Daily Media Links 11/16

November 16, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Free Speech

Wall Street Journal: Does the ACLU Want to Ban My Book?

By Abigail Shrier

I never thought book banning would be respectable in America, much less that I’d be the target, but here we are. Last Thursday Target stopped selling my book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” in response to two Twitter complaints…

The book takes a hard look at whether the sudden spike in transgender identification among teen girls is yet another social contagion to befall girls who, in another era, might have fallen prey to anorexia or bulimia…

“Abigail Shrier’s book is a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans,” Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, tweeted Friday. “I think of all the times & ways I was told my transness wasn’t real & the daily toll it takes. We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.” Then: “Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.” 


CNET: Facebook, Twitter CEOs to visit Congress again: How to watch on Tuesday

By Andrew Morse

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are becoming familiar faces on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the social media bosses are scheduled to visit with senators to take questions about how they moderate content on their sites.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was called after Republicans demanded the CEOs explain why they limited the spread of a New York Post article that suggested unproven improprieties involving President-elect Joe Biden’s son…  The social networks’ actions raised questions about how they fact check political content…

Tuesday’s hearing is called Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election…

It’s set to begin Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT. 

The hearing will stream live on the committee’s webpage. You can also watch on CNET’s YouTube channel here.


Issue One: Issue One statement ahead of [this] week’s FEC confirmation hearings

By Michael Beckel

Issue One today issued the following statement in response to the Senate Rules Committee announcing plans to hold confirmation hearings…Wednesday, Nov. 18, for attorneys Allen Dickerson, Sean Cooksey, and Shana Broussard to serve on the Federal Election Commission…

“If there was ever a time to have a functional Federal Election Commission, that time is now. The nation just experienced the most expensive election in history, with both liberal and conservative dark money groups injecting massive amounts of secret spending into our campaigns. For the FEC to be the effective watchdog the American people deserve, the agency needs to not only have a quorum but a quorum of commissioners who are dedicated to upholding our nation’s campaign finance laws,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee.

She continued: “Now is not a time for pro forma confirmation hearings. Every person nominated for Senate-confirmed positions deserves rigorous scrutiny. Putting an allegiance to ideology over an allegiance to faithfully enforcing our nation’s anti-corruption laws will further jeopardize an already dysfunctional agency. When the FEC is broken, the American people lose, and senators should not forget that during next week’s confirmation hearings.”

Donor Privacy

Washington Examiner: Backdoor foreign influence schemes should continue to be a presidential priority

By Sarah Lee

A little under a month before the election, the State Department issued a succinct press release that expressed the administration’s concern over foreign funding in the U.S. nonprofit world, “the academic community, think tanks, and various external sources of expertise in foreign affairs,” and called for those entities to “disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities.” …

But there is, as Capital Research Center’s Special Projects Manager Robert Stilson wrote, a question of donor privacy, a protection afforded donors to keep them from suffering harassment in an age that also embraces “cancel culture” and smear campaigns against people that don’t express the “correct” political opinions…

The dilemma, and it’s one a Biden administration will have to consider if it intends to remain tough on China and other foreign nations seeking to build covert influence, is even broader: How do we balance the desire to protect donors and keep potentially hostile foreign nations from using the openness of our system to promote their own interests over the interests of America? And how do we do this without compromising that cherished openness?

Independent Groups

New York Times: Progressives Press Biden to Limit Corporate Influence in Administration

By Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel

In a letter sent Thursday, liberal groups including Demand Progress pushed Mr. Biden to adopt the sort of sweeping restrictions that his more liberal challengers for the presidential nomination had championed during the primary campaign, urging him not to “nominate or hire corporate executives, lobbyists, and prominent corporate consultants.” …

The progressive activists want him to adopt hiring practices that go far beyond policies embraced by former President Barack Obama, who barred officials in his administration from working on issues on which they had lobbied in the past two years…

But even some proponents of tighter ethics rules are starting to question if the demands by progressives have gone too far.

“I understand the desire to have people that are ideologically aligned,” said Meredith McGehee, the executive director of IssueOne, a group trying to limit the role of money in politics. “But when you start doing litmus tests on appointees it can backfire. You need to have appointees in the administration who can work with a range of people in Congress or you are not likely to get much done.”

