Summary: There is an inherent tension in handling content moderation of world leaders — especially more controversial ones. If those leaders break the rules on social media, some reasonably call for the content, or the accounts, to be removed for violating policies. Others, however, point out that it is important for the public to be aware of what world leaders are saying, rather than removing and hiding the speech.
Twitter has had a public interest exception for tweets from world leaders since at least 2019. Under that policy, Twitter may choose to leave up some content from a world leader that the company admits violates its rules, under the belief that it is more important that the world know what that leader has said. Since 2019, Twitter announced that when it found such content, it would label it clearly — publicly noting that it violated the company?s policies, but was being kept up due to the public interest.
The policy was put to the test in October 2020, following the murder of a teacher in a Paris suburb, after the teacher had shown students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad while discussing the controversy over such drawings. A week later, three people were stabbed in Nice, in southern France. French President Emmanuel Macron described both attacks as ?Islamist terrorist attacks.”
Soon after the latter attack, former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Bin Mohamad posted a Twitter thread discussing both attacks. While the thread touched on a variety of points, urged people not to scapegoat entire religions, and said he did not approve of the killings, the twelfth tweet raised many concerns by stating: “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
Twitter posted its public interest notice on this particular tweet, noting that it violated Twitter?s rules about glorifying violence, but Twitter felt that it ?may be in the public?s interest for the tweet to remain accessible.?
Many disagreed with this decision, including French officials. France?s digital minister, C?dric O, claimed that if Twitter did not remove the tweet, it would make the company an ?accomplice to a formal call for murder.?
Decisions to be made by Twitter:
What qualifies a tweet from a foreign leader that violates policies to remain up under a ?public interest? exception?
Under what conditions would Twitter reverse this policy and remove tweets?
How much context should Twitter take into account regarding the tweets? That is, how much should the attacks in France play into the decision regarding this tweet?
Questions and policy implications to consider:
Whether or not Twitter removes this particular tweet, it is likely to get attention and news coverage. How much does it matter whether or not Twitter removes or labels the particular tweet?
Should world leaders get special treatment by nature of their position and the fact that what they say can impact world events?
Resolution: Twitter only kept the tweet up for a few hours before reversing course and deciding to remove the tweet entirely for violating its rules. Twitter did not comment on why it changed its position on this particular tweet, only telling the media that the tweet was removed for violating its policies on glorifying violence. The company chose not to explain why it initially qualified for a public interest exception, only to be changed later.
Summary: After Amazon refused to continue hosting Parler, the Twitter competitor favored by the American far-right, former Parler users looking to communicate with each other — but dodge strict moderation — adopted Telegram as their go-to service. Following the attack on the Capitol building in Washington, DC, chat app Telegram added 25 million users in a little over 72 hours.
Telegram has long been home to far-right groups, who often find their communications options limited by moderation policies that, unsurprisingly, remove violent or hateful content. Telegram’s moderation is comparatively more lax than several of its social media competitors, making it the app of choice for far right personalities.
But Telegram appears to be attempting to handle the influx of users — along with an influx of disturbing content. Some channels broadcasting extremist content have been removed by Telegram as the increasingly-popular chat service flexes its (until now rarely used) moderation muscle. According to the service, at least fifteen channels were removed by Telegram moderators, some of which were filled with white supremacist content.
Unfortunately, policing the service remains difficult. While Telegram claims to have blocked “dozens” of channels containing “calls to violence,” journalists have had little trouble finding similarly violent content on the service, which either has eluded moderation or is being ignored by Telegram. While Telegram appears responsive to some notifications of potentially-illegal content, it also appears to be inconsistent in applying its own rule against inciting violence.
Decisions to be made by Telegram:
Should content contained in private chats (rather than public channels) be subjected to the same rules concerning violent content?
Given that many of its users migrated to Telegram after being banned elsewhere for posting extremist content, should the platform increase its moderation efforts targeting calls for violence?
Should a process be put in place to help prevent banned users/channels from resurfacing on Telegram under new names?
Questions and policy implications to consider:
Does Telegram’s promise of user security and privacy dissuade it from engaging in more active content moderation?
Is context considered when engaging in moderation to avoid accidentally blocking people sharing content they feel is concerning, rather than promoting the content or endorsing its message?
Do reports of mass content violations (and lax moderation) draw extremists to Telegram? Does this increase the chance of the moderation problem “snowballing” into something that can no longer be managed effectively?
Resolution: Telegram continues to take a mostly hands-off approach to moderation but appears to be more responsive to complaints about calls to violence than it has been in the past. As it continues to draw more users — many of whom have been kicked off other platforms — its existing moderation issues are only going to increase.
There’s a lot of competition for Worst Police Force in America. The NYPD is known for its casual approach to human life and its antagonistic approach to public records requesters. The Chicago PD operated its own black site to separate residents from their rights while interrogating them. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Department thinks it should be in the business of turning students into criminals. The list goes on and fucking on.
For a generation, a secretive clique within the Vallejo Police Department has commemorated fatal shootings with beers, backyard barbecues, and by bending the points of their badges each time they kill in the line of duty, an investigation by Open Vallejo has found. The custom was so exclusive, some officers involved in fatal shootings were never told of its existence.
