Social Media

Opinion/Analysis: Donald Trump Is Defending the First Amendment; Joe Biden Is Attacking It

President Donald Trump’s executive order on Thursday cracking down on social media censorship stirred protests from the usual quarters. Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that Trump’s order is “an extreme abuse of power” and “demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the role and function of the federal government.” The opposite is true. Trump’s executive order is well-founded in the principles of the First Amendment and stays well within existing law. The order tackles the thorny problem of selective censorship by platforms that, while privately owned, have become the public spaces of our digital era. At a moment when most of us are literally prohibited from gathering physically in large numbers, due to coronavirus restrictions, the only spaces in which we can exercise our First Amendment rights meaningfully are online. And the companies that own those spaces have monopoly power; there are few alternatives. There is nothing in the executive order that violates those companies’ right — under the First Amendment — to say, or exclude, what they want. But it enforces the terms of the special exemption that those companies have enjoyed from the libel laws that apply to everyone else. It also emphasizes the government’s own right not to advertise on platforms that practice censorship. And the order holds those companies to their own terms of service, reporting instances of bias. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The moment social media companies begin policing ordinary opinions — or “fact-checking” matters very much in dispute — they cease to become mere platforms and become publishers, as vulnerable to libel laws as any ordinary person is. Twitter’s extraordinary intervention this week in slapping a fact-check warning on President Trump’s tweets about California’s plan for mail-in voting was not only factually incorrect itself, but also premature. Two separate lawsuits were filed in the past few days challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s authority to send mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters. Twitter’s “fact check” was just another statement of opinion. It has no special claim to immunity. Trump’s executive order on social media censorship follows the pattern of a similar order last year about free speech on college campuses. In that case, Trump insisted on “compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions.” He directed federal agencies to make sure “institutions that receive Federal research or education grants” upheld free speech principles. That executive order was constitutional, and so is the new one. It does not dictate to private institutions what they can and cannot say, or exclude. But it removes the sense that they are entitled to federal money and regulatory shelter. It is Biden who seems not to understand free speech and the Constitution. In his statement Thursday evening, Biden complained that “President Trump believes that he should be permitted to say whatever he would like, regardless whether it is true or false.” Of course he can, within the boundaries of the law. So can anyone. That is precisely what the First Amendment is about. It protects Biden’s lies about the NAACP just as much as it protects Trump’s tweets. Biden does not understand that. And on the question of social media companies, he cannot help contradicting himself. On the one hand, he says that private companies should not be required to “provide a venue for, and amplification of, the President’s falsehoods.” In the same paragraph, Biden says that the same private companies “should be held accountable” for content they allow to be disseminated on their platforms that he deems “false.” So — which is it? Amazingly, Biden is running against the First Amendment. Like Hillary Clinton before him, he rejects the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United (2010), which protected the free speech of corporations. In his platform, Biden calls for a constitutional amendment to reverse that decision. He has a poor record on free speech generally: the Obama-Biden administration even backed a proposal at the United Nations by Muslim nations to restrict “blasphemy.” Trump’s rhetoric on this issue, as on others, is combative and over-the-top: he cannot “close … down” social media companies. Yet his actions, as usual, not only obey the Constitution, but also reinforce it. Biden would do the opposite.

Exactly!!  And well said, Joel.  Joel B. Pollak is the author of that spot-on op/ed.  For more, scroll down, and read the next article written by Jim Hanson, a former U.S. Army Special Forces operator.

Jim Hanson: Trump’s social media executive order is justified – protects free speech, combats censorship

