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Google, Facebook, Twitter anti-conservative bias targeted in Republicans’ bill

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at fighting what they see as anti-conservative bias on Google and other social media platforms. Republican senators introduced legislation to strip Big Tech of liability protections and hit the companies with $5,000 fines for unfair treatment. In another swipe, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, sent a letter to…

Google, Facebook, Twitter anti-conservative bias targeted in Republicans’ bill

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at fighting what they see as anti-conservative bias on Google and other social media platforms.

Republican senators introduced legislation to strip Big Tech of liability protections and hit the companies with $5,000 fines for unfair treatment.

In another swipe, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, sent a letter to Google warning of repercussions if the company follows through with a threat to punish conservative website The Federalist over its content.

The Cruz letter and the proposed legislation take aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has long shielded Big Tech from legal liability for material that users post on their platforms.

“For too long, Big Tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook have used their power to silence political speech from conservatives without any recourse for users,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who introduced the legislation to remove the lawsuit protections and impose fines.

“Section 230 has been stretched and rewritten by courts to give these companies outlandish power over speech without accountability. Congress should act to ensure bad actors are not given a free pass to censor and silence their opponents,” Mr. Hawley said.

Three Republican co-sponsors are Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The proposal does not eliminate Section 230 protections completely, which some Big Tech allies fear may happen.

Mr. Cotton said Twitter recently attempted to bully him into deleting tweets that opposed rioting and looting during racial justice protests.

“One of their low-level employees in Washington, D.C., just contacted my office out of the blue and said you have to delete these tweets in 30 minutes or we’re going to permanently lock your account,” Mr. Cotton said on “Fox and Friends.”

He said one of his offending phrases was: “No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.”

Mr. Cotton said the entire process struck him as secretive and unfair, though he eventually won the argument with Twitter and his tweets and his account remained intact.

The Justice Department came out with a proposal Wednesday to limit Section 230, including revoking immunity if platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube facilitate or solicit federal criminal activity such as drug trafficking.

Congress would need to pass legislation for the proposal to take effect.

The various moves against Big Tech follow President Trump’s executive action last month that directed the Federal Communications Commission to strip social media of its lawsuit protection under Section 230. He issued the order after Twitter fact-checked one of his posts, part of a feud between Mr. Trump and his favorite social media outlet.

Mr. Trump said he wanted to “defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history.”

The order, however, is on shaky legal ground.

Mr. Cruz, chairman of a Senate subcommittee with oversight of constitutional rights, raised Section 230 in accusing Google of hypocrisy in how it applies the protections.

He said Google targeted The Federalist for offensive comments posted on its stories while Google’s own platform, YouTube, had similarly offensive comments.

“It is also deeply ironic that Google is financially punishing a website for speech that appears on its platform,” Mr. Cruz wrote in the letter.

He said Google has long insisted it is protected by Section 230 but for some reason wasn’t treating The Federalist the same way.

Initial reports suggested that Google banned The Federalist from its advertising network — what is known as demonetizing. Google said it only put the site on notice that it could face penalties.

Several fact-checking outfits that Google said it trusts flagged The Federalist.

In explaining its decision, Google said it found comments on Federalist articles to be dangerous or offensive, and demanded that the comment section be removed.

“Our policies do not allow ads to run against dangerous or derogatory content, which includes comments on sites, and we offer guidance and best practices to publishers on how to comply,” the company said on Twitter.

That provoked Mr. Cruz, who as chairman of the Constitution subcommittee on the Senate Judiciary Committee requested that Google turn over any communications it has had with the fact-checkers about The Federalist. He also asked Google to disclose whether it has policed the comment sections of left-wing organizations.

“Will Google apply the same standards to all media organizations or just those with which it has political disagreements?” the senator asked.

In his parting shot, Mr. Cruz suggested that Google may face punishment as an illegal monopoly under the Sherman Act. That landmark legislation was used to break up big monopolies in the late 1800s.

Mr. Cruz suggested that if Google is treating YouTube, its own media platform, differently than other outlets, that could be inconsistent with the law.

⦁ Stephen Dinan and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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Twitter and Facebook intervene once again after Trump suggests double voting

President Trump on Saturday once again prompted Twitter and Facebook to each intervene after he posted on their platforms that people should vote by mail and then potentially again in person. Twitter and Facebook both acted on identical posts made on their platforms by Mr. Trump that encouraged voters in North Carolina to vote twice…

Twitter and Facebook intervene once again after Trump suggests double voting

President Trump on Saturday once again prompted Twitter and Facebook to each intervene after he posted on their platforms that people should vote by mail and then potentially again in person.

Twitter and Facebook both acted on identical posts made on their platforms by Mr. Trump that encouraged voters in North Carolina to vote twice in the presidential election.

