Just Like Every Other Platform, Parler Will Take Down Content And Face Impossible Content Moderation Choices

from the this-is-not-the-panacea dept

Like Gab before it, the hot new Twitter-wannabe service for assholes and trolls kicked off of Twitter is Parler. The President and a bunch of his supporters have hyped it up, and the latest is that Senator Ted Cruz (and Rep. Devin Nunes) have recently joined it, and like others before them they have hyped up the misleading claim that Parler supports free speech unlike Twitter. Cruz — who has been spewing blatantly false information about “anti-conservative bias” on various internet platforms — even announced his move to Parler… on Twitter, which does not seem to be moderating him at all. Cruz’s overwrought speech is full of nonsense that has come to typify his pathetic attempt to win fans among Trump’s base.

But, I did want to take a closer look at the claims that Parler supports free speech, because it does so in basically the same way every other platform — including the way Twitter, Youtube and Facebook do: by saying that they can remove your content for any reason they want. Their user agreement includes this:

Parler may remove any content and terminate your access to the Services at any time and for any reason or no reason, although Parler endeavors to allow all free speech that is lawful and does not infringe the legal rights of others. Any invitation made by Parler to you to use the Services or submit content to the Services, or the fact that Parler may receive a benefit from your use of the Services or provision of content to the Services, will not obligate Parler to maintain any content or maintain your access to the Services. Parler will have no liability to you for removing any content, for terminating your access to the Services, or for modifying or terminating the Services, at any time and in any way and for any reason or no reason. Although the Parler Guidelines provide guidance to you regarding content that is not appropriate, Parler is free to remove content and terminate your access to the Services even where the Guidelines have been followed.

Parler should be thankful that it has Section 230 of the CDA to make that possible. And it should probably be ticked off at Cruz, who has been among those threatening to revoke Section 230.

My favorite line is the last one, which says that it can remove content or terminate your account even where you have followed its Guidelines.

Under various proposals to reform Section 230, this would go against the law, but Parler is actually doing the right thing here. If you only limit your moderation powers to what is explicitly in your terms, then people will game those terms and cause problems on your platform. You need the flexibility to deal with bad actors — the flexibility that Section 230’s current structure provides.

And while Parler’s Community Guidelines are written in a manner that makes it look like they’re mimicking 1st Amendment jurisprudence, that’s a trick they’re playing, because the specifics do not match the reality. First, at the very top, they say that no spam is allowed:

Spam is repetitive content that does not contribute to the conversation. It often comes in the form of multiple posts of repeating content that offer little to no value to the community and platform at large.

And the guidelines tell users:

  • Avoid repetition in the comment section of posts. Spam applies more heavily to comments then posts.
  • Do not use language/visuals that are meant to take advantage of others on Parler.
  • Avoid language/visuals that solicits advertisements on other?s posts.

Of course, all of that is 1st Amendment protected speech.

Parler also bans sharing “rumors about other users/people you know are false.” And while they couch this as being the same as defamation, the legal standards for defamation go way beyond that. Banning “rumors about other users/people you know are false” will create judgment calls by Parler in determining what stands and what doesn’t.

In the section meant to mimic the Supreme Court’s (mostly obsolete) “fighting words” doctrine, Parler again says that plenty of 1st Amendment protected speech is barred from its platform.

Any direct and very personal insult with the intention of stirring and upsetting the recipient

Of course, intention is subjective, meaning again that Parler would need to make judgment calls.

Parler, like Gab before it, bans pornography, falsely claiming:

Pornography is considered indecent according to clauses defined by the FCC.

The FCC polices public airwaves, which come from publicly owned, but corporate-held, spectrum. The FCC’s determination of indecency has no bearing on the internet (and does have some 1st Amendment issues as well). Parler’s definition of porn is… really weird.

Printed text description, or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity. Porn must meet ALL the following conditions:

  • Porn does not require nudity
  • Can be an image, painting, art, or description
  • It must be morbid or degrading in nature (Prurient)

Of those “conditions” only the last one is actually a “condition.” If the others are conditions, does that mean if it does have nudity, it’s no longer porn?

There’s a lot more where this comes from, but almost all of it appears to be written by someone who did a Wikipedia search on exceptions to the 1st Amendment, but didn’t bother to talk to a 1st Amendment lawyer to understand what those exceptions actually meant.

