The legislation aims to “protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors.”
New York Senators Introduce “Rap Music On Trial” Bill
Jay-Z and a slew of other rappers and artists signed a letter this week in support of a New York law that would prevent rap lyrics from being used as evidence in court.
The bill, titled Rap Music on Trial, was introduced in November by state Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens). Rap Music on Trial aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom.”
“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” a statement released by the senators said.
If the law were passed, in order to submit lyrics and other creative works as evidence, prosecutors would need to present “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case.”
Hoylman, Bailey, rappers, and many other advocates believe that rap lyrics are often used unfairly in court.
“The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey explained in a statement.
Major Artists Sign Letter Backing Legislation
The letter signed by Jay-Z echoed those concerns. It was written by his lawyer, Alex Spiro, and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson. Meek Mill, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke were among the other artists who put their names behind the cause.
“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter said.
According to Spiro and Nielson, using rap lyrics allows prosecutors to “obtain convictions even when other evidence is lacking.” They also argued the strategy specifically harms young Black and Latino men, who are “the overwhelming majority of artists in these cases.”
Several high-profile artists have experienced this practice themselves. In their joint statement, Hoylman and Bailey pointed to a 2019 case where Tekashi69’s lyrics were introduced in court to compel him to become a government witness to avoid harsher sentencing.
Per a report from Rolling Stone, the late Drakeo the Ruler was subjected to something similar while on trial for a 2016 murder case. Before he was acquitted of the crime, prosecutors attempted to use lyrics from his song “Flex Freestyle” in an effort to make jurors think he brought a group of armed people to a party to target the victim.
In the letter, Spiro and Nielson pointed to research that “identified hundreds of cases” where rap lyrics were exploited in court, noting that the genre has the “potential to be highly prejudicial.”
In one study they cited, two groups were given identical violent lyrics, but one group was told those lyrics came from a country song, and the other was told it was rap. Members of the group who believed the lyrics were rap “were significantly more likely to view them as threatening and in need of regulation” than members of those who thought the words came from a country song.
“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” Hoylman said in a November tweet.
“As these and other studies suggest, weaponizing rap music against its creators is racially and culturally discriminatory,” the letter concluded. “It is also an affront to the First Amendment protections that everyone in this country should be entitled to.”
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Billboard) (The Gaurdian)
Andrew Tate to Remain in Romanian Detention After Losing Appeal
The controversial influencer, accused of sex trafficking and organized crime, has maintained his innocence.
A Romanian court on Wednesday upheld a judge’s decision to extend influencer Andrew Tate’s arrest another 30 days.
The judge initially tacked the extra time onto his detention on Jan. 20. According to BBC News, the judge cited “the capacity…of the defendants to exercise permanent psychological control over the victims, including by resorting to constant acts of violence”.
Tate appealed that decision alongside his brother and two others, all of whom were arrested as part of an ongoing sex trafficking and organized crime investigation. The court’s Wednesday decision rejected that appeal, meaning Tate and the other accused individuals will remain in custody until at least Feb. 27.
Investigators claim that Tate lured victims under the guise of a romantic relationship, only to place them under surveillance and force them to make pornographic content. Tate has denied the accusations.
“You know I’m innocent,” Tate said to reporters Wednesday morning while walking into the courtroom.
“Ask them for evidence and they will give you none,” he added while leaving court. “Because it doesn’t exist. You’ll find out the truth of this case soon.”
Tate’s Controversial Online Presence
Ever since December his arrest, Tate’s Twitter account has continued to post sometimes cryptic messages about the investigation into him.
“Would your life be fine without you?” he tweeted on Tuesday, one day before his appeal was rejected. “In Romania. They can steal your life without a trial. They do not need evidence, In this system, innocent men return to ruined lives. My life outside is fine. But for most men, 6 months detained and their whole life will crumble.”
Tate is a controversial online figure famous for spreading violent misogyny to his often young male followers. He has been banned by a number of social media platforms for his drastic remarks, including one where he said rape victims should “bear responsibility” for the assault they endured.
Tate and his brother recently added high-profile lawyer Tina Glandian to their defense team. Glandian has previously represented celebrities like Chris Brown, Jussie Smollett, and Kesha.
On Wednesday, she said there is a “lack of evidence against the Tate brothers.”
“So far the system has failed,” she said, via the Associated Press.
See what others are saying: (BBC News) (The Associated Press) (Rolling Stone)
QTCinderalla Vows to Sue Deepfake Website: “Constant Objectification” is “Exhausting”
The streamer said that anyone who chooses to view nonconsensual deepfake porn is “the problem.”
QTCinderella Plans Legal Action
Twitch streamer QTCinderalla said during a Monday stream that she is going to sue the maker of a website that hosts explicit deepfake images of herself and other content creators.
