Twitter has announced a new punishment for Donald Trumps' tweets that it considers politically incorrect. Twitter will mark such tweets as 'abusive' and try and hide them away from being found in searches etc. However they will not be taken down.
Twitter explains who its new censorship method will work:
In the past, we've allowed certain Tweets that violated our rules to remain on Twitter because they were in the public's interest, but it wasn't clear when and how we made those determinations. To fix that, we're introducing
a new notice that will provide additional clarity in these situations, and sharing more on when and why we'll use it.
Serving the public conversation includes providing the ability for anyone to talk about what matters to them; this can be especially important when engaging with government officials and political figures. By nature of their
positions these leaders have outsized influence and sometimes say things that could be considered controversial or invite debate and discussion. A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond
to their leaders and hold them accountable.
With this in mind, there are certain cases where it may be in the public's interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules. On the rare occasions when this happens, we'll
place a notice -- a screen you have to click or tap through before you see the Tweet -- to provide additional context and clarity. We'll also take steps to make sure the Tweet is not algorithmically elevated on our service.
Who does this apply to?
We will only consider applying this notice on Tweets from accounts that meet the following criteria. The account must:
Be or represent a government official, be running for public office, or be considered for a government position (i.e., next in line, awaiting confirmation, named successor to an appointed position);
Have more than 100,000 followers; and
That said, there are cases, such as direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual, that are unlikely to be considered in the public interest.
What happens to the Tweet that gets this notice placed on it?
When a Tweet has this notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter, and not appear in:
The Donald Forum is a Reddit forum, or subreddit, and is one of the internet's most popular forums where Donald Trump fans congregate for a chat.
It has now been shunted out of sight up an unsearchable backwater. Users must now click an opt-in button to access The_Donald forum, and its content no longer appears in Reddit's search results or recommendations.
The move seems to be part of general trend for US social media companies to censor politics that they do not like, particularly when it leans towards the US right.
The Donald forum has more than 760,000 subscribers and once hosted an ask me anything session with Donald Trump in which he replied to questions from the public before the presidential election.
One of the forum's moderators initially shared a message Reddit had sent explaining its reasons for the quarantine. The post was subsequently deleted, but its contents have been copied and posted elsewhere. It said the move had been prompted by
threats made on the subreddit against the authorities in Oregon.
Last week, 11 Republican state senators staged a walkout in protest at a climate change bill. State troopers were then told to bring the senators back, which in turn prompted claims that militia groups opposing such an intervention might show up
in the state capital Salem raising a threat of violence .
It seems a little weak that a heated argument can be cited as a reason for political censorship particularly when it can be seen as interefring with upcoming presidential elections.
Despite its name, Senator Josh Hawley's
Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act[pdf] would make the Internet less safe for free expression, not more. It would violate the First Amendment by allowing a government agency to strip platforms of legal protection based on their
decisions to host or remove users' speech when the federal government deems that action to be politically biased. Major online platforms' moderation policies and practices are deeply flawed, but putting a government agency in charge of policing
bias would only make matters worse.
The bill targets
Section 230 , the law that shields online platforms, services, and users from liability for most speech created by others. Section 230 protects intermediaries from liability both when they choose to edit, curate, or moderate speech and when
they choose not to. Without Section 230, social media would not exist in its current form--the risks of liability would be too great given the volume of user speech published through them--and neither would thousands of websites and apps that
host users' speech and media.
Under the bill, platforms over a certain size--30 million active users in the U.S. or 300 million worldwide--would lose their immunity under Section 230. In order to regain its immunity, a company would have to
pay the Federal Trade Commission for an audit to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that it doesn't moderate users' posts "in a manner that is biased against a political party, political candidate, or political
It's foolish to assume that anyone could objectively judge a platform's "bias," but particularly dangerous to put a government agency in charge of making those judgments.
Don't Let the Government Decide What Bias Is
Sen. Hawley's bill is clearly unconstitutional. A government agency can't punish any person or company because of its political viewpoints, or because it favors certain political speech over others. And decisions about what speech to carry or
remove are inherently political.
What does "in a manner that is biased against a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint" mean, exactly? Would platforms be forced to host propaganda from hate groups and punished for doing anything to let users hide
posts from the KKK that express its political viewpoints ? Would a site catering to certain religious beliefs be forced to accommodate conflicting beliefs?
What about large platforms where users intentionally opt into partisan moderation decisions ? For example, would Facebook be required to close private groups that leftist activists use to organize and share information, or instruct the
administrators of those groups to let right-wing activists join too? Would Reddit have to delete r/The_Donald, the massively popular forum exclusively for fans of the current U.S. president?