President Trump was right and justified Thursday to sign an executive order calling for new regulations to strip legal liability protections from social media companies that censor posts and engage in political conduct on their sites. I hope the president never has to take action against any social media company. The solution to the very real problem of social media company discrimination – which most often is directed against conservative views – is to end the discrimination, rather than for the government to intervene. However, President Trump and many conservatives have identified a serious problem. Twitter and some other social media companies want to be two things at the same time: common carriers where anyone can post comments, and news organizations that selectively fact-check some posts and determine which ones are accurate and which ones are not. Making such determinations is an editorial decision that is often very subjective. Right now social media companies enjoy protection from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for what is posted on their sites, because in most cases they allow people to post whatever they wish – as if they were posting on a giant virtual bulletin board. In contrast, news organizations can be sued for libel if they publish false information with “’actual malice’ – that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not,” according to a 1964 Supreme Court decision in the case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. On average more than 500 million tweets are posted each day. It would be impossible for Twitter to review each of these tweets and fact-check them all before posting. Other social media companies face a similar impossible task. However, Twitter has selectively targeted conservatives – most recently President Trump this week – and has either taken down their tweets or labeled them as misleading and added a fact check, as was the case with two of the president’s tweets dealing with problems with mail-in voting. Ironically, the president’s tweets saying voter fraud can take place with mail-in voting were accurate. Twitter’s fact check claiming that the president’s tweets were factually inaccurate was itself inaccurate. What is crucial here is that by deciding to selectively review a tiny number of tweets on its site and running supposed fact checks on them, Twitter is exercising editorial judgment and deciding what people are told is true. Even Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, told Fox News’ Dana Perino that social media companies should not act as the “arbiter of truth.” President Trump’s executive order states that social media companies that remove or restrict content should be exposed to liability “like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.” Will Twitter now fact-check every tweet by former Vice President Joe Biden and every Democratic elected official in the nation? Will it fact check every tweet critical of President Trump? Obviously not. But by selectively running a fact check (which was actually inaccurate) on Trump’s tweets, Twitter abandoned all pretense of being an unbiased common carrier. Social media companies should be like trains that allow anyone to board. As common carriers they should allow any ideas to be transported on their platforms without selecting which ones are permitted. Once the companies start picking and choosing among the ideas, they should lose their status and liability protection as common carriers. Telephone companies are appropriately designated as common carriers. You can call anyone you want and say anything you want without exposing the phone company to liability for what you say. While a caller can be held liable for what he or she says on the phone – such as making a death threat, or plotting a terrorist attack – the phone company cannot be held liable because it does not censor calls. President Trump’s executive order doesn’t restrict speech or require Twitter, Facebook or other social media companies to publish any particular speech. It focuses on whether the companies act as publishers exercising editorial control or simply as unbiased platforms for content created by users. The order also asks federal agencies to evaluate whether the companies are applying their terms of service in ways that do not match the published terms of service. There is plenty of evidence showing that social media companies treat ideas and accounts differently based on political and ideological affiliation. The executive order calls for the Federal Trade Commission and a consortium of state attorneys general led by the U.S. attorney general to examine whether the actual practices of the social media companies are deceptive. The president’s executive order is a shot across the bow of the major social media firms. The order is an attempt to address the longstanding concern of many on the political right that the liberal activist nature of most social media company employees and the companies themselves has unfairly damaged conservative ideas and accounts. The companies deny they act in a biased manner, but they have been caught doing so in the past. During the 2018 midterm elections Twitter was exposed for shadow-banning conservative accounts, thereby limiting their reach to a much smaller audience. This affected Republican officeholders and candidates, but was not applied to their Democratic opponents. Twitter initially denied this, but was eventually confronted with enough evidence that it had to remove the “quality filter” it had imposed that was causing this problem. President Trump announced he was considering all options such as the ones in the executive order during a Social Media Summit at the White House last July that I attended. There are several other aspects of social media company operations not called for in the executive order that could come under scrutiny in the future. One is an investigation by the Federal Election Commission into whether unfair treatment of Republican accounts compared to Democratic accounts amounts to an in-kind contribution by the social media companies to the advantaged campaign. The Federal Trade Commission could also look at the potential monopoly of the public information space by a handful of social media companies. President Trump has been clear that he does not want to trade the control now exercised by the tech firms for the unsubtle hand of a government overseer. But the social media censorship of our shared public information space in a way that discriminates against some ideas is an intolerable situation. Let’s hope the social media companies take the hint and change their ways.

I wouldn’t hold your breath, Jim..  Jim Hanson is the author of that piece.  He is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.

Dr. Fauci endorses Tinder hookups ‘if you’re willing to take a risk’

Tired of having to live your sex life online during lockdown? You’re in luck. Government coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says that heartsick isolationists can hook up with asymptomatic Tinder matches in real life — but, like love, it involves some risk. The 79-year-old immunologist dropped the unorthodox dating tip in a Tuesday interview on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.” Toward the end of the taped segment, Fauci was asked: “If you’re swiping on a dating app like Tinder, or Bumble or Grindr, and you match with someone that you think is hot, and you’re just kind of like, ‘Maybe it’s fine if this one stranger comes over.’ What do you say to that person?” “You know that’s tough,” replied the befuddled National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director to the curveball. “Because that’s what’s called relative risk.” Then he dropped the bombshell. “If you’re willing to take a risk — and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks — you could figure out if you want to meet somebody,” said Fauci, who was named a candidate for People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” award. He added, “If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.”