“To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY. When Polls open, go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE!” Mr. Trump posted in part on the platforms.

Twitter added a notice to Mr. Trump’s post, or tweet, saying it violates the company’s rules for civic and election integrity but will remain on the platform with certain restrictions in place.

Users cannot “like” or reply to the tweet, and it can only be shared, or retweeted, if being quoted, according to the restrictions Twitter put in place.

Mr. Trump’s tweet encouraged “people to potentially vote twice,” Twitter explained, adding: “Voting twice is illegal in North Carolina.”

“To protect people on Twitter, we err on the side of limiting the circulation of Tweets which advise people to take actions which could be illegal in the context of voting or result in the invalidation of their votes,” explained Twitter.

Facebook was also letting Mr. Trump’s post remain on its social network, but it placed a notice alongside it telling users that voting by mail “has a long history of trustworthiness.” Users can still comment and share it.

The latest actions Twitter and Facebook each took in response to the president are identical to how they handled a similarly-worded attack on mail-in voting he posted on the platforms Sept. 4.

Millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail in the race between Republican incumbent Mr. Trump and Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden as a result of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The president has repeatedly attacked voting by mail in recent weeks, and he has claimed it will result in widespread fraud contrary to election officials saying those fears are unfounded.

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Facebook to ban new political ads ahead of election, remove ‘misinformation’ about voting

Facebook on Thursday said it won’t accept new political ads the week before the November election and will clearly label content that seeks to “delegitimize” the election’s outcome. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will extend its work with election officials to remove “misinformation about voting.” “We will remove posts with claims that people will…

Facebook to ban new political ads ahead of election, remove ‘misinformation’ about voting

Facebook on Thursday said it won’t accept new political ads the week before the November election and will clearly label content that seeks to “delegitimize” the election’s outcome.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will extend its work with election officials to remove “misinformation about voting.”

“We will remove posts with claims that people will get COVID-19 if they take part in voting,” he said. “Given the unique circumstances of this election, it’s especially important that people have accurate information about the many ways to vote safely, and that COVID-19 isn’t used to scare people into not exercising their right to vote.”

Analysts have predicted that President Trump and the Republicans could build a lead immediately after polls close on Election Day but that Democrats could make up ground in the days and weeks after Nov. 3 because of the party’s emphasis on voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There could be a period of intense claims and counter-claims as the final results are counted,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

The company said that if any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the final results are in, they’ll add a label to their posts directing people to official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.

Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook will use its Voting Information Center “to prepare people for the possibility that it may take a while to get official results” and said the information will help people understand that “there is nothing illegitimate about not having a result on election night.”

He said Facebook has strengthened its enforcement against “militias, conspiracy networks like QAnon, and other groups that could be used to organize violence or civil unrest in the period after the elections.”

Mr. Zuckerberg said they took down a network of 12 accounts and two pages last week trying to “mislead Americans and amplify divisions.”

“We’ve removed more than 100 networks worldwide engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior over the past couple of years, including ahead of major democratic elections,” he said. “However, we’re increasingly seeing attempts to undermine the legitimacy of our elections from within our own borders.”

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Facebook deletes Trump post over coronavirus misinformation: Live |NationalTribune.com

Facebook and Twitter have pulled posts by US President Donald Trump for violating their COVID-19 misinformation rules. Brazil’s top court has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to draw up a plan within 30 days to reduce COVID-19’s threat to the country’s Indigenous people. India has recorded the biggest single-day coronavirus fatalities of 904 in the past…

Facebook deletes Trump post over coronavirus misinformation: Live |NationalTribune.com

Facebook and Twitter have pulled posts by US President Donald Trump for violating their COVID-19 misinformation rules.

Brazil’s top court has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to draw up a plan within 30 days to reduce COVID-19’s threat to the country’s Indigenous people.

India has recorded the biggest single-day coronavirus fatalities of 904 in the past 24 hours.

