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#DeleteFacebook Trends After Reports of Zuckerberg Meetings With Conservatives

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  • #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter after Politico reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with prominent conservatives like Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Ben Shapiro.
  • Facebook has recently received backlash from the left for allegedly appeasing the Trump administration, especially after the company announced a few weeks ago that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, including hate speech and false information.
  • 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren responded to the new rule by running her own false ads saying Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in the 2020 election.

Politico Report

#DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter Monday after Politico reported that multiple sources confirmed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with conservative pundits, journalists, and at least one lawmaker.

According to a source, the conversations at those dinners centered around “free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy.”

A person familiar with the gatherings told Politico some of the people who attended the dinners included conservatives who have been critical of Facebook in the past, like Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt.

The list also included conservative journalists like Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York, as well as conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, among other prominent conservative voices.

A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to Politico that he had spoken with Zuckerberg, but all the others either refused to comment or did not respond.

According to Politico, the gatherings started back in July and were all held at one of Zuckerberg’s homes in California as part of “Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged ‘bias’ against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.”

#DeleteFacebook Trends on Twitter

A number of people took to Twitter to respond to the report.

Some condemned Facebook, like actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who wrote, “I stopped actively posting on @Facebook in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear. Now #DeleteFacebook seems like the best course of action.”

Others posted screenshots of themselves deleting Facebook.

“Zuckerburg has allowed lies to spread on his platform and it was the last straw for me,” one user wrote. “His greed is clear so I have no need for his service.” 

On the other side, some criticized the trending hashtag as hypocritical and intolerant.

“The Left is pushing the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, because Mark Zuckerberg had meetings with conservative politicians, and commentators… in an effort to make the platform less biased,” co-founder of Students for Trump Ryan Fournier wrote. “The Left give the most lip service on tolerance, yet they turn out to be the most intolerant.”

That sentiment was also echoed by conservative commentator Graham Allen.

Zuckerberg himself respond in a Facebook post. 

“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” he wrote. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”

Source: Mark Zuckerberg

Partisan Debate

Facebook’s alleged efforts to work with conservatives come as the company faces mounting criticism from the Trump administration and others on the right who say Facebook is biased against conservatives.

After the 2016 election, Facebook changed its policies to try and limit the spread of false information and foreign-bought ads.

But conservatives have pushed Facebook to minimize and correct bias within those policies after a report in 2016 alleged that Facebook employees may have suppressed stories from right-leaning publications in the “Trending Topics” section.

Part of those efforts included Facebook launching a yearlong “conservative bias audit” in 2018, which was led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and a team from his law firm. That effort resulted in Facebook changing some advertising policies.

Other conservatives have also criticized Facebook for how it defines hate speech. President Trump himself said back in June that the U.S. should sue Facebook and Google because of bias against conservatives.

However, many have pointed out, a lot of claims that Facebook censors conservatives have been largely unsubstantiated, with those who accuse Facebook of liberal bias providing little evidence.

In fact, just this past May, conservative publications like Fox, Breitbart, and Shapiro’s Daily Wire were some of the top publishers on Facebook, according to data from Newswhip.

Those factors have pushed people on the left to condemn Facebook and Zuckerberg for caving to appease the Trump administration.

“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” an anonymous cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley told Politico.

“So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”

Pelosi Video

This idea that Facebook and Zuckerberg are trying to cater to Trump and his administration is not new.

Facebook sparked controversy in May after the company refused to remove a video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which had been slowed down to make her appear drunk or otherwise impaired.

Several Democrats responded to the incident in a letter to Facebook in June, where they asked Facebook what they were doing to address “the spreading of political disinformation by real accounts.”

“We are concerned that there may be a potential conflict of interest between Facebook’s bottom line and immediately addressing political disinformation on your platform,” they added.

Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy responded in another letter three weeks.

There, he said Facebook was working to reduce misinformation by “removing fake accounts, disrupting the financial incentives behind propagating false and misleading information,” and letting users know “when they are reading or sharing information (excluding satire and opinion) that has been disputed or debunked.”

“Leading up to 2020 we know that combating misinformation is one of the most important things we can do,” he added later.

Warren Ads

Just a few weeks ago, Facebook again came under fire when it announced that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, and that it will not remove or label posts by politicians that violate community guidelines, even if it contains fake information or hate speech.

That policy change was met with a lot of outrage, but some people have been pretty creative with it.

Last week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ran an ad on Facebook falsely claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in 2020.

“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’” the ad said. “Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”

Warren also took to Twitter to address the ads and go after Facebook.

“Facebook holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you—even about Facebook itself—while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” she wrote in one tweet.

“Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit,” she continued in another post.

