Law and Legal

Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump and some allies

Washington Post – Zignal Labs charts 73 percent decline on Twitter and beyond following historic action against the president -“Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively. The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter. Election disinformation had for months been a major subject of online misinformation, beginning even before the Nov. 3 election and pushed heavily by Trump and his allies. Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Institute breaks record in 2020, making laws easy to access

Cornell Chronicle – “As Congress prepared to certify the results of the November presidential election on Jan. 6, the law governing the counting of electoral votes was a trending topic on Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII), a pioneer in providing open access to U.S. legal information online. Those topics changed abruptly when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol that afternoon: The Constitution’s Twenty-Fifth Amendment became the website’s most visited page, along with the sections of the U.S. Code criminalizing rebellion or insurrection (18 USC §2383), seditious conspiracy (18 USC §2384) and advocating the overthrow of government (18 USC §2385). The more than 542,000 unique visitors to LII on Jan. 6, and 516,000 the next day, represented the site’s two busiest days since the Supreme Court handed down Bush v. Gore two decades ago. The heavy traffic continued the trend from a record-setting 2020, when LII welcomed roughly 39 million unique visitors – up from 33 million the year before – boosted by a steady stream of major headlines: impeachment, pandemic, anti-racism protests and the contested presidential election, to name a few…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Biden Political Appointee Tracker

Washington Post – We’re tracking hundreds of positions here – “Presidents are required to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions in the executive branch, including more than 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees for roughly 800 of those 1,250 positions, including Cabinet secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A New Learning Product for Libraries

LinkedIn: “We know our world has changed dramatically over the past few weeks, with many libraries temporarily closing in response to the Coronavirus. We are committed to providing uninterrupted service of Lynda.com during this time to ensure patrons have access to learning courses to build and develop their skills. We also wanted to thank you for your patience as we worked through the plans for your transition from Lynda.com to LinkedIn Learning. We’re excited to share that after continued discussions with the library community over the past few months, we’re taking the first steps toward building a new library product that’s dedicated to serving the needs of our library customers and their patrons. We are building a product that gives libraries and their patrons access to our complete catalogue of over 15,500 courses in seven languages while honoring our commitment to privacy and confidentiality. This includes the ability for patrons to use LinkedIn Learning without having a LinkedIn profile, which was a key ask from our library customers and the American Library Association. Patrons will only need to provide their library card number and PIN to login…” [Although not recent news, it was new to me.]

Categories: Law and Legal

Story Line is The New York Public Library’s new dial-a-story service

NYPL – “Starting Monday, January 11, you can call 917-ASK-NYPL (917-275-6975) and select option 6# to hear a children’s book performed by one of our talented librarians. A new story will be made available every week in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

Ways to Listen

  1. Call 917-ASK-NYPL (917-275-6975) and select option 6#
  2. Listen online or on your preferred podcast app…”
Categories: Law and Legal

The Gutted, ‘Unnerving’ State of the Agencies Supposed to Keep the U.S. Safe

Politico: “As the federal government girds against threatened riots in Washington this weekend and possible violence at the inauguration and state capitals across the country, it’s dealing with an unprecedented gap at the top: All of the nation’s top Cabinet departments overseeing the nation’s security are run by acting officials who have been in the job just weeks—or even hours. The acting Defense secretary has been on the job only since the week after the election; the head of the Justice Department just since Christmas; and the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was the administrator of FEMA until midnight Tuesday morning. That means, with President Donald Trump increasingly disengaged from even the basic responsibilities of running the government, that the U.S. government is entering what many officials are calling the most dangerous time since 9/11 with a leadership vacuum unlike anything in modern U.S. history. Since 9/11 and the creation of DHS, in fact, the U.S. has never faced a presidential transition without a Senate-confirmed attorney general, DHS secretary, and Defense secretary all in place — let alone all three vacant at once. And below them, the vacancies, empty offices and acting officials only multiply, creating a dangerous vacuum in the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus that seems to be getting worse by the day. Since last Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, nearly a dozen national security and intelligence personnel have departed in protest of the president’s actions inciting the mob. But the problem is just compounding a longstanding one: Throughout his presidency, Trump has relied on “actings” to an unequaled degree and to fill jobs for far longer than Congress intended — sometimes years. The practice has left his agencies severely undermanned and, often, staffed by people who are seriously underqualified for the positions they occupy.

