Appeals Court rules Trump violated the First Amendment

Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public, a federal appeals court said Tuesday, in a case with implications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

The decision from the New York-based appeals court upholds an earlier ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual users who were critical of Trump or his policies.

Public officials who take to social media for official government business, the court said Tuesday, are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

“In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”

Trump’s Twitter habits through his @realDonaldTrump account were central to the case brought by seven people blocked after posting disapproving comments in 2017.

The First Amendment prevents the government from blocking or excluding views it disagrees with in what is known as “viewpoint discrimination.” The Supreme Court has not directly addressed how the law applies to expanding digital spaces for public debate, and the case involving the Trump’s account — with more than 61 million followers — was a high-profile legal test.

Elected officials throughout the country are also learning to navigate how those principles apply to their social media accounts. Tuesday’s ruling echoed an earlier decision from the Richmond-based appeals court involving the Facebook page of a Virginia politician.

In Trump’s case, attorneys from the Knight Institute at Columbia University, representing the blocked users, said Trump’s Twitter account is an extension of the presidency that is routinely used by Trump to announce government nominations, defend his polices and promote his legislative agenda. The comment section is no different from a traditional town hall meeting, they said, and citizens must be allowed to respond directly to government officials and engage in public policy debates.

“Public officials’ social media accounts are now among the most significant forums for discussion of government policy,” Knight Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement after the ruling.

“This decision will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints. It will help ensure the integrity and vitality of digital spaces that are increasingly important to our democracy.”

Justice Department lawyers defending Trump said in court that @realDonaldTrump is a personal account on a privately owned digital platform and that Trump may block followers he “does not wish to hear.”  Trump’s lawyers drew parallels to the physical properties Trump and other presidents owned before taking office. A president’s residence — or social media account — does not become government property when Trump conducts government business there.

Trump had unblocked the seven people behind the initial lawsuit while the case was pending on appeal.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement Tuesday, “We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are exploring possible next steps.”

“As we argued, Trump’s decision to block users from his personal Twitter account does not violate the First Amendment,” Laco said.

The court’s decision Tuesday addressed only the interactive spaces on Twitter for replies and comments, and applies to accounts used to conduct official business.

“Since he took office, Trump has consistently used the Account as an important tool of governance and executive outreach,” Barrington wrote in the 29-page opinion, joined by Judges Peter W. Hall and Christopher F. Droney.

“Because Trump, as we have seen, acts in an official capacity when he tweets, we conclude that he acts in the same capacity when he blocks those who disagree with him,” Barrington wrote.

The judges did not decide whether elected officials violate the Constitution when they block users from “wholly private accounts.” The ruling also did not address whether private social media companies like Twitter are bound by the First Amendment when “policing” their platforms.

The judges did, however, acknowledge the role social media plays in modern public policy discussion.

“The irony in all of this is that we write at a time in the history of this nation when the conduct of our government and its officials is subject to wide-open, robust debate. This debate encompasses an extraordinarily broad range of ideas and viewpoints and generates a level of passion and intensity the likes of which have rarely been seen,” Barrington wrote. “This debate, as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as it frequently may be, is nonetheless a good thing.”

Washington Post

And now for someone really controversial: Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar’s latest remarks at the bookstore event last week came while arguing that critics calling her anti-Semitic were trying to silence debate in bad faith.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said

Omar doubled down on her comments over the weekend, despite criticism from Congressman Engel (D-N.Y.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Lowey (D-N.Y.). (both of whom are Jewish)

“I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on a committee,” Omar tweeted.

“I am told every day that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”

There are two ways in which Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Somali-born Minnesota congresswoman, is offensive to the hard-line pro-Israel set in D.C. The first is the simple fact that she’s Muslim—one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to the House, in fact, along with Rashida Tlaib. It would be possible, just, for her to fly under the radar for this original sin, provided she declared herself a moderate and bent the knee to greater political forces. The fact that she adamantly refuses to do so brings us to her second, and far greater, offense: She is a Muslim woman with the audacity to criticize Israel. That is unforgivable and makes her an object of fear—a fear that the GOP party in West Virginia recently tried to make explicit with a poster likening Omar to the 9/11 terrorists. And beyond brazen displays of Islamophobia that make the prejudice clear, her first few months in Congress have proven that the respectable set won’t stop until they destroy her.