The bill provides no guidance on any of these questions. In practice, the FTC would have broad license to enforce its own view on which platform moderation practices constitute bias. The commissioners' enforcement decisions would almost certainly
reflect the priorities of the party that nominated them. Since the bill requires that a supermajority of commissioners agree to grant a platform immunity, any two of the five FTC commissioners could decide together to withhold immunity from a
Hawley's bill would bring us closer to that pre-230 Internet, punishing online platforms when they take measures to protect their users, including efforts to minimize the impacts of harassment and abuse--the very sorts of efforts that Section 230
was intended to preserve. While platforms often fail in such measures-- and frequently silence innocent people in the process --giving the government discretion to shut down those efforts is not the solution.
Section 230 plays a crucial, historic role in protecting free speech and association online. That includes the right to participate in online communities organized around certain political viewpoints. It's impossible to enforce an objective
standard of "neutrality" on social media--giving government license to do so would pose a huge threat to speech online.
P hotographer Spencer Tunick and the National Coalition Against Censorship organise a nude art action outside the Facebook's New York headquarters on June 2, when some 125 people posed naked in front of Facebook's building as Tunick
photographed them as part of the NCAC's #WeTheNipple campaign.
In response Facebook agreed to convene a group--including artists, art educators, museum curators, activists, and employees--to consider new nudity guidelines for images posted to its social-media platforms.
The NCAC said it will collaborate with Facebook in selecting participants for a discussion to look into issues related to nude photographic art, ways that censorship impacts artists, and possible solutions going forward.
However before artists get their expectations up, they should know that it is standard policy that whenever Facebook get caught out censoring something, they always throw their arms up in feigned horror, apologise profusely and say they will do
better next time.
US Senator Josh Hawley formally filed the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act (PCAGA) on May 23 2019. His proposal aims to ban what he considered manipulative video game features aimed at children. Hawley tweeted:
It's pretty simple. Video game companies shouldn't put casinos targeted at kids in their games.
Through the PCAGA, Hawley targets games that are aimed at minors and feature loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics. He views these features as harmful to children--a way for game companies to monetize the addiction minors already experience by
playing video games, he claims.
The bill states that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will enforce these rules, if passed. Companies that violate the rules would be financially penalized. Additionally, the bill calls upon the FTC to submit a report to the Senate on the
psychological effects of pay-to-win mechanics and loot boxes on users and if such features induce compulsive purchasing behavior by minors.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has already responded to the bill with its concerns , as CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis called the bill flawed and riddled with inaccuracies. He claims the impact is far-reaching and may negatively affect
the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the video game industry. He believes that control of any in-game purchases made by minors should be left up to parents, rather than the federal government.
This bill still has a long way to go to become law.
The Texas State Legislature has passed a bill criminalizing the electronic transmission of unrequested erotic material, including images of any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person's intimate parts exposed or covered genitals of a
male person that are in a discernibly turgid state.
The bill, H.B. 2789 , was unanimously passed 31-0 by state senators from both parties. It is to take effect, after the governor signs it, on September 1, 2019.
The unprecedented legislation, called An act relating to the creation of the criminal offense of unlawful electronic transmission of sexually explicit visual material creates an offence:
if a person knowingly transmits by electronic means visual material that:
(a) any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person's intimate parts exposed; or
(b) covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state; and
(2) is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient.
The bill classifies the offense as a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.
When Bruce Lee was handed his first pair of nunchucks in the mid-1960s, he called the weapon a piece of junk, his training partner, Dan Inosanto, recalled recently.
Lee said the nunchucks were not as effective as sticks -- too fancy and too showy. Then he goes, This might be good for the movies.
And indeed they were good for the movies. But their popularity alarmed the authorities, in what many now see as a hysteria that echoed other racist fears of Asians. The police began arresting people for carrying what some called deadly weapons.
In four states, lawmakers banned them.
This month, after more than 40 years on the books, Arizona's ban, which one lawmaker called antiquated, was repealed. In December, a federal judge struck down New York's decades-long ban , saying it violated the Second Amendment, despite
arguments from officials that the weapons were dangerous and unusual.
The remaining state bans are in Massachusetts and California.
Alabama Public Television (APT) has banned a TV cartoon which shows a same-sex wedding.
The first episode of the 22nd series of children's programme Arthur features the character Mr Ratburn marrying his aardvark partner, Patrick.
