(CNN)President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting social media companies on Thursday, days after Twitter called two of his tweets “potentially misleading.”PREVENTING ONLINE CENSORSHIP By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Policy. Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people. In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators. The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see. As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy. Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse. Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called “Site Integrity” has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets. At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China. One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance. It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military. Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights. They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice. We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression. Sec. 2. Protections Against Online Censorship. (a) It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet. Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)). 47 U.S.C. 230(c). It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints. Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a “publisher” of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation. As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of harmful content. In particular, the Congress sought to provide protections for online platforms that attempted to protect minors from harmful content and intended to ensure that such providers would not be discouraged from taking down harmful material. The provision was also intended to further the express vision of the Congress that the internet is a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” 47 U.S.C. 230(a)(3). The limited protections provided by the statute should be construed with these purposes in mind. In particular, subparagraph (c)(2) expressly addresses protections from “civil liability” and specifies that an interactive computer service provider may not be made liable “on account of” its decision in “good faith” to restrict access to content that it considers to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.” It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that — far from acting in “good faith” to remove objectionable content — instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree. Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike. When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider. (b) To advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard. In addition, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Attorney General, and acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify: (i) the interaction between subparagraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of section 230, in particular to clarify and determine the circumstances under which a provider of an interactive computer service that restricts access to content in a manner not specifically protected by subparagraph (c)(2)(A) may also not be able to claim protection under subparagraph (c)(1), which merely states that a provider shall not be treated as a publisher or speaker for making third-party content available and does not address the provider’s responsibility for its own editorial decisions; (ii) the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not “taken in good faith” within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly whether actions can be “taken in good faith” if they are: (A) deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or (B) taken after failing to provide adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and (iii) any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section. Sec. 3. Protecting Federal Taxpayer Dollars from Financing Online Platforms That Restrict Free Speech. (a) The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms. Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms that receive Federal dollars, and the statutory authorities available to restrict their receipt of advertising dollars. (b) Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall report its findings to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. (c) The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices. Sec. 4. Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices. (a) It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech. The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017). Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders. These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate. Cf. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980). (b) In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship. In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints. The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). (c) The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices. (d) For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate, including the social media platform Twitter, the FTC shall also, consistent with its legal authority, consider whether complaints allege violations of law that implicate the policies set forth in section 4(a) of this order. The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law. Sec. 5. State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Laws. (a) The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The working group shall also develop model legislation for consideration by legislatures in States where existing statutes do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law. (b) Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following: (i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users; (ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint; (iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments; (iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, mediaorganizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and (v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated. Sec. 6. Legislation. The Attorney General shall develop a proposal for Federal legislation that would be useful to promote the policy objectives of this order. Sec. 7. Definition. For purposes of this order, the term “online platform” means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine. Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals. (b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. (c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.DONALD J. TRUMPTHE WHITE HOUSE,May 28, 2020.
European leaders seized more power during the pandemic. Few have ‘exit plans’ to hand it back
The move was seen as controversial by some of Macron’s liberal allies: after all, instructing your citizens to be home by a certain time and tracking their medical information is hardly consistent with France’s liberal traditions. It wasn’t long ago that the French president was extolling the values of democracy. Speaking to the US Congress…
The move was seen as controversial by some of Macron’s liberal allies: after all, instructing your citizens to be home by a certain time and tracking their medical information is hardly consistent with France’s liberal traditions.
Macron’s loosening relationship with democracy doesn’t stop at tracking who’s been injected and forcing people indoors. Throughout the pandemic, the president has reduced the role that his parliament plays in scrutinizing his policy announcements.
“Parliament’s role in France is more limited under the new state of health emergency than before,” said Joelle Grogan, senior lecturer in UK public and EU law at the University of Middlesex. “There is no obligation for governments and administrations to send copies of orders they adopt to parliament.”
France is not the only EU nation that has backslid on democracy.
In Austria, Slovenia, Belgium and Lithuania to name a few, there is serious concern that governments have misused existing laws to restrict the liberty of citizens. In fact, DRI listed only Spain out of the 27 EU member states as a country of “no concern” when it came to parliamentary or legal oversight of Covid measures.
The most egregious example probably comes from Hungary, where the government passed legislation that allowed it to rule by decree with no judicial review.
Courts in Cyprus and the Czech Republic claimed to have no jurisdiction over coronavirus measures. This significantly reduced moves to safeguard any attempted government overreach.
A central concern of DRI’s report is that few European countries have a clear “exit plan” for ending states of emergency and returning to normal ways of governance.
This is a real concern in the case of France. Phillippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London, notes that in recent years, France has introduced numerous states of emergency in response to terror attacks. Many of the measures introduced at these times concerning personal liberty have remained in place.
