In the News
740 KTRH News Radio: The Jimmy Barrett Show
[IFS President David Keating discusses the “For the People Act” with host Jimmy Barrett. His interview starts at 8 mins 18 seconds.]
By Tina Sfondeles
The FEC is tasked with responding to a request from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee that asks whether campaign donations spent on bodyguards would violate prohibitions on lawmakers using election cash for personal uses…
But Ann Ravel, a former Democratic FEC commissioner, said the Republicans’ request lacks specificity.
“We know that there are security issues but whether that is so true about all members of Congress, it’s hard to know,” Ravel said. “I think that to have a blanket statement that everybody should be reimbursed through their campaign monies for what they perceive as concerns about their security isn’t sufficient.”
Bradley Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner who now leads the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, said he has been skeptical of previous FEC rulings that cleared the use of campaign funds for home security and childcare. But he also said the NRCC/NRSC’s request appeared “justified.”
“I think that this is one that really is a tough call,” Smith said, “but could probably be justified to allow members to spend their funds on their security detail.”
By Casey Mattox
While most coverage has focused on H.R. 1’s election-related provisions about publicly funded campaigns, early voting, and redistricting, almost a third of its nearly 800 pages targets speech rights. Concerns over these First Amendment restrictions are why groups as diverse as Americans for Tax Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union have come out in opposition to these measures.
The new federal rules would impose onerous requirements on nonprofits, chill free speech, and subject citizens to harassment and intimidation. They risk turning every policy deliberation into a tribal fight over who is on what team instead of robust discussions about visions of America’s future.
Under H.R.1, every TV, radio, or online ad talking about principles and policies—whether it’s about economic recovery, health care innovation, equal justice, human rights, or the many other beliefs and concerns Americans join together to address—would be forced to list the names of the individuals who support the organizations that paid for it as well as filing their private information in a searchable government database. It’d turn issue advocacy into bad pharmaceutical ads. (Warning: The people who support this idea may include people that are not in your tribe.)…
H.R.1 would have us focus our political energies on who is on which team, not what a group is proposing and whether its position may—or may not—have merit.
By Mike Masnick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren responded [to a tweet from Amazon, saying]:
“I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit, @amazon – your armies of lawyers and lobbyists did. But you bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.” …
[E]ven if you hate Amazon and love Elizabeth Warren her last sentence should greatly trouble you. It doesn’t matter if Warren has lots of other good policy ideas regarding Amazon, or well documented reasons for breaking up the company. It doesn’t matter that she was being snarky on Twitter in response to probably uncalled-for tweets from Amazon. At no point should a government official say that anyone should be punished for their speech. And that’s what Warren has said by saying that she would “fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”
Everyone should have the power to heckle Senators with snotty tweets. That’s a core, fundamental principle of the 1st Amendment.
Over the course of five-plus hours on Thursday, a House Committee along with two subcommittees badgered three tech CEOs, repeatedly demanding that they censor more political content from their platforms and vowing legislative retaliation if they fail to comply. The hearing — convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of its Subcommittees, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — was one of the most stunning displays of the growing authoritarian effort in Congress to commandeer the control which these companies wield over political discourse for their own political interests and purposes…
The bulk of Thursday’s lengthy hearing consisted of one Democratic member after the next complaining that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have failed in their duties to censor political voices and ideological content that these elected officials regard as adversarial or harmful, accompanied by threats that legislative punishment (including possible revocation of Section 230 immunity) is imminent in order to force compliance.
Los Angeles Times (via Yahoo News): ‘Uncharted waters.’ Judges are banning some Capitol riot suspects from the internet
By Evan Halper
Judges have long been reluctant to ban anyone from the internet, a restriction that essentially cuts a person off from much of modern society and has been reserved mostly for accused and convicted pedophiles. But as toxic disinformation becomes an increasingly dangerous threat, driving domestic terrorism and violence, the courts are facing vexing new questions around how often and under what circumstances those accused of taking part should be taken offline altogether.
“We are headed into uncharted waters,” said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, where she studies disinformation. “Given the threats we see continuing and the heightened alerts, it is clear things are not dissipating. … That is why judges are making these calls.”
By Elahe Izadi and Paul Farhi
Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging that the network purposely aired false claims about the company’s role in the 2020 presidential election in order to boost ratings.
It’s the latest in a series of legal actions that experts say could force broadcasters to exert more caution in an era when prominent newsmakers — in this case, a cast of characters that included some of former president Donald Trump’s top allies — have been increasingly willing to spread disinformation.
In the lawsuit, Dominion argued that Fox and several of its on-air personalities elevated baseless claims about the voting company rigging the 2020 election and allowed falsehoods by their guests to go unchecked, including a wild claim that the company’s machines were manufactured in “Venezuela to rig elections for the dictator Hugo Chávez” and that Dominion’s algorithm manipulated votes so that then-President Trump would lose.
By Betsy Woodruff Swan and Bryan Bender
“There are members of the [Department of Defense] who belong to extremist groups or actively participate in efforts to further extremist ideologies,” states a 17-page briefing obtained by POLITICO that was compiled by the DoD Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center, which is part of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.
“Be aware of symbols of far right, far left, Islamist or single issue ideologies,” it warns, stressing that members of the military and civilian personnel have “a duty and responsibility” to report extremist behavior or activity…
The more detailed materials break down extremist movements into three main categories, including “Patriot” extremism, anarchist extremism, and ethnic/racial supremacy…
The document also singles out violent Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS and the conspiracy movement QAnon…
The slides reflect the challenge of cracking down on extremists without singling out political views. Just this week, Republicans in Congress raised fresh concerns that the Pentagon effort could be overreaching and singling out conservatives.
“I’m very concerned that we’re seeing people through all walks of society lose their jobs and other things simply because of a Facebook post or some other post that was made when somebody was mad,” Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) said during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on the issue.
Online Speech Platforms
New York Times: On Google Podcasts, a Buffet of Hate
By Reggie Ugwu
As leading social networks like Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to limit hate speech, misinformation and incitements to violence in recent months, podcasts — historically fueled by a spirit of good-natured anarchy — stand as one of the last remaining platforms for the de-platformed…
But even in the world of podcasting, Google Podcasts — whose app has been downloaded more than 19 million times, according to Apptopia — stands alone among major platforms in its tolerance of hate speech and other extremist content. A recent nonexhaustive search turned up more than two dozen podcasts from white supremacists and pro-Nazi groups, offering a buffet of slurs and conspiracy theories. None of the podcasts appeared on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher…
Told of the white supremacist and pro-Nazi content on its platform and asked about its policy, a Google spokeswoman, Charity Mhende, compared Google Podcasts to Google Search. She said that the company did not want to “limit what people are able to find,” and that it only blocks content “in rare circumstances, largely guided by local law.”
That hands-off approach to moderation recalls the original position of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which have become more vigilant in recent years in their attempts to rein in the spread of harmful content.
Wall Street Journal: Parler Says It Informed FBI of Violent Content Before Capitol Riot
By Sadie Gurman and Jeff Horwitz
The conservative-leaning social-media network Parler referred violent content from its platform to the FBI more than 50 times in the weeks before the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the company said Thursday, following criticism that it failed to adequately police threats ahead of the deadly attack.
Parler in December began alerting the bureau to content suggesting the possibility of violence at the Capitol as Congress met to confirm President Biden’s victory, the company wrote in a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating Parler and its role in the siege.
The social-media site referred a number of posts to law enforcement, including one on Dec. 24 from a user who called for an “armed force” of 150,000 people to “react to the congressional events of January 6,” according to the letter, which included the post and communications with FBI officials among its exhibits and has been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.