People Magazine thinks this short, nerdy 79-year doctor is a “candidate for Sexiest Man alive?”  Wow..  I must be living in an alternate reality/universe.  No wonder People Magazine is sold with the other worthless rags in the checkout lane at your grocery store.  As for the advice from the good doctor?  Seems like basic common sense to me…if you’re willing to take such a risk.     🙂

Biden mocked after apparent teleprompter issue during coronavirus remarks: ‘Let me go to the second thing’

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was mocked on Monday after the gaffe-prone 2020 Democratic front-runner appeared to lose his train of thought when his teleprompter malfunctioned during remarks on the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s remarks, livestreamed from a studio set up in his home, began with his touching his face despite ongoing warnings not to do that during the coronavirus pandemic. His remarks were also short compared with the president’s near-daily coronavirus briefings, lasting less than 15 minutes in total, and featured a clear teleprompter issue that became a social media punchline. The former vice president was detailing his plan to fight the coronavirus crisis, but appeared to lose track of his place on the teleprompter. Biden signaled to his staff that there was something wrong, before going off on an awkward ad-lib. “And, in addition to that, in addition to that we have to make sure that we, we are in a position that we are, well met me go the second thing, I’ve spoken enough on that,” Biden said before going on to speak about the aggressive action he would like Trump to take under the Defense Production Act. “Joe Biden when the teleprompter stops working is a train wreck,” social media strategist Caleb Hull wrote. Biden — who had been oddly silent during the pandemic until Monday — covered a range of topics including what he would do if he were in the Oval Office and the lessons that can be learned from governors’ actions to fight the coronavirus – but some viewers harped on the blunders. “What a disaster,” GOP spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington wrote. “Biden has had plenty of time to think about this, and he can’t even figure out what to say without help from a teleprompter.”

Yeah..   Joe IS a disaster.  When he’s not debating a fellow liberal like Bernie (and can just spout decades-ingrained liberal talking points ad nauseum), or (more importantly) not reading from teleprompter, he’s a gaffe-machine.  That’s ok.  We VERY much look forward to Trump debating him later in the year.  It’ll be a hoot!  Bring the popcorn.    🙂

Gutfeld on tweeting while wasted

A new study by New York University finds that a third of the people who get high post on social media while under the influence. And a large portion said they regretted their intoxicated actions. I like this study because I am this study. Many times I would tweet something rude after that third glass of wine. And the next day, regret the tweet, not the wine. I learned over time that I had to cut back on one or the other. So out went the wine, in came the vodka. But we’re missing the good news. The study isn’t about the destruction caused behind the wheel of a car — it’s now about the embarrassment caused in front of your smartphone screen. Wikipedia told me that between 1991 and 2017, the rate of drunk driving fatalities has decreased 46 percent nationally, and 68 percent among those under age 21. So we find ourselves no longer steering into lamp posts; instead we steer humiliating posts about our stupid thoughts, activities and selves into a ravenous public, who happily seek another opportunity to dance on our shame. Writer P.J. O’Rourke once called booze “liquid idiot,” but our tweets are “digital dumb.” Which is better? Nobody ever drove a tweet into oncoming traffic and wiped out a family of five. So consider it progress that more people are dying from embarrassment than internal injuries. If more high people are wrecking themselves online than on the road, that’s a win for all of us. We should all drink to that. In moderation, of course! And certainly not near Twitter.

Well said, Greg!  That was adapted from Greg Gutfeld’s monologue on “The Five” on Aug. 19, 2019. Greg Gutfeld currently serves as host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Greg Gutfeld Show (Saturdays 10-11PM/ET) and co-host of The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET).  Excellent!!    🙂

Alex Jones, InfoWars, ‘permanently suspended’ by Twitter

Twitter announced Thursday that it “permanently suspended” Alex Jones and his show InfoWars from their platform, as well as Periscope. The announcement came via tweet from Twitter Safety, who said the decision was made “based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations.” It wasn’t immediately clear which tweets and videos Twitter was referring to. Jones, who has spread conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, has previously been banned from sites like Facebook and YouTube for violations of their terms of service. Facebook said it had removed four pages related to InfoWars for violating hate speech and bullying policies. Jones claims he is being politically targeted. In follow-up tweets, Twitter said they “wanted to be open about this action” due to public interest. “As we continue to increase transparency around our rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action given the broad interest in this case. We do not typically comment on enforcement actions we take against individual accounts, for their privacy,” Twitter said. “We will continue to evaluate reports we receive regarding other accounts potentially associated with @realalexjones or @infowars and will take action if content that violates our rules is reported or if other accounts are utilized in an attempt to circumvent their ban.” Word of Jones’ fate on the social media platform came a day after he clashed with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio after interrupting an interview. During Wednesday’s dust-up between Rubio and Jones, the lawmaker was recorded discussing with reporters his worries that China and other governments could demand social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter crackdown on dissidents. The conversation came prior to a Senate Intellgence Committe hearing. When Jones approached, he accused Democrats of “doing what you say China does” and said tech companies and Democrats are “purging” and shadow banning conservatives. The remarks led to an impassioned exchange of words between the pair, before Rubio ultimately went into the hearing.