We’re so far down the chain of people who wouldn’t normally be elevated to these positions, it brings greater questions about whether they’re being competently led at such a serious security situation,” said Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who has carefully tracked the years of Trump administration personnel vacancies. “As a former counterterrorism person, I worked on al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, and this security situation feels as tense to me as it did during certain periods then when the U.S. government was mobilizing to prevent an event. It’s unnerving.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

‘We got to hold this door’ How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob

Washington Post – “Blinded by smoke and choking on gas and bear spray, stripped of his radio and badge, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone and his battered colleagues fought to push back rioters trying to force their way into an entrance to the U.S. Capitol. The officers had been at it for hours, unaware that others in the mob had already breached the building through different entrances. For them, the West Terrace doors — which open into a tunnel-like hallway allowing access to an area under the Rotunda — represented the last stand before the Capitol fell. “Dig in!” Fanone yelled, his voice cracking, as he and others were being struck with their own clubs and shields, ripped from their hands by rioters. “We got to get these doors shut.” An officer since 9/11, the 40-year-old Fanone, who has four daughters, had been working a crime-suppression detail in another part of the District on Jan. 6. He and his partner sped to the Capitol when dispatchers broadcast an urgent citywide emergency call. “They were overthrowing the Capitol, the seat of democracy, and I f—ing went,” Fanone said…

This account is based on interviews with [Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III], in the top job just four days before the riot, along with members of his command staff and officers on the front lines. These police leaders talked of battles using metaphors typically reserved for wars, describing fighting on three fronts, including the West Terrace, one of the few places where police prevented rioters from breaking through. Had those rioters succeeded, authorities said, thousands more people could have poured into the Capitol, with possible catastrophic consequences. Nearly 60 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of Capitol officers were hurt in the siege, with injuries that included bruised and sprained limbs, concussions and irritated lungs. Sicknick, who police said physically engaged rioters, died the next day. Authorities said he was injured, but they did not elaborate…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The State of Online Harassment

“Stories about online harassment have captured headlines for years. Beyond the more severe cases of sustained, aggressive abuse that make the news, name-calling and belittling, derisive comments have come to characterize how many view discourse online – especially in the political realm. A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults in September finds that 41% of Americans have personally experienced some form of online harassment in at least one of the six key ways that were measured. And while the overall prevalence of this type of abuse is the same as it was in 2017, there is evidence that online harassment has intensified since then. To begin with, growing shares of Americans report experiencing more severe forms of harassment, which encompasses physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment and sustained harassment. Some 15% experienced such problems in 2014 and a slightly larger share (18%) said the same in 2017. That group has risen to 25% today. Additionally, those who have been the target of online abuse are more likely today than in 2017 to report that their most recent experience involved more varied types and more severe forms of online abuse. In a political environment where Americans are stressed and frustrated and antipathy has grown, online venues often serve as platforms for highly contentious or even extremely offensive political debate. And for those who have experienced online abuse, politics is cited as the top reason for why they think they were targeted…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New Guide to Help Middle and High School Students Conduct Research with Library Resources