More than 18.7 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, while the global death toll surpassed 704,000 people. More than 11.2 million have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, August 6
10:00 GMT – Indonesia’s COVID-19 infections rise by 1,882
Indonesia reported 1,882 new coronavirus infections and 69 additional deaths on Thursday, data from government’s COVID-19 task force showed.
Those brought the total number of cases to 118,753 and deaths to 5,521.
Indonesia’s case tally was surpassed by neighbouring Philippines, which with 119,460 coronavirus cases has the most infections in East Asia.
09:40 GMT – Human trials of virus vaccine set to begin in Indonesia
Human trials on a potential coronavirus vaccine are due to start in Indonesia next week as part of a collaboration between state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, a senior researcher said.
The launch of the vaccine trial comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, with a consistently escalating number of cases.
The phase 3 clinical trial is set to begin on August 11 and will involve 1,620 volunteers aged between 18 and 59, Professor Kusnandi Rusmil, head researcher at Bandung’s Padjadjaran University, told reporters.
09:00 GMT – Canadian jailed in Myanmar for holding services during virus ban
A Myanmar court sentenced a Canadian preacher who said Christians were immune to the novel coronavirus to jail with hard labour for three months for holding church services in defiance of a ban on gatherings during the outbreak.
David Lah, a Canadian of Burmese origin, and another man, Myanmar national Wai Tun, were detained under a disaster management law over services they held in the city of Yangon in April.
A ban on public gatherings in the commercial capital took effect in mid-March. Judge Moe Swe told reporters both men had been convicted of breaking administrative rules.
08:40 GMT – Hong Kong reports 95 new coronavirus cases 
Hong Kong reported 95 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, of which 91 were locally transmitted, as authorities tried to contain the virus, which has seen a resurgence in the global financial hub over the past month.
Around 3,800 people have been infected in Hong Kong since late January, 44 of whom have died. On Wednesday, 85 new cases were reported.
The government said it was extending the work from home period for civil servants until August 16.

Around 3,800 people have been infected in Hong Kong since late January [Tyrone Siu/Reuters] 

08:20 GMT – UK to slap quarantine on travellers from Belgium: report
The British government will slap a quarantine on arrivals from Belgium after a rise in coronavirus cases, the Daily Mail newspaper reported.
The Mail said ministers are expected to approve the quarantine at a meeting shortly. The transport ministry declined to comment on the report.
The United Kingdom has already imposed a 14-day quarantine on travellers from Spain and Luxembourg.
08:00 GMT – Russia reports more than 5,200 new coronavirus cases
Russian authorities reported 5,267 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 871,894, the fourth largest in the world.
The official death toll rose to 14,606, after officials said 116 people had died across the country in the last 24 hours.

The official death toll has risen to 14,606 across the country in the last 24 hours [Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

07:30 GMT – Poland faces rising trend of COVID-19 cases: minister
Poland may see a further increase in coronavirus infections, which could reach up to 700 per day during and after this weekend, the health minister said.
On Tuesday, Poland registered its highest daily tally of reported cases at 680.
07:00 GMT – Toyota’s Q1 profit nearly wiped out as coronavirus erodes sales
Toyota Motor Corp posted a 98 percent plunge in its first-quarter operating profit as the coronavirus pandemic halved it global sales.
Japan’s top automaker reported a profit of 13.9 billion yen ($131.73m) for the three months ended June, its worst since the June 2011 quarter. Still, it was better than an average estimate for a loss of 179 billion yen based on a Refinitiv poll of seven analysts.
The bleak results underline the challenges being faced by the global auto industry due to the health crisis that has shuttered factories this year and kept customers out of dealerships, hitting production and sales.
06:25 GMT – Ukraine reports record daily new coronavirus cases
Ukraine reported a record daily high of 1,271 new coronavirus cases on August 4, the country’s council of security and defense said.
The number of new infections has increased sharply in the past two months following the gradual lifting of restrictions that began in late-May.
The total number of cases rose to 75,490, including 1,788 deaths and 41,527 recovered as of August 5.

The total number of cases are 75,490, including 1,788 deaths and 41,527 recovered as of August 5 [Reuters] 

06:00 GMT – India reports biggest number of deaths with 904
India has recorded the biggest single-day fatalities of 904 in the past 24 hours as fresh coronavirus infections surged by another 56,282 cases to reach nearly two million.
The Health Ministry said the total fatalities touched 40,699. India has recorded 20,000 deaths in the past 30 days.
The ministry also said the recovery rate has improved to 67 percent from 63 percent over the last 14 days. Nearly 600,000 patients are still undergoing treatment. The case fatality rate stands at 2.09 percent.
05:45 GMT – Melbourne enters strict new coronavirus lockdown
Australia’s second-biggest city of Melbourne began the first day of a six-week total lockdown with the closure of most shops and businesses raising new fears of food shortages, as authorities battle a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Shops were boarded shut and streets were deserted in the city of about five million people, the capital of Victoria state, which reported 471 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths in the past 24 hours.
Australia has now recorded about 20,000 COVID-19 cases and 255 fatalities, still far fewer than many other developed nations, but the Victorian outbreak threatens to ruin that record and spill into other states.