Still, there is a larger point in all of this, which is something we’ve tried to explain to people over and over again. There is no such thing as not moderating content. First of all, some content moderation is required by law — especially things like child sexual abuse material and copyright infringement. Second, there are international issues that Parler will eventually need to deal with, even if it’s an American company. Already, some have pointed out how Parler’s user agreement might put users on the legal hook for international issues. Third, without content moderation, your site gets filled with junk, spam, and abuse. Even Parler seems to implicitly recognize this with its terms.

There have been plenty of sites that have sprung up over the years that first promise no moderation until they realize what that means in practice — and then suddenly they realize that some level of content moderation is a necessity. Now, Parler may take a more hands off approach than others, and that’s great. Different approaches and different levels of experimentation should be encouraged. But the idea that Parler is somehow taking a substantially different approach than a site like Twitter is nonsense.

On a related note, Parler’s sudden burst of attention and usage should serve to highlight another nonsense talking point from the world of Trump: that the existing large platforms (namely: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) and their content moderation decisions are somehow a form of censorship or control of the “public square.” The great thing about the internet is that it’s still (mostly) open for other entrants to try to build a better mousetrap. So the idea that the other platforms need to be hit with regulations over their content moderation practices seems odd when Parler itself has demonstrated that it’s totally possible to build competitors.

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Companies: gab, parler, twitter

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Comments on “Just Like Every Other Platform, Parler Will Take Down Content And Face Impossible Content Moderation Choices”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem is that once they realize that it’s just their asshole buddies over there they will come crawling back to the platforms that most people actually use, because what fun is being an asshole if you can’t force it upon a large audience?

That’s why they keep trying to force the main platforms to host their garbage instead of just making their own and posting it there, while they may think they want a platform than anyone can post on without penalties even more than that they want one that come pre-packaged with a large, semi-captive audience.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"The problem is that once they realize that it’s just their asshole buddies over there they will come crawling back to the platforms that most people actually use, because what fun is being an asshole if you can’t force it upon a large audience?"

That’s literally what happened with Gab. There’s more than one example of a bigoted troll complaining that they can’t make money when their only audience is similar bigots, and at least one story I can think of where one of them was whining that they were suffering abuse themselves.

"they want one that come pre-packaged with a large, semi-captive audience"

They want the ad dollars, but are too dumb to understand that the advertisers are the main reason why they were kicked off. Twitter/YouTube, etc. don’t really care that you’re an offensive idiot, they care that their real customers say they won’t benefit a site with that kind of content financially.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Yeah, see, here’s the thing. Even if Parler could promise unfettered free speech without moderation of any kind, its userbase wants two things:

  1. Unfettered free speech
  2. A Twitter-sized userbase

But like Gab, Voat, and every other service of its ilk before Parler, the userbase can only have one of those things.

We don’t mock Parler users for wanting a platform where they feel their speech is valued. We mock them for thinking they can have that platform and attract anyone but themselves in the long run.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Imagine That

Gods forbid anyone seek out a place where their opinions are included

Did you even read the post? I’m happy that Parler and other competitors exist. The more competition the better. And it’s great that people can seek out other places in which to speak their opinions. And I said as much at the end of the post.

The only thing I was pointing out is that Parler will take down speech just like every other platform does.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Imagine That

"Gods forbid anyone seek out a place where their opinions are included"

Those being kicked off are usually anti-inclusive. Almost all examples I’m aware of are white supremacists, homophobes and/or conspiracy theorists who make their content as hateful and offensive as possible, then get shocked when normal people show them the door.

If you don’t want to be kicked out of a restaurant, you need to refrain from hurling abuse at the gay couple on the other side of the room. This is not controversial, until you idiots demand rights that don’t exist elsewhere.

Bloof (profile) says:

A couple of days ago, #TWEXIT was trending on twitter on the UK, where a whole slew of right wing idiots were declaring they’re totally going to go to Parler because Twitter banned a particularly odious british rightwinger. Days on, I went back to the hashtag and the vast majority of the people who were leaving right away are still there, tweeting away about how the left have gone too far and they’re being censored and are leaving. I get the feeling I’ll still be seeing them tweet in a month, in a year, about how the left have gone too far and they’re leaving for real this time.

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Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, ‘The Left have gone too far!’ is the mating call of the wingnut pretending to be a centrist. The kind of people who totally believed in equality, human rights, free healthcare and eduction until that one right winger was banned from twitter so now they’re going to change all their views and move off to Gab and Parler where the right wing go to breathe their own farts.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'Look at me I'm leaving, I said look at me!'