“I would bet that a lot of the illiberal measures that have come in under Covid, like the health pass and threats of curfews will remain in place or be seen again,” he said. “Politicians are very good at taking authority but less good at handing it back.”
There is particular concern among some that Macron, who is facing election next year, might see keeping a tight grip on power as advantageous.
“The French president has more power on paper than the American [resident. He can control the police, the army, all domestic policy, all foreign policy. He even appoints his own prime minister,” said Marlière. “This, combined with someone seeking re-election who is already shifting to the right on issues like Islam with no real oversight is very concerning.”
More worryingly, the DRI report also states that only five EU member states — the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal — have adequate exit strategies for a return to normal.
“It’s far easier to govern by decree than to govern within limits, so it’s obvious why leaders would want to hang onto powers,” said Grogan, who also noted that undermining the rule of law has been a problem within the EU for some time.
In recent years, Hungary and Poland had both abused the rule of law to such an extent that article 7 of the EU’s treaty, which, if approved by all member states, would restrict both nations’ voting rights with the EU and restrict access to EU money, has been triggered against both.
The problem is that both Hungary and Poland are able to veto actions against the other, rendering the EU somewhat toothless. “What happens next is the big problem. We can talk about legal mechanisms and the laws. But ultimately we need political consensus,” Grogan adds.
Last summer, Brussels tried to force Hungary and Poland to fall in line though a mechanism in the EU’s long-term budget, but ultimately choked at the last minute and agreed a fudge in order to get the bloc’s Covid recovery funds approved.
That was two member states. What happens when it’s many more is a real unknown for the EU.
“Fundamentally, the EU is a legal structure. It exists to obligate mutual rights between states and citizens,” said Grogan. “But it would be remiss to ignore the complexity beyond that. As Brexit proved it is a group of states deciding to be part of the club. Brexit showed us you can leave, but the problem is if someone doesn’t accept the values and doesn’t want to leave, it is legally impossible to remove a state.”
Where this ends is anyone’s guess. The EU is unlikely to fall apart, as many have predicted, but it is possible that Euroskeptics across the bloc can force changes that undermine the whole thing. And if you were looking for a way to destabilize the EU, making a mockery of the rule of law would be a good place to start.
“We’re seeing, as usual with emergencies, a shift of power towards the executive with oversight from parliaments, judiciary and other bodies getting weaker,” said Jakub Jaraczewski, research coordinator at DRI.
“The EU could work towards better legal oversight — be it through the Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency or even through the Court of Justice. But that would require political will from the leadership in member states for the central EU to take control of policy areas they prefer to keep close to their chests.”
It’s sometimes said that EU law is a complicated mess of narrow political interests dressed in a legal cloak. Those narrow political interests have had a greater impact on the bloc’s direction of travel than the ideals that supposedly unite 27 vastly different nations.
For the best part of a decade, member states bickering over precisely what Europe should be and how it should respond to crises has been the hardest thing for the EU to navigate. The disregard for law, however, is a more fundamental headache than disagreements on migration or how money should be spent.
When politics returns to something resembling normal, Brussels might find itself with more than just Poland and Hungary on the naughty step. And if these recent delinquents decide that their newfound powers matter more to them than keeping their EU neighbors happy, there is very little that EU grandees can do to stop the fallout destabilizing the whole bloc.
Thousands evacuated as powerful Cyclone Tauktae threatens Indian region grappling with Covid
Tropical Cyclone Tauktae, which formed in the Arabian Sea, is moving northward along India’s western coast, bringing damaging winds, heavy rain and the threat of storm surges to the state of Gujarat. The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That’s equivalent…
The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That’s equivalent to a strong Category 3 Atlantic hurricane and just shy of Category 4 strength, which begins at 209 kph (130 mph).
Tauktae has killed at least six people in southern Goa and Karnataka states.
At least two people died Sunday as a result of the storm, which caused heavy rainfall in Goa, the state’s chief minister Pramod Sawant said at a news conference.
“One boy died due to a tree falling on his head and the second death, two people were on a motorcycle when an electric pole fell on them and one died on the way to the hospital,” Sawant said.
In Karnataka, four people died, 216 houses were damaged and 253 people sought shelter in relief camps due to the cyclone as of Sunday evening, according to data from the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority.
A rescue operation was conducted in Karnataka Monday, after two tug boats capsized Saturday with 10 people aboard. One body was recovered Saturday and the coast guard and navy rescued five people. The remaining four were stranded overnight but were airlifted by a navy helicopter, according to the coast guard on Monday.
Rescue and repair efforts are also underway in Kerala state, where several districts are on red alert for extremely heavy rainfall following strong winds and rain that damaged houses, downed trees, cut power lines and brought flooding as the cyclone moved northwest up the coast.