First you have to shoot someone. Then the others who are in on this have to determine whether you can be trusted.
Sources say not every officer who kills is invited to participate in the Badge of Honor ritual. The vetting process is stringent, if straightforward. Those who kill meet its first requirement. Those who can be trusted not to talk fulfill the second.
Open Vallejo cites the controversial shooting of Willie McCoy as the impetus for this anonymous whistleblowing. McCoy was shot by Vallejo police officers in a Taco Bell drive-thru, where he had apparently passed out. Restaurant employees called the PD, which sent officers to perform a wellness check. Instead of seeing whether anything was wrong with McCoy, officers surrounded the car and killed McCoy when he awoke and moved one arm towards his shoulder. Vallejo officers fired 55 rounds in less than 3.5 seconds, killing McCoy.
It wasn’t the first time Vallejo cops emptied their magazines into someone they were supposed to be arresting or helping. At the tail end of a chase involving an alleged robbery suspect, Vallejo officers shot the suspect — who was carrying a knife and slowly moving towards them — 41 times.
According to Open Vallejo’s source, one of McCoy’s killers — Officer Ryan McMahon — got a bend on his “star” for this shooting. This would be his second “bend” in less than a year.
Vallejo police officers love using their guns to solve problems. Even if you doubt the anonymous whistleblower’s claims of in-house celebrations for shooting citizens, this statistic is chilling:
At the time of [Captain John] Whitney’s firing, nearly 40% of officers on the force had been in at least one shooting, Open Vallejo research shows. More than a third of those had participated in two or more. The department employs about 100 sworn personnel.
That’s well above the 27% of officers who have self-reported firing their weapons in the line of duty. This disparity begs the “chicken or egg” question. Are Vallejo cops violent because there are informal rewards for being violent? Or did this streak of violence lead to the unofficial rewarding of shooting people?
The captain namechecked in this quote was forced out of the department after opening an investigation into the shooting of Willie McCoy. Vallejo’s police culture doesn’t welcome internal or external scrutiny — like pretty much every other law enforcement agency in the nation.
[Current police union president Mat] Mustard was the lead detective on the 2015 Denise Huskins kidnapping case Vallejo police mistakenly called a hoax.
Whitney says he was in the room when Chief Bidou allegedly instructed Lt. Kenny Park before a now infamous press conference.
“The fact that we’ve essentially wasted all of these resources for really nothing is upsetting,” said Lt. Park during the 2015 presser.
“Chief Bidou told Lt. Park to burn that b****,” said Whitney.
Huskins recorded this exclusive statement for ABC7 News: “In their eyes, if you’re a woman – you’re another “bit**” to burn; if you’re a person of color – you’re another ‘criminal’ to kill. It’s horrific, and the community of Vallejo deserves better.”
The failure to hold police officers accountable has been an issue in Vallejo for as long as anyone can remember. According to confidential city documents, twenty-five years ago one officer shot another while drinking in a bar, and wasn’t fired. A cop with a drug problem kept his job even after he was caught stealing from evidence lockers and was arrested for prescription fraud. Twenty years ago, a lieutenant told a new officer named Joseph Iacono that, when a suspect runs away, the officer should use enough force to put the man in the emergency room. To see if Iacono could fight, he was placed in a holding cell with an uncoöperative suspect. Iacono is now the department’s Lead Force Options Instructor and, according to the documents, likes to say, “It can’t be awful if it’s lawful.”
The Vallejo PD has cost city residents $16 million in the last ten years. This may not seem like much when compared to the amounts racked up by law enforcement agencies in large cities like Chicago and New York City. But when broken down to a per officer cost, Vallejo takes the lead in costing those paying their salaries the most. And — despite actions taken by the city’s insurer — police officers continue to make things worse for those that manage to survive their violence.
Police violence has cost the city so much money that, in 2018, the statewide insurance pool that helped pay its legal fees took the unprecedented step of raising Vallejo’s annual deductible, from five hundred thousand dollars to $2.5 million, prompting the city to find another insurer. Vallejo is currently facing at least twenty-four use-of-force cases, which it estimates could cost some fifty million dollars.
Even if Vallejo officers aren’t bending their badges in celebration of shooting citizens, they’re still shooting citizens far more often than cops in other departments. A lot of whistleblowing has occurred over the years in relation to this department. And so far, it hasn’t changed the culture.
The Vallejo PD is out of control. Swapping parts out isn’t going to change it. There’s a new deputy chief helping preside over Vallejo’s squad of uniformed killers but no one should be holding their breath waiting for internal reform. The “new” sub-boss is the same as the old boss: a department rehire. Joseph Kreins presided over the department as chief from 2012-2014. Dusting off someone who failed to control a department for two years doesn’t change anything. The city’s cops will continue to kill and maim until someone dares to rein them in.
And it appears no one will — at least not immediately. Between retrofitting a deputy chief and pretending state AG Xavier Becerra — the same AG who fought a new police accountability law in court — will get to the bottom of the PD’s endemic violence problem, city residents haven’t been given anything to hope for. The shootings will continue until law enforcement morale improves.