 

The first “controversy”—I put that word in quotes, because literally every controversy that has transpired (and almost certainly every controversy that will transpire) follows the same exact formula of Rep. Omar making a valid criticism of Israel or AIPAC, and pro-Israel entities quickly spreading bad faith interpretations of her comments to push a narrative of anti-Semitism. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy made vague threats of punishment against Omar and Tlaib for supporting the BDS movement and allegedly making anti-Israeli statements.

Now, let’s list a few facts:

  1. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is an enormously powerful lobbying group that directs a whole lot of money to American politicians for a very specific cause.
  2. Here’s their modus operandi, from the “Our Mission” section of their own website: “The mission of AIPAC is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.”
  3. They literally pay politicians money so they’ll support pro-Israel policies. Nothing Omar said was wrong, and nothing she said should be considered even remotely controversial.

Nevertheless, the attack narrative quickly gathered momentum: Omar, in accusing Kevin McCarthy—a Christian man, for the record—of espousing pro-Israel views in part because of the money he received from AIPAC…well, that was anti-Semitic, because of the racist trope about Jewish people and money. Amazingly, the line quickly emerged that yes, you could criticize AIPAC, but only if the criticism didn’t involve money.

I’m confused. Is calling out AIPAC anti-Semitic?

Not in theory, no. You can criticize AIPAC without being anti-Semitic.

However, when you focus on AIPAC as the example of money in politics or link Jewish influence to deep pockets, that’s when it becomes a problem. As JTA Editor-in-Chief Andrew Silow-Carroll pointed out, “Invoking ‘AIPAC!’ as a metonym for the influence of money in politics was a minefield, and the idea that she doesn’t know that by now—coming only a week after she apologized for her 7-year-old ‘hypnotized’ tweet—is implausible.”

See if you follow the not-very-subtle implication: AIPAC’s purpose is to use influence (i.e. “money”) to push for pro-Israel policy, and sure, you can criticize them…but only if you don’t mention money.

I have to reiterate: This is not an isolated position. This is what everyone on the anti-Omar side was saying. The fact that she brought up AIPAC’s financial influence made her anti-Semitic, because, the accusation went, mentioning money in the context of Israel’s influence is inherently anti-Semitic. Along the way, there were a few minor bad-faith interpretations, such as the idea that Omar was saying that all of America’s support for Israel stems from money (it obviously doesn’t, and she never said that unless you get deceptively hyper-literal with her Puff Daddy reference),

Regardless, it’s not hard to see where this logic leads: If you can’t criticize AIPAC for anything related to money, you simply can’t criticize AIPAC. Do so, and you’re an anti-Semite.

The power of the AIPAC set quickly became clear—Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House Democratic leadership called for Omar to apologize for “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations,” saying they were “deeply offensive.” Omar, before long, caved to the pressure.

Eventually, the story faded, but the target was on Omar’s back, and her opponents had learned that they could successfully bully her. Even some of her staunchest allies, like Alexandria-Ocasion Cortez, into tacitly accepting the narrative that criticism of AIPAC or pro-Israel politicians in American from a financial standpoint is inherently anti-Semitic. There was no way Omar would stay out of the spotlight’s glare for very long.

As expected, it was less than a month before she found herself under attack yet again. This latest incident began with a quote from Omar at a recent D.C. town hall last Wednesday, emphasis mine:

“What I’m fearful of is that, because Rashida and I, are Muslim, that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.”

Omar, who was flanked by Tlaib as she spoke, said the accusation of anti-Semitism was “designed to end the debate” about “what is happening with Palestine.”

Then she added as the enthusiastic applause abated, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Here, the word “allegiance” triggered the frenzy—that term, the story went, signaled an accusation of “dual loyalty,” which is another apparent anti-Semitic trope. There’s a sinister stereotype that all Jewish people are secretly loyal to Israel, and Omar was invoking it here much the way the Know-Nothing party of old would insinuate that all American Catholics were, deep in their hearts, avowed papists.

This was another obvious bad-faith interpretation—Omar was specifically talking about “political influence,” not painting with any kind of broad brush that implicated all the Jewish people of America (who are not, despite what her critics would have you believe, a homogeneous ideological group). Moreover, she clearly meant the word “allegiance” as the metaphorical political allegiance that specific politicians influenced by AIPAC and other pro-Israel interests demonstrate to that country. Again, nothing she said was wrong, and nowhere did she imply anything about “dual loyalty.” Nor did she suggest what lies at the heart of the “dual loyalty” trope, which is that these politicians bear greater loyalty to Israel than America.