Teaching with the Library of Congress – This post is by Kaleena Black of the Library of Congress. “The research process can be fun and rewarding, but it can also present some challenges. For some students, the idea of research might not immediately bring to mind an exciting activity, filled with intrigue, suspense, and joy. Many students, and some adults, too, who are interested in deepening their understanding on a topic and are curious about learning more about an idea or issue, don’t consider themselves “researchers.” And even students who are committed to finding information might not be sure how to begin their research journey. To help support young people in their personal and academic research endeavors, Library educators and librarians teamed up to develop an online research guide for middle and high school students.  A variety of Research Guides have been designed by Library of Congress specialists to help researchers navigate the Library’s analog and digital collections and find resources. Currently, there are hundreds of such guides, covering more than 70 topics that relate to the arts, science, history, social and cultural studies, and more. With a focus on helping students locate and use digitized resources, this new guide offers tips on finding research inspiration, definitions for primary and secondary sources (with detailed examples for each), strategies for searching primary and secondary sources on the Library’s website and beyond, and suggestions on citing resources appropriately. There is also a feature that allows students to contact a Library of Congress reference specialist if they’re feeling stuck or need extra help in the course of their research…”

Categories: Law and Legal

News Use Across Social Media Platforms in 2020

Pew Report – News Use Across Social Media Platforms in 2020 Facebook stands out as a regular source of news for about a third of Americans – “As social media companies struggle to deal with misleading information on their platforms about the election, the COVID-19 pandemic and more, a large portion of Americans continue to rely on these sites for news. About half of U.S. adults (53%) say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” and this use is spread out across a number of different sites, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2020. Among 11 social media sites asked about as a regular source of news, Facebook sits at the top, with about a third (36%) of Americans getting news there regularly. YouTube comes next, with 23% of U.S. adults regularly getting news there. Twitter serves as a regular news source for 15% of U.S. adults. Other social media sites are less likely to be regular news sources. About one-in-ten Americans or fewer report regularly getting news on Instagram (11%), Reddit (6%), Snapchat (4%), LinkedIn (4%), TikTok (3%), WhatsApp (3%), Tumblr (1%) and Twitch (1%)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Self-pardon? It might not go how Trump thinks.

Politico: “An unprecedented move by President Donald Trump to grant himself a pardon during his remaining days in office could divide his handpicked Supreme Court majority. Court-watchers are bracing for an epic, intra-Federalist Society clash that could determine whether Trump — and future presidents — can declare themselves immune from criminal investigations even after leaving the White House. “I think it’s a very close question whether it would ultimately be allowed to go forward, but I think there’s a chance a self-pardon might be struck down and be found to be the only limit on the pardon power,” said Kristin Hucek, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. The Constitution contains no explicit bar to a president giving himself or herself a pardon, but some scholars contend the founders implied that the clemency power should not be used for self-dealing. The long-running legal debate, which has quickened in recent days amid reports that the president has discussed the idea of a self-pardon with aides, has gained fresh urgency now that Trump has stacked the court with three dyed-in-the-wool conservatives: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. While most of the justices claim to be both textualists — meaning that they adhere closely to the literal words of the Constitution— and originalists — who believe the intent of the founders is crucial to interpreting the law — cleavages sometimes emerge and they might do so again in a case over the validity of a Trump self-pardon…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Capitol attack set off a raging debate on Wikipedia: what to call it?

Fast Company – “‘Storming’? ‘Insurrection’? ‘Riot’? ‘Attempted coup’? On Wikipedia, where neutrality is prized above all, volunteers are still searching for the words….As facts came in, as editors double-checked and pruned according to Wikipedia standards, the text grew and shrank and grew again, so that only the most relevant verifiable and neutral language remained. “Once other editors showed up to contribute, I aided, facilitated, and watched eagerly as the article developed,” says Moore. At the peak of editing, there was a change being saved every 10 seconds, estimates Molly White, an editor and administrator who began working on the article in its earliest minutes. She’s returned for hours every day since. “It was one of those things where I was shocked and horrified at the news as it was unfolding,” she says, “and felt like helping with the article was a more productive way to process everything than just doomscrolling.” About 24 hours after the attack at the Capitol began, she and Moore and 406 other volunteers had crafted a detailed, even-keeled account of an event as it was unfolding—5,000 words long, with 305 references. Those numbers have since mushroomed, along with page views: 1.8 million and counting…”