Reminds me of a petulant child throwing a tantrum in a desperate attempt to get people to pay attention to them.

Good opportunities to mock them though for anyone who cares to by pointing out that for someone who is both being ‘censored’ and ‘leaving’ they sure are being noisy on the platform they claim they were leaving.

Koby (profile) says:

And while Parler’s Community Guidelines are written in a manner that makes it look like they’re mimicking 1st Amendment jurisprudence, that’s a trick they’re playing, because the specifics do not match the reality.

For many of us who see problems with social media censorship, we aren’t particularly interested in a platform that allows all speech deemed permissible by the 1st Amendment.

We don’t care about repetitive spam. We don’t care about commercial spam. We dont care about obscenity or pornography. Go ahead and ban that stuff.

Mostly what we don’t want banned is political speech. Simply because you disagree with something does not make it bannable. Being offended ought not allow you to take down the speech of others.

The real question is: can Parler do moderation without demonstrating political bias? Will they allow political speech, and show no favoritism to one side or the other if rhetoric becomes heated? I don’t know, and the odds of breaking the Twitter monopoly is quite the proverbial mountain to climb. But the idea that lip service is being paid is a step in the right direction. Defining offensive material in the TOS is not a dissuasion.

Rocky says:

Re: Re:

Mostly what we don’t want banned is political speech. Simply because you disagree with something does not make it bannable. Being offended ought not allow you to take down the speech of others.

The real question is: What political speech has been banned? We are still waiting for real examples of this.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The real question is: What political speech has been banned?

In today’s example of social media bias against conservatives, an undercover watchdog group infiltrated Facebook’s content moderation division, and videotaped numerous admissions of bias:

"One of the content moderators was asked if she deleted every Republican item that came up on her queue, she said: “Yes! I don’t give no f*cks, I’ll delete it.”

The same moderator said she does not take down anti-Trump content, even if it did violate policy.

“You gotta take it down but I leave it up,” she said. “If you see something that’s not supposed to be up, it’s probably me.”

Another content moderator, Lara Kontakos, was asked what she did when she saw a posts supporting the president: “If someone is wearing a MAGA hat, I am going to delete them for terrorism.”

Then, Kontakos looked around at her colleagues: “I think we are
all doing that.”

Steve Grimmett, a content review lead, said it was Facebook’s culture to target the president and his supporters. “It’s a very progressive company, who’s very anti-MAGA.”"

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Why, it’s almost as if Koby is making disingenuous arguments, using anecdotal experience as empirical evidence, citing known liars as sources, and running the fuck away when he’s faced with simple questions that (if answered) would lay bare his desire to force speech upon services like Twitter. Imagine that~.

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Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So a group with a LONG history of misleadingly editing videos to push their agenda and get innocent people fired in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety have claimed another scalp? Even if she was biased, she was A) In HR, not exactly in a position so set company policy and B) fired the moment it was brought to the attention of her superiors, not exactly proof of some grand anticonservative conspiracy. This isn’t about removing bias, this is about kicking and screaming until right wing voices are prioritised and given an exemption on following the rules that everyone agreed to when they signed up.

The thing that amuses me about all this, is groups like Veritarse are attacking a company that is very much on their side. Thiel is very much on team Trump, as is Zuckerberg, who’s had off the record meetings with Trump before declaring he won’t do much of anything about rightwing rulebreaking content, even going so far as to appoint Tucker Carlson’s website as fact checkers. By driving people out as part of a witchhunt, they’re drawing more attention to it’s pro conservative activities and accelerating the staff and advertiser rebellion that will lead to actual cultural change at the company, and when that happens, that sure won’t benefit conservatives as much as the status quo… Still, I’m sure a conservative con artist will be more than happy to set up a conservative alternative… Griftbook, perhaps.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I don’t have time to go through the exact wording of the bullshit, but this video was mentioned on the most recent episode of the Knowledge Fight podcast. They do a better job of dissecting it than I can here, but at least one of the quotes was edited to remove the end of it, where the person indicated that the reason why she was doing such things was that it was her last week on the job and thus didn’t fear consequences.

In other words, not only was she stating that she was deliberately not following policy, but that she knew that under normal circumstances she would face punishment for her actions. Basically, the opposite of what’s being claimed by the moron brigade.

It’s also mentioned that the people interviewed are not only employees of a contracted 3rd party, not Facebook themselves, but that the particular company they work for is ending its contract with Facebook at the end of this year.