The DOJ really wants to make El Presidente’s antifa dreams come true. The anti-police brutality protests have been cast by the administration as a leftist conspiracy to… um… demand better policing and better police officers. In addition to sending federal officers to clamp down on unrest in “Democratic” cities, the FBI has been sending analysts to crack phones taken from protesters in hopes of finding some sort of antifa org chart the feds can use to dismantle this “group.”
If you think it’s weird a free world government would be obsessed with tracking down people fighting fascism, you’re not alone. Seems like the time and effort would be better utilized to neutralize the threat posed by homegrown extremists, many of whom align themselves with white supremacist movements. But this is what this Administration is diverting resources to, even when available evidence suggests the antifa movement isn’t filled with dangerous individuals.
In the wake of protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a member of the Boogaloo Bois opened fire on the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct with an AK-47-style gun and screamed “Justice for Floyd” as he ran away, according to a federal complaint made public Friday.
Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, is charged with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for his alleged role in ramping up violence during the protests in Minneapolis on May 27 and 28. According to charges, Hunter, wearing a skull mask and tactical gear, shot 13 rounds at the south Minneapolis police headquarters while people were inside. He also looted and helped set the building ablaze, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday under seal.
Hunter’s public social media posts helped bring him down. So did posts from other members of the group Hunter associated himself with, including Steven Carillo, who shot and killed a federal officer in Oakland, California and a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz. Hunter apparently traveled all the way from Texas to open fire on a police precinct and help set it on fire.
And, as if everything happening with protests and various self-invited interlopers wasn’t confusing enough, this particular Boogaloo Bois unit managed to mix domestic and international terrorism into a completely incomprehensible blend.
Two members of the Boogaloo Bois, including one from Minnesota, have been indicted on federal charges of attempting to provide material support to Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.
And this is apparently all it takes to talk a Boogaloo Boi into believing you work for a foreign terrorist organization.
In June, the FBI began receiving information about Teeter, Solomon and other Boogaloo Bois from a confidential source that the Bois believed to be a member of the terrorist organization Hamas. The source, a paid informant, had a Middle Eastern accent.
This isn’t going to stop Trump and Bill Barr from continuing their hunt for an antifa kingpin. There’s really no difference between the two, as far as Trump is concerned. Anti-THIS government is indistinguishable from anti-ALL government when you’re THIS government. But one “group” tends to be composed of white guys with guns wearing Hawaiian shirts while the other is a very loose affiliation of what Trump considers to be “leftists.” And it will always be the “leftists” that are considered more dangerous, even when its actual anarchists killing cops.
I attended an Internet Archive event (virtually, of course) yesterday, and afterwards one of the attendees alerted me to yet another nefarious attack on Section 230 based on out-and-out lies. Apparently the League of California Cities has been going around getting various California cities to vote on a completely misleading and bogus motion pushing for Congress to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It was apparently put up first by the city of Cerritos, which is part of Los Angeles County (almost surprised it wasn’t started in Hollywood, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the impetus behind it was Hollywood people…). Basically, cities are voting on whether or not the League of California Cities should officially call on Congress to amend Section 230 in drastic ways… all because of some violence at recent protests about police brutality. The process, apparently, is that one city (in this case Cerritos) makes the proposal, and gets a bunch of other cities to first sign on, and then various other cities take a vote as to whether it becomes official League policy (after which they’d send a letter to Congress, which Congress would probably ignore).
And, if you just read the nonsense that the originating proposal put out there, and had no idea how Section 230, the internet, the 1st Amendment or the 4th Amendment works, it might sound like a good idea. Except that what the proposal says is utter nonsense, disconnected from reality.
This resolution states that the League of California Cities should urge Congress to amend Section
230 of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) to limit the immunity provided
to online platforms where their forums enable criminal activity to be promoted.
Ultimately, the policy objectives proposed under this resolution, if enacted, would incentivize
social media companies to establish and implement a reasonable program to identify and remove
content that solicits criminal activity.
Except that Section 230 already says there’s no immunity for platforms if they enable federal criminal activity. So this is a made up concern. Second, if you changed 230 in the manner they want, they’re simply wrong that it “would incentivize
social media companies to establish and implement a reasonable program to identify and remove content that solicits criminal activity.” Because every major social media platform already has such a program. The problem is not that they don’t have incentives. The problem is that not everyone will ever agree on what the “right” moderation is.
Incredibly, the proposal handwaves away the idea that putting more liability on internet websites might lead to more censorship:
While there is certainly an argument to substantiate concerns around censorship, the use of social
media as a tool for organizing violence is equally disturbing.
Also, the proposal seems to blame violence that broke out at various protests this summer… on social media, claiming that’s why 230 must change.
