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Gender: Do not display
Hometown: New England, The South, Midwest
Home country: USA
Current location: Chicago
Member since: Sat Mar 5, 2011, 11:32 AM
Number of posts: 21,159

About Me

Human. Being.

Journal Archives

Governor Cuomo Pandemic Update May 28 2020

Happy Birthday, Miles Davis.

Thank you for your life and art.

Trump, Twitter, And Free Speech

I found this on my Facebook page because I "Like" Techdirt.

I "Like" media who use social media to promote all kinds of discussion about free speech.

I also think it's in our future interests to support such platforms that make us to think through how to fight for our democratic freedoms. Doing that on these platforms, freedom fighters can win against the enemies of constitutional rights and freedom.

Last year and this year, the Russian 'doubt machine' theme was "just walk away." But this year, Americans have learned to stand their Internet ground long enough to identify and fight cyber insurgents, whether from Parscale or Putin.

(bolding below is mine)

Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. But, also content moderation of a world leader spewing blatant conspiracy theories may be just as difficult, and that's not even at scale.

We're only partway through this week, and Donald Trump has already created a textbook's worth of content moderation questions to explore. It started with Trump going nuts with a bunch of tweets about a blatantly disproved conspiracy theory regarding a young staffer of TV host Joe Scarborough from back when he was in Congress. That staffer, Lori Klausutis, died from an undiagnosed heart condition years ago. The police and coroner found no evidence of foul play. And suddenly Trump, who used to appear on Scarborough's show back in the day, decided to spew a bunch of utter nonsense hinting strongly at the blatantly false idea that Scarborough had something to do with Klausutis' death.

This is straight out of the Trump playbook. It is blatant false news (the accusation he likes to make about anyone who reports accurately on his activities). It is insane conspiracy mongering. It is hurtful. It is hateful. It is potentially dangerous. And it serves Trump in two distinct ways: as a distraction from his ongoing cataclysmic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as part of his never-ending intimidation campaign against anyone in the media who dares to point out that the emperor has no clothes. As the Atlantic noted, this is malignant cruelty. It is disgusting.

Many people have been arguing that Twitter should shut down Trump's account or, at the very least, delete the tweets in question. Indeed, Klausutis' husband sent a deeply moving letter to Jack Dorsey begging him to remove the President's tweets:

I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life. There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died. I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life...

The letter was first published in a NY Times article by Kara Swisher in which she, too, backs the idea that the tweets should be deleted. Swisher's article is carefully argued -- and she notes that Twitter is facing a Gordian knot (though, not quite sure that's the right metaphor) with no good solution. She points out that kicking Trump off Twitter is a non-starter. As she says, it "would be pointless and too drastic," and (perhaps more importantly), "the firestorm it would set off would alone be disastrous for Twitter to manage." She also feels that labeling the tweets as false wouldn't do very much at all (more on that in a moment...) and concludes that the best of a bunch of not-good options is to delete the specific tweets. As she notes, it would be different if this was just about two public figures, like Scarborough and Trump...

I think that Swisher's analysis is thoughtful, but I come to a different conclusion. I think that deleting those tweets would set off a shit storm almost as big as closing Trump's account.

And to make that case, let's look no further than the second big content moderation case study that Trump has kicked off this week. Trump spewed some more of his usual nonsense, claiming that mail-in ballots would result in widespread voter fraud -- a laughable claim not supported by any of the data out there, including among states that already do universal mail-in ballots.

Given Twitter's policies regarding misinformation directly around elections, as well as its recently launched tools to label certain tweets as misleading, Twitter (for the first time with a Trump tweet, but not the first time using this feature) put an additional note on Trump's tweet that simply said "Get the facts about mail-in ballots" and linked to a Twitter Moments page detailing the facts regarding mail-in ballots.

This is a pro-free speech approach to handling these matters.
It's a "respond to bad speech with more speech" approach. Hell, even the notes on Trump's tweets were incredibly tame. I've seen other ones that directly claim that certain tweets are "misleading." The note on Trump's tweet didn't even say that -- it just said "get the facts" (indeed, I saw some people who thought the wording of the notification almost looked like it was in support of Trump's tweet.

And yet the crybaby in chief still threw a ridiculously stupid temper tantrum ...

This is ridiculous on many, many different levels. First off, and most importantly, adding more speech is literally the opposite of "stifling free speech." Second, all they're doing is providing an opinion and more information to a statement by the President -- which is itself quintessential protected free speech under the 1st Amendment. Third, because of that, there's nothing that the President can do about this, no matter how big a temper tantrum he throws. Fourth, the idea that providing factual information is "interfering with the election" seems to be an "I know you are but what am I" kind of childish taunt from the President...

Twitter is already held legally liable from content that they themselves publish. So if they added something to a tweet, they would be liable if that content violated any law. But they are not liable for moderation decisions and it would be totally counterproductive if they were.

Hell, if Rubio or others removed Twitter's Section 230 protections, it seems quite likely that Trump's tweets about Klausutis would be among the first removed, because without that protection, the site might face legal liability.

But all this brings us back around to the question of what Twitter should do in this situation. If merely adding a link to more information causes Trump and his cadre of yes-men to freak out to this level, imagine the insanity that would rain down on us if Twitter actually did delete one of his tweets. It seems highly unlikely that it would create a good outcome.

Everyone who already thinks Trump is a giant man-baby who shouldn't be anywhere near the halls of power wouldn't be any better off. But Trump and his fans would be able to play the victim, which is about the only role he seems able to play. There's no need to give him that martyrdom. It would just entrench the false belief that Twitter is targeting a particular political viewpoint, and do little to help anyone.

