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Has Facebook Censorship Gone Too Far?

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When the town square is the rectangle of your laptop or smartphone, and the local sheriff is an algorithm trademarked by an unregulated and unabashed Mark Zuckerberg & Co., there’s no doubt trouble ahead for people who “like” free speech.

Facebook is censoring the news. While Facebook, a privately owned company, has every legal right — technically — to choose to publish or not publish anything it wants to, it has a moral obligation as the largest provider of the 21st century public square to not censor. Yet what it chooses to censor and to not censor apparently is subject to some deeply held secretive algorithm, has zero explainable reason, and has the chilling effect of creating an Orwellian state — none of which today’s society, enmeshed in an Arab Spring, an Occupy Wall Street Movement, and an upcoming 2012 U.S. election cycle, can afford.

Two personal examples.

On October 15, I attempted to share a link to a piece I had written about the Occupy Wall Street Movement — on Occupy Wall Street Movement Facebook pages, like Occupy Seattle, Occupy Miami, Occupy San Francisco. The piece, “Occupy Times Square: Over 10,000 Peaceful Protestors, So NYPD Arrests Dozens,” was less than flattering of the New York City Police Department’s treatment of Occupy Wall Street protestors — 10,000 that day had crowded Times Square — dozens of which the NYPD decided to arrest. I was there, camera in hand, reporting, and had raced home to edit my video and photos and to file several reports.

October 15 notice from Facebook

With no warning, and for no discernible reason, after posting a link to the piece on a very few “Occupy” sites (perhaps three?), I received a notice (image, right) from Facebook that claimed I was posting “spam and irrelevant content on Facebook pages.” The notice also came with the note that my account was being disable for fifteen days from posting any content on pages that were not mine.

In other words, Facebook had “decided” that the content I was sharing wasn’t content, that it was “spam,” or “irrelevant,” despite the very clear fact that it was neither.

Facebook offered no opportunity to challenge its decision, no option to protest, no option to appeal. Almost as bad, Facebook did not offer a credible reason as to why it deemed original news information as spam and irrelevant. And quite frankly, censoring a report of questionable police actions is a chilling notion.

But I decided, (and in hind site, not the best decision, and certainly uncharacteristic!) my time was better spent focusing on what I could control, rather than railing against Mark Zuckerberg’s Bloomberg-beholden behemoth, so I waited the fifteen days, which, as an aside, strongly impacted my ability to disseminate news.

(For those interested, this is my Facebook account, and this is the Facebook site for The New Civil Rights Movement. Rarely do I post anything personal to either. Feel free to rifle through them — or to follow/like/subscribe to them. You’ll find neither spam nor “irrelevant” content.)

Traffic at The New Civil Rights Movement suffered, though, fortunately, not immensely, as we essentially begged our 11,000 Facebook fans, my personal 1000+ Facebook friends, and our 23,000 Twitter followers to take up the slack. (Approximately 18%, annually, of traffic to the site comes via Facebook, just behind Google News, and ay in front of traffic from Twitter.) But our ability to touch, directly, those most-interested in the Occupy Wall Street Movement news was impacted greatly. Would traffic — and thus, dissemination of relevant news — have been higher, had Facebook’s draconian censorship not taken place? I have to believe, yes.

That was example number one.

Example number two occurred Sunday.

Facebook Blocked Content Notice from November 6

After editing our “Week In Review” segment, I attempted to share it on Facebook on my personal page. I received an even more draconian censorship notice: “Warning: This message contains blocked content. Some content in this message has been reported as abusive by Facebook users.” My first thought was, “that’s odd,” as this is an original post and was just published a few seconds prior. My second thought was, OK, that’s their problem, and I’ll take the heat if a Facebook user wants to report my site’s content as “abusive.” So I tried to post it again.

The post was not only tagged as “abusive,” but Facebook would not allow me to post it to my own page, anyway!

The title of the article was, ironically, “Week In Review: A Zygote Is A Person?, Eurozone Greek Crisis, NJ Gay Marriage, Internet Freedom.”

What could be considered so “abusive” in a weekly news review? Was it the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations story? Was it the NJ gay marriage story? Was it the Internet freedom story? Was it the Mississippi personhood bill story?

News, by its very nature, is often uncomfortable. The New Civil Rights Movement works very hard every day to present information respectfully and in an intelligent context. The dozens of journalists, bloggers, other news sites that link regularly to our content don’t see it as “abusive,” so who is some algorithm at Facebook to deem it so — and to take the extraordinary measures of banning its publication?