Although the majority of protests were peaceful, some demonstrations in cities escalated into
riots, looting, and street skirmishes with police. While much of the nation?s focus has been on
addressing police misconduct, police brutality, and systemic racism, some have used
demonstrators? peaceful protests on these topics as opportunities to loot and/or vandalize
businesses, almost exclusively under the guise of the ?Black Lives Matter? movement. It has
been uncovered that these ?flash robs? were coordinated through the use of social media. The
spontaneity and speed of the attacks enabled by social media make it challenging for the police
to stop these criminal events as they are occurring, let alone prevent them from commencing
As these events started occurring across the country, investigators quickly began combing
through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seeking to identify potentially violent extremists,
looters, and vandals and finding ways to charge them after ? and in some cases before ? they
sow chaos. While this technique has alarmed civil liberties advocates, who argue the strategy
could negatively impact online speech, law enforcement officials claim it aligns with
investigation strategies employed in the past.
So, let me get this straight. First, we should blame social media — and not police brutality and militarization — for the cases where violence has broken out at a few protests. And the way to deal with violence organized on social media is to… hold the social media platforms liable rather than those that engaged in or encouraged the violence? Are these people for real?
Also, the full proposal goes way beyond what is described regarding violence at protests. This is what it says:
Online platforms must establish and implement a reasonable program to identify and take
down content which solicits criminal activity; and
Online platforms must provide to law enforcement information which will assist in the
identification and apprehension of persons who use the services of the platform to solicit
and to engage in criminal activity; and
An online platform that willfully or negligently fails in either of these duties is not
immune from enforcement of state and local laws which impose criminal or civil liability
for such failure.
That would be a massive and problematic change to Section 230. First, as it stands, websites already have tremendous incentive to identify and take down content which solicits criminal activity — and many of them try to do exactly that. Changing 230 will not change that — but will lead to fewer places for people to communicate and put tremendous limits on the ability to speak freely online.
The second prong has nothing to do with Section 230 and raises significant 4th Amendment concerns about when a website should have to hand over private information on someone without any warrant or judicial review. That should be frightening to everyone.
This entire proposal is horrifically authoritarian, and is questionable on both 1st and 4th Amendment grounds, but a bunch of cities are signing onto it because the proposal is extremely misleading about how the internet works, how Section 230 works, and what this all means. While I’m not sure that Congress really gives a shit what the League of California Cities has to say about Section 230, it’s yet another way in which people from all over the place are attacking the law that made the internet, because they’re mad that people they don’t like are doing stuff they don’t like.
Thankfully, at least one California city has rejected the proposal. Last night the city of Hayward rejected the proposal, despite it getting support from the local police chief and the city attorney who, I’m told, used the totally bogus “fire in a crowded theater” line, suggesting that was the law of the land (it’s not) and other wrong and misleading cliches, including “freedom of speech isn’t free.” Thankfully, some on the city council (and the mayor) seemed to recognize that this was a dangerous, half-baked proposal and voted it down. I hope other cities do the same.
A hundred years later. You’re fucked. A hundred years after that. Fucked. A hundred years after you get free, you still getting fucked out a job and shot at by police.
That’s George Floyd. The Minneapolis resident allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill at a local store. The penalty was death — delivered extrajudicially by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Officer Chauvin put his knee on the neck of the handcuffed Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This continued for more than two minutes after Officer Chauvin had checked Floyd’s pulse and stated he “couldn’t find one.”
A man was dead under Chauvin’s knee and yet he never moved. No one around him moved either. The other three officers at the scene watched Officer Chauvin kill a man, and not a single one of them did anything to prevent this from happening.
The good news is they’ve all been fired. The other news — with the “good” excised — is Officer Chauvin is being criminally charged. That’s only news. Buy your insurance now because it’s almost guaranteed Minneapolis will burn again once a jury has had a shot at this thing.
First, there’s the murder charge. We all want this but there’s little that supports it. It looks like murder, but the state has to prove things it’s probably not going to be able to prove — especially when the people doing the prosecuting aren’t all that interested in prosecuting cops.
Third-degree murder is the most minimal of murder charges and even that might not be enough to drag Officer Chauvin into the crushing wheels of the carceral state. As Scott Greenfield explains, there doesn’t appear to be enough to justify this charge in what’s been seen in multiple videos. It appears Chauvin deployed a restraint technique that’s been given a thumbs up by multiple law enforcement agencies.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with Murder 3, a not-insignificant charge even if it lacks the panache of Murder 1, with a potential sentence of 25 years in prison. Unlike intentional murder, the mens rea under Minnesota Statutes § 609.195 requires only a “depraved mind.”
609.195 MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE.
(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.
Yet, the complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney made almost no effort to assert that the elements of the charge were met, that Chauvin was “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
While the video clearly showed Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, which was naturally assumed, for obvious reasons, to have been the cause of death, that alone does not suffice to meet the element that it was an “act eminently dangerous.” It’s hardly an undangerous immobilization technique, but it’s also not an uncommon restraint, and is a permissible use of force in Minneapolis. That it’s only supposed to be used to restrain someone actively resisting gives rise to a departmental violation, but doesn’t elevate a lawful use of force to an eminently dangerous act.
If that falls, we’re left with manslaughter. And that probably won’t be enough to convince anyone Chauvin has been punished enough for continuing to use his knee to “restrain” Floyd for almost three minutes after a cop couldn’t detect his pulse.
“I am worried about excited delirium or whatever,” Lane said.
