Sunday, November 21, 2021

Insurrection Investigation, Con't

As the January 6th Committee considers whether or not to charge former Trump WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with contempt and Steve Bannon's own contempt trial gets underway in the weeks ahead (probably), Trump has named a third player he expects to keep his mafia code of omerta in the latest round of January 6th Committee subpoenas in former Trump trade representative Peter Navarro
Former President Donald Trump told his former White House trade adviser to defy a House committee that subpoenaed him in a probe into the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday.

Peter Navarro, who was director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and assistant to the president, was subpoenaed Thursday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus. Trump’s directive opens up another front in his effort to keep former aides and allies from cooperating with congressional inquiries and demands.

Trump lawyers have already instructed several others, including Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to defy subpoenas to testify and turn over documents to a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Whether executive privilege grants them immunity is a question that’s likely to take some time to wind through the courts.

Democrats who control the House voted in October to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance and referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution. A federal grand jury indicted him on two counts of contempt of Congress this month.

Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democrat who chairs the coronavirus panel, has said Navarro was subpoenaed after refusing to cooperate with requests from the committee.

The subpoena demands that Navarro produce documents by Dec. 8 related to his work on the administration’s pandemic response and to appear for a deposition on Dec. 1. That includes evidence that he complied with federal laws on the preservation of presidential records
The Committee was willing to burn Bannon in a court fight that will almost certainly be dragged out until SCOTUS can bury it and the Committee's mandate expires at the end of next year. Bannon will never testify, and worst case for him is he flees the country. Meadows, as I linked at the top of the post, still has hopes of being in the next Republican administration or a major lobbyist player, so he'll most likely cooperate. 

Navarro I think will follow suit. We'll see, as much of the Committee's work will stop in the next six weeks due to the holidays. But the larger point is that time is not on the Democrats' side here. It's already been ten months, and we've gone through almost half of the Committee's max of two years.

After Mueller and impeachment, it's definitely time to temper expectations here.

Sunday Long Read: Time To Unplug Big Tech

Not only are Facebook and Google destroying information systems around the globe with their clickbait ad greed, it turns out they are actively funding disinformation brokers around the world in order to profit from it, and the results are an open door to destabilize a nation-state or three if you have the money or the resources.
In 2015, six of the 10 websites in Myanmar getting the most engagement on Facebook were from legitimate media, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-run tool. A year later, Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) offered global access to Instant Articles, a program publishers could use to monetize their content.

One year after that rollout, legitimate publishers accounted for only two of the top 10 publishers on Facebook in Myanmar. By 2018, they accounted for zero. All the engagement had instead gone to fake news and clickbait websites. In a country where Facebook is synonymous with the internet, the low-grade content overwhelmed other information sources.

It was during this rapid degradation of Myanmar’s digital environment that a militant group of Rohingya—a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority—attacked and killed a dozen members of the security forces, in August of 2017. As police and military began to crack down on the Rohingya and push out anti-Muslim propaganda, fake news articles capitalizing on the sentiment went viral. They claimed that Muslims were armed, that they were gathering in mobs 1,000 strong, that they were around the corner coming to kill you.

It’s still not clear today whether the fake news came primarily from political actors or from financially motivated ones. But either way, the sheer volume of fake news and clickbait acted like fuel on the flames of already dangerously high ethnic and religious tensions. It shifted public opinion and escalated the conflict, which ultimately led to the death of 10,000 Rohingya, by conservative estimates, and the displacement of 700,000 more.

In 2018, a United Nations investigation determined that the violence against the Rohingya constituted a genocide and that Facebook had played a “determining role” in the atrocities. Months later, Facebook admitted it hadn’t done enough “to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”

Over the last few weeks, the revelations from the Facebook Papers, a collection of internal documents provided to Congress and a consortium of news organizations by whistleblower Frances Haugen, have reaffirmed what civil society groups have been saying for years: Facebook’s algorithmic amplification of inflammatory content, combined with its failure to prioritize content moderation outside the US and Europe, has fueled the spread of hate speech and misinformation, dangerously destabilizing countries around the world.

But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. Facebook isn’t just amplifying misinformation.

The company is also funding it.

An MIT Technology Review investigation, based on expert interviews, data analyses, and documents that were not included in the Facebook Papers, has found that Facebook and Google are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world

It's not just the US media that Facebook and Google are deliberately destroying in order to become the only media sources in town. And this is just an astonishing reminder that the disinformation these companies are pushing has very bloody real-world consequences.
Even more, it's deliberate.

Time to break up the tech giants.
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