But APT instead ran an old episode, and announced it had no plans to show the premiere. Programming director Mike McKenzie claimed that broadcasting it would break parents' trust in the network. He said in a statement:
Parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision, and that children younger than the 'target' audience might watch without parental knowledge.
Show creator WGBH and broadcaster PBS reportedly alerted local stations in April about the episode, and McKenzie said this was when they decided not to air the show.
APT previously refused to broadcast a 2005 episode of the series which depicted Buster, a rabbit, visiting a girl who had two mothers.
President Trump has threatened to monitor social-media sites for their censorship of American citizens. He was responding to Facebook permanently banning figures and organizations from the political right. Trump tweeted:
I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America -- and we have what's known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!
On Thursday, Facebook announced it had permanently banned users including Louis Farrakhan, the founder of the Nation of Islam, along with far-right figures Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer and Alex Jones, the founder of Infowars. The tech giant
removed their accounts, fan pages and affiliated groups on Facebook as well as its photo-sharing service Instagram, claiming that their presence on the social networking sites had become dangerous.
For his part, President Trump repeatedly has accused popular social-networking sites of exhibiting political bias, and threatened to regulate Silicon Valley in response. In a private meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last month, Trump
repeatedly raised his concerns that the company has removed some of his followers.
On Friday, Trump specifically tweeted he was surprised about Facebook's decision to ban Paul Joseph Watson, a YouTube personality who has served as editor-at-large of Infowars .
Update: Texas bill would allow state to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter that censor free speech
A bill before the Texas Senate seeks to prevent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. Supporters say it would protect the free exchange of ideas, but critics say the bill contradicts a
federal law that allows social media platforms to regulate their own content.
The measure -- Senate Bill 2373 by state Sen. Bryan Hughes -- would hold social media platforms accountable for restricting users' speech based on personal opinions. Hughes said the bill applies to social media platforms that advertise themselves
as unbiased but still censor users. The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill last week. The Texas Senate approved the bill on April 25 in an 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House.
The US Republican senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has announced that he would be introducing a bill banning manipulative design features in video games with underage audiences, including the sale of loot boxes.
The legislation would prohibit the sale of loot boxes in games targeted at children under the age of 18. Games companies could also face penalties from the Federal Trade Commission if companies if they knowingly allow children to purchase these
Regulators would determine whether a game is targeted at minors by considering similar indicators that they already use under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Subject matter and the game's visual content would help regulators
determine who the game is marketed toward. When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction.
Pay-to-win mechanics in games targeted at minors would also be outlawed under this legislation. This includes progression systems that encourage people to spend money to advance through a game's content at a faster pace.
Lawyers for Facebook and Instagram have appeared in a Texas courtrooms attempting to dismiss two civil cases that accuse the social media sites of not protecting victims of sex trafficking.
The Facebook case involves a Houston woman who in October said the company's morally bankrupt corporate culture left her prey to a predatory pimp who drew her into sex trafficking as a child. The Instagram case involves a 14-year-old girl from
Spring who said she was recruited, groomed and sold in 2018 by a man she met on the social media site.
Of course Facebook is only embroiled in this case because it supported Congress to pass an anti-trafficking amendment in April 2018. Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, collectively known as SESTA-FOSTA, this
attempts to make it easier to prosecute owners and operators of websites that facilitate sex trafficking. This act removed the legal protection for websites that previously meant they couldn't be held responsible for the actions of its members.
After the Houston suit was filed, a Facebook spokesperson said human trafficking is not permitted on the site and staffers report all instances they're informed about to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of course that
simply isn't enough any more, and now they have to proactively stop their website from being used for criminal activity.
The impossibility of preventing such misuse has led to many websites pulling out of anything that may be related to people hooking up for sex, lest they are held responsible for something they couldn't possibly prevent.
But perhaps Facebook has enough money to pay for lawyers who can argue their way out of such hassles.
The Adult Performers Actors Guild is standing up for sex workers who are tired of being banned from Instagram with no explanation.
In related news, adult performers are campaigning against being arbitrarily banned from their accounts by Facebook and Instagram. It seems likely that the social media companies are summarily ejecting users detected to have any connection with
people getting together for sex.
As explained above, the social media companies are responsible for anything related to sex trafficking happening on their website. They practically aren't able to discern sex trafficking from consensual sex so the only protection available for
internet companies is to ban anyone that might have a connection to sex.
This reality is clearly impacting those effected. A group of adult performers is starting to organize against Facebook and Instagram for removing their accounts without explanation. Around 200 performers and models have included their usernames
in a letter to Facebook asking the network to address this issue.