But the truth couldn’t get in the way of the spin machine, which began in earnest when Rep. Eliot Engel, a Jewish Democratic congressman from New York, demanded an apology for her “vile anti-Semitic slur.” A day later, Omar’s fellow Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey equated her words to the ugly 9/11 poster in West Virginia

From Paste @ http://www.pastemagazine.com

“Ilhan Omar strength inspires me and so many. She is being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies. As she uplifts my Sity and other Palestinians in the name of justice and peace, she shows us real courage”  Rashida Talib

 

Political cartoonist fired for causing us to laugh at Dear Leader Trump

Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers fired for humorously pointing out the truth

“The move by the leadership of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to fire Rob Rogers after he drew a series of cartoons critical of President Trump is disappointing and sends the wrong message about press freedoms in a time when they are under siege.”
“This is precisely the time when the constitutionally-protected free press – including critics like Rob Rogers – should be celebrated and supported, and not fired for doing their jobs. This decision, just one day after the President of the United States said the news media is “Our Country’s biggest enemy,” sets a low standard in the 232-year history of the newspaper.”
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto statement after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired award-winning editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers

The Times-Standard should start running his cartoons

Trump’s decision to kill open Internet sucks, but you have other options for getting online

The Trump administration’s recent decision to kill the Open Internet Order has a lot of net neutrality advocates fearing the worst. Foremost among those concerns: that last month’s Federal Communications Commission vote might embolden broadband providers to manipulate how their customers access and use the internet. Although it remains to be seen whether that will happen, a small but growing number of users are taking matters into their own hands by exploring community- or municipal-owned, operated and funded internet access as a cheaper, faster and more neutral alternative to using large commercial internet service providers(ISP).

NYC Mesh, which typically gets 20 requests per month for membership to its community-based network in New York City, has received connection inquiries from more than 200 people since the FCC’s December 14 vote, says Brian Hall, a software consultant who helps manage the network. Self-organized, community-run systems including this one and Detroit’s The Equitable Internet Initiative have for years offered alternatives to corporate Internet Service Providers(ISP) such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

The community approach typically involves organizers renting internet access from a local data center, and installing rooftop antennas and wi-fi routers that together act as access point for nearby residents. Unlike a home or office router that provides wi-fi service for a dozen or so square meters, a community network can provide a wi-fi signal for several square kilometers. Residents connect to the access point by mounting their own antennas on their buildings’ rooftops or outside their windows. These antennas receive the network’s signal and send it through a cable to wi-fi routers located inside members’ homes or offices. The setup is called a “mesh” network because any member can act as an access point, or node, for other members.

“People are so used to ISPs that they think that’s the only way to access the internet,” Hall says, adding ISPs have built their businesses by acting as gatekeepers between customers and the internet in order to extract as much money as possible. NYC Mesh pays about $1,000 per month to use the data center but does not charge members for access to the mesh network. The organization currently uses a grant from the Internet Society New York Chapter to pay the rent, and suggests members donate $20 per month to help cover ongoing rental and management costs.

NYC Mesh has 70 wi-fi router nodes, many of which are connected to two “supernodes” that provide internet access at about 100 megabits per second, or Mbps—more than twice as fast as the average commercial ISP connection—throughout Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. The original supernode is run out of a Lower Manhattan data center. In that setup the group’s antenna is mounted on the roof and their computer servers are a few floors below in what is known as the “radio room,” Hall says. The servers run software that manages the network. They are also linked via optical fiber cables to a “meet-me room”—the location in a data center where networks interconnect directly with the internet backbone, without needing an ISP to serve as an intermediary.

To access one of the supernodes, a resident needs to get a wi-fi router node and install an antenna—either on the roof of their building or in a window with an unobstructed line of sight to the supernode’s transmitting antennas. Members whose view of the antennas is blocked by a building or bridge can connect to other NYC Mesh members’ nodes. Residents can also access the network using the public LinkNYC kiosks that the city has installed throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. “We’re basically a wi-fi network,” Hall says.

Hall and others involved in NYC Mesh have recently been meeting to figure out how they can scale up the network to meet rising demand. One option is renting more antennas at supernode sites, and installing more large antennas atop tall buildings spread throughout the city and surrounding area. He estimates it would take between 20 and 50 supernodes to cover the city’s five boroughs.