From that, we run into the details of the coroner’s report. These are preliminary, so they will change. But the exonerative text is already in there, ready for deployment by tough-on-crime politicians, media personnel willing to act like PD stenographers, police union officials (and the police union in Minneapolis is one of the worst), and anyone else seeking to justify Chauvin’s actions.
George Floyd didn’t die because Officer Chauvin crushed Floyd’s neck with his knee for almost nine minutes — most of which were spent with Floyd stating he couldn’t breathe. He died because he was going to die, with or without Officer Chauvin’s intercession.
The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.
George Floyd died of heart disease, you guys. It coincidentally killed him while he was having his neck compressed by a cop who checked his pulse and discovered he was likely already dead and continued to compress his neck for another two minutes. Also peep the “potential intoxicants,” which probably gave George Floyd the superhuman strength he needed to stay alive for seven of those nine minutes before succumbing to “coronary artery disease.”
If Chauvin walks, Minneapolis burns again. Multiple cities burn. Unlike other killings of black men by cops, this has prompted intense protests across the nation. This one — committed in full view of multiple phones and at least one nearby CCTV camera — shows cops do not give a fuck who is watching. They will do what they want to do and roll the dice on a favorable ruling by federal courts.
LET IT BURN. LET IT ALL BURN.
In response to this killing, Minneapolis burned. Looting accompanied the protests, as is often the case. We can argue about the positive/negative effects of looting for as long as you want in the comment threads, but let’s take a look at a couple of facts.
We have had riots in America for years. And looting. Those arguing that the destruction of businesses during these protests is counterproductive need to have their memories refreshed. This nation began with the looting of British ships. A whole offshoot of the “rule of law” party (also the “free speech” party, which is currently headed by someone seeking to directly regulate social media platforms) named itself after protesters who boarded British ships and threw their merchandise overboard.
Even if you decry the the destruction of local businesses which may not have the funds to recover from this unexpected turn of events, you cannot argue with protesters going straight to the source of the problem.
Police precinct set on fire on the third day of demonstrations as the so-called Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul seethed over the shocking police killing of a handcuffed black man
The cops fucked this up. The cops should pay. Unfortunately, it will be taxpayers funding the rebuilding of the Third Precinct station in Minneapolis, but, by all means, burn every cop car, precinct, etc. that stands between black Americans and the respect of their rights.
The message is clear: cops are the problem, not the solution. Burn the shit that means something to them — the stuff that protects them from the people — and see where we all are at the end of the day.
Let’s take the long view. What has this accomplished? Here’s a list of riots sparked by police violence against minorities — one dating back nearly 60 years.
1965: Los Angeles 1967: Newark 1967: Detroit 1968: King assassination 1980: Miami 1992: Los Angeles 2001: Cincinnati 2014: Ferguson 2015: Baltimore 2016: Charlotte
Cops haven’t changed. And they haven’t changed despite having every reason to. Several dozen cop shops are operating under consent decrees with the Department of Justice because they can’t be trusted to not violate rights en masse on their own. The rest are still acting like it’s a war zone out there, cladding themselves in cast-off military gear and equipment even as crime rates remain at historic lows. It’s tough to be a cop out there, say cops, even as unimpeachable data says otherwise to a bunch of impeachable cops.
But let’s just say you’re arguing that riots/protests/looting don’t solve anything. Let’s look at the data again. Here are the years where nothing happened:
Did not attacking cops help then? Did leaving retail outlets intact make policing better? Did a lack of looting force cops to realize their systemic bias was hurting communities? Did all of this non-action bring us to a better place in terms of our relationship with law enforcement? (Those of you who are not minorities can put your hands down. Thanks.)
Short answer: it did not. The boot stamping on a human face forever is the past, present, and future. This image was personified by Officer Chauvin, who placed his knee on the neck of a human being suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill until he died. And continued to perform this inadvertently symbolic move for nearly another three minutes after that.
If it’s going to burn — and it should — it should start with those who have earned the flames. Cop cars are burning. Police stations are burning. Good. There is nothing wrong with this. The cops pretended to fear us whenever it was convenient. They claimed their subjective fear that someone might have a weapon justified every bullet they pumped into a person. Then they did nothing when people carrying actual guns marched on government buildings to demand access to restaurants and haircuts.
Fuck them. If you’re going to cry about the threats separating you from making it home to your family every night, at least be consistent. And if you can’t be consistent, at least restrain yourself from killing non-resistant people in the street in front of several cameras. And for fuck’s sake, if you can’t do that last part, it just means you don’t fear the public and their representatives. It means you think the courts will clear you, if not your own department and union. No public official deserves this much deference, trust, or unearned protection.
YOU OWE US.
That obligation has never changed. The only thing that has changed is the other branches of the government, which have decided — either through QI rulings or deference to police unions — that the public matters less than those sworn to serve it.
This is not me wading into a recent controversy with my eye on harvesting clicks. This is me — and this site — covering the abuses perpetrated by law enforcement agencies for years. There is nothing anomalous about this event. It just shows accountability can’t be brought solely by the mute witnesses of criminal acts by law enforcement officers. We have our cameras pointed at them. They have their own cameras. And yet, they still don’t care.