Wall Street Journal: Charles Koch Says His Partisanship Was a Mistake

By Douglas Belkin

Mr. Koch’s influence increased in 2010 after the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations were exempt from restrictions on political spending. That controversial ruling brought a flood of new money into politics from wealthy individuals, including the Koch brothers, George Soros and Sheldon Adelson. The ruling also allowed nonprofits to more easily keep the sources of their funding secret, allowing so-called “dark money” to influence elections.

The Koch brothers’ organization raised and spent billions of dollars, untethered to the limits of the campaign-finance system. The wave of money influenced policy areas from health care to environmental regulation, foreign policy and unionization. Critics warned that the Kochs were rigging the public debate to enrich their own bottom line by casting corporate self-interest as a new form of populism.

Mr. Koch disagrees and bristles at the notion that he wields too much influence. “When you look at countries that don’t let everyone participate, those in power stay in power unchallenged,” he says. “Instead of limiting certain people’s ability to engage, we should do all we can to empower more people to get engaged.”

The Hill: Campaign finance reform a must going forward

By Bradley A. Blakeman

When an outside group can raise more money than a candidate themselves to influence the outcome of an election, there is a cancer on our democracy.

The amount of money raised and spent this election cycle for president, Senate and House is obscene. Now is the time for serious and meaningful campaign finance reforms.

How do we limit the amount of influence and donation from outsiders? I suggest the following steps be taken to level the political playing field so that the biggest voices heard during election campaigns come from the candidates themselves and the citizens who have the paramount interest in the outcome.

The Media

The Atlantic: Why Matthew Yglesias Left Vox

By Conor Friedersdorf

The journalist Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox, announced today that he is leaving that publication for the paid-newsletter platform Substack, so that he can enjoy more editorial independence…

[A]s a relative moderate at the publication, he felt at times that it was important to challenge what he called the “dominant sensibility” in the “young-college-graduate bubble” that now sets the tone at many digital-media organizations…

One trend that exacerbated that challenge: colleagues in media treating the expression of allegedly problematic ideas as if they were a human-resources issue. Earlier this year, for instance, after Yglesias signed a group letter published in Harper’s magazine objecting to cancel culture, one of his colleagues, Emily VanDerWerff, told Vox editors that his signature made her feel “less safe at Vox.” …

I asked Yglesias if that matter in any way motivated his departure. “Something we’ve seen in a lot of organizations is increasing sensitivity about language and what people say,” he told me. “It’s a damaging trend in the media in particular because it is an industry that’s about ideas, and if you treat disagreement as a source of harm or personal safety, then it’s very challenging to do good work.”

Online Speech Platforms

Wall Street Journal: Parler Makes Play for Conservatives Mad at Facebook, Twitter

By Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey

Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer, is among [social network Parler’s] financial backers…

Ms. Mercer said…that she and [Chief Executive John] Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She said the effort is an answer to what she called the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.” …

[Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Parler] doesn’t use content-recommendation algorithms, collects almost no data about its users and, for privacy reasons, hasn’t provided the tools to let users easily cross-post from other platforms…

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Parler leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to individuals, allowing them to choose whether to apply filters that hide content such as hate speech, graphic violence and pornography. The minimal enforcement that exists-primarily the removal of spam, threats of violence, or illegal activity-is handled by “community jurors,” all currently volunteers.

That policy leads to freewheeling political discussion. It also allows some communities to flourish that don’t fit as easily on other platforms, such as a group of users who publish their nude photos on the platform, Mr. Matze said.

The Hill: Parler’s post-election popularity sparks misinformation concerns

By Rebecca Klar

The rising popularity of alternative social media app Parler is raising concerns over the spread of misinformation and potential for radicalizing users on a platform that’s taken a hands-off approach to regulating content…

Experts warn that a total lack of content moderation could prove harmful beyond creating political echo chambers and further spreading conspiracy theories.

“Anytime you take a laissez faire approach to moderation – you say, ‘anything goes’ right up until actual threats of real world violence – that creates a huge space for some really problematic things to happen,” said Bret Schafer, a fellow focusing on disinformation at the Alliance for Securing Democracy…

For those who have abandoned Twitter and Facebook in favor of Parler, it could create a new dynamic on the mainstream social media platforms.

“The idea that these people are leaving those platforms and no longer trying to red pill individuals to see their conspiracy theories on large platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I think that’s a good thing,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute.

He added that the shift to Parler could mean fewer people on Facebook and Twitter are “exposed to these ideas,” and “migrating to more obscure platforms” may ultimately result in a smaller audience for misinformation.