Rains over 200 millimeters (8 inches) have fallen in parts of India’s west coast and an additional 200 millimeters is possible in and around the Gujarat peninsula, according to CNN Weather. The threat to lives and property is likely to increase with storm surges expected between 1.5 and 3 meters (5 to 10 feet) in and around the landfall.
“If you head down to southern India, the town of Koch in Kerala — already over 500 millimeters of rainfall,” Sater added. “So communities have (already) been dealing with massive flooding, evacuations, downed trees, power outages. It’s a massive undertaking.”
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said it has deployed more than 100 teams across six coastal states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu to help with evacuations and relief and rescue measures. Some 22 teams have been readied for back up, according to Satya Pradhan, director general of the NDRF.
“The main impact state will be Gujarat, and that’s where we expect maximum impact,” Pradhan said, adding that more than 50 teams had been deployed to that region alone.
In addition, the Indian Coast Guard and Navy have also deployed ships and helicopters for search and rescue operations.
Covid vaccines suspended, patients evacuated
The cyclone comes as India battles a devastating second wave of Covid-19, with millions infected across the country in the past month and hospitals running out of oxygen and medicine. Thousands are dying every day.
Vaccinations have been suspended across Gujarat for Monday and Tuesday, and the state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, has asked officials to ensure electricity supplies to Covid-19 hospitals and other medical facilities are not disrupted and the supply of oxygen is maintained, the state government said, according to Reuters.
“The state government is completely ready to deal with the Tauktae cyclone,” Rupani said Monday. “People in 655 villages have been identified across 17 districts for evacuation. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated.”
Rupani urged Gujarat residents to “remain indoors considering the possibility of heavy rains along with cyclone in the state.”
In Mumbai, 580 Covid patients from “jumbo centers” — the city’s makeshift coronavirus care centers — were shifted to various hospitals ahead of the storm on Friday and Saturday, a statement from the city’s municipal corporation said.
The state government said it has also “taken adequate precautions to ensure continuous electricity and oxygen supply to hospitals.”
On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed senior officials to “ensure special preparedness on Covid management in hospitals, vaccine cold chain and other medical facilities on power back up and storage of essential medicines and to plan for unhindered movement of oxygen tankers,” according to a statement.
After making landfall, the cyclone is expected to lose some of its wind strength, CNN meteorologist Sater said. But heavy rainfall is still expected to continue to move into the high terrain of northern India.
CNN’s Gene Norman, Swati Gupta, Akanksha Sharma, Manveena Suri and Derek Van Dam contributed reporting.
‘Money, Explained’ and more of what you need this weekend
All right, yes, I also like having it.’Money, Explained’Get-rich-quick schemes. Swindlers. Chasing the American dream. Money — and how we need it, don’t have it and maybe could get it — is never far from the mind.Netflix made note of that and has blessed us with this new docuseries.”We spend it, borrow it and save…
All right, yes, I also like having it.
Netflix made note of that and has blessed us with this new docuseries.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems? I am personally willing to risk it.
The series currently is streaming.
‘The Underground Railroad’
Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins has adapted a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead into a new limited series.
But there is a twist.
The series starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime.
He was one of the first international superstars of fashion and now, more than 30 years after his death, he’s getting the biopic treatment.
The limited series starts streaming on Netflix Friday.
Two things to listen to:
“Daddy’s Home” is the sixth and latest album from the artist known as St. Vincent.
It’s inspired by her father’s decade-long stint in prison for a white-collar financial crime.
The new album drops Friday.
If you ever have been to a J. Cole concert, you know that the rapper has a tendency to perform all the tracks from his current album.
As of Friday, he will have some new material.
The North Carolina native is releasing his latest studio project, “The Off-Season.”
Can’t wait for the next tour.
One thing to talk about:
The ripples of the #MeToo movement still are being felt.
Franco has denied claims that he was inappropriate and sexually exploitative with multiple women over the years.
But Rogen’s stance is a reminder that Hollywood takes claims seriously.
Something to sip on
Can we get to the next season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” already?!
Here’s the deal: Businessman Simon Guobadia and his wife, Falynn, were introduced on the Bravo reality series this season — with her being listed as Williams’ “friend” in their first scenes.
“What we have is what we wish every single one of you out there — happiness. So when I asked … she said yes,” Guobadia now has said of his relationship with Williams.
For the record, Williams said their relationship began a month ago.
Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s unclear as to whether the Guobadias are legally divorced yet, but either way it all adds up to some possible not-to-miss content for Season 14.
“Real Housewives” maestro Andy Cohen is somewhere smiling so hard right now.