That’s the problem with these idiots. They believe single sentences of bullshit that can have paragraphs written debunking the massive amount of lies within them, but they’re too stupid to check the facts.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So if I supply this quote from another source:

An investigative journalist who went undercover as a Facebook moderator in Ireland says the company lets pages from far-right fringe groups "exceed deletion threshold," and that those pages are "subject to different treatment in the same category as pages belonging to governments and news organizations." The accusation is a damning one, undermining Facebook’s claims that it is actively trying to cut down on fake news, propaganda, hate speech, and other harmful content that may have significant real-world impact.

Does that mean that Facebook has a bias FOR conservatives and the political right?

Perhaps you don’t understand that Facebook actually have MANY moderation teams spread all over the world. For your viewpoint to be true; that some political speech is systematically moderated, all moderation teams must consistently make the same judgement – which my quote above refutes.

Now, one moderation team shit-talking doesn’t mean that every team work in the same way, and it especially doesn’t mean that ALL social media platforms do it too.

Conveniently enough, you didn’t actually answer my question: What political speech has been banned? We are still waiting for real examples of this. A moderation team shit-talking isn’t an example of what I asked.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I have something to add for Koby’s and others sake:

When you (and by you I mean anyone reading this) go out looking for information supporting your argument, you also need to search for information that disproves it. If you don’t do that you become a slave to confirmation bias and your worldview will reflect this, and that worldview has very little to do with what is really happening.

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Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Mostly what we don’t want banned is political speech. Simply because you disagree with something does not make it bannable. Being offended ought not allow you to take down the speech of others.

Tell that to the Republican congressmen and the Trump admininstration stooges that the only ones pushing for that then, and stop wasting electons projecting at social media.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Silence can speak louder than words

Honestly at this point they might as well just come out and admit that their position is that yes, it should. It’s not like refusing to answer is making them look better, all it’s doing is leading people to conclude that they’re staying silent because they aren’t honest enough to own their own position, don’t want to defend it, or both.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For many of us who see problems with social media censorship, we aren’t particularly interested in a platform that allows all speech deemed permissible by the 1st Amendment.

Lots of people have claimed otherwise. And Parler’s own marketing speaks to that point. So… yes, not everyone has the same opinion, but Parler is making those claims.

We don’t care about repetitive spam. We don’t care about commercial spam. We dont care about obscenity or pornography. Go ahead and ban that stuff.

Great, so you support content moderation!

Mostly what we don’t want banned is political speech.

What "political speech" is banned on Twitter that is not violating its policies?

We’ll wait.

And, Parler will almost certainly end up banning the same kinds of speech over time because every platform realizes it needs to do so to stay relevant.

Indeed, Twitter early on spoke much like Parler does today. Remember "the free speech wing of the free speech party"? That was Twitter’s unofficial tagline from its former General Counsel. But then reality hit.

And reality will hit Parler too. If it ever becomes big enough to matter.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Being offended ought not allow you to take down the speech of others.

In which case you get the opposite effect, like 8chan, where only offensive people were left to offend each other. Everybody else when somewhere with saner moderation practices.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Mostly what we don’t want banned is political speech."

Then why is it that you mostly complain about bigots, white supremacists and people trying their best to get others infected with preventable diseases being banned?

You’re free to provide any example of those who don’t fit into the above categories being banned, but you usually remain silent when asked for evidence.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

we aren’t particularly interested in a platform that allows all speech deemed permissible by the 1st Amendment

See… this is why nobody takes you seriously. Even when you’re given what you want in alternative platforms you still think you’re entitled to meddle in platforms you dislike.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

[T]he idea that the other platforms need to be hit with regulations over their content moderation practices seems odd when Parler itself has demonstrated that it’s totally possible to build competitors.

They can build one, sure. But the real question lies in how long it’ll last when…

  1. its primary userbase will be people who feel stifled by Twitter’s rules against things like homophobic/racist/sexist speech,

  2. it won’t attract people who have issues with that speech (among other kinds), and

  3. it won’t have nearly as many people in the void for the trolls and shitbirds to yell at.

At this point, I give Parler six months — at best — before it becomes another shitpit that nobody talks about having used when they go back to Twitter or Facebook.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'We're assholes sure, but even we have rules.'