The ongoing Hong Kong protests aren’t going to end anytime soon, but the government keeps throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. While US corporate entities are busy exchanging their spines for Chinese market share, those actually on the front lines are standing up for Hong Kong protesters.
Hong Kong retains some autonomy from the Chinese government, which has allowed it to somewhat elude being cut off from the world by the Great Firewall of China. Local ISPs aren’t willing to play the government’s game, pushing back against demands they engage in censorship of Hong Kong residents on behalf of China. Pointing to the existence of VPNs and encrypted traffic, ISPs said any efforts it made would be mostly useless, if they were interested in making this effort. Which they weren’t.
A court on Thursday granted Hong Kong’s embattled government an interim injunction banning anyone from posting or spreading messages online that could incite violence as authorities struggle to get a grip on nearly five months of protest chaos and social unrest.
Mr Justice Russell Coleman of the High Court issued the order to restrain members of the public from “wilfully disseminating, circulating, publishing or republishing” any material on platforms online such as popular Reddit-like forum LIHKG and messaging app Telegram that “promotes, encourages or incites the use or threat of violence”.
This temporary injunction that allows the government to target protesters will likely be formalized later this month, obligating service providers to find content and block it, even if it’s not entirely clear what content is considered a violation of this order.
The judge himself suggested the injunction might make it easier for the government to find protesters it wants to punish.
“One purpose of application for this order is to identify to people who may not know that expressions online are subject to scrutiny by the law,” he continued. “It may be a misconception to think that expressions online are not subject to scrutiny.”
But the order itself contains no requirements that social media platforms or other service providers hand over users’ details. It only requires them to find content and remove it. This would make platforms responsible for content created by users, which may be all the government wants, since it’s so much easier to track down platforms than users.
But will it work? That depends on what the government really wants. If it wants service providers to make it more difficult for protesters to organize, then it will probably be a success. If the government wants to prosecute individuals for their posts, this injunction isn’t going to help it much.
The government bears the burden of proof, which means it must be able to show the person violating the injunction knew of the injunction’s existence and violated it knowingly. Since this isn’t a law created by the legislature but rather a quasi-law created by a court order, ignorance of its existence is probably a legitimate excuse. And since there’s no obligation to hand over user details, the government may not have much luck finding people to prosecute. Given these limitations, it seems clear the government is more interested in forcing service providers to censor on its behalf.
If you’re thinking, “wait, what does Section 230 have to do with gun violence?” well, you’re correct. But apparently Beto hasn’t figured that out yet. The plan, in true Beto fashion, is quite short on details. Here’s what it says:
Hold Internet Companies Accountable for Hosting and Allowing for the Amplification of Hate Speech and Domestic Terrorism
Block terrorist content online. The New York Times reports that, since 2011, a third of white extremists responsible for attacks were inspired by others who had carried out similar attacks. Yet the internet continues to serve as a breeding ground for the rise of domestic terrorists and white supremacists. Beto is calling on internet hosting companies to follow Cloudflare?s lead to not allow 8chan back online and supports the closure of 8chan, Stormfront and other white nationalist communities housed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Require large social media platforms to create systems designed to remove hateful activities on their sites. Beto would require large internet platforms to adopt terms of service to ban hateful activities, defined as those that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. These companies also would be required to put in place systems designed to identify and act on content violating the terms of service. Platforms must be transparent when they block content and provide for an appeal process in order to guard against abuse.
Amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Beto supports amending Section 230 of the CDA to remove legal immunity from lawsuits for large social media platforms that fail to change their terms of service and put in place systems as described above. Informational service providers of all sizes, including domain name servers and social media platforms, also would be held liable where they are found to knowingly promote content that incites violence.
Nothing in Beto’s plan makes any sense. Let’s go through it one by one.
“Blocking terrorist content online” sounds good if you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. As we’ve discussed, historical efforts to “block terrorist content” online has really only served to delete evidence of war crimes, including stopping researchers and archivists from tracking important information. Remember how the EU told the Internet Archive that the entire Project Gutenberg was terrorist content? I’m sure Beto’s buddies in cDc would be flabbergasted that he killed Project Gutenberg.
Furthermore, a recent study showed that taking down terrorist content wasn’t helping win the war on terrorism, but was often making it much more difficult for law enforcement to use open source intelligence to track, find and stop terrorists. How the hell is that going to help stop gun violence?
Finally, any non-government person can certainly express their opinion that platforms shouldn’t host sites like 8chan or Stormfront, but both of those host mostly 1st Amendment protected content, and thus a Presidential campaign really should not be saying that, because as President you literally cannot have a policy that silences 1st Amendment protected speech. That’s how the 1st Amendment works.
And, arguably, it’s not that difficult to trace a pretty direct lineage from Cult of the Dead Cow to 8chan — and, if anyone, Beto should know that.
“Require large social media platforms to create systems designed to remove hateful activities on their sites.” Are there any “large” social media platforms that don’t already ban hateful activities in their terms and have systems designed to remove that content? The answer is no. This is a pointless, meaningless policy demanding something that’s already been done.