Categories: Law and Legal

National Archives – Presidential Elections & Inaugurations

“Every four years, on the first Tuesday (after the first Monday) of November, we cast our votes for President of the United States. The National Archives and Records Administration has a unique role in the election process: NARA’s Office of the Federal Register administers the Electoral College. On the following January 20, the President of the United States takes the oath of office. Take a look at historical inaugurations documented in records held by the National Archives and its Presidential Libraries…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Capitol Rioters Weren’t ‘Low Class’

The Atlantic – The business owners, real-estate brokers, and service members who rioted acted not out of economic desperation, but out of their belief in their inviolable right to rule: “They were business owners, CEOs, state legislators, police officers, active and retired service members, real-estate brokers [one of whom arrived in DC via private jet], stay-at-home dads, and, I assume, some Proud Boys. The mob that breached the Capitol last week at President Donald Trump’s exhortation, hoping to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, was full of what you might call “respectable people.” They left dozens of Capitol Police officers injured, screamed “Hang Mike Pence!,” threatened to murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and set up a gallows outside the building. Some were extremists using the crowd as cover, but as federal authorities issue indictments, a striking number of those they name appear to be regular Americans. And there’s nothing surprising about that. Although any crowd that size is bound to include people who are struggling financially, no one should be shocked to see the middle classes so well represented among the mob. The notion that political violence simply emerges out of economic desperation, rather than ideology, is comforting. But it’s false. Throughout American history, political violence has often been guided, initiated, and perpetrated by respectable people from educated middle- and upper-class backgrounds. The belief that only impoverished people engage in political violence—particularly right-wing political violence—is a misconception often cultivated by the very elites who benefit from that violence.

The members of the mob that attacked the Capitol and beat a police officer to death last week were not desperate. They were there because they believed they had been unjustly stripped of their inviolable right to rule. They believed that not only because of the third-generation real-estate tycoon who incited them, but also because of the wealthy Ivy Leaguers who encouraged them to think that the election had been stolen…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Still going to the grocery store? With new virus variants spreading, it’s probably time to stop.

Vox: “…More cases mean more really sick people, more strain on hospitals and health workers, more rationing of health care — and more deaths, including the entirely preventable ones now firmly linked to ICU bed shortages. More cases will also give the virus more opportunities to mutate further and potentially escape our vaccines, perpetuating the cycle of doom. The implication is clear: If we want the pandemic to end as fast as possible, we need to pump the brakes right now. And we don’t have to wait for the vaccines to slow the spread of the virus. We simply need to do what we’ve been doing all along to prevent infections, just much, much better. At an individual level, that means avoiding optional gatherings with other people — even grocery trips — whenever possible, or cutting them very short.

Shopping for five minutes in the grocery store is a lot better — six times better — than shopping for 30 minutes,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the odds of becoming infected rise the longer you’re exposed. “Picking up groceries at the curbside is even better, and having them delivered is even better still.” (If you’re able to get groceries delivered or pick up curbside, it will also help reduce the risk for those who aren’t able to take advantage of those options.)..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coronavirus deaths climbing while country deals with political unrest

Axios: “Coronavirus deaths continue to reach tragic heights while the country grapples with a vaccine rollout, an impeachment and ongoing civil unrest. The state of play: States with the top-five death rates per 100,000 residents as of Thursday January 14, 2021 include

  • New Jersey, with 227 people dead per 100,000 residents
  • Massachusetts — 196
  • Rhode Island — 188
  • South Dakota — 186
  • Connecticut — 182

Also via Axios – “The U.S. is now averaging nearly 250,000 new coronavirus cases per day — a crisis of staggering proportions, even though many Americans have tuned it out. The big picture: It’s not even sufficient to say the pandemic is “still going on,” as if it’s a fire that hasn’t finished burning out. The pandemic is raging. Its deadliest and most dangerous days are happening right now. And it keeps getting worse.”

