who was paying for ads – even if it was a corporation or union.

In their House Bill 737, corporations and unions would need to disclose any contribution they received over $5,000…

The push to shine a light on dark money’s influence had the support of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican. He held a news conference with Manning and Miranda in August, saying dark money was “corrupt and damaging.” 

But that proposal received no hearings and a companion bill introduced by Republican Sen. Nathan Manning, Senate Bill 347, received two hearings and no vote in committee.

The challenge of tackling dark money is those who have the most to gain from it are also the people tasked with curbing it. House Republicans lost just one seat after Householder’s scandal: a lawmaker who helped the FBI uncover the shady operation.

“Passing reforms to create more accountability became more difficult when Larry Householder was reelected and Dave Greenspan, a whistleblower, was defeated,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a good government group.

Politicians are most motivated to disclose more about their donations when they are worried about the consequences of neglecting public opinion demanding transparency, Turcer said. 

Dayton Daily News: Committee: Barring Dayton workers from political activities may be unconstitutional

By Cornelius Frolik

Most city of Dayton employees generally are prohibited from engaging in off-duty political activities, but some city officials and community members believe it could be unconstitutional and should be changed.

Section 105 of the city’s charter says classified employees should not take part in political management, affairs or political campaigns other than to cast votes and privately express their opinions.

But multiple members of Dayton’s charter review committee said this provision likely violates First Amendment rights and would not withstand a legal challenge.

“You guys are pretty open to a First Amendment lawsuit,” said Mohamed Al-Hamdani, a member of the charter review committee and Dayton Public School board president. “You are leaving yourself vulnerable here – this is on their own time, and if somebody sues you, you are going to lose this lawsuit.”

The committee is deciding whether to recommend putting a charter change proposal before Dayton voters later this year.

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


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