Australia has recorded about 20,000 COVID-19 cases and 255 fatalities [AFP] 

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
05:16 GMT – Outbreak shutters huge Papua New Guinea mine
A coronavirus outbreak has forced the closure of a major copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea.
Ok Tedi Mining said it had decided “to immediately suspend operations for at least 14 days” after seven cases were detected at the facility near the Indonesian border.
The mine, which sits in the remote Papua New Guinea highlands, employs thousands of people and accounts for around seven percent of the country’s GDP, according to company figures.
04:58 GMT – Eight patients die in India hospital fire
Eight coronavirus patients died in a fire that broke out in the intensive care ward of a private hospital in India’s western city of Ahmedabad, officials said.
Police stopped angry relatives from entering the Shrey Hospital in the Gujarat state capital after the tragedy which, according to emergency services, was caused by a medical staff member’s personal protective equipment (PPE) catching fire.

The fire broke out at the Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad early on Thursday morning [Reuters]

“A staffer whose PPE caught fire ran out of the ward to douse it but the fire spread rapidly to the whole ward,” said Rajesh Bhatt, additional chief fire officer of the Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services.
“Five men and three women, who were undergoing treatment for the novel coronavirus were not in a position to escape… they died due to smoke and heat caused by the fire,” he said.
Read more here.
04:22 GMT – Philippine economy plunges into recession
The Philippines plunged into recession after its biggest quarterly contraction on record, according to data from the country’s Statistics Authority.
Gross domestic product shrank 16.5 percent on-year in the second quarter, data showed, as the Philippine economy reels from one of the world’s longest stay-at-home orders that has wrecked businesses and thrown millions out of work.
It followed a revised 0.7 percent contraction in the first three months of the year and marked the biggest reduction in economic activity since records began in 1981 during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
It is the country’s first recession in three decades.

Duterte reimposes coronavirus lockdown as he criticises doctors (2:35)

03:24 GMT – Japan region declares emergency
Hideaki Ohmura, the governor of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, announced a regional “state of emergency”, urging people to stay home at night and businesses to close altogether or close early to curb the coronavirus.
The measures will continue through August 24, a period that coincides with the Obon holidays, when schools and many companies close, he said.
Ohmura said coronavirus cases have been rising in Aichi since mid-July at 100 or more a day. Before that, daily cases had been zero for extended periods.

WHO COVID Debrief on global coronavirus vaccine efforts (4:08)

02:33 GMT – Kim directs aid to North Korean town under lockdown
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un directed his government agencies to act immediately to stabilise the livelihoods of residents in a city locked down over coronavirus concerns, state media reported.
North Korea declared an emergency and locked down Kaesong near the inter-Korean border in late July after finding a suspected virus case there. It has not confirmed yet if the person tested positive.
The Korean Central News Agency said Kim presided over a meeting on Wednesday of the ruling Workers’ Party’s executive policy council where they discussed a special supply of food and funds to Kaesong.
The report did not specify the measures that were to be taken.
01:47 GMT – US adds 1,242 COVID-19 deaths
The US reported 1,262 more COVID-19 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to data by the Johns Hopkins University, figures that take its total death toll to 157,930.
It also added 53,158 new infections and remained the worst-hit country in the world, with a total caseload of 4,818,328.
President Trump nonetheless remained optimistic, saying “This thing’s going away. It will go away, like things go away, and my view is that schools should be open.”

01:06 GMT – Twitter hides Trump post over misinformation
Twitter hid a video posted by Trump campaign’s @TeamTrump account and shared by the US president for breaking the company’s COVID-19 misinformation rules.
The post contained a video clip, from an interview with Fox & Friends in which Trump claimed that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that while adults make up most of the known COVID-19 cases to date, some children and infants have been sick with the disease and they can also transmit it to others.
A Twitter spokesman told Reuters that the @TeamTrump account owner would be required to remove the tweet before they could tweet again.
Read more here.
00:13 GMT – Facebook removes Trump post
Facebook deleted a post by Trump for the first time, saying it violated its policy against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Facebook said the “video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation”.
00:01 GMT – Brazil court rules government must protect tribes
Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that President Jair Bolsonaro’s government must adopt measures to stop the spread of novel coronavirus to the country’s vulnerable Indigenous communities.
A majority of the justices voted to give the government 30 days to draw up a plan to reduce the threat to Indigenous people from COVID-19, which could wipe out some tribes.
Measures should include sanitary barriers to stop outsiders entering protected tribal lands and the isolation of invaders, but the court stopped short of ordering the immediate expulsion of illegal loggers and miners that Indigenous leaders say are spreading the virus.

The action was sought by Brazil’s main Indigenous umbrella organisation APIB, which says Indigenous people have died from COVID-19. Some 22,325 cases have been confirmed among Brazil’s 850,000 Indigenous people, while half of Brazil’s 300 Indigenous tribes have confirmed infections.
The pandemic endangers Indigenous communities with no access to healthcare in remote parts of the Amazon and whose communal living under large dwellings make social distancing impossible.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 5, go here. 
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