Facebook Oversight Board upholds ban on former President Trump

President Donald Trump speaking and gesturing with his hands.

Enlarge / President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board announced its decision today to uphold the ban on former President Donald Trump’s account.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, the board said that while the ban was justified, its open-ended nature was not. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension,” the board wrote. “Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”

Instead, the board is calling on Facebook to review the issue and “justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.” The review should be completed within six months, according to the ruling.

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#donald-trump, #facebook, #facebook-oversight-board, #insurrection, #policy, #social-media

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Parler: We warned the FBI more than 50 times before the Capitol riot

Parler: We warned the FBI more than 50 times before the Capitol riot

Enlarge (credit: Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Embattled right-wing social media firm Parler infamously promises its users a laissez-faire approach to “free speech” on its service. As the company now tells Congress, however, Parler apparently does warn federal authorities when it discovers certain kinds of violent content on its platform—and users who flock to the site for its anything-goes attitude are mad.

Parler’s attorneys explained in a letter (PDF) to the House Oversight Committee that it apparently does have limits on what it finds acceptable and did take seriously some of the violent content posted to its platform ahead of the January 6 events at the US Capitol.

Parler “has acted to remove incitement and threats of violence from its platform and did so numerous times in the days before the unlawful rioting at the Capitol,” the letter explains. It goes on:

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This site posted every face from Parler’s Capitol Hill insurrection videos

This site posted every face from Parler’s Capitol Hill insurrection videos

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Wired)

When hackers exploited a bug in Parler to download all of the right-wing social media platform’s contents last week, they were surprised to find that many of the pictures and videos contained geolocation metadata revealing exactly how many of the site’s users had taken part in the invasion of the US Capitol building just days before. But the videos uploaded to Parler also contain an equally sensitive bounty of data sitting in plain sight: thousands of images of unmasked faces, many of whom participated in the Capitol riot. Now one website has done the work of cataloging and publishing every one of those faces in a single, easy-to-browse lineup.

Late last week, a website called Faces of the Riot appeared online, showing nothing but a vast grid of more than 6,000 images of faces, each one tagged only with a string of characters associated with the Parler video in which it appeared. The site’s creator tells WIRED that he used simple open source machine learning and facial recognition software to detect, extract, and deduplicate every face from the 827 videos that were posted to Parler from inside and outside the Capitol building on January 6, the day when radicalized Trump supporters stormed the building in a riot that resulted in five people’s deaths. The creator of Faces of the Riot says his goal is to allow anyone to easily sort through the faces pulled from those videos to identify someone they may know or recognize who took part in the mob, or even to reference the collected faces against FBI wanted posters and send a tip to law enforcement if they spot someone.

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#biz-it, #capitol-hill, #dc, #facial-recognition, #gaming-culture, #insurrection, #policy, #washington

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Facebook calls in its Oversight Board to rule on Trump ban

Facebook logo on a street sign outside a wooded campus.

Enlarge / Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters as seen in 2017. (credit: Jason Doiy | Getty Images)

Facebook’s Oversight Board is getting its highest-profile case yet, as the company kicks its decision to boot former-President Donald Trump off its platforms to the largely untested “Supreme Court” of social media for review.

Facebook suspended Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts on January 7 in the immediate aftermath of the insurrectionist riots at the US Capitol. “The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” company CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Although that two-week period is now complete, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg confirmed to Reuters last week that the company expected to continue the bans indefinitely and had “no plans” to let Trump resume posting content to their platforms.

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#content-moderation, #donald-trump, #facebook, #facebook-oversight-board, #insurrection, #oversight, #policy, #trump

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The local politics of AirBNB’s ban on DC rentals

Airbnb said it will refund guests who had booked stays in Washington next week and reimburse hosts for lost income.

Enlarge / Airbnb said it will refund guests who had booked stays in Washington next week and reimburse hosts for lost income. (credit: Bonnie Jo Mount | Washington Post | Getty Images)

On January 9—three days after supporters of President Trump started a riot at the US Capitol—Sean Evans decided it was time for action. Evans had seen a post on Nextdoor about neighbors running into hostile Trump supporters the night of the riot, leading to a verbal altercation that had left residents of his corner of Northwest DC on edge. Now, rumors flew online that the upcoming inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden would bring more protesters and more armed violence to the streets of his city. “I don’t want them in my neighborhood,” Evans thought to himself. In fact, he didn’t want insurrectionists in the city at all.

