At issue is a rule, first unfurled in October 2016, under which the social media giant tolerates inflammatory and untrue posts from influential people on grounds they’re “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards.”
Facebook won’t do away completely with the controversial policy, according to the Verge’s Alex Heath, who was first to report the news, but it will be more transparent when it’s invoked.
“Under the new policy for politicians, Facebook could still use its newsworthiness exemption to leave up a post that would otherwise be taken down. But it will commit to disclosing when it does so,” Alex reported.
Whether and how the change might affect former president Donald Trump, who was banned from major social media sites after firing up the mob that stormed the Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 riot, was not immediately clear.
The shift seems unlikely to satisfy Facebook’s liberal critics, who say the platform is a springboard for incitement and disinformation, because it doesn’t do away entirely with the exemption. Trump supporters, meanwhile, still clamor for his digital return.
“The Post reported last year that the newsworthiness exemption was first created in response to Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Muslims during his candidacy. Since then, the company has maintained that it rarely used the exception and has only acknowledged using it six times. Those incidents were all outside the United States, and include political speech in Hungary, Vietnam and Italy.”
Of note, though: Facebook has said it “has never applied the newsworthiness allowance to content posted by the Trump Facebook page or Instagram account.”
Alex also reported “posts made directly by politicians still won’t be subject to review by the company’s network of independent fact checkers. But they will for the first time be opened up to enforcement against more rules for things like bullying that Facebook’s moderators apply to other users.”
In another shift, the company “also plans to shed light on the secretive system of strikes it gives accounts for breaking its content rules, according to two people familiar with the changes. That will include letting users know when they’ve received a strike for violating its rules that could lead to suspension,” Alex says.
The changes come as Trump has killed off his blog not quite a month after launch, unhappy about its measly readership, my colleagues Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey reported.
They also follow word the attention-hungry former president will return to campaign-style events with a weekend speech in North Carolina and summer rallies, as my colleagues Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman reported.
Facebook’s Oversight Board appears to have set the changes in motion with an early-May ruling upholding Trump’s suspension but giving the company six months to ban him forever to reinstate him and justify itself either way.
While focused on Trump’s case, the board sounded the alarm about Facebook’s broader failure to grapple with “influential users,” including political leaders, whose posts “can have a greater power to cause harm than other people.”
“Facebook should recognize that posts by heads of state and other high officials of government can carry a heightened risk of encouraging, legitimizing, or inciting violence - either because their high position of trust imbues their words with greater force and credibility or because their followers may infer they can act with impunity,” the board said.
Facebook nodded toward those concerns when it announced in 2019 the newsworthiness exemption would apply to politicians “as a general rule,” but the oversight board essentially admitted the company has fallen well short.
From the early reporting, it sounds like the company is setting aside the board’s warning that “considerations of newsworthiness should not take priority when urgent action is needed to prevent significant harm.” After all, the shield itself isn’t going away, and leaders won’t suddenly face enhanced fact-checking.
One question at the heart of this debate is whether a company with more than 2.85 billion monthly active users worldwide as of the first quarter of 2021 has any role, or responsibility, when it comes to policing online speech.
In May 2020, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News: “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”
As I noted last month: No one is saying Facebook must police “everything” said by anyone online, and Facebook has terms of service governing use of its platforms.
What’s happening now
The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs last month, the latest sign of a strengthening recovery. The unemployment rate dropped slightly from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent, Eli Rosenberg reports. In April, the economy added just 266,000 jobs. Though the uptick is an encouraging sign, the country still has more than 7 million people employed than it did in February 2020.
“Wages continued to rise, a reflection of what many employers say is a surprisingly tight jobs market, increasing an average of 15 cents per hour to $30.33, following an increase of 21 cents in April. In the food service sector, those gains have been particularly pronounced,” Rosenberg writes."
“Economists interviewed by The Post characterized the report as a positive one, but cautioned that there were signs that a tight labor market was continuing to weigh on rehiring.”
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “With evictions set to begin next month, hundreds of millions in Washington-area rental aid remains unspent,” by Anu Narayanswamy, Jonathan O’Connell, Marissa Lang and Kyle Swenson: “At least $300 million in emergency funds intended to help struggling renters in the Washington area remain unspent even as a federal ban on evictions is set to expire at the end of this month, according to a Washington Post analysis. ... The delays have exposed a deep disconnect between the pressing need of renters to pay their bills and the difficulty federal, state and local governments have had in efficiently distributing billions in aid.”
… and beyond
- “TikTok just gave itself permission to collect biometric data on U.S. users, including ‘faceprints and voiceprints,’” by TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez: “Reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.”