Anyone who truly cares about free speech should be terrified after reading that.  Alex Jones isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree..and can be a complete tool.  The way he confronted Sen. Mario Rubio (R-FL) in the hall was obnoxious and low class…and that’s being nice.  But, Alex has just as much right to spout his conspiratorial nonsense, and obnoxiousness, as the next guy.  And, hey..  To be fair, every once in a rare while he, or his staff, uncover something actually newsworthy…worth actually reading.  In the interest of full disclosure, here at The Daily Buzz we’ve posted about a half dozen or so articles from the InfoWars site over the last 4.5 years we’ve been here.  Again, it’s been pretty rare.  But, it’s not about whether you agree with Alex, or anyone else for that matter.  It’s whether they have the right to voice their views like everyone else.  I mean c’mon..  We all have had to put up with idiots like Jerry Springer, and Maury, for decades.  How is this any different?  And,  while FaceBook and Twitter are private companies that have the right to censor anything they want..  They are also a bit of a monopoly on social media.  As such, Congress is taking a very hard look at social media and considering regulating them.  Also, it’s clear their platforms are not favorable to Republicans and conservatives.  So, there is that element as well which is another cause for concern. But, again, as it relates to Alex and InfoWars..  This is something that we should ALL be very concerned about, regardless of political party affiliation or persuasion…and not be so quick to cheer that Alex was shut down and censored.

 

Facebook scams are on the rise, new report says

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is the latest to chime in with a recent alert about scammers who use Facebook Messenger to trick victims. In its Scam Tracker alert, the BBB said it has “received dozens of reports” about scammers using Facebook Messenger to promote phony grants. The key to the scam is the seeming familiarity of the sender: a friend, family or relative. The scammers often do two things, according to the BBB. They will either hack into your account or create a “lookalike profile” by stealing your photos and personal information. “Either way, scammers are banking that you will trust a message that appears to come from someone you know,” the BBB said. Echoing the BBB alert, this week, Beth Anne Steele with FBI’s Portland office wrote about a personal experience with Facebook messenger. In her post, Steele said that she got a message that looked like it came from a friend. The message included a video link that read: “Hey I saw this video. Isn’t this you?” She didn’t click on the link but was contacted the next day by the friend who said the scammers had hacked his account and that the link contained a virus. There are variations on these friend-and-family scams on Twitter and other social networks. On Twitter, for example, a scammer will send you a tweet purportedly from a person you follow that uses phraseology such as “someone is saying bad things about you” or “someone is spreading rumors about you.” “Scammers use two rules of thumb to lure victims. The first is to gain the confidence of their target through lent credibility…a friend, authority figure, or organization that the victim is likely to trust. The second rule of thumb scammers use is to create a sense of urgency; they want you to act now,” James Lerud, head of the behavioral research team at cybersecurity firm Verodin, said..

Just another reason I don’t use FB..  For more, click on the above..

Facebook flags Declaration of Independence as hate speech

In the week of America’s Independence Day, the algorithms of Facebook decided that the Declaration of Independence was hate speech. The Liberty County Vindicator, a community newspaper between Houston and Beaumont, had been posting the whole declaration in small daily chunks for nine days on its Facebook page in the run-up to July 4. But the 10th excerpt was not posted Monday as scheduled, and the paper said it received an automated notice saying the post “goes against our standards on hate speech.” Part of the standard notice, Vindicator managing editor Casey Stinnett wrote, included a warning that the newspaper could lose its Facebook account, on which it depends for much of its reach, if there were more violations. The offending passage? It was part of the document’s “Bill of Particulars” against Britain’s King George III: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Mr. Stinnett dryly replied in an article about the rejection, “Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ‘Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development’ that would have been better. Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.” He noted that the newspaper wanted “a means of contacting Facebook for an explanation or a opportunity to appeal the post’s removal, but it does not appear the folks at Facebook want anyone contacting them. Or, at least, they do not make it easy.” Within a day, Facebook had paid heed, allowing the posting and sending the Vindicator an apology. “It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action,” Facebook wrote back, the Vindicator reported. Reason magazine pointed out how Facebook’s actions were “silly” but also the inevitable logic of massive social-media sites trying to police millions of messages, a task that cannot be done by humans. “They demonstrate a problem with automated enforcement of hate speech policies, which is that a robot trained to spot politically incorrect language isn’t smart enough to detect when that language is part of a historically significant document,” wrote Christian Britschgi, an assistant editor at the libertarian magazine.