So on Nextdoor, Evans asked his neighbors to stop renting out their properties via Airbnband VRBO. A few hours later, another neighbor devised a hashtag: #DontRentDC.

Separately, a group called ShutDownDC gathered 500 volunteers to message DC area Airbnb hosts. The group sent messages to the managers of 3,400 properties in the region—polite ones, according to ShutDownDC organizer Alex Dodd. The messages alerted the Airbnb hosts to an upcoming threat and asked them to please refrain from booking anyone in their homes in the days surrounding the inauguration.

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#airbnb, #dc, #gaming-culture, #insurrection, #policy, #washington

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Filing: Amazon warned Parler for months about “more than 100” violent threats

3D logo hangs from a convention center ceiling.

Enlarge / Amazon Web Services (AWS) logo displayed during the 4th edition of the Viva Technology show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 17, 2019, in Paris, France. (credit: Chesnot | Getty Images)

Amazon on Tuesday brought receipts in its response to seemingly defunct social networking platform Parler’s lawsuit against it, detailing AWS’ repeated efforts to get Parler to address explicit threats of violence posted to the service.

In the wake of the violent insurrection at the US Capitol last Wednesday, AWS kicked Parler off its Web-hosting platform at midnight Sunday evening. In response, Parler filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon of breaking a contract for political reasons and colluding with Twitter to drive a competitor offline.

But the ban has nothing to do with “stifling viewpoints” or a “conspiracy” to restrain a competitor, Amazon said in its response filing (PDF). Instead, Amazon said, “This case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability” to remove actively dangerous content, including posts that incite and plan “the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens… AWS suspended Parler’s account as a last resort to prevent further access to such content, including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition.”

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#amazon, #antitrust, #aws, #insurrection, #lawsuits, #parler, #policy, #section-230, #sedition

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YouTube suspends Trump’s account, disables comments “indefinitely”

An illustration of YouTube's logo behind barbed wire.

Enlarge (credit: YouTube / Getty / Aurich Lawson)

YouTube, following in the path of very nearly every other social media platform, is suspending President Donald Trump’s channel due to concerns that he will use it to foment additional violence in the coming days.

“After review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump’s channel for violating our policies,” the company said late Tuesday. “It now has its first strike and is temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a *minimum* of 7 days.”

While it is possible Trump may have his account reinstated after that period, comments to his videos are shut down “indefinitely,” due to “safety concerns found in the comments section,” YouTube added.

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#alphabet, #donald-trump, #google, #insurrection, #policy, #sedition, #trump, #youtube

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“Selfish Idiocy:” Infected lawmaker blasts Republicans for bunkering maskless [Updated]

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, July 29, 2020.

Enlarge / Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, July 29, 2020. (credit: Getty | Graeme Jennings)

UPDATE 1/12/2021, 11:15am EST: And now there is a third. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill) announced Tuesday morning that he, too, has tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering with maskless Republican colleagues.

In a statement, Schneider said that during the insurrection, he was “forced to spend several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other Members of Congress,” and “several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask.”

Schneider reported that so far, he has not experienced symptoms but was nevertheless concerned. “Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he said. “Wearing a mask is not a political statement, it is public health guidance, common courtesy, and simply what should be expected of all decent people.”

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#capitol, #congress, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #insurrection, #pandemic, #public-health, #science

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Parler goes dark, sues Amazon to demand immediate reinstatement

Parler goes dark, sues Amazon to demand immediate reinstatement

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

In less than three days, social networking service Parler has gone from darling of the right wing to a has-been service that can no longer be accessed online. In response, the company is now suing its former Web host, Amazon, alleging the hosting giant intentionally colluded with rival social service Twitter to knock a competitor out of the market.

Amazon Web Services’ decision to cut Parler off “is apparently motivated by political animus,” Parler writes in its suit (PDF). “It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”

Parler asks the court to grant a temporary restraining order against Amazon and “order AWS to maintain Parler’s account until further notice.” The company also seeks damages “in an amount to be determined at trial.”