Facebook, and other social media sites, such as Twitter, and Google +, or Reddit, Digg, and other news dissemination networks, have a moral obligation to not censor content — especially content that is not by any means hate speech. When news is censored by the largest content distribution vehicle on the planet, the world has indeed become a very scary place. Who know what — or who — will be next?

Ironically, last year ago I wrote several stories attempting to get Facebook to shut down sites that actually were abusive. Anti-gay hate speech Facebook groups and Facebook pages — that in any other country would be banned and their authors sent to jail — had been allowed to stay, unaddressed, for months.

We were successful in getting Facebook to shutter groups/pages like, “Kill All Gays,” “I HATE GAYS,” “STOP AIDS!!!!! KILL GAYS AN NIGGERS!!!!!!!!!,” “GAY ? news flash : we fuckin’ hate you !!,” and, “join if you hate homosexuals,” for example.

Can the distinction be made between a journalist posting a link to original content — news about NYPD crackdown on lawful protestors or a basic news story — and a hate group? Using a test many courts of law embrace — the “reasonable person test,” I would have to say, yes. Wouldn’t you?

So, why does Facebook, which boasts more than 800 million active users — almost three times the number of U.S. residents — feel it has not only the right but the obligation to spuriously ban some content that is far from “abusive,” and ban users who are posting original news items, and for weeks?

Facebook’s censoring arm has gone much too far. When the town square is the rectangle of your laptop or smartphone, and the local sheriff is an algorithm trademarked by an unregulated and unabashed Mark Zuckerberg & Co., there’s no doubt trouble ahead for people who “like” free speech.

Editor’s note: Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

New Analysis Breaks Down GOP’s Flawed Response to the Mar-a-Lago Search

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Republican lawmakers are reportedly at an impasse on whether or not they should be defending former President Donald Trump amid his latest flurry of legal woes. The party is also facing challenges with navigating some lawmakers’ critical assessments of law enforcement over the Trump investigation.

A new analysis is breaking down Republicans’ seemingly flawed response and how it underscores the cracks in the political party’s foundation.

According to Axios, the analysis comes shortly after documents released on Friday, August 12, offered details about the search which reportedly involved “highly classified materials believed stored in violation of the law at the ex-president’s private residence.”

Prior to the release of those documents, Republicans serving on the House Intelligence Committee participated in a press conference where they continued to criticize the investigation, describing it as being politically motivated.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) scrutinized the investigation deeming it a “complete abuse” of authority as she suggested it was being conducted because the former president is considered to be “Joe Biden’s most likeliest political opponent in 2024.”

However, some Republicans on the committee have offered a more leveled approach to the situation. Per The New York Times, “Trump allies have told top Republicans to tone down their criticism of the Justice Department ‘because it is possible that more damaging information related to the search will become public.'”

“It’s incumbent upon everybody to act in a way that’s becoming of the office they hold,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, “And that’s not casting judgment on anything until you know all the facts.”

Others have attempted to defend the former president. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said, “You can say nuclear weapons, but there are things that are highly, highly classified, there are things that are not extremely classified.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is now selling merchandise on her website in support of a call to “defund the FBI” while Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweeted, “I will support a complete dismantling and elimination of the democrat brown shirts known as the FBI.”

 

Image: Elise Stefanik with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago via Facebook

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News

Trump Makes False Claims About Classified Documents – And Obama

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Donald Trump is responding to news reports he is under FBI investigation for actions covered by the Espionage Act by making apparently false claims about his mishandling of classified documents and about former President Barack Obama.

“Number one, it was all declassified,” Trump says in a post on his Truth Social site, a claim legal experts say is incorrect. For any president to declassify documents, experts say, there is a process that involves actions being taken on each individual document. They also say the president does not have legal authority to declassify documents related to nuclear weapons.

“Number two,” Trump continues, “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”

READ MORE: FBI Agents Searched Mar-a-Lago for ‘Classified Documents Relating to Nuclear Weapons’: Report

Again, according to reports, that too is false. DOJ issued a subpoena after the National Archives tried to get all the documents back and Trump still did not comply.

“They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago,” he continues in a separate post on Truth Social. “ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”

Again, multiple reports say they did, numerous times.