You really can’t make this stuff up, folks..

Madison, WI schools block social media access for students

The Madison, Wisconsin school district is blocking students’ access to social media sites at several schools during the school day as part of a pilot project aimed at reengaging students. School officials at East High School and Wright and Cherokee Middle Schools killed access to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and dozens of other social media sites on May 1, and West High School followed suit on Monday. The plan is to track students at the schools through the end of the year to determine if the change made any impact on student behavior, academics, and school safety, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. “Our students who are the most disengaged are typically the ones who are stuck on their phones and walking the halls with their heads down,” East High School Principal Mike Hernandez said. “I call it the zombie walk, and unfortunately it can lead to students making poor choices on social media with Instagram and Facebook Live.” The reaction from students and parents is mixed, with some recognizing the need to crack down on bullying that often takes place online and others who believe the censorship goes too far, Fox 61 reports. “A few students and a few adults have come to me and said, ‘What you’re doing is wrong,’” Hernandez said. “Some questioned whether we shouldn’t be more about teaching how to use the Internet responsibly. “And yes, but it’s a two-way street,” he said. “We also have to make sure they understand algebra.” The social media blackouts will apply to each school’s free WiFi service, but will not block access to sites accessed through personal cellular data plans.

Sooo… Any whining is bs.  We applaud this Madison, WI school district for doing this.  Kids need to be focused on their school work; NOT FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of them.

‘Dear valid LinkedIn user’: Don’t fall for this phishing scam

Another day, another phishing scam. LinkedIn, which hasn’t always had the best security to begin with, may be the delivery method for a curious email message that’s been going around. Like most phishing attempts, it claims to represent a popular social media site and asks for login information. Unlike other scams, though, the link it provides doesn’t actually go anywhere (it may have been removed by LinkedIn). It’s not clear whether the scam’s goal is to steal your login credentials, infect your system with malware or lure you into paying for useless tech support , making the threat pretty mild — for now. A staffer at Tom’s Guide received an email message entitled “Important User Alert” from “linkedIn.customerservices.us1@fsr.net”. Even casual users will notice right away that this is not a legitimate LinkedIn email address. Rather, FSR is a Moscow, Idaho-based Internet provider, not really notable for anything other than the fact that it’s decidedly not LinkedIn. The “LinkedIn” username is pure fabrication. “Dear Valid LinkedIn User,” the e-mail begins, and this should be your second tip-off that the message is a scam. The real LinkedIn is aware of your real name and can address messages to you personally. The email continues with errant capitalization on “Important Message” and questionable grammar: “Our system indicates your account signed-on from different IP recently, do not panic, this happens mostly when your ISP provider changes the IP without your knowledge, but we advise you kindly follow up by Updating to the system to enable auto unflag,” and so on, and so forth, in an incredibly grating run-on sentence. One need not be very internet-savvy to presume that LinkedIn employs better copywriters than this. The email warns that users could lose their LinkedIn privileges unless they click on a suspicious link, but that’s where two unusual things happen. First off, the URL appears to lead to an actual LinkedIn address, complete with the site’s secured HTTPS server. Second, there’s nothing there. The site is completely blank and thus, for the moment, apparently harmless. Generally speaking, links like this lead to shady copies of legitimate websites that ask for, then catalog, usernames and passwords. There are a few possibilities for why there’s nothing at the URL. The site could simply be unfinished, but it’s possible that the scammers sent out an incorrect link (they would hardly be the first cybercriminals dumb enough to do so). The fact that the page appears to be hosted on the real LinkedIn website is also interesting, but not necessarily shocking; users can create their own blog posts and pages, so it would not take a very daring criminal to make a malicious LinkedIn page. It’s eminently possible that LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, already discovered the page and shut it down. The lesson here is the same as always: Don’t click on links in strange emails, and make sure to verify sender addresses in incoming messages to ensure you don’t wind up giving away your login information to scammers. The page doesn’t work this time, but there are much smarter tricksters out there.

Indeed..