Politico: The Biden team’s tug-of-war over Facebook

By Nancy Scola and Alex Thompson

Some on the Biden campaign thought they had two opponents to beat: first Donald Trump and then Facebook.

But people with close ties to Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have already become inside players in the Biden transition, suggesting that the president-elect is not slamming the door on the company.

Former Facebook board member Jeff Zients is co-chairing Biden’s transition team. Another former board member is an adviser. Two others – one who was a Facebook director and another who was a company lobbyist – have taken leadership roles. And Biden himself has a friendly relationship with a top Facebook executive, former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

That set-up is already creating an awkward contrast with the vocal Facebook-haters in the party. DNC’s chief mobilization officer Patrick Stevenson tweeted last week that “the two biggest institutional threats to our democracy are the Republican Party and Facebook.” Campaign spokesperson Bill Russo argued shortly after the race was called for Biden that Facebook is “shredding the fabric of our democracy.” …

The question becomes whether, after Inauguration Day, a Biden administration acts on the anger coming from the Democratic party’s anti-Facebook factions or if it absorbs Facebook back into the Democratic establishment, embracing the friendly relationship of the Obama years.

The States

Spectrum News 1: Questions Surround Constitutionality of New Law and Order Bill

By Josh Rultenberg

Ohio House Representative Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and fellow Hamilton County House Republican Sara Carruthers are the primary sponsors of legislation they announced that would increase penalties for rioting, looting, violence, blocking roads, and vandalizing public property…

The bill would also create stiffer penalties if someone caused any physical harm – even more so if a law enforcement official was the target, and even more still if the officer was seriously hurt.

In turn, the bill would also allow affected officers to sue whomever was responsible.

Finally, the bill would allow for a person who thinks they are in danger to take any steps, including using deadly force, to get out of a precarious situation…

The co-sponsors of House Bill 784 say this is a common sense bill and does not infringe on Ohioans’ First Amendment rights. The ACLU of Ohio disagrees and says this is a “dangerous, unneeded, and unconstitutional bill encouraging and endorsing vigilante actions.”

“The bill raises a number of significant questions,” said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Entin.

Entin said the First Amendment says a speaker is not responsible for the actions of others unless that speaker incites the third party to engage in violence.

“Simply organizing a demonstration where some hanger-on or opportunist engages in violence is not sufficient under the First Amendment to hold the organizer liable, and I think that this bill could do that,” Entin said…

The bill has nine co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans, and has yet to be referred to a committee. 

Washington Free Beacon: California Set to Reopen Strip Clubs Before Churches

By Graham Piro

A California judge ordered San Diego to reopen strip clubs even as local officials crack down on churches.

San Diego Superior Court judge Joel R. Wohlfeil ordered the state to end any actions that prevent the clubs from “being allowed to provide live adult entertainment,” according to the decision. The owners of two strip clubs argued that their business is legally protected speech guaranteed by the First Amendment-the same argument that churches have been making about their own services…

Religious-liberty advocates said that the case could pave the way for lifting coronavirus restrictions against churches. Paul Jonna, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is representing churches challenging the restrictions, expressed confidence that this decision bodes well for the churches. If strip clubs are entitled to constitutional protections, then churches are as well, he told the Free Beacon.

“If you’re going to accept that argument that dancing nude is protected speech that’s so significant that it overcomes the government’s interest in regulating its citizens with COVID-19 orders, then obviously the divine worship of God, which is expressly mentioned in the First Amendment, should be held to a higher standard,” Jonna said.

Anchorage Daily News: Four state House races and one ballot measure remain too close to call as Alaska elections officials count thousands more ballots

By James Brooks

An election-reform ballot measure and four state House races remained undecided Saturday as Alaska election workers counted almost 5,000 more ballots from the Nov. 3 general election. That count followed another 11,000 tallied on Friday.

Just over 17,000 ballots are believed to remain uncounted, and almost all of the state’s elections have been decided…

Ballot Measure 2, which would create a combined primary election for state offices, and the top four vote-getters from that primary – regardless of party – would advance to a ranked-choice general election. It would also require campaign donors to more fully disclose the source of certain contributions in some races.

On Saturday, “yes” led “no” on the measure by 1,566 votes – or 50.24% to 49.76%

While state law requires automatic recounts only in case of tie votes, the state pays for any recount requested by the losing side if the margin is within 0.5%.


Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


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