The only thing in here that’s interesting is that it also says platforms should be transparent in why they block content and should have an appeals process. And, sure, that’s a good thing, but it’s also not exactly the government’s job to tell them how to do all of that. And while I’ve been a loud support of more transparent content moderation policies, I can guarantee you that government mandated transparency here would be a disaster, because it would not allow for the kind of experimentation and differential approaches that various platforms take. It also doesn’t seem to realize that, on certain platforms, when done poorly, “transparency” is just a guidebook for assholes on how to troll.
“Amend CDA 230.” This part also makes no sense. Removing liability for “large social media platforms” that don’t put in place the tools above. Um. They all do already, so what’s the point of this? And, really, I don’t think sites like 8chan would count as “large” anyway, so what’s he getting at here? Even worse, Beto commits the cardinal sin of not just confusing infrastructure providers and edge service providers, he deliberately lumps them together with this line:
Informational service providers of all sizes, including domain name servers and social media platforms, also would be held liable where they are found to knowingly promote content that incites violence.
There’s a lot to unpack there and the vagueness is a problem. If he’s only talking about content that is already outside the scope of 1st Amendment (which would be speech that incites imminent violence — he leaves out the important imminent part), then, that’s already not protected by 230 anyway. Federal criminal laws have always been exempted from 230. So, this is dumb? But if he’s trying to expand the classification of what would get internet platforms in trouble, he’s going to run into yet another 1st Amendment issue really, really quickly.
As we’ve noted previously, both Republicans and Democrats are gunning for Section 230, but (often without realizing it) for the opposite reasons. Senator Josh Hawley’s ridiculous anti-230 bill would block companies from being able to moderate at all. While Beto’s bill here would attempt to pressure them into moderating much more stringently. It’s unclear how you could possibly reconcile these two approaches — both of which are almost certainly unconstitutional.
Destroying Section 230 because you’re ignorant of how the internet works is not a partisan past time. Both of the major political parties seem to be embracing this nonsense.
In October 2017, a Louisiana federal court tossed a lawsuit brought by an anonymous cop against:
1. Activist DeRay McKesson, who spoke at the Baton Rouge demonstrations.
2. Black Lives Matters — a name used by several concurrent movements to protest police violence against blacks
3. A Twitter hashtag
This lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, with the judge pointing out no amount of rewording could salvage this cop’s attempt to hold DeRay McKesson — much less a social movement and a Twitter hashtag — personally responsible for injuries sustained when a protester (not DeRay McKesson) tossed a chunk of concrete at him.
This judge was similarly unimpressed when another anonymous cop attempted to do the same thing two weeks later. In both cases, the court pointed out the lawsuits targeted protected speech and relied on conclusory statements linking McKesson and the social movement to actions taken by individuals participating in the protest. Both lawsuits were dismissed with prejudice, which prevents the cops from trying to pull the same litigious tricks again.
Unfortunately for DeRay McKesson and anyone else who might attempt to lead a protest against anything, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has revived the first of these dismissed lawsuits. The court isn’t permissive enough to let Officer “John Doe” sue a Twitter hashtag and a social movement. But it does say the lower court needs to examine the case again because the cop plausibly alleged DeRay McKesson could be indirectly responsible for another protester tossing projectiles at cops responding to the demonstration.
Seizing on the theory of negligence, the three-judge panel decides [PDF] McKesson’s participation in a protest that illegally blocked a road set the stage for a confrontation between police and protesters. This supposedly means McKesson could be held personally responsible for the attack on Officer Doe because… he didn’t ensure the protest remained completely legal the entire time???
We first note that this case comes before us from a dismissal on the pleadings alone. In this context, we find that Officer Doe has plausibly alleged that Mckesson breached his duty of reasonable care in the course of organizing and leading the Baton Rouge demonstration. The complaint specifically alleges that it was Mckesson himself who intentionally led the demonstrators to block the highway. Blocking a public highway is a criminal act under Louisiana law. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:97. As such, it was patently foreseeable that the Baton Rouge police would be required to respond to the demonstration by clearing the highway and, when necessary, making arrests. Given the intentional lawlessness of this aspect of the demonstration, Mckesson should have known that leading the demonstrators onto a busy highway was most nearly certain to provoke a confrontation between police and the mass of demonstrators, yet he ignored the foreseeable danger to officers, bystanders, and demonstrators, and notwithstanding, did so anyway. By ignoring the foreseeable risk of violence that his actions created, Mckesson failed to exercise reasonable care in conducting his demonstration.
There’s so many things wrong with the application of the negligence theory to this set of facts. First off, protests almost always “provoke a confrontation” between protesters and law enforcement — even those that are completely legal in all other respects. Second, the illegal actions of individual members of a protest are their own. They should not be the legal responsibility of other participants in the protests.
But that’s how the court sees it. DeRay McKesson will have to defend himself against a ridiculous lawsuit because he supposedly “provoked a violent confrontation” with police officers by… blocking a road. The Appeals Court says this doesn’t necessarily mean the lower court will find McKesson is responsible after further fact finding, but it does mean someone participating in protected speech will have to foot the bill for absolving himself of actions taken by other protest participants.