Funny that, even sites that are willing to host the filth that gets kicked off of the platforms that people actually use have TOS’ that allow them to delete content on a whim so people can’t game the rules, in addition to having rules on what not to post… it’s almost as though even they know that it would be utter insanity to have a real ‘anything legal goes’ platform, putting them ahead of the politicians that are trying to force platforms to host speech they don’t want to and/or only moderate content that exactly violates the precise TOS.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 'We're assholes sure, but even we have rules.'

Remember – these guys really support censorship. Almost every right-wing cesspool has rampant banning and deletion of posts that don’t fit their narratives and/or actually supports things like anti-racism, gay rights or science. You won’t find them whining about those, because their bigoted friends aren’t affected and they agree with the bans.

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PaulT (profile) says:

"the hot new Twitter-wannabe service"

But, wait, I was informed that once you got booted off Twitter there was literally no competition and the affected lost all ability to speak! Could it be that those people are just greedy assholes who only want access to all the ad money they lost by being too offensive for the advertisers to pay them?

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restless94110 (profile) says:

Strange Times

The delusion is strong in this one named Mike.

As an asshole/troll I had to join Parler. Yeah, I read their stupid Community Standards statement.

It’s so sad to read a writer who thinks there is no censorship of conservatives on social media. It makes you wonder how someone could be so blind and stupid. I mean really. It’s stupid, Mike.

Not just blind. Willful stupidity. Oh well. Haters gotta hate.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Strange Times

As an asshole/troll I had to join Parler. Yeah, I read their stupid Community Standards statement.

So you agreed to pay them if they get sued? Not very bright.

It’s so sad to read a writer who thinks there is no censorship of conservatives on social media.

I’ve been asking for evidence of this for years now. No one ever gives it.

Either way, what’s your opinion of Parler kicking off a bunch of users today?

It makes you wonder how someone could be so blind and stupid. I mean really. It’s stupid, Mike.

Believing what the evidence shows is stupid? Yeah. Okay.

You believe that conservatives are being censored. Prove it. I’ll wait.

Not just blind. Willful stupidity. Oh well. Haters gotta hate.

That’s just blatant projection.

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Rocky says:

Re: Strange Times

It’s so sad to read a writer who thinks there is no censorship of conservatives on social media. It makes you wonder how someone could be so blind and stupid

Then it should be easy for you to provide evidence of said censorship.

Haters gotta hate.

Yupp, then they get moderated or banned. After which they have a total meltdown and scream about bias against conservatives.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

It’s so sad to read a writer who thinks there is no censorship of conservatives on social media.

Three things.

  1. In re: censorship, read both of the columns I wrote for this site; you can find them in my user profile.
  2. Please produce evidence that Twitter punishes self-identified conservatives more often than self-identified liberals for doing the exact same TOS-violating behavior in equal amounts.
  3. If Twitter punishes a conservative for speech deemed homophobic/racist/sexist and you think “Twitter punished them for being a conservative!”, consider whether the problem lies with an alleged “anti-conservative bias” at Twitter or with your equating homophobic/racist/sexist speech to “conservative speech”/conservatism in general.

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DaveBurton (profile) says:

The problem with Twitter isn't they take down extremist hate

The problem isn’t that Twitter takes down content from NAZIs and white supremacists. The problem is that @Jack Dorsey’s Twitter Thought Police subtly skew what you read, by quietly shadowbanning, deboosting, and omitting from your feed tweets from responsible conservatives & Republicans… who happen to disagree with @Jack.

The Twitter Thought Police don’t usually delete the things with which @Jack would disagree. They just don’t show them to nearly as many people as they do the things which his fellow leftists tweet.

That’s how most leftists prefer to "debate" — by censorship, and well-poisoning. Their modus operandi is to silence other opinions, rather than refute them. It’s presumably because they’ve learned the hard way that that’s they only way they can "win" many arguments. Open dialogue and respectful argumentation don’t tend to work very well for them, because facts and evidence seem to have a conservative bias.

Unfortunately, such censorship is a dagger to the heart of democracy. Who needs Russians to hack our elections, when we have @Jack and his ilk?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The problem with Twitter isn't they take down extremist hate

Sounds very much like you guys should be using one of the sites set up to deal with people like you, rather than whining that other people have different opinions (I will not that the things you complain about are just as prevalent in right-wing cesspools, but you don’t whine about those).

Yet, you people never do that, you wish to force others to bow to your will instead of letting the market decided. Why is that?

"Who needs Russians to hack our elections, when we have @Jack and his ilk?"

If a single private website is enough to destroy your elections, you have bigger problems than the identity of that website.

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