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#conspiracy-theories, #deplatforming, #extremism, #insurrection, #parler, #policy, #social-media, #terrorism

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Lawmakers’ “safe room” may have been full of coronavirus, Capitol doc warns

Workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) clean an entry to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

Enlarge / Workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) clean an entry to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The attending physician to Congress on Sunday sent an alert to lawmakers warning them that they may have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus while huddled in a safe room during last Wednesday’s violent insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of President Trump.

As Ars has previously reported, there was clear risk of mass disease spread at the insurrection. Mostly maskless rioters not following social distancing recommendations may have spread the virus amongst themselves and to lawmakers as they rallied and stormed the Capitol building. In addition, lawmakers and staff who likewise eschew basic public health guidance added to the risk of a superspreading event as members of Congress hunkered down together during the attack.

In the Sunday email alert sent to all members of Congress, attending physician Brian Monahan focused on the latter risk, writing:

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#capitol, #congress, #coup, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #insurrection, #lawmakers, #public-health, #science, #superspreader

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Donald Trump has finally earned a permaban from Twitter

Donald Trump has finally earned a permaban from Twitter

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Twitter has permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account due to repeated incitement of violence, the company announced Friday night.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them—specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter—we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a company blog post this evening.

On Wednesday, in the wake of the insurrectionist violence at the US Capitol, Twitter gave Trump a 12-hour suspension and required him to delete three tweets that it saw as continuing to promote, endorse, or glorify the violent event.

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#deplatforming, #donald-trump, #insurrection, #policy, #sedition, #social-media, #trump, #twitter, #violence

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Insurrectionists’ social media presence gives feds an easy way to ID them

Men with flags and bizarre costumes pose for a photo in a neoclassical corridor.

Enlarge / The seditionists who broke into the US Capitol on Wednesday were not particularly subtle and did not put any particular effort into avoiding being identified. (credit: Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images)

Law enforcement agencies trying to track down insurrectionists who participated in yesterday’s events at the US Capitol have a wide array of tools at their disposal thanks to the ubiquity of cameras and social media.

Both local police and the FBI are seeking information about individuals who were “actively instigating violence” in Washington, DC, on January 6. While media organizations took thousands of photos police can use, they also have more advanced technologies at their disposal to identify participants, following what several other agencies have done in recent months.

Several police departments, such as Miami, Philadelphia, and New York City, turned to facial recognition platforms—including the highly controversial Clearview AI—during the widespread summer 2020 demonstrations against police brutality and in support of Black communities. In Philadelphia, for example, police used software to compare protest footage against Instagram photos to identify and arrest a protestor. In November, The Washington Post reported that investigators from 14 local and federal agencies in the DC area have used a powerful facial recognition system more than 12,000 times since 2019.

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#dc, #facial-recognition, #fbi, #insurrection, #law-enforcement, #livestreams, #police, #policy, #sedition, #washington

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Capitol insurrection was recipe for COVID superspreader event

A mask is left behind in a hallway at the US Capitol January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC. The US Congress has finished the certification for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' Electoral College win after pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol and temporarily stopped the process.

Enlarge / A mask is left behind in a hallway at the US Capitol January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC. The US Congress has finished the certification for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Electoral College win after pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol and temporarily stopped the process. (credit: Getty | Alex Wong)

Yesterday’s disgraceful and violent insurrection will stand as one of the darkest moments in American history. But it could also be yet another dark point in the ongoing pandemic, which—in case you got distracted—is still spreading out of control and devastating much of the country.

As marauders entered the United States Capitol building Wednesday, health officials around the country logged more than 243,000 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitals tallied nearly 132,500 COVID-19 patients in their beds. And at least 3,793 American lost their lives to the pandemic virus. With surge upon surge of disease, over 21 million people in the US have been infected and over 352,000 loved ones are dead.

Fuel on the inferno

The pandemic did not pause for those in the District of Columbia on Wednesday. Like many places, Washington has seen an increase in cases and deaths amid winter holidays. During the president’s insurrection, the capital reported 316 new cases—a sharp rise from the seven-day rolling average of 86 new cases per day logged on November 1. There were also five new deaths Wednesday, up from an average of one November 1. Overall, the city of more than 700,000 residents has reported a total of nearly 30,500 cases and over 800 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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#capitol-building, #congress, #covid-19, #insurrection, #science, #superspreader, #trump

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