Categories: Law and Legal

When FOIA Goes to Court: 20 Years of Freedom of Information Act Litigation by News Organizations and Reporters

“In 2020, news organizations and individual reporters filed 122 different Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits to compel disclosure of federal government records—more than any year on record according to federal court data back to 2001 analyzed by the FOIA Project. In fact, the media alone have filed a total of 386 FOIA cases during the four years of the Trump Administration, from 2017 through 2020. This is greater than the total of 311 FOIA media cases filed during the sixteen years of the Bush and Obama Administrations combined. This report focuses on news media “FOIA litigants” (a.k.a. “FOIA plaintiffs”). These include both traditional news organizations and alternative news sources when their primary purpose is to be a news source. The FOIA Project’s analysis found that since January 1, 2001, the news media has filed a total of 697 separate FOIA cases in federal court. Looking at these cases reveals 374 distinct plaintiffs, 117 news organizations and 257 individual reporters. A few key FOIA litigators rise to the top. The top ten filers make up less than three percent of all plaintiffs, yet they accounted for 281 of the 697 FOIA cases-40 percent of the total suits filed. To view the list of ‘Top 10’ FOIA litigators as well as a more expansive list of rising stars in the FOIA litigation community, view the FOIA Project’s full report at the link below. Using the FOIA Project’s unique dataset of FOIA cases filed in federal court, this report provides unprecedented and valuable insight into the rapid growth of media lawsuits designed to make the government more transparent and accountable to the public. The complete, updated list of news media cases, along with the names of organizations and reporters who filed these suits, is available on the News Media List at FOIAProject.org.”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Capitol Riot: Documents You Should Read (Part 1)

“The Pentagon’s timeline of its response to the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol features multiple discrepancies with the public record, while the first federal indictment of mob participants details the specific legal charges that likely will be brought against others, according to the documents in the National Security Archive’s first “January 6 Sourcebook” posted today. The Sourcebook, subtitled “documents you should read,” includes:

  •  the Dissent Channel message signed by more than 100 State Department employees denouncing the attack as undermining the U.S. promotion of democracy abroad (published by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post in his Twitter feed);
  • the earlier 2006 FBI report warning of white supremacists’ influence in far-right circles, released by the House Oversight Committee;
  • the Department of Homeland Security threat assessment from October 2020 warning that violent white supremacy was “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland” (published by Lawfare);
  • the FBI poster “seeking information” on “violence at the U.S. Capitol”;
  • the text of the speech by President Trump at the Ellipse just prior to the mob marching on the Capitol (published and annotated by the Washington Post);
  • the Congressional Research Service report detailing the steps Congress was taking to certify the presidential election vote when the mob interrupted (posted by Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists); and
  • the federal grand jury indictment of one of the mob members, Mark Leffingwell, citing five different sections of the U.S. Code violated by the mob. (First reported by Josh Gerstein of Politico.)..”
Categories: Law and Legal

How Amazon manipulates consumers to keep them subscribed to Amazon Prime

Report by Norway’s Consumer Council (NCC) / Forbrukerradet – YOU CAN LOG OUT, BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE: “Executive summary In this report, we show how Amazon makes it unreasonably cumbersome to unsubscribe from the Amazon Prime service. The process of cancelling an Amazon Prime subscription is riddled with a combination of manipulative design techniques, known as ‘dark patterns’. Consumers who want to leave the service are faced with a large number of hurdles, including complicated navigation menus, skewed wording, confusing choices, and repeated nudging. As we argue in this report, the sum of these practices is a process that seems designed to be obscure and manipulative, in order to keep consumers bound to the paid service. These practices were observed on Amazon’s platforms in both the US and in Europe. In our opinion, the use of dark patterns to prevent consumers from leaving a service is in breach of consumer law. Although Amazon is one of the largest online platforms globally, the dark patterns described throughout this report are emblematic of a broader problem. Consumers are faced with dark patterns on a daily basis; whether they want to use an online retailer, unsubscribe from a service, protect their privacy, and in many other situations. These manipulative design features undermine consumers’ ability to make free and informed choices by making us act against our own interests in favour of the interest of service providers. We call on service providers to stop using dark patterns and on consumer authorities to crack down on infringements of consumer and marketing law..”

Categories: Law and Legal

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