Alana Evans, president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG), a union that advocates for adult industry professionals' rights, told Vice. There are performers who are being deleted, because they put up a picture of their freshly painted
In an April 22 letter to Facebook, the Adult Performers Actors Guild's legal counsel James Felton wrote:
Over the course of the last several months, almost 200 adult performers have had their Instagrams accounts terminated without explanation. In fact, every day, additional performers reach out to us with their termination stories. In the large
majority of instances, her was no nudity shown in the pictures. However, it appears that the accounts were terminated merely because of their status as an adult performer.
Effort to learn the reasons behind the termination have been futile. Performers are asked to send pictures of their names to try to verify that the accounts are actually theirs and not put up by frauds. Emails are sent and there is no reply.
A trio of US senators want info and answers from a range of media companies--broadcast, cable, satellite and over-the-top--about what role the entertainment industry plays in promoting youth tobacco use, suggesting ratings should include tobacco
use identifiers and any TV show showing tobacco be rated TV-MA and any movie get an R rating.
Democratic Senators. Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Van Hollen sent the letters, saying that youth media consumption and the anywhere, anytime model of film and TV distribution as changed traditional boundaries among media:
We are concerned that this new landscape across cable, satellite, streaming and traditional broadcast television provides a variety of viewing realms in which to foster the causal link between exposure to, and initiation of, smoking.
They argued that both the TV and movie ratings should include a smoking depiction warning. Both film and television continue to expose children and adolescents to tobacco content conclusively provide to cause physical harm to young viewers. In
particular they want the reactions of media companies to their recommendations:
to rate all future content containing tobacco portrayals TV-MA on TV and R on film;
that the production had no tobacco product placement;
that strong anti-smoking Public Service Announcements will run immediately before any TV show or film with tobacco use;
that they end promotional material with smoking depictions.
The American Library Association (ALA) has released its annual list of most challenged books.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom chose the 11 most challenged works among 483 books that were either banned or restricted from public access in 2018.
Here is the complete list for 2018 and the reasons why the works were challenged --
George by Alex Gino -- The book, which was written for elementary-age children in 2015, was found offensive as its protagonist was a transgender child. Most recently, the Wichita, Kansas, school system decided to ban the book from the
district libraries citing that the work had references and language that wasn't appropriate for schoolchildren. The book also made it to ALA's list in 2016 and '17. The work is also believed to "encourage children to clear browser history
and change their bodies using hormones."
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller -- The best-selling parody by John Oliver, which was written by "Last Week Tonight" staffer Jill Twiss, was in response to the book "Marlon Bundo's
Day in the Life of the Vice President" by Charlotte Pence, Vice President Mike Pence's daughter. The work pictured Pence's pet rabbit as gay and also criticized the family's conservative social viewpoint.
Captain Underpants series, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey -- The 10-part series revolves around two young boys creating a superhero. A complaint was filed against the book with the Office for Intellectual Freedom stating that the
language used in it was not appropriate for the targeted age group. The book also allegedly promoted "disruptive behavior.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas -- The novel, which revolves around the life of a young girl who became an activist after her unarmed friend was killed by a police officer, was deemed "anti-cop." A complaint was filed against
the book for explicit language and featuring drug use.
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier -- The 2012 graphic novel was banned in school libraries for featuring LGBTQ characters and themes. The work featured in ALA's previous lists for having offensive political viewpoints and
for being sexually explicit.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher -- The work, which was originally published in 2007, came under the scanner after Netflix aired a series with the same name in 2017. The book's depiction of suicide was the primary reason for it being
banned. The book was deemed unsuited for children and teens as it featured drug and alcohol use. It was also challenged for its sexual content.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki -- The work, which topped ALA's list in 2016, was banned for featuring LGBTQ characters. The book revolves around the life of a teen girl who navigates the start of
adolescence with the help of a female friend. The book was also challenged for drug use, profanity and having sexually explicit themes.
Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner -- The series, which features a Siamese cat that assumes to be a Chihuahua, was criticized for depicting Mexican stereotypes.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie -- The work has featured in ALA's list six times since its publication in 2007 for its sexual references, depiction of alcoholism, bullying and poverty. It was also deemed
sexually explicit and challenged in school curriculums.
This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten -- The children's picture book about a gay pride parade was challenged for including LGBTQ content.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan -- The book, which was about two teen boys participating in a 32-hour marathon of kissing in order to set a new Guinness World Record, was considered sexually explicit as the book's cover page has an
image of two boys kissing. It was also banned for the LGBTQ content.