Hours after the FCC vote Motherboard—an online magazine that Vice Media launched in 2009—announced plans to set up and operate its own community mesh network in Brooklyn, and to publish a how-to guide for others interested in doing the same thing in their own areas. The project is still in the early planning stages. “A lot of nonprofits and community groups and even just meet-up groups made of private citizens have built networks like this across the country,” Motherboard Editor in Chief Jason Koebler says. “Every time we write about one of these community groups, people ask, ‘What are the actual logistics of making something like this happen?’ We don’t have a good answer for them often, so we thought we’d start from scratch.”

PUBLIC BROADBAND

Another approach, called municipal broadband or public broadband, offers residents internet access via a network supported by their city or town government—often with outside help from tech companies or public utilities. This allows local governments to provide the service at low prices—or for free. Starting in 2010 Google’s Fiber division began offering broadband service directly to consumers. Within a few years the company was delivering high-quality internet access to nine U.S. locations—including Kansas City, Austin and Atlanta. Unfortunately, a reorganization at Alphabet (Google’s parent company) prompted the company to announce in October 2016 it would not extend its Fiber services beyond those locations it already served, plus three locations where fiber installation was already in progress and completed in 2017.*

The thinking behind publicly owned networks is that municipal governments have greater incentive than privately owned ISPs (which have little competition) to provide citizens, government agencies and local businesses with free or affordable high-speed internet access. Large ISPs, in an attempt to keep competition at bay, have lobbied hard—and with some success—to block or limit municipalities from offering broadband services. Several states, including Tennessee and Colorado, now have laws banning municipally run networks. Despite those restrictions, the city council in Fort Collins, Colo., voted on January 2 to move ahead with plans to build a public broadband network. In November an additional 19 cities and counties throughout the state approved financing to study the feasibility of their own municipal broadband projects.

The FCC’s refusal to enforce net neutrality will “catalyze” more city hall conversations about the best way to deliver broadband to both citizens and businesses, says Lev Gonick, Arizona State University’s chief information officer and former CEO of the nonprofit broadband service provider OneCommunity. “At a minimum, [municipal broadband] efforts put incumbent providers on notice that a city is looking for a competitive marketplace,” Gonick says.

Municipalities can fund the set up and management of public internet service in a few ways, such as issuing bonds or collaborating with local broadband providers. Publicly owned broadband networks have a mixed track record, however. Some municipal networks are owned by public utilities, such as Iowa’s Cedar Falls Utilities or the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tenn. These fiber networks deliver citywide gigabit-per-second speeds (a gigabit is one billion bits) that far surpass even the best ISP service in the U.S. The country’s largest commercial ISPs offer average fixed (as opposed to mobile) broadband download speeds of about 64 Mbps whereas the average upload speed is under 23 Mbps, according to a report published last year by internet speed test company Ookla. (The FCC has for the past several years defined broadband as connection speeds of at least 25 Mbps for downloads and three Mbps for uploads.) There are, however, also many examples of failed municipal broadband projects, including iProvo in Utah and the City of Monticello in Minnesota. Mismanagement and high costs doomed both projects.

Whether community- or municipal-run networks can handle a potential influx of tens of millions of disenchanted ISP subscribers is an open question. “It’s not appropriate at this time to say that we have the solution to the problem that the FCC’s decision has handed us,” says Nathan Schneider, a media studies scholar in residence at the University of Colorado Boulder. Still, these localized options are important at the very least for the pressure they put on ISPs to deliver good service at a reasonable price, Schneider says. “The fundamental problem with the situation that we’re in now is that [many] broadband providers are monopolies, but are not being recognized as such by the government,” he says. “If we’re going to do away with the principle of [net neutrality], on whose terms do we want to do that—a big corporation or a company owned and operated by its customers?”

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/net-neutrality-loss-could-rekindle-isp-alternatives-for-internet-access

Trump administration takes a page from China’s so-called “social credit system”

China’s Social Credit System

In the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” writers Rashida Jones and Michael Schur created a bleak world where everyone has a public rating system based on their social media ranking. The episode features Bryce Dallas Howard as a young woman who tries to improve her respectable 4.2 score to get better flight options and other perks. Things quickly spiral out of control.