Warren also condemned Facebook for airing a Trump campaign ad NBC and CNN refused to run because it made false statements about former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a rare occurrence, Facebook responded to Warren on Twitter, saying that they also ran pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment ads that aired nationally.

“FCC doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech. We agree it’s better to let voters—not companies—decide,” it added.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Newsweek) (TIME)

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Liz Cheney Ousted From GOP Leadership Role for Calling Out Trump’s Election Lies

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  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) was ousted from her leadership post by Republicans on Wednesday due to her repeated criticism of former President Trump and his continued efforts to spread false information about the 2020 election.
  • The congresswoman remained defiant in remarks Tuesday night, where she argued Trump was “a threat America has never seen before” who “risks inciting further violence.” 
  • While many Republicans cheered Cheney’s removal as a key step to unify the party, others condemned the decision and accused GOP leadership of “canceling” her for speaking the truth.
  • The move represents perhaps the strongest indication since the Jan. 6 insurrection that the Republican Party will continue to embrace Trump and punish dissenters.

House GOP Removes Cheney From Top Spot

The House GOP voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the number 3 Republican, from her leadership position Wednesday over her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s false election claims.

The remarkable removal comes just four months after the former president incited an insurrection, causing major splits in the GOP.

The latest move is arguably the strongest signal that Republicans have decided their party line is unwavering loyalty to Trump, and that they believe his support is needed to win back the House in 2022.

This is not the first time that Republicans tried to oust Cheney from leadership. Earlier this year, Trump loyalists in the chamber held a vote to remove her after she voted to impeach the president for his role in the insurrection.

That attempt failed, largely because Cheney received backing from Republican leadership. This time, however, she did not have the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who began mobilizing to remove the congresswoman last week after she tweeted that the 2020 election “was not stolen.”

“Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” she added. 

While Cheney has reiterated this stance many times since January, her latest comment seemed to be the final straw, and on Monday, McCarthy officially announced he was holding a vote on her position in a letter to his conference.

In the letter, which was full of contradictions, McCarthy claimed that the GOP was a “big tent party” of “free thought and debate,” while simultaneously calling for the removal of a leader who broke with Trump, and painting the vote as a necessary step to unify the party.

A majority of the party backed that decision Wednesday morning when McCarthy held a voice vote, making it so that the public will never know exactly how many people voted to remove the congresswoman.

Cheney’s Speech

Cheney, for her part, held firm to her beliefs in a defiant speech Tuesday ahead of the anticipated vote, where she continued to condemn Trump’s lies and accused her fellow Republicans of being complicit in undermining Democracy.

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this capital in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” she said. 

“He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president, they have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.” 

“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans,” she continued later.  “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Response

Cheney’s parting speech drew boos from some of her colleagues, many of whom cheered her ouster Wednesday.

“Liz Cheney is the GOP of the past,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) tweeted. “We are not going back.”

Trump himself also issued a series of statements calling Cheney a “bitter, horrible human being,” and claiming that Republicans “have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart!”

However, many House Republicans condemned the move.

“i predict that the history books of the future will not celebrate,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) wrote in a thread “They will say this was the low point of the Republican Party.” 

“Liz Cheney was canceled for speaking her mind,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-N.Y.) told reporters.

Next Steps

There has been a similarly mixed reception to Cheney’s anticipated replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who McCarthy has tapped to fill the position.

Stefanik took office as a moderate cheered for openly defying and condemning Trump. Her role in Congress changed drastically in the fall of 2019, when she became one of the most vocal opponents of his first impeachment, prompting him to tweet, “A new Republican Star is born.” 

After that, she booked more TV appearances, campaign donations, and general fame. Her support for the former president grew and she doubled down, spreading his false election claims in 2020.

If she is elected to leadership, as is expected, the top three House Republican leadership positions will all be held by people who voted to not certify President Joe Biden’s win.

Cheney, for her part, has made it clear she does not intend to go anywhere. After Wednesday’s vote, the congresswoman told reporters that she will do “everything” she can “to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

“The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that,” she added.

According to The Washington Post, sources have said that Cheney already spent the last week planning for increased travel and media appearances to promote her case and rally other Republicans behind her.

She likely will not be alone in her endeavors: on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that more than 100 current and former anti-Trump Republicans are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to split from the GOP and create a third party if changes are not made.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Biden Says Americans Will Lose Unemployment Benefits if They Turn Down “Suitable” Jobs

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  • President Biden said Monday that out-of-work Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they turn down a “suitable” job offer.
  • The announcement follows a stark jobs report from the Labor Department, which found that just over 260,000 jobs were added in April when nearly 1 million had been projected.
  • Republican lawmakers blamed the additional $300 a week in joblessness benefits provided by the federal government, and several Republican-led states have opted out of the programs, arguing that doing so will encourage people to go back to work.
  • Biden rejected those arguments, noting that numerous studies disprove that claim. Instead, he said American corporations should do more to entice people to work, such as providing pay raises and COVID safety precautions.