As for the First Amendment, the court asks it to take a seat on the bench until Officer Doe’s done exploring his novel legal theory.
Our discussion above makes clear that Officer Doe’s complaint does allege that Mckesson directed the demonstrators to engage in the criminal act of occupying the public highway, which quite consequentially provoked a confrontation between the Baton Rouge police and the protesters, and that Officer Doe’s injuries were the foreseeable result of the tortious and illegal conduct of blocking a busy highway. Thus, on the pleadings, which must be read in a light most favorable to Officer Doe, the First Amendment is not a bar to Officer Doe’s negligence theory. The district court erred by dismissing Officer Doe’s complaint—at the pleading stage—as barred by the First Amendment.
The district court may not find in favor of Officer Doe, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear people leading protests can be held responsible for the actions of individual protesters, if any action they take makes it more likely police are going to interact with demonstrators. This allows police officers to view protesters not only as criminals in need of rounding up, but lawsuit targets if any single protester injures them. First Amendment protections don’t cover hurling projectiles at police, but the responsibility should be borne solely by those throwing objects at officers, not other participants.
Back in June we discussed Valve’s somewhat odd announcement that it was getting out of the games curation business, and opening its platform to what it said would be far more games. The restrictions on what type of content would now be allowed on the gaming platform was said to mostly be limited only to games that are “trolling” or “illegal.” As with all things Valve, this apparent announcement aimed at transparency and making sure developers knew what expectations Valve had for games on Steam mostly achieved the exact opposite, with everyone wondering immediately what qualified as “trolling.” Nobody could really agree on where exactly Valve would be drawing the lines on the types of content it would allow. That said, most people, including most of the participants of the podcast we conducted on the topic, essentially agreed that this would chiefly allow more games with sexual content onto the platform.
And, yet, it seems that even that hasn’t been true thus far. Kotaku has a post up discussing the many, many sexuality related games that had been disallowed from Steam, but which were gearing up to be included based on the new policy. It seems the policy hasn’t opened up the platform to many of them after all.
James Cox was finally feeling optimistic about his game’s chances on Steam. Last year, his horror-inspired exploration of what it’s like to look at porn for the first time, You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter, got booted from Valve’s walled garden, but then, earlier this year, Valve said it was getting rid of all the walls. His game was neither illegal nor a troll job, so it should have fit into Valve’s “allow everything” policy. Months and a rollercoaster of policy changes later, however, and Cox has no idea where his game stands. Its release is on hold indefinitely.
Cox is far from alone in his confusion. In the wake of a fiasco in which Valve apparently erroneously targeted a bunch of previously approved sexy games for removal from Steam, the company said last month that it was holding back games with suggestive content from release while it planned a new suite of filtering tools for the Steam store. These tools, which still are not available, will allow users to decide what kinds of games they see on the store.
In our podcast, I pointed out that this would be a problem. Valve essentially rolled its new policy out before it could be put into place, basically doing things exactly backward. If Valve had developed its filtering tools first and then rolled out the policy, allowing these newly allowed games onto the platform, much of the current confusion wouldn’t exist. Instead, it told game makers the good news of the policy prior to them being able to make any use of it. What the hell was the point of that?
And even the policy doesn’t seem to be cohesive within Valve itself.
Except that, according to Cox, Valve is still insisting that developers censor games that contain what the company perceives to be objectionable material. He said he spoke with Valve shortly after the company announced its anything-goes policy.
“I asked Valve if I needed to resubmit the game for it to be reinstated or if it would automatically be unbanned once the content control tools were released,” he told Kotaku in an email. “They told me that they still consider the game to be porn and that they can’t sell or distribute porn or content that is illegal.”
Which is leading us right back to a discussion as to what constitutes porn. Which, if you’ll recall, is where this all started in the first place, as one person’s porn is another’s art. Cox’s title, for instance, is a horror-type game based on the character’s first life experiences with pornography, which is represented in text-based images. Valve told him he had to remove the porn parts of his game, to which he asked if just removing the ASCII art would be enough. It’s been over a month and he hasn’t had a response.
Meanwhile, other porn-y games are currently on the store. Some visual novel style games, however, are not. In other words, this has become a nightmare for developers, their having no idea what is allowed or not on Steam.
“I as a developer have no idea what the rules even are anymore, how to follow them, and what happens on Steam just seems to change day by day,” said Peter Rasmussen, of visual novel developer Lupiesoft, in an email. “If Valve gave us clear guidelines to follow, then we would, as we much prefer the security to what we have now. My biggest fear is that Valve washes its hands of the entire [visual novel] genre because of a few who are abusing it to pump out cheap achievement games.”
Again, adult-themed visual novels were supposed to be the shoe-in for inclusion after the policy was announced.
Honestly, whatever you think of Steam’s new policy, it’s clear at this point that it screwed up the rollout. This has become enough of a clusterfuck at this point that I’m not sure how it gets cleaned up, unless Steam decides to impliment the policy now and rollout the filtering features later. And it will be much later, as Valve recently admitted that the filtering tools are still months away.