Most viewers saw that episode as a dystopian horror story, China apparently thought it was a great idea. By 2020, the country plans to give all its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave, according to CBS News. The government started working on its so-called social credit system back in 2014, which ranks citizens on their trustworthiness, including whether they jaywalk, buy Chinese-made products, what they post online, and whether they smoke in nonsmoking areas. Those deemed trustworthy can get discounts on energy bills and better interest rates at banks, while those considered untrustworthy can reportedly be stopped from buying property and even high-speed internet.

The system works a bit like credit scores, but instead of being based on good or bad financial decisions, Chinese citizens are being scored on things like whether they pay their taxes on time to how they cross the street to what they post online, per CBS. As 2020 approaches, some with low scores are already feeling the effects of a low social credit score–nearly 11 million Chinese can no longer fly and four million are barred from trains.

Next week, the program will start expanding nationwide, and more citizens will start to feel the watchful eyes of Big Brother as China’s network of surveillance cameras grows to an estimated 600 million cameras.

Now the Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would force every single person who needs a visa to enter the U.S. for tourism or immigration to provide five years of social media history.

That’s 14.7 million people per year — tourists, business travelers, students, academics, and potential immigrants — who will face bureaucrats hired by ICE scouring through everything they’ve posted online to qualify for a visa.2

It’s a proposal with extreme consequences for the tourist and travel industry and could lead to reciprocal rules in other countries for American travelers.

But most importantly, it would have a massive chilling effect on freedom of expression for everyone around the world. It sends a message that at any point, governments could change the rules to make anything anyone has ever tweeted or instagrammed a basis for making decisions about their ability to visit, work in, or move to another country.

This proposal is just another step towards ever more extreme monitoring of social media by the Trump administration. Just a few months ago, this rule was put in place for a small group of visa seekers who were selected for additional screening.

Now we are seeing it expanded to every single person who needs a visa to visit the U.S. If we don’t stop this proposal now, we could see even more extreme measures in the future.

Worryingly, there’s no indication of what sorts of posts would lead to an applicant being denied a visa, no guidance as to what counts as a social media handle, and no effective checks on the decisions made as a result of this screening.3

There is simply no doubt that the real effect of this rule on free speech is that people will be afraid to post opinions that are critical of the U.S. administration or policies online. Internet users everywhere are at risk of self-censorship. We need to stand up together to protect our privacy and freedom of expression.

from Openmedia and CBS news

Parkland victim strikes back against this weeks worst person

Worst person of the week Ingraham v. Hogg

Update: Fox News show host Laura Ingraham announced on her show late Friday that she is taking next week off, after almost a dozen advertisers dropped her show after the conservative pundit mocked a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre on Twitter.

Fox News show host Laura Ingraham announced on her show late Friday that she is taking next week off, after almost a dozen advertisers dropped her show after the conservative pundit mocked a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre on Twitter.

Up to ten advertisers have abandoned Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s weeknight show as a direct result of her snark attack on MSD student activist David Hogg. The companies pulling their ads include TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Wayfair, Nestlé and Nutrish, Jos A Bank, Jenny Craig and Stitch Fix. (update: add Liberty Mutual, Ruby Tuesday, Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas)

A spokesman for TripAdvisor said the company doesn’t “condone the inappropriate comments made by this broadcaster. In our view, these statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency.”

Fox Has not commented but Ingraham’s Twitter mockery of Hogg, followed by his call for an ad boycott, clearly left a mark. Ingraham  insincerely  apologized but Hogg said he’ll only accept the apology if she denounces the way Fox “has treated my friends and me in this fight.” This has stirred even more criticism of Hogg in right-wing circles…

We all have to remember that Hogg and his peers are still high schoolers. It’s easy to forget that when you’re staring a computer screen, launching Twitter grenades. Yes, IMHO, the students sometimes go too far, with harsh rhetoric that hurts their cause. Gun rights proponents have gone way too far in their responses to the students. The attacks and conspiracy theories only reinforce that these students have a lot of political power right now…Brian Stelter CNN

Nate Silver tweeted Thursday: “The thing about the Parkland students isn’t that they’re always spot-on — they’ve had better and worse moments as communicators. But they’re at least as effective at politics as most professional pundits who have done it for years. Naturally, that’s very threatening to the pundits…”

This is the same racist Fox News personality that tried to bully Lebron James and Dwayne Wade telling them to “shut up and dribble”