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Facebook Will Not Run New Political Ads in the Week Before the Election

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  • Facebook released a series of new policies aimed at fighting misinformation as the election draws closer. Those policies include removing posts that use COVID-19 as a way to discourage voting, and adding information labels to any post where a candidate preemptively declares victory. 
  • The policy that attracted the most attention was Facebook’s plans to not accept new political ads the week before the election, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining that there may not be enough time to contest or fact check information in that limited time.
  • Both sides have criticized this choice, with President Donald Trump’s campaign saying it goes too far by silencing political campaigns.
  • Other critics think the measure does not do enough to combat misinformation and feel the platform should be doing more to monitor political speech and ads during this time.

Facebook Announces New Tools to Fight Election Misinformation 

Facebook unveiled a slate of new policies Thursday that will be enacted to protect the upcoming election, including barring new political ads the week before Election Day. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a statement that in the final days leading up to the election, there may not be enough time to contest or fact check information in new political advertisements. Facebook has long faced pressure to limit or even ban political ads on the platform. Zuckerberg has usually opposed that idea, making this one of the strongest actions he has ever taken against the practice. 

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg wrote in a statement. “We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”

In addition to not accepting new political ads, Facebook will also be removing posts that use COVID-19 to discourage voting, adding an informational label to posts that seek to delegitimize the outcome of the election or voting methods, and adding labels to posts made by politicians who might declare victory before the final results are in. 

The site even plan to link to accurate results on those kinds of posts and is working with Reuters on providing election results and information. On top of that, the social media giant is working to register voters heading into November 3.

Zuckerberg expressed concern about how the public might respond in the likely event that it could take several days for election results to come in as a result of increased mail-in voting. He said that it is “important that we prepare for this possibility in advance and understand that there could be a period of intense claims and counter-claims as the final results are counted.”

“I believe our democracy is strong enough to withstand this challenge and deliver a free and fair election,” Zuckerberg said in closing his statement. He suggested that it will take the work of political parties, candidates, election officials, media, and voters to make that happen. 

Criticism of New Policies

These measures were met with backlash from figures on both sides of the political aisle. While the Joe Biden campaign has yet to issue an official statement about the news, President Donald Trump’s campaign condemned it, thinking it went too far in silencing political campaigns.

“In the last seven days of the most important election in our history, President Trump will be banned from defending himself on the largest platform in America,” Samantha Zager, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary said in a statement. Though, despite the suggestions of this claim, political speech on the platform is not banned. Trump is still allowed to post during that week, the campaign is just not allowed to run new political advertisements. 

On the other side of the debate, some thought Facebook’s new rules did not go far enough in fighting misinformation, which runs rampant on the site. Dipayan Ghosh, the co-director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s digital platforms and democracy project, told ABC News that the move is “narrow.”

“I think we have to acknowledge that in prohibiting new political advertising over that last week, the company is essentially volunteering the position that it believes that political ads have the potential to harm the democratic process,” Ghosh explained. “The question then is, why stop them just one week before Election Day? Especially in an election cycle when many people will have voted well before Election Day because of mail-in ballots or early voting.”

Media Matters president Angelo Carusone called these actions “pointless.”

“Of all of the issues with disinformation and extremism on Facebook — political ads are at the bottom of the list,” Carusone wrote in a statement. “Facebook’s signal-boosting right-wingers and lax policy enforcement are much bigger issues: It wasn’t Facebook’s political ads that brought the Kenosha killer to Wisconsin, after all.”

“This is just another PR stunt from Facebook. Don’t buy it,” he said.

Other Responses

Not all responses to Facebook’s new policy were negative, though. Some expressed optimism, albeit cautiously. Vanita Gupta, the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, believes that these policies have potential so long as they are executed properly. 

She said that these plans are “significant improvements & come after much pressure from civil rights community.”

“But everything – any impact – rests on enforcement,” she added.

Claire Wardle, the U.S. director of First Draft, a nonprofit group that combats misinformation, told the Washington Post that she was pleasantly surprised by these new steps. 

“It’s a strange feeling to read something by Mark Zuckerberg and say, ‘Yup, yup, yup,'” she said. “I’m pretty excited by it.”

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Washington Post) (Politico)

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Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated

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  • Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program. 
  • Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
  • Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”

Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery

Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.

DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.

The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.

Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.

DeWine Defends Lottery

Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”

DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”

Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally. 

Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April. 