Biden Addresses Benefits as Job Creation Falters

President Joe Biden on Monday ordered the Labor Department to ensure that Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they do not accept a “suitable” job when offered.

In remarks at the White House, Biden also said he would direct the agency to work jointly with states to reimpose the requirement that people collecting joblessness benefits must show they are actively looking for work.

The comments come just days after the latest jobs report showed far fewer positions created than expected. The Labor Department reported that just 266,000 jobs were added last month, even though economists had predicted it would be about 1 million.

While broad swaths of the U.S. economy are opening up as more Americans get vaccinated, some employers have reported that they are having a hard time finding workers.

Republicans have largely argued that this is because of the additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits Americans are collecting from the last stimulus package.

The Unemployment Debate

In his address, however, Biden hit back on that claim. He said the White House does not “see much evidence” that benefits have deterred people from taking jobs — a fact that is supported by numerous studies on pandemic unemployment benefits. He also argued that corporate America has to do more to encourage people to come back to work.

The president placed responsibility on employers, especially those who have accepted federal relief, to raise their pay, protect their workers from the virus, and help them gain access to vaccinations so out-of-work Americans feel safe going back.

“My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers,” he said. “And we’re all going to come out of this together and better than before.”

Some companies have already started to take similar steps, like Chipotle, which announced Monday that it was raising its average wage to $15 an hour to address the labor shortage. However, many big companies will simply wait it out.

Those businesses may not have to wait long because a growing number of Republican-led states have been rejecting the increased federal unemployment money. On Monday, the governors of Alabama and Mississippi joined Montana, South Carolina, and Arkansas and announced their states would be leaving the programs by mid-June. More states are likely to do the same. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CBS News) (CNBC)

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Trump’s DOJ Allegedly Obtained Phone Records of WaPo Reporters Covering Russia Probe

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  • Former President Trump’s Justice Department secretly obtained phone records from Washington Post journalists covering Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, the outlet reported Friday.
  • The DOJ seized records of the work, home, and cellphone numbers of three reporters from April 15 to July 31, 2017. Those records included who the calls were with and how long they were, but not what was said.
  • Many journalists and Free Speech activists condemned the action and called on the Biden administration to end the practice of record subpoenas, which are often used by the government to find clues about possible sources and can harm key newsgathering.
  • A DOJ spokesperson defended the previous administration’s actions, arguing that the news media are not the targets of such investigations but rather, “those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”

Washington Post Reporters Subpoenaed

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly obtained phone records from some of its journalists regarding reporting they did on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

According to the outlet, the DOJ sent three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to three former Post journalists to inform them they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” 

The letters, which listed work, home, or cellphone numbers, also stated that prosecutors had gotten a court order to obtain records for the reporters’ work email accounts, but that they did not ultimately not obtain those records.

The phone records, the outlet said, “included the numbers of all the calls made to and from the targeted phone over the specified time period, and how long each call lasted, but do not include what was said in those phone calls.”

“Investigators often hope such records will provide clues about possible sources the reporters were in contact with before a particular story published,” it added.

The Post reported that the letters do not say why the DOJ was seizing the phone records. However, it did note that toward the end of the time period outlined, the three reporters had written a story about classified U.S. intelligence intercepts that indicated then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had discussed the Trump campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. when he was a sitting senator in 2016.

The alleged move is significant because it is rare for the DOJ to use subpoenas in order to obtain records of reporters in leak investigations. In fact, the last high-profile seizure of communication records was part of an investigation into a source cited in 2017 reporting that was also about the investigation into Russian election interference.

Also very notably, these subpoenas need to be approved directly by the attorney general. A spokesperson for the DOJ told The Post that the records had been requested in 2020, meaning it would have likely taken place under Attorney General William Barr, who stepped down on Dec. 23.

Response

The allegations immediately drew criticism from First Amendment advocates and journalists, who have long opposed the practice of obtaining these kinds of records, and argued that attempts to identify sources of leaks hurt critical news gathering and reporting.

“We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” said Cameron Barr, the current acting executive editor of The Post. “The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

Many other journalists also demanded that the Biden administration ensure such practices are not replicated, noting the escalated efforts to subpoena reporters records under both the Trump and Obama administrations.

However, a DOJ spokesperson defended the previous administration’s decision to subpoena The Post reporters in a statement to the outlet.

“While rare, the Department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” the spokesperson said. 

“The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (CNN)

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