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Zuckerberg Doubles Down on Political Ads After Twitter’s Ban

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  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday that the platform would ban all political ads because it believes “political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
  • The final policy will go into effect on Nov. 22, though it will still allow ads promoting voter registration.
  • A little more than an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on Facebook’s continued policy to not censor any political ads, even if they may contain false information, despite blowback from politicians and some of his own staff.

Twitter Bans Political Ads

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday that the platform will soon abandon the use of all political ads.

In a series of Twitter posts, Dorsey talked about why the platform made this new decision, saying, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers,” he said, “that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”

“Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes,” Dorsey continued. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

Dorsey also said executives at Twitter debated on only removing candidates’ ads, but scrapped that decision because ads featuring political issues “present a way to circumvent.” He added that he believes there is a basic lack of fairness to such a move.

The new decision is not without its own controversy. Speaking to the Washington Post, Daniel Kreiss—a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—said Twitter ads are “one of the ways that candidates get their message in front of a public whose attention is extremely divided and fragmented.”

He also said that especially true if someone has fewer followers online and is running a grassroots campaign.

In his announcement, however, Dorsey addressed those points, saying that some might see this move as favoring incumbents, but many social movements have reached a “massive scale without any political advertising.”

Dorsey then ended by saying Twitter will publish the final policy by Nov. 15 and it will go into effect on Nov. 22. The only exception to this rule as of now will be ads in support of voter registration.

Twitter’s new policy does not change the fact that it will continue to allow any posts made by any politicians, a decision made in June when the platform said it would allow misleading posts from lawmakers. Notably, however, the platform also said it would demote those posts and tag them as false.

Politicians React

Following Wednesday’s announcement, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called the move a partisan attack.

“Twitter just walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision from their stockholders,”  Parscale said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known,” he continued.

On the other hand, a spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden praised the decision but also somewhat criticized it for banning all political ads. Earlier in October, Biden urged Twitter and other platforms like Facebook to ban misleading political ads.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also jumped into the mix, saying, “This is a good call. Technology – and social media especially – has a powerful responsibility in preserving the integrity of our elections.”

“I believe that if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all,” she said in a follow-up post. 

Does This Put Pressure on Facebook?

A little more than an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on Facebook’s continued policy to not censor any political ads, even if they may contain false information.

“Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations,” Zuckerberg said in the post. “I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I’ve thought we should continue.”

Zuckerberg then continued, saying it would also be hard to define where to draw the line. He then pointed to transparency, noting Facebook’s ad library, which archives all political ads and details how much was spent on them.

Zuckerberg also addressed recent concerns that he is trying to appease conservative politicians.

“Frankly, if our goal were trying to make either side happy, then we’re not doing a very good job because I’m pretty sure everyone is frustrated with us,” he said. “Our values on voice and free expression are not partisan. But unfortunately, in our current environment, a lot of people look at every decision through the lens of whether it’s going to help or hurt the candidate they want in winning their next election.”

It is, however, unlikely that Zuckerberg’s post is in direct response to the Twitter policy change as his post was a planned third-quarter earnings report. 

This latest announcement follows Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress last week, where he also defended the platform’s decision to not ban or label misleading ads and posts from politicians.

Earlier this week, more than 250 Facebook employees signed a message asking Zuckerberg to change that policy.

“Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” they said in a letter. “Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.”

Among other things, they asked Zuckerberg to hold all ads to the same standard and to restrict political ads from being targeted to custom audiences.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Business Insider) (Washington Post)

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Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium

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The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.


Eviction Freeze Set To Expire

President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.

The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.

While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.

In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress. 

“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”

Delays in Relief Distribution 

The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.

Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.

A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires. 

The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape. 

Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.

According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 —  including New York — had not spent any funds at all.

Slim Chances in Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.

However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.

While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.

Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.

“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”

With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.

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

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Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.


Mississippi’s Abortion Case

Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.

After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.

Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.

When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.

As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.

When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New Filing Takes Aim at Roe

With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.

“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers. 

“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”

The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.

An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.

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

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Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks

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The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.


Pelosi Vetoes Republicans

Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.

In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”

Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden. 

A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.

The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.

In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.

McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation

McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.

In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.” 

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel. 

“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.

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

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