“I promise you, with every part of my fucking soul, I am going to sue you,” QTCinderella, whose real name is Blaire, said through tears.
Blaire went live after fellow streamer Atrioc accidentally revealed on Twitch that he had an open tab to a website that hosts deepfake porn. Graphic images of high-profile female streamers were visible his browser, and the website also includes deepfakes of more creators, including Blaire.
Atrioc apologized for accessing deepfake images on a website that promotes explicit content of his female streaming colleagues. He claimed that he got “morbidly curious” and “clicked something” after falling down an artificial intelligence rabbit hole online.
“It’s gross,” he said. “It’s gross and I’m sorry.”
In the past, Blaire has talked about having to pay services thousands of dollars to remove graphic deepfake content that has been posted without her consent. Despite those efforts, it is an issue she still has to deal with on a regular basis.
“Fuck the fucking Internet,” she said during her Monday stream. “Fuck the constant objectification and exploitation of women, it’s exhausting.”
“Fuck Atrioc for showing it to thousands of people,” she continued. “Fuck the people DMing me pictures of myself from that website.”
The Objectification of Female Streamers
Blaire said that it “should not be a part of [her] job” to constantly fight for this content to be removed from the Internet, nor should it be her job to deal with the onslaught of harassment that comes with the dissemination of these fabricated images.
“If you are able to look at women who are not selling themselves or benefiting off of being seen sexually — they’re not benefiting, they’re not selling it, they’re not platforming it themselves — if you are able to look at that, you are the problem,” she said. “You see women as an object.”
On Twitter, she explained that the repercussions of these deepfakes go far beyond exploitation and violation.
“The amount of body dysmorphia I’ve experienced since seeing those photos has ruined me,” she said.
She was far from the only person to call out how invasive it is to post or consume deepfake content of people who did not consent to being depicted in a sexual manner.
“Stop sexualizing people without their consent,” Pokimane, who is also among the female streamers featured on the site, said. “That’s it, that’s the tweet.”
“No one should have themselves be put on a deepfake porn website w/o their consent and it’s fucking disgusting at the men who are making light of this shit. fucking despicable,” another person wrote.
Britney Spears Asks For Privacy After Fans Called Cops to Conduct a Wellness Check on Her
Fans said they were concerned after the singer deleted her Instagram account.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated to include a statement from Britney Spears
Fans Call 911
Britney Spears said her fans “went a little too far” after some called the police to conduct a wellness check on her.
The fans, many fueled by online conspiracy theories, were concerned about Spears because she deleted her Instagram account. While this is something the singer has done multiple times in the past, her fans thought she had left secret signals in her last post suggesting she needed help.
Some even posted videos of them calling emergency services on TikTok, a platform that is full of conspiracy videos about Spears.
“I love and adore my fans but this time things went a little too far and my privacy was invaded,” Spears wrote in a statement on Thursday, citing “prank phone calls” that were made to police.
According to Spears, officers did not enter her home because once they got to her gate, they “quickly realized there was no issue and left immediately.”
“This felt like I was being gaslit and bullied once the incident made it to the news and being portrayed once again in a poor and unfair light by the media,” Spears continued. “During this time in my life, I truly hope the public and my fans who I care so much about can respect my privacy moving forward.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Page Six that the department “did get calls into our dispatch” but added there was no reason to believe that Spears was “in any kind of harm or any kind of danger.”
That spokesperson declined to say if officials contacted Spears or conducted a wellness check, citing privacy and public trust issues.
The Prominence of Britney Spears Conspiracies
Just over a year has passed since Spears was freed from a highly restrictive conservatorship that controlled her life and finances for 13 years. Throughout the conservatorship, fans tried to use the pop icon’s social media to pick up clues that she was secretly struggling. She did not publicly speak about the conservatorship until the summer of 2021.
Now that she has her freedom, fans are still reading heavily into her posts. Some believe there are hidden messages in her captions and in the gestures she does while dancing. Others think she is dead, missing, or hiding and that a body double is being used in her posts. Some are so concerned that they are coordinating a mass effort to pressure the Los Angeles Times into investigating Spears’ whereabouts and safety.
In the last several years, many have reflected on Spears’ early days in the spotlight and the cruel ways she was harassed and targeted by paparazzi, news outlets, and culture at large. Often the punchline to a joke throughout the 2000s, many now sympathize with Spears, who was forced to endure heavy public scrutiny at a young age. Documentaries like “Framing Britney Spears” prompted many to see Spears as a victim of abusive media tactics, not the “crazy” woman tabloids painted her to be.
Many are now concerned that fans are only going to subject Spears to a new onslaught of harassment by calling the police to her house. Even if the conspiracy theories are technically well-intentioned and often come from a place of concern, some believe they will jumpstart a media frenzy that could harm Spears’ mental well-being.