Again: there are no good answers here. Trump is spewing utter nonsense that is deliberately malicious and harmful to people. But he does remain the President. His comments won't disappear even if his tweets do. And the utter shit storm that would be unleashed by deleting those tweets would drown out whatever flicker of excitement it would create among Trump haters. It's a short-term feel-good move with massive long-term consequences.

Twitter should stand its ground here, even while recognizing that Trump is going to continue to work the refs to make sure more of his nonsense is left unimpeded. But taking down one of his tweets seems only likely to make things worse, not better.


Governor Cuomo Pandemic Update May 27 2020

That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

On the new troll world, from The Rolling Stone...

We’ve spent the past two years studying online disinformation and building a deep understanding of Russia’s strategy, tactics, and impact. Working from data Twitter has publicly released, we’ve read Russian tweets until our eyes bled. Looking at a range of behavioral signals, we have begun to develop procedures to identify disinformation campaigns and have worked with Twitter to suspend accounts. In the process we’ve shared what we’ve learned with people making a difference, both in and out of government. We have experienced a range of emotions studying what the IRA has produced, from disgust at their overt racism to amusement at their sometimes self-reflective humor. Mostly, however, we’ve been impressed...

These accounts also harness the goodwill they’ve built by engaging in these communities for specific political ends. Consistent with past Russian activity, they attacked moderate politicians as a method of bolstering more polarizing candidates. Recently, Vice President Biden has been the most frequent target of this strategy, as seen in dozens of tweets such as, “Joe Biden is damaging Obama’s legacy with his racism and stupidity!” and “Joe Biden doesn’t deserve our votes!”...

The IRA generated more social media content in the year following the 2016 election than the year before it. They also moved their office into a bigger building with room to expand. Their work was never just about elections. Rather, the IRA encourages us to vilify our neighbor and amplify our differences because, if we grow incapable of compromising, there can be no meaningful democracy. Russia has dug in for a long campaign. So far, we’re helping them win.


EDIT: copyright infringement warning

Judge Sends Devin Nunes' SLAPP Suits Against CNN And Washington Post Off To Their Proper Venues

Go, Judge Payne! Teach those power politics dopes and babies about jurisdiction!

The court brushes off the fact that the article could be read in Virginia, noting that if that were the deciding factor, cases could be brought anywhere. It also laughs off the idea that the venue might be appropriate because that's where Steven Biss resides, relegating that silly argument to a footnote: "convenience to counsel is not an appropriate consideration in resolving a motion to transfer venue."
The court then notes that NY is much more convenient for most material witnesses, and again brushes off Biss/Nunes' attempts to throw some "local to Virginia" witnesses into the stew to muddy things up:

CNN argues that the witness convenience factor "squarely supports transfer" because Ward, Cuomo, and Bondy all reside in New York.... That all three key witnesses reside in New York favors transfer.
The only witness Nunes has identified as residing in Virginia is Parnas's former attorney, Edward MacMahon, who was mentioned only once in the Article and who has not been shown to be a material witness.... Additionally, Nunes contends that Jake Tapper..., who resides in Washington, D.C., and Parnas and Igor Fruman--Parnas's business partner and co-defendant,... who reside in Florida, are "material witnesses." ... It is clear that Tapper is not a material witness.... With respect to Parnas and Fruman, even assuming that they are material witnesses, both of these witnesses would need to travel from Florida, and New York is likely to be more accessible than Richmond, Virginia. Additionally, as CNN notes, both Parnas and Fruman are under indictment in the SDNY.

One other interesting point: the court points out that the parties are debating whether or not California's or New York's laws should apply to the case, and that supports a transfer to SDNY, which obviously understands NY law. And, the court says, even if it turns out that California's laws will apply (in which case, California's anti-SLAPP could be applied...), the court says that the SDNY is readily familiar with California law.

...it's pretty clear that the judge is not at all happy about how Biss handled the case, and his frustration is evident. He calls out the problem of forum shopping, and suggests that the court has previously warned Biss to knock it off:

... the Court has significant concerns about forum shopping. As the Court has explained to Plaintiff's on numerous occassions, the "Court cannot stand as a willing repository for cases which have no real nexus to this district. The 'rocket docket' certainly attracts plaintiff[s], but the Court must ensure that this attraction does not dull the ability of the Court to continue to act in an expeditions manner."...

...if CNN can convince the court that California's anti-SLAPP law applies (which it might...), then Nunes could be on the hook for CNN's extensive legal costs. As for the Washington Post case, DC does have a good anti-SLAPP law, but it's been held not to be available in federal court there, meaning that might be limited too. Still, I really do wonder how much guidance Biss has given Nunes about the liability that he, himself, may end up facing in all of these lawsuits if California's anti-SLAPP law is applied?

Court documents are included in the full report.


Governor Cuomo Pandemic Update May 26 2020

Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx Talk About Agency

This is not a press conference as much as a discussion.

As we remember those who have suffered and died, this is a reminder of how our arts help us remember that " ... we are the answer to these people's prayers. That the people who did this work dreamt of a day where you could not be property, but own property; where you could read; where you could vote; where you could get married; where you could have a job and be compensated."

... And again, on that sacred ground, it forced everybody to shift, to man up, and own how blessed we are that we get to be here and tell this story... and know that it's the story of a hero... a profound opportunity."

Thank you, Kerry Washington, for remembering that learning moment, when we learn why we honor the deaths of those who've come before us -- to be agents for our forebears.

Governor Cuomo Pandemic Update May 25 2020

Governor Cuomo Pandemic Update -- May 24 2020

Start 18:20

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