- “A former Treasury official was sentenced to 6 months in prison for giving documents to BuzzFeed News,” by David Mack: “Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards pleaded guilty in January 2020 to one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports. These documents, known as SARs, are filed by banks to the federal government to alert authorities of potential criminal activity. In a federal court hearing in New York City on Thursday, US District Judge Gregory H. Woods said it should have been ‘exceptionally clear’ to Edwards ‘that violating her oath and exposing sensitive law enforcement information that could be used to help the bad guys and to tarnish the reputations and interests of innocent people was both illegal and wrong.’”
- “Minneapolis removes memorials and barricades from ‘George Floyd Square,’ ” by the New York Times’s Deena Winter, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Jenny Gross: “The mayor and other city officials hoped that the effort would let traffic flow through the intersection again, allowing businesses to prosper and cutting down on the violence in the neighborhood. But demonstrators said that the unannounced action was disrespectful to Mr. Floyd’s memory and that the city was trying to force people to move on from his killing.”
The Biden agenda
This morning, Biden reacted to the jobs report by noting that, when he took over in January, the economy “was in a tailspin.”
- “Today we received great news for our economy and our recovery and for the American people,” Biden said about this morning’s jobs report. “We have now created over two million jobs in total since I took office, more jobs than have ever been created in the first four months of any presidency in modern history,” Biden said. “The signs of further progress are already here.”
- “Before I took office, almost 24 million Americans were going hungry,” he said, “that number has already dropped by 25 percent. Still too many, but clear progress.”
- Biden credited the growth in part to the last stimulus package passed by Congress and said “now is the time to build on the foundation” laid by that package by passing his jobs and infrastructure plans. We have a chance to seize on the economic momentum,” he said.
- Biden will be meeting with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the GOP’s point person on infrastructure spending, later today.
Progressives are losing their patience with Biden’s ongoing infrastructure talks.
- “The latest bout of anxiety came this week after Biden met with [Capito], and backed off his insistence that a narrow infrastructure bill be paid for by a hike in the corporate tax rate,” Politico’s Laura Barrón-López, Christopher Cadelago and Sam Stein report.
- “‘We’ve seen this dynamic over and over again where Democrats are effectively negotiating with themselves, watering down their own package, not in exchange for votes but in exchange for the hope of keeping the negotiations going,’ said Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the liberal organization Indivisible. ‘And the inevitable result is that what passes is weaker and less popular than what would have passed if they had gotten bigger and bolder to begin with.’ ”
- “The rising anger over infrastructure talks is feeding calls in the progressive political ecosystem to ramp up the pressure on Biden to put an end to the negotiations and move ahead with efforts to pass a spending bill through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires just 50 votes in the Senate.”
House Democrats unveiled a $547 billion transportation bill, a spending boost that underscores the partisan divide.
- “The biggest chunk of the bill is $343 billion for road and bridge construction, as well as highway safety, a boost of more than 50 percent over the last transportation bill Congress passed in 2015. It also calls for $109 billion for transit and $95 billion for rail — including a tripling of funding to Amtrak,” Ian Duncan reports.
- “Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the [House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee], said the proposed legislation embodies a core piece of President Biden’s infrastructure plans, ‘seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future.’ Beyond authorizing federal spending, the five-year bill seeks to overhaul rules on how states and other transportation agencies can use the money, putting environmental goals at the forefront and seeking to curb the nation’s dominance of car travel.”
- “While the bill can expect a warm reception among House Democrats, who passed a similar proposal last year, it does not represent the bipartisan compromise that a Senate committee advanced last week. Republicans on the House committee, meanwhile, introduced their own proposal last month that is mostly focused on increasing road spending.”
The Biden administration is moving to consider ransomware attacks as a national security threat.
- The administration would use “intelligence agencies to spy on foreign criminals and [contemplate] offensive cyber operations against hackers inside Russia, U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter said,” NBC News’s Ken Dilanian reports.
- “Although using the military to take action against criminals wouldn't be without precedent, it's controversial in legal circles, and any American cyber action against targets in Russia would risk retaliation. But officials say criminal ransomware attacks from abroad, once a nuisance, have become a major source of economic damage, as the disruption of gasoline and meat supplies in recent weeks has illustrated. ‘Right now, they are hair on fire,’ a former government official said of the Biden administration.”
A sharp increase in the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border through desert areas has many worried that this summer will be especially lethal for migrants.
- “ ‘It’s going to be a brutal summer,’ said Don White, a sheriff’s deputy in rural Brooks County, Tex., where hundreds of migrants have died over the past decade attempting to skirt a Border Patrol highway checkpoint by walking miles through the brush,” Nick Miroff reports.
- “White said the county has recovered 34 bodies and human remains this year on the vast cattle ranches where migrants often become lost and dehydrated in 100-degree heat and harsh terrain. ‘I’ve never seen so many people coming through,’ White said. ‘It’s just crazy right now.’”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urged parents to vaccinate teens, noting increased hospitalization rates.