READ MORE: DOJ Served Trump With Grand Jury Subpoena for Classified Documents Months Before FBI Raid: Report

None of his responses explain why he had at Mar-a-Lago what we now know were at least 35 cartons – 20 retrieved on Monday and 15 earlier this year – of items including confidential, classified, and top secret documents that were required by law to have been handed over to the National Archives.

“The bigger problem is,” Trump says, “what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?”

That is also false.

The National Archives on Friday issued a statement after Trump repeatedly spread the false claim that former President Barack Obama had 33 million documents in his possession.

“President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” was one of Trump’s false attacks on his Truth Social site.

“The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA),” the Archives said in a statement posted to its website Friday.

“NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA,” the Archives added. “Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the PRA, former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.”

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BREAKING NEWS

Trump Under FBI Investigation for Potential Violation of the Espionage Act Legal Experts Say

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‘Simply Jaw-Dropping’: Legal Experts Also Stunned Over Top Secret, Confidential Contents of Cartons FBI Seized From Mar-a-Lago

“A search warrant viewed by POLITICO reveals that the FBI is investigating Donald Trump for a potential violation of the Espionage Act and removed classified documents from the former president’s Florida estate earlier this week,” Politico reports.

The New York Times also confirms.

“Federal agents who executed the warrant did so to investigate potential crimes associated with violations of the Espionage Act, which outlaws the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; a federal law that makes it a crime to destroy or conceal a document to obstruct a government investigation; and another statute associated with unlawful removal of government materials.”

Based on the search warrant released to far-right media outlet Breitbart News, multiple legal experts also say Donald Trump, the former president is under FBI investigation for potentially violating the Espionage Act.

READ MORE: FBI Agents Searched Mar-a-Lago for ‘Classified Documents Relating to Nuclear Weapons’: Report

“A federal magistrate judge has found probable cause to believe evidence of the crime of ESPIONAGE to be found at Mar-A-Lago. Repeat 5 times,” writes former U.S. Attorney and DOJ official Harry Litman, now an LA Times legal affairs columnist. He also notes that “top secret/compartmented is stratospherically high classification. Scandal he ever had in [those documents] the first place.”

Top national security lawyer Brad Moss writes: “18 U.S.C. 793 – Espionage Act. That’s for willful/grossly negligent removal of information relating to the national defense. 18 U.S.C. 2017 and 18 U.S.C. 1519 – that’s for concealing federal records.”

Moss also retweeted this statement by veteran Cox Radio Capitol Hill correspondent Jamie Dupree:

“So the leak of the Trump search warrant via Breitbart indicates that former President Donald Trump is under investigation for violating the Espionage Act and for Obstruction of Justice.”

Civil liberties and national security journalist Marcy Wheeler also confirms, writing: “The hilarious thing is that since Brietbart doesn’t even know what a Supervisory Special Agent is, they probably don’t realize they’ve confirmed that Trump is under investigation for violating the Espionage Act.”

READ MORE: Suspect Who Shot Up FBI Office Days After Mar-a-Lago Raid Was Trump Supporter Who Called to Kill FBI ‘On Sight’: Report

Western New England University School of Law law professor Jennifer Taub also confirms, writing: “Donald Trump is being investigated for espionage.”

The Wall Street Journal was first to publish details of what FBI agents seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion on Monday. Legal experts have been calling Friday afternoon’s revelations “jaw-dropping.”

FBI agents “removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal,” the WSJ report states.

Despite initial reports the FBI seized between ten and 12 cartons of documents and other materials unlawfully removed from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, there were 20 cartons retrieved. That is in addition to the 15 cartons the National Archives were forced to retrieve earlier this year.

“The list includes references to one set of documents marked as ‘Various classified/TS/SCI documents,’ an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents. The list didn’t provide any more details about the substance of the documents.”

The classified/TS/SCI markings are the most important.

Legal experts say the search warrant was “broad,” and indeed the Journal reports the warrant “shows that FBI agents sought to search ‘the 45 Office,’ as well as ‘all storage rooms and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by [the former president] and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.'”

Late Thursday evening The Washington Post revealed FBI agents were looking to retrieve classified documents “related to nuclear weapons,” making Monday’s raid all the more important, and Trump and his teams handling – or mishandling – of those documents all the more egregious.

The George Washington University Law School’s Professor of Government Procurement Law, Steven L. Schooner, says, “removal of, failure to account for, & failure to return (under subpoena) ‘classified/TS/SCI documents’ is, ugh, simply jaw-dropping, and that’s regardless of whether it’s nuclear-related.”

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change.

 

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