Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Last Call For Face The Face on Facebook, Con't

Not that the current US government cares, but apparently New Zealand's "fix this or else" conversation with Facebook over the white supremacist who shot up two mosques earlier this month while splashing live video of the massacre all over Facebook and Instagram was finally what it took to get the company to start removing these assholes from its social media services.

In a major policy shift for the world’s biggest social media network, Facebook banned white nationalism and white separatism on its platform Tuesday. Facebook will also begin directing users who try to post content associated with those ideologies to a nonprofit that helps people leave hate groups, Motherboard has learned.

The new policy, which will be officially implemented next week, highlights the malleable nature of Facebook’s policies, which govern the speech of more than 2 billion users worldwide. And Facebook still has to effectively enforce the policies if it is really going to diminish hate speech on its platform. The policy will apply to both Facebook and Instagram.

Last year, a Motherboard investigation found that, though Facebook banned “white supremacy” on its platform, it explicitly allowed “white nationalism” and “white separatism.” After backlash from civil rights groups and historians who say there is no difference between the ideologies, Facebook has decided to ban all three, two members of Facebook’s content policy team said.

“We’ve had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world,” Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told us in a phone call. “We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can’t make a meaningful distinction between them. And that’s because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction.”

Specifically, Facebook will now ban content that includes explicit praise, support, or representation of white nationalism or separatism. Phrases such as “I am a proud white nationalist” and “Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer” will now be banned, according to the company. Implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism will not be banned immediately, in part because the company said it’s harder to detect and remove.

The decision was formally made at Facebook’s Content Standards Forum on Tuesday, a meeting that includes representatives from a range of different Facebook departments in which content moderation policies are discussed and ultimately adopted. Fishman told Motherboard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was involved in the formulation of the new policy, though roughly three dozen Facebook employees worked on it.

Civil rights organizations have been after Facebook for years on this and given that the Obama administration looked the other way on Silicon Valley way too often and the Trump regime could not care less about policing white supremacists when they are the world's leading white supremacist group, you will never convince me that Facebook gave a damn until Australia threatened to start putting social media executives in prison earlier this week.

Following the livestreamed New Zealand mosque shooting that left 50 dead in Christchurch, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is looking to crack down on extremist content on social media.

Morrison will on Tuesday meet with Australian executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google to discuss extremist content legislation that would punish these companies' executives with jail time, the Australian Financial Review reports. Local internet service providers will also be present at the meeting.

"If social media companies fail to demonstrate a willingness to immediately institute changes to prevent the use of their platforms, like what was filmed and shared by the perpetrators of the terrible offences in Christchurch, we will take action," said Morrison.

"We are considering all options to keep Australians safe

And lo and behold 48 hours later we get this policy.

Amazing how that works.  Australia helping New Zealand do yeoman's work, when we surely won't here.

Decade of Decadence

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want ten years of Trump's taxes, according, well, to Republicans on the committee who are trying to sandbag the move.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is seeking 10 years of President Donald Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm, two Republicans on the panel revealed on Wednesday.

The Democrat-led committee asked Mazars USA, a tax and accounting firm, for documents related to Trump’s finances, with a focus on the president’s effort to bid on the Buffalo Bills, according to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the Oversight panel, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a senior member of the committee.

It appears to reflect an effort by the committee to follow up on former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen’s testimony before the panel last month. Cohen told lawmakers that Trump inflated his personal net worth as he sought to buy the NFL team.

Jordan and Meadows, two of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, made the revelations in a letter to Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in which they alleged that the request for such information about Trump “appears to depart from responsible and legitimate oversight,” and is intended “solely to embarrass President Trump and to advance the relentless Democrat attacks upon the Trump administration.”

Their letter comes after Trump and his allies have claimed vindication after Attorney General William Barr informed congressional leaders on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation was unable to establish that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russians during the 2016 election.

The president and his supporters on Capitol Hill have called on Democrats to cease their investigations into the president, which they have long derided as politically motivated.

“We should not waste our limited resources and energies on matters that do not improve the operations of the federal government or better the lives of our constituents,” Jordan and Meadows wrote, calling Cummings’ investigation “an ill-conceived inquiry into the finances of President Trump when he was a private citizen.”

The lawmakers sent a separate letter to Victor Wahba, the chairman and chief executive officer of Mazars USA, stating that Cummings did not consult with the GOP side of the committee before request the documents on Trump’s finances.

Elijah Cummings is having none of it.

Cummings dismissed the Republicans’ letters.

“If they had their way, the committee would just close up shop for the next two years, but that is not what the American people elected us to do,” Cummings said. “We are following up on specific allegations regarding the president’s actions based on corroborating documents obtained by the committee, and we will continue our efforts to conduct credible, robust, and independent oversight.”

We'll see how this battle turns out, but I'm willing to bet that between the White House and SCOTUS that at the very least they can keep this tied up for months, if not well into 2021 and beyond.  Trump knows full well that his financial records for the last decade being made public would be his end, politically, as well as from a criminal standpoint.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report should be made public, American voters say 84 - 9 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Republicans say 75 - 17 percent the report should be made public and every other listed party, gender, education, age and racial group supports making the report public by even wider margins.

Mueller conducted a "fair" investigation, 55 percent of voters say, as 26 percent say it was not fair, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll finds. The survey was conducted March 21 through March 25.

But voters are divided on another question, as 49 percent say the investigation was "legitimate" and 43 percent say it was a "witch hunt."

There is a wide gender gap as men say 50 - 43 percent the investigation was a "witch hunt," and women say 55 - 37 percent it was "legitimate." 

Indeed, the margins are huge.

Again, three out of four Republicans want the Mueller report released.  For Democrats it's 93%, which is insanely high agreement on anything.  Independents come in at 86%.

People still don't think Trump is telling the truth, either.

The special counsel’s report may have concluded there was no conspiracy or coordination between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign, but a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows the political fog around the president remains.

The poll shows a plurality of voters, 47 percent, think Trump “tried to impede or obstruct the investigation into whether his campaign had ties to Russia” — despite the fact that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn't reach a decision on the question. Thirty-nine percent don’t think Trump tried to impede the investigation, and 14 percent don’t know or had no opinion about whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Following the release of the report’s summary, the president is not riding a new wave of popularity. His approval rating in the poll remains underwater — 42 percent approve of the job he is doing, compared to 55 percent of voters who disapprove of the job he is doing — which is essentially unchanged over the past few weeks. And when asked whether Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing the report changed their opinions of Trump, voters fell predictably along partisan lines.
As the Mueller report conclusion reverberates broadly, our polling suggests that the release of the summary findings has had little impact on President Trump’s favorability,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president. “Notably, 44 percent of voters — including 73 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of independents — have a less favorable impression of the president following Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report. This compares with 39 percent — including 79 percent of Republicans — who have a more favorable view." 

And yet if the Mueller report isn't released, exactly what's going to happen?

Are millions of us going to take to the streets?  Would even hundreds of thousands do it?  I'm not sure we'd get tens of thousands protesting a failure to release it.

The maintenance of our representative democracy is in the hands of us.  If we don't shut this country down over this, we're done.

And we won't do it.  It's too much work.  Hell, we couldn't even find a way to not vote for Donald Goddamn Trump.


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