Daily Media Links 9/9

September 9, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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Washington Supreme Court Should Override $18 Million Chill on Political Speech

By Nathan Maxwell

In an amicus brief filed in mid-August, the Institute for Free Speech urged the Washington State Supreme Court to overturn an unprecedented $18 million penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) for campaign finance violations.

To provoke such a tremendous penalty – nearly five times greater than the largest campaign finance fine ever imposed by the federal government – you would assume the group must’ve participated in the most corrupt political scandal in a generation.

Nope. Washington seeks to silence GMA – and intimidate onlooking advocates – over a clerical issue.

The Courts

The Hill: ‘MyPillow Guy’ becomes a nightmare for a Jan. 6 rioter — and for justice

By Jonathan Turley

In securing bail on July 13, [Doug] Jensen assured U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly that he no longer believed in QAnon and was deceived by those who questioned the election. Kelly agreed, but only if Jensen stayed away from internet or cellphone access. Two weeks later, a court officer reportedly found Kelly in his garage secretly listening to Lindell…

Most of us view QAnon as a bizarre group of conspiracy theorists, one of the most active on the internet on either the left or the right. However, it is a bit unnerving to hear judges asking defendants if they are or have ever been a QAnon member. Kelly made clear that, if Jensen did not renounce the views of figures like Lindell and Trump, he would be left to wallow in jail.

We have seen this before. In the 1950s, liberal writers, unionists and others were pulled before Congress to state whether they were or ever had been communists. The very status of “fellow traveler” was enough to be blacklisted, investigated, even arrested. When Sen. Joe McCarthy waived his list of “known communists,” he was identifying not just “card-carrying members” but those “loyal to the Communist Party.”…

I would have the same objection to courts demanding that arrested Black Lives Matter (BLM) or antifa followers renounce their views as a condition of bail… It would be outrageous for courts to demand that BLM or antifa supporters not listen to these political movements or related political figures.

The Media

Techdirt: The Role Of Confirmation Bias In Spreading Misinformation

By Mike Masnick

Rolling Stone put up a story with the extremely provocative title Gunshot Victims Left Waiting as Horse Dewormer Overdoses Overwhelm Oklahoma Hospitals, Doctor Says. As people discovered later, that “Doctor Says” hidden at the end of the headline ended up being the load bearing pillar on which the rest of the story stood. And that pillar turned out to be made of fluff and nonsense, as the hospital is now running a massive popup on the front page of its website saying the story is bullshit…

And then the story got picked up, almost verbatim, by a ton of other places. The Guardian had a story. The BBC. So did the Hill (that one has since been deleted)…

And, of course, the fact that so many publications ran with this story contributed to the standard narrative from those who dislike and distrust the mainstream media to argue that they are regular perpetrators of “fake news” or “disinformation.” Of course, as Eva Galperin correctly notes, absolutely everyone is susceptible to believing and amplifying stories that confirm our biases.


Reuters: Special Report: Terrorized U.S. election workers get little help from law enforcement

By Linda So and Jason Szep

The death threats brought Staci McElyea to tears. The caller said that McElyea and other workers in the Nevada Secretary of State’s office were “going to f—— die.” She documented the threats and alerted police, who identified and interviewed the caller. But in the end, detectives said there was nothing they could do – that the man had committed no crime…

[State] police concluded that [Gjurgi] Juncaj’s threats were not criminal, characterizing them as “protected” political speech…

In an investigation that identified hundreds of incidents of intimidation and harassment of election workers and officials nationwide, Reuters found only a handful of arrests…

Two prosecutors and three constitutional law experts interviewed for this story said the rash of threats against election workers has exposed confusion in law enforcement over protections for political speech. Threats to commit any violence – especially repeated threats intended to cause terror – are not protected by the First Amendment, said Mary McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice who now teaches at Georgetown Law School. McCord and other experts say some incidents pose challenges for prosecutors, and that applicable laws don’t prescribe any “magic words” that a threat must include to constitute a crime.

