A draft of President Donald Trump’s social media executive order shows it would create disturbing structures that could allow the President of the United States to personally target social media companies he feels are taking action against his supporters, enable his supporters to report that action directly to the White House, and empower the Attorney General of the United States to collect publicly available “watch-lists” of social media users that monitor not only their online activities but their offline activities as well.
The draft is not final, but both the speed with which it will be signed and reports show it likely has not gone through interagency review, as CNN’s Brian Fung, who calls it “hastily conceived,” notes.
NEW: The White House did not consult the FCC on a forthcoming executive order pertaining to social media companies, according to a person briefed on the matter.
This suggests the draft order has not gone through the normal interagency review process.
— Brian Fung (@b_fung) May 27, 2020
Reuters has confirmed a draft of the executive order, which President Trump has promised he will sign today. They report it “requires the Attorney General to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.”
The order directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to turn back on the White House Tech Bias Reporting Tool, which the Trump administration created in 2019. It is currently dormant. The tool would be used to collect complaints of what social media users feel is online censorship by tech companies. Those complaints would be submitted by the White House to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
The White House Office of Digital Strategy was not designed for that purpose. It was created for the sole purpose of crafting and promoting the President’s agenda online, not for acting as a conduit to enable spying. The Office of Digital Strategy is headed by a former Heritage Foundation employee.
Reuters also reports Barr is to create “working group” that “will also monitor or create watch-lists of users based on their interactions with content or other users.” That reporting appears to be inaccurate, based on NCRM’s reading, and reporting by other outlets.
NBC News technology correspondent Jacob Ward reports the draft “directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to collect publicly available information regarding ‘watch-lists’ of users based on their interaction with content or users’ and ‘monitoring users based on their activity off the platform.'”
An ABC News report appears to confirm that reading.
But Barr would be directed to create the group, which would include hand-picked state attorneys general.
The mere existence of any such lists, whether or not they are created by Barr or identified by the DOJ, can easily be politicized.
Stanford Cyber Policy Center’s Platform Regulation Director says this is a copy of the draft. She has annotated it as well:
— Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) May 28, 2020
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GOP Launches Witch Hunt Demanding Investigation Into Highly-Respected University Professor’s Tweets
Republicans in Virginia are demanding that University of Virginia President James E. Ryan open an investigation into tweets by Center for Politics founder Dr. Larry Sabato.
“A reasonable taxpaying citizen can readily conclude that Dr. Sabato is demonstrating the rankest form of bitter partisanship,” Virginia GOP Chair Rich Anderson wrote in a letter printed on Republican Party of Virginia letterhead.
“In order to have faith in our institutions, it is essential that Virginians hold accountable those public employees and officials who violate institutional values, codes of conduct, and other guidelines of professional behavior.”
A spokesperson for the university said Sabato has done nothing wrong.
“There is nothing in our Code of Conduct that limits University employees from engaging in expression that is protected under the First Amendment,” the spokesman said.
Anderson complained about eight tweets by Sabato. The first noted Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
It is a disgrace that Trump became the first major-party presidential candidate since the 1970s to avoid releasing his tax returns. This critical information should have been available for voters to consider in 2016. Never again! #TrumpTaxReturns https://t.co/5liLizaGGw
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 27, 2020
The second tweet concerned Trump’s fact-free approach to presidential debates.
CANCEL THE REMAINING PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES. It is impossible to have an orderly, productive exchange with Donald Trump. Stop pretending otherwise. #Debate2020
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 30, 2020
The third tweet was in the context of Trump hoping to bring back executions by firing squad while facing accusations of extreme tax fraud. It was in the comments of a Daily Beast story.
It’s just amazing to me that I am reading this! Is there not a person that will find a law against this! @LarrySabato
— Wahoo UVA (@uvaseg) November 30, 2020
Extreme tax fraud deserves a firing squad.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) November 30, 2020
The fourth tweet questioned Trump’s sanity after he released a 46-minute video pushing his “Big Lie” of voter fraud.
Cuckoo, cuckoo! Does the plush presidential suite at Walter Reed offer psychiatric treatments? Maybe time to helicopter Trump over again. https://t.co/rpMkk2mVuE
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) December 3, 2020
The fifth tweet praised a return to normalcy “after 4 years of the bizarre and disturbing.”
I’m watching President-elect @JoeBiden‘s press conference. It’s so refreshingly NORMAL. After 4 years of the bizarre and the disturbing, we really are going to have a return to normalcy.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) December 4, 2020
The sixth tweet returned to the question of Trump’s mental health in the context of the delusional conspiracy theory that he will be “reinstated” as president in August in violation of the Constitution.
Of course it’s true. Trump, who governed on the edge of insanity for four long years, has gone over the edge. Yet millions of people and 90%+ of GOP members of Congress, still genuflect before this false god. https://t.co/MQ6LarvR2F
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) June 3, 2021
The seventh tweet concerned Glenn Youngkin, who is worth hundreds of millions after working as the co-CEO of the private-equity firm The Carlyle Group. Youngkin is now running for governor of Virginia.
I wonder if @GlennYoungkin is still “honored” to have received Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement for VA Governor?
Trump told chief of staff Hitler ‘did a lot of good things’, book says | Donald Trump | The Guardian https://t.co/EdnKiUIjyJ
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) July 7, 2021
The final tweet the GOP believes should result in an investigation concerned Trump’s choice of music at his campaign-style rallies.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) June 27, 2021
‘Highly Unusual and Unrelenting’: Bill Barr Waged a Secret Court Battle With CNN to Obtain Reporter’s Email Logs
CNN’s lead attorney revealed this Wednesday that the Trump administration battled with the network for half a year to obtain the email record of a reporter, and demanded that it all be done in secret.
In July of 2020, then-Attorney General William Barr demanded two months’ of CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr’s 2017 email logs. According to CNN, the pursuit represented “a highly unusual and unrelenting push for journalists’ records,” which included “putting CNN general counsel David Vigilante under a gag order prohibiting him from sharing any details about the government’s efforts with anyone beyond the network’s president, top attorneys at CNN’s corporate parent and attorneys at an outside law firm.”
While CNN acknowledges that it’s not uncommon for a media organization to be subpoenaed for a reporter’s records, what stands apart “is the total secrecy that surrounded the order, the months-long court proceeding and the Trump administration’s unwillingness to negotiate.”
Read the full report over at CNN.
Trump’s DOJ Covertly Collected Award Winning CNN Reporter’s Email and Phone Records: Report
On Thursday, CNN reported that the Justice Department, under former President Donald Trump, secretly collected email and phone records from a CNN reporter, without notifying either the reporter or the news organization.
“The Justice Department informed CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, in a May 13 letter, that prosecutors had obtained her phone and email records covering two months, between June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2017,” reported Jeremy Herb and Jessica Schneider. “The letter listed phone numbers for Starr’s Pentagon extension, the CNN Pentagon booth phone number and her home and cell phones, as well as Starr’s work and personal email accounts.”
“The seizure of Starr’s records is the third disclosure in as many weeks where the Trump administration used its Justice Department to secretly obtain communications of journalists or to expose the identity of critics of former President Donald Trump’s allies,” continued the report.
Starr reportedly was not the target of a criminal investigation.
“CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist’s correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement. “We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation.”
Under Trump, the Justice Department was frequently controversial for its attitude towards the press. At his confirmation hearing, Attorney General William Barr stumbled over a question about whether he would use the DOJ to imprison journalists.
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