- “I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the numbers of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” Walensky said in a statement that was released this morning alongside a new study looking at trends in hospitalization among adolescents with the disease, Lena Sun reports.
- “Much of this suffering can be prevented,” she said, urging “parents, relatives and close friends to join me and talk with teens” about the importance of prevention strategies and to encourage vaccination.
Quote of the day
“President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office, and I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day,” former vice president Mike Pence said about the Jan. 6 insurrection. “But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years. And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.”
The future of the GOP
Trump is preparing a summer of rallies and speeches, and allies worry he’s stuck in the past.
- “Over the past few weeks, Trump has faced pleas from inside his orbit to move the ball forward as Republicans approach the 2022 midterm elections, when the party hopes to regain control of both congressional chambers, and brace for his high-profile return to the campaign trail. Several former advisers and allies still close to the 45th President said he is under mounting pressure to concentrate on promoting GOP policy priorities and defining his successor, rather than re-litigating his failed reelection campaign,” CNN’s Gabby Orr, Dana Bash and Michael Warren report. “But the former President has brushed those voices aside, choosing instead to listen to a crowd of characters both on television and in his wider circle who have encouraged him to keep his focus on the 2020 election.”
- “Trump's preoccupation with the election is expected to take center stage on Saturday, when he kicks off his first post-presidential summer with an address to the North Carolina Republican Party. The speech, a preview of the campaign-style rallies he plans to start hosting next month, will signal to what degree he intends to ignore advice from those imploring him to redirect his message toward the future. Because it will be his first public appearance in three months, sources close to the former President said the tack he decides to take will be critical in setting the course going forward — not only for him, but for all Republicans on the ballot in 2022.”
Former White House counsel Donald McGahn is scheduled to talk with House investigators behind closed doors today.
- “Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn is expected to detail for the House Judiciary Committee on Friday how former president Donald Trump attempted to stymie a federal probe into his alleged Russia ties — bombshell revelations that might once have fueled additional impeachment charges, were they not already public and had it not taken more than two years for Democrats to secure his testimony," Karoun Demirjian reports. “The committee first asked to interview McGahn in 2019, after the release of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. McGahn was the most-cited witness in Mueller’s report, explaining how Trump had tried to have Mueller fired and then asked aides to lie about it.”
The Jan. 6 riot caused $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol. U.S. prosecutors want defendants to play.
- “The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington cited the damage estimate Wednesday in court and in plea papers filed in the case of Paul Hodgkins, 38. The Tampa crane operator pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and faces sentencing July 19 in Washington,” Spencer Hsu reports. “The document said Hodgkins agreed to pay $2,000 restitution to the Treasury Department as part of the plea. Several defense attorneys said prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington are seeking to require restitution of $2,000 in each felony case and $500 in each misdemeanor case.”
Hot on the left
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) is blocking a military sexual assault bill. “ ‘Consensus’ is not a word you hear much in the United States Senate these days. But a bill aimed at reforming the military justice system and preventing sexual assault has 66 co-sponsors, chief among them Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). After nearly a decade of political legwork, the bill finds itself in the increasingly rare position of having a glide path to becoming law,” the American Prospect’s Amelia Pollard reports. “[But Reed] has resisted quick passage of something that falls under his jurisdiction. Reed prefers that the bill go through hearings in his committee and get attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass policy measure typically handled at the end of the year. That adds months of delay to something with the votes to pass now, which has been through years of vetting and study.”
Hot on the right
“The world needs answers on covid’s origin,” writes David Asher, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former State Department staffer, in the Wall Street Journal. Asher led the department’s task force investigating the coronavirus's origins and the role of the Chinese Communist Party. “The world still knows far too little about the origins of the outbreak. Theories include a zoonotic host, a bat cave, a frozen food shipment from Southeast Asia, and — the likeliest explanation — an accidental leak from a virology lab with ties to China’s biological-warfare program. Whatever you believe, getting to the bottom of the case demands American leaders apply new pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. It’s crucial that the world learn how the pandemic started and the extent to which Beijing’s lies fueled this global crisis. The U.S. must show that such malfeasance won’t be tolerated. ... If the Biden administration means what it says about upholding the international rules-based order, it will impose consequences on countries that fail to abide by the rules. The administration should cite China for violating the WHO’s International Health Regulations by disregarding requests for consultations and refusing to share data with other member states.”
Latinos killed by police, visualized
Although more White people are shot and killed by police in the U.S. overall, Black and Latino people are killed at a much higher rate but often left out of the debate about brutality, some advocates say.
Today in Washington
Biden and the first lady are returning to D.C. this afternoon from Delaware.
“The Daily Show” compiled 20 minutes of Fox News hosts contradicting themselves:
And, as our colleague Dan Diamond noted, the White House's coronavirus press briefing had a bit of a beat yesterday: