CategoriesEunice Ray & "The End Game"

History Burning

May 10th marks the 88th anniversary of the infamous Nazi book burning of over 25,000 books considered “un-German” in Berlin’s Opera Square. Books labeled extreme and immoral burned as Hitler’s appointed “Minister of Propaganda,” Joseph Goebbels, the sole source for government information, news media and the arts, delivered his speech. As he well knew, in a tyranny, contrary ideas or alternate narratives cannot be allowed to circulate.

Libraries as knowledge systems are often targeted in wars, quite simply because the destruction of a people’s past is necessary to occupy and remake them. Quite naturally the revision or obliterating of history is the business of conquerors.

The Library of Louvain, Belgium was destroyed by German troops in 1914 to international outrage. An Irish newspaper reported it as a “calamity without parallel in history since the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.” The Louvain was rebuilt by Americans in 1922 but was again destroyed by the Germans in 1940. It has been reconstructed once again and stands today.

In the sack of Washington, D.C., in 1814, Royal Navy Admiral Sir George Coburn targeted the Library of Congress where America’s founding documents and history were kept. Thomas Jefferson called the attack an act of barbarism, and he offered his own library as a replacement. Congress purchased the library from Monticello of 6,500 volumes for $24,000. Unfortunately, that library was destroyed in an accidental fire in 1850, moving Congress to again reaffirm the importance of a national knowledge system by establishing funds for a permanent Library of Congress.

There are many other examples of enemy troops destroying library collections. The National Library of Bosnia, archives in Iraq, and many writings in China are examples. In our own lifetimes, Communist countries know to target a nation’s history in any conquest for domination:

As we reflect on the sobering consequences of socialists and communist forces bold enough to set their sights on America after spending last summer destroying statues, memorials, and historic artifacts, let us never forget. Reminded are we on this 88th anniversary of the Nazi’s knowledge purge that the books collected by families, who read about American liberty by hearth fires, have become a most valuable commodity to the future and freedom of the next generation.

In LaGrange, Kentucky just such a preservation effort is underway. The family book collection of a visionary man, Colonel Ron Ray, has been donated to a library effort. The Colonel spent the latter half of the 20th century collecting eyewitness accounts and early historic writings that explain the birth and miracle of the American’s Constitutional Republic to attempt to understand for himself and others the true casus belli in the battleground known as Vietnam.

Let us not foolishly relinquish America’s true history to the omnipotent power of “cancel culture” held solely by private big tech operatives. George Gilder reports in 2017 at Asilomar information-age luminaries secretly gathered to discuss how their inventions threaten to attain consciousness and reduce human beings to patronizing pets:

‘The Asilomar Statement of AI Principles, signed by eight thousand scientists, representing a 97 percent consensus-including a passel of Nobel laureates and Hawking-echoed the billowy affirmations of Google’s own “Do No Evil” precepts and statement of principles of Burning Man. ‘Superintelligence should only be developed in the service of widely shared ethical ideals, and for the benefit of humanity rather than one state or organization…An arms race in lethal autonomous weapons should be avoided.’

Asilomar 2017Big Tech fully proclaims its alignment with a narrow globalist agenda and those outside the party “online” are canceled or subject to the “May 10th” treatment. We are living in a time as George Orwell warns in 1984, where we find “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, and the lie became truth.” Already targeted are conservatives, Christians, the 3 percent of dissenting scientists not aligned with the Asilomar agreement, and others, who suddenly find their storage terminated with no access to years of published work. One wonders where can one go to teach and succor those born into the prevailing lies of the future, who never knew the truth of history?

Finally, China’s communist party leader Xi Jinping has directed his regime to focus on controlling the global internet as a national strategy for world domination. Just as the Amorite, he understands the eternal power of media over the minds and hearts of humankind and the need to weaponize it. Can we trust that what has been is that which shall be? We know each generation must learn it anew. Thus all due haste is required to move forward with the Library of American History, where future generations can discover the trials and benefits of the great experiment that resulted in One Nation Under God, with the eternal organic utterance of “Liberty and Justice for All,” for the great battle is Who is Lord and Who will save us? The battle is won and the answer secure as many founders knew and many others since have reaffirmed: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

God bless America.

CategoriesEunice Ray & "The End Game"

Real Men and Chicken Necks

Recently my friend Dominique and I motored to Evansville to say good-bye to Ray Vescovi who died at age 91. I never met Ray, but I knew Ray’s daughter.  I say I didn’t know Ray, but I’ve known so many like Ray.

Upon Ray’s graduation in 1951, I learned from his obit that he signed with the Boston Red Sox. Ray was quite an athlete, one of the boys of summer, who played for the love of the game. The Korean War interrupted his early life and like so many of the “greatest generation,” he simply went to serve his nation for two years as a First Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne.

Before media giants, baseball businesses and the big bucks, Ray retired from baseball after three years of play and settled in Evansville, Indiana.  He married his beautiful Mary Suzann, raised 5 children, four girls and one son.  Ray and his bride lived to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. 

I suspected without knowing that I would appreciate being in the mourner’s ranks for Ray Vescovi, because I appreciate this self-sacrificing generation. Not all of them were givers, but, overall, there was a quiet acceptance of the patterns of living that are unalterable in any time and age.  At 72, I now keenly understand the foibles of human nature and the finite nature of time.  Today mourning Ray serves to clarify reflections on my own life. 

When Ray’s accomplished eldest daughter rose to bravely deliver her eulogy, I was happy to learn more as she recalled her father’s life for all of us.  In Ray’s 41 years as a teacher, he touched many lives accounting for the great number of student comments on the funeral home’s obit page. The 2020 pandemic has changed so many things, including how we say goodbye to our family and friends.  Former students clicked their remembrances of Mr. Vescovi expressing their digital thanks to him.  Teachers, who are called to the profession like Ray would have so valued the students’ comments because he obviously wasn’t teaching for the money. 

Then, his daughter said something that made the trip for me.  She thought it important to mention that her father always ate the chicken neck.  Like my family and so many other families of that time, we all sat down together at the table for dinner and there was one chicken no matter how many there were to feed.  Ray’s wife Mary Suzann no doubt prepared the chicken for her family along with vegetable side dishes which probably included mashed potatoes, but Ray always ate the neck. The children spent years thinking the neck was his favorite piece of chicken. 

I thought back through Ray’s history. He was the child of Depression-era parents and certainly learned from them about want. Then during his growing up years WWII rationing surely taught him frugality.  His military training taught him that his men ate first and, if there wasn’t enough, officers went without or with what was left.  It follows that Ray’s family got the best pieces of the chicken and never suspected anything other than he really liked the chicken’s neck. As the eldest of 7, I became a connoisseur of the chicken’s gizzard, back and neck.  Trust me, a neck is no wing so popular now.  The truth is much more likely that Ray chose the neck because he preferred a life of duty marked by sacrifice, and certainly not because he liked the neck.  

Dominique and I left Evansville as Ray’s family motored off in the slow processional to the cemetery for their father’s burial with full military honors.  I found myself reassured with a peaceful satisfaction in now being acquainted with Ray Vescovi.  I am part of the Vescovis’ collective memory of a time when families were led by a sacrificing father, who had honorably served his nation, married one woman, raised his children while working to support them, and for Ray that meant teaching and pouring into others his entire life. 

Ray represents an American era I will always cherish.  Good-bye Ray and thank you for your last lesson to me this day as your life’s impact continues to ripple out beyond time into eternity.
CategoriesSpeaking Freely with Todd McMurtry

The Defamation Lawsuit is Essential to Our Future

Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya recently tweeted that we “may be one defamation lawsuit away from canceling cancel culture.” Palihapitiya was suggesting a person defamed by a comment made by a New York Times reporter should sue. The reporter falsely alleged on Twitter that this person had made the R-slur during a session on the social media app Clubhouse. His point is that the only way to hold corporatist-media to account for profit-driven, non-stop misrepresentations and false reporting is through defamation lawsuits.

Most people attacked by corporatist-media are known as a “public figure” or a “limited purpose public figure.” For one of these people to hold the media to account for misrepresentations and false reporting, they must prove that the reporter made a statement that was defamatory and that it was made with “actual malice.” This is generally defined as “an evil intent or motive arising from spite or ill will; or culpable recklessness or willful and wanton disregard of the rights and interests of the person defamed.” This is hard to prove, because reporters often do just enough work to pretend they acted in good faith. There are, however, ways to attack corporatist-media when the reporters write hit pieces instead of news.