Internet Speech Regulation

CNN: Pro-China misinformation operation attempting to exploit US Covid divisions, report says

By Zachary Cohen

A pro-Chinese government online influence operation is targeting Americans in an effort to exploit divisions over the Covid-19 pandemic and “physically mobilize protestors in the US in response,” according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Mandiant and experts at Google…

US officials believe the operation is linked to the Chinese government and have been monitoring its evolution, according to one source familiar with the situation…

“While this attempt did not appear to achieve any success, we believe it is critical that observers continue to monitor for such attempts in case greater degrees of organic engagement are later realized by the network,” [the report says.]…

While there has been limited engagement with these pro-Chinese accounts, the operation’s massive scope shows the actors responsible have “significantly expanded their online footprint and appear to be attempting to establish a presence on as many platforms as possible to reach a variety of global audiences,” according to Mandiant’s experts.

While experts at Mandiant and Google say they have not seen these specific pro-Chinese accounts wade into election specific content to date, they did warn that the actors responsible could be gearing up for a more expansive disinformation push that could very well be conducted in a similar way to Moscow’s campaign to meddle in the 2016 US election.

Online Speech Platforms

The Hill: Warren urges Amazon to fix algorithm ‘feeding misinformation loops’

By Rebecca Klar

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is urging Amazon to create a plan to modify its algorithm after her staff found books spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic prominently displayed in searches about the virus and vaccines.

“As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, Amazon is feeding misinformation loops through its search and ‘Best Seller’ algorithms, potentially leading countless Americans to risk their health and the health of their neighbors based on misleading and inaccurate information that they discover on Amazon’s website,” Warren wrote in a letter sent to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

Warren said that when her staff searched for “COVID-19” and “vaccine,” the first result on the top left corner of the screen was a book that “perpetuates dangerous conspiracies about COVID-19,” including claims that lack scientific basis asserting supplements sold on the author’s website can prevent COVID-19 infection.

Bloomberg: What a 9/11 Would Look Like in Today’s Online World

By Naomi Nix

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, I went to a bulletin board hanging in my middle school where someone had tacked up a piece by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. Pitts’s words—addressed to the then-unknown terrorists behind the attacks—gave voice to the shock and anger I felt but had trouble articulating on my own.

I wonder now if his column would have had the same impact if it found me through a tweet. I suspect not…

If we had Facebook and Twitter, social media would have provided an endless stream of reactions—some thoughtful and some not so much—to satiate my need to understand the moment…

The promise is that everyone gets a voice. The problem is that everyone gets a voice…

The companies now have to decide whether to hand over Afghanistan’s official government accounts to the Taliban…

As the world sees a rise in extremism and authoritarianism, the content moderation challenges facing tech companies will only grow more complicated in a post-9/11 world. The companies have yet to prove they’re up to the task.

The States

The Post Millennial: Seattle’s ‘Democracy Voucher’ program harvests taxpayer money for radical candidates and ‘consultants’

By Ari Hoffman

Allegations of impropriety and worse are once again being directed at Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program, which uses taxes to fund political campaigns. Over Labor Day weekend, dozens of out of state canvassers were spotted at local events collecting the ballots for local campaigns…

Pride Fest attendees reported to Safe Seattle, that canvassers are being paid to collect the vouchers, one of the canvassers claiming that he collected 2,000 vouchers on Saturday which at $25 each, would equal $50,000 in funds for campaigns.

According to the report, the canvasser claimed that he and “his crew are getting paid to gather Democracy Vouchers.” He also claimed that “they all came up from California to do this and are making a lot of money.”

The canvasser claimed that they were contracted by the consulting firm Prism on behalf of mayoral candidate and current Seattle Council President Lorena Gonzalez, as well as other candidates. Gonzalez is one of the two primary finalists who advanced to the general election and has so far raised $374,350 in voucher funds.

Valley Breeze: Planning Board OKs changes to political sign ordinance

By Nicole Dotzenrod

The Lincoln Planning Board is supporting several changes to a town ordinance that has been deemed unconstitutional…

Under the current ordinance, signs can’t be put up until 30 days before the election. Political signs related to an election or referendum shall be removed within seven days after the election or referendum.

The language mandating that signs be removed seven days after the election is on the chopping block, but the 30-day rule has not been removed, though it’s still unenforceable…

Town Solicitor Tony DeSisto said the changes were prompted by a case in Portsmouth where a resident complained about the town’s sign ordinance and filed an injunction with the ACLU. The ordinance was ultimately found to be unconstitutional…

DeSisto was asked to propose the amendments by the Town Council in an effort to protect Lincoln from a lawsuit.

Nathan Maxwell


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