See what others are saying: (AP News) (NPR)(The New York Times)

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Derek Chauvin Qualifies for Longer Sentence Over George Floyd’s Murder, Judge Rules

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  • A judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin ruled Wednesday that there were enough aggravating factors in the former officer’s murder of George Floyd that could qualify him for a longer prison sentence.
  • While Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges he faced, Minnesota state law only allows him to receive prison time for the most serious charge of second-degree homicide, which has a max sentence of 40 years but a recommended sentence of 12.5 years for people with no criminal history.
  • The judge ultimately agreed that Chauvin qualifies for longer sentencing because prosecutors had proven that he abused his power as a police officer, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.
  • Chauvin is currently scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.

Judge Cahill Rules on Aggravating Factors

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the former Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd, thus qualifying him for a longer sentence.

While the jury found Chauvin guilty on all three charges he was facing, Minnesota law says that he will only face sentencing for the most serious charge, which in this case is second-degree murder.

That charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but state sentencing guidelines recommend 12 and a half years for someone with no criminal history. Prosecutors asked Judge Cahill for what’s called an “upward sentencing departure,” arguing that there were five factors that should open Chauvin up to a maximum sentence.

In a ruling made public Wednesday, Cahill wrote that prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt four of those five factors.

In his decision, Cahill agreed with the prosecutor’s claim that Chauvin had “abused his position of trust and authority” as a police officer and that he “knew from his training and experience” that the neck restraint he used Floyd in “danger of positional asphyxia.” 

Cahill also supported the argument that the former officer had been “particularly cruel” to Floyd, who he wrote “was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge he was likely to die,” adding that Chauvin “remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas.”

The third and fourth aggravating factors that the judge sided with prosecutors on were that Chauvin had committed the crime as part of a group of three or more people and that he perpetrated that crime in front of children.

Notably, Cahill did reject the fifth aggravating factor brought by prosecutors, who argued Floyd was “particularly vulnerable” because he was handcuffed and held facedown on the street. The judge said that prosecutors did not prove that argument, writing that Floyd had been able to resist arrest before he was put on the ground.

Additional Charges

The ruling comes just a few days after Chauvin and the three other officers were indicted on federal civil rights charges by a grand jury.

Chauvin was also indicted on a second, separate federal charge related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017, during which he allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.

According to reports, if he is convicted, he would likely serve the federal sentence at the same time as his state one. However, the federal charges may impact the pending August trial of the three other officers, who have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Separately, last week, Chauvin’s defense attorney filed a motion for a new trial, alleging misconduct by the judge, prosecutors, and jurors, signaling additional continued litigation.

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

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Teens Attack and Rob 80-Year-Old Asian Man in Northern California

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  • Viral surveillance footage shows an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area being assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police say are teenagers.
  • Police believe the suspects are as young as 16, and at one point, one can be heard in the video giggling from the getaway car as the victim cries for help. 
  • The news comes after the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data showing that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March.

Suspect Laughs at Victim During Attack

Surveillance video going viral on social media captured an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area getting assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police believe are teenagers.

The full video is extremely distressing. It shows the man getting knocked to the ground, trying to fight off his attackers as he cries for help. To make matters worse, at one point, high-pitched giggles can be heard coming from another teen in the background. That person appears to be inside a getaway car nearby.

The victim was robbed of a watch and sustained minor injuries. Police have also said that a vehicle similar to the one used in this case was spotted at a strong-armed robbery in a nearby San Leandro area less than two hours later, where another victim was robbed of her purse.

Police believe the suspects are as young as 16.

Surge of Crimes Against Asians in U.S.

This is just the latest violent attack against an Asian person making headlines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, reports emerged regarding two Asian women who were attacked with a hammer in Times Square by someone demanding they remove their masks. Two other Asian women were recently stabbed while waiting for the bus in downtown San Francisco.

The San Francisco-based nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data Thursday saying that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March — with Chinese people as victims in 44% of these acts.

Vancouver Sees Massive Influx of Anti-Asian Hate

While anti-Asian hate crimes have surged in the U.S., the situation may be worse in Canada, specifically in Vancouver. Around 42% of people in Vancouver are of Asian descent and at least 25% speak Chinese — making it the most heavily Asian city in North America.

Still, it witnessed a 717% year-over-year surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Bloomberg even dubbed it the Anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America, saying more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in the city of 700,000 people last year than in the 10 largest U.S. cities combined.

That’s part of why people all across the city are participating in more organized action to speak out against anti-Asian hate. For instance, several rallies took place in Vancouver Monday to mark the National Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.

See what others are saying: (ABC 7) (Bloomberg) (Forbes)

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