When a reporter relies on biased or anonymous sources, issues threats or other negative statements, demonstrates ill will or hostility, or is a rival, such conduct may support a claim of actual malice. A reporter’s bias might also support an allegation of actual malice. For example, if a reporter has a business relationship with one party and then writes a hit piece on that party’s business competitor, the business competitor can point to the reporter’s bias to prove actual malice. By these standards, many hit pieces may be actionable.

So, what is to be done? We need more suits against corporatist-media that engages in writing hit-pieces. These efforts might expand the law to make the chances of success in such litigation more likely. Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested that the law is ripe for change. As well, if they know they will be sued for their actions, they might be more careful about what they write. The problem is the time and expense of pursuing litigation. Most people cannot afford to pay an attorney by the hour and most attorneys can only handle so many contingency fee cases, especially ones that present the unique challenges of defamation litigation.

What is needed is a public interest law firm. Such a firm is a private firm, like any other, but it is focused on representing a particular cause. It is not profit oriented but is instead issue oriented. Such a firm would rely upon outside funding to operate, as its cases would not necessarily make money. Perhaps billionaires such as Palihapitiya can spare a little change to empower a public interest law firm dedicated to taking on the corporatist media. This effort could rebalance the relationship between corporatist-media and those it attacks.

CategoriesSpeaking Freely with Todd McMurtry

Swaying with the Algorithm: How Twitter Allows Abuse and Manipulation

How reflective of your likes and interests is your Twitter feed? And who’s behind deciding what you see in the first place? The social media platform would say “you,” but a skeptical public isn’t so sure.

Todd McMurty

How reflective of your likes and interests is your Twitter feed? And who’s behind deciding what you see in the first place? The social media platform would say “you,” but a skeptical public isn’t so sure. Over the past several months, Twitter’s algorithm practices have been questioned by everyone from CNN to PBS to the Washington Post to Twitter users themselves. There is a strong argument that social media algorithms helped incite the recent post-election violence. Why? Because something, as they say, is rotten in the state of cyberspace. Hate-speech and harassment, disguised as paid content and “helpful” content suggestions that miss the mark are regular occurrences on the social media giant, and its algorithm is taking the blame.

What’s an algorithm, exactly?

As defined by Wikipedia, an algorithm “is a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or to perform a computation.” Sounds innocent enough, right? It is. It’s nothing more than an aspect of computer science.

However, Yale data scientist Elisa Celis (who studies fairness and diversity in artificial intelligence) explains that companies like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and others refuse to reveal what’s exactly in their respective algorithm’s codes. Most, she says, seem to “revolve around one central tenet: maximizing user engagement­­—and, ultimately, revenue.”

So, are Twitter’s algorithms nothing more than a money-making tool? On the surface, yes. It’s learning what a user’s behaviors are while engaging with the content on the platform: The articles shared, the search terms used, and so on. The idea is to take that data and translate it to relevant products and services.

“These things aren’t malicious, and they’re not out of control,” states Celis in PBS “Nova” reporter Katherine J. Wu’s article, “Radical ideas spread through social media. Are the algorithms to blame?”. “But it’s also important to acknowledge that these algorithms are small pieces of machinery that affect billions of people.” As Wu puts it, at what point does personalization cross the line to polarizing? The algorithms can’t tell the difference between boating and bigotry, and they aren’t trying to.

Who is to blame?

Like any tool, however, Twitter’s algorithm can be used for benevolent, benign, or malicious purposes. The question is, how influenced are we by them, and more importantly, who is behind the influence? “If the global reach of social media were being used merely to spread messages of peace and harmony—or just to make money—maybe there wouldn’t be any [harm]. But the purposes are often darker,” writes Bloomberg reporter Shelly Banjo.

According to the tech companies that implement them, these programs exist only to help and serve you, the user. In essence, they are saying, “Yes, turning a profit is the ultimate goal, but not before bringing you relevant, customized stories, news information, and products based on your likes and dislikes. You’re the one in control, not us. And if you act out based on content fed to you, then that’s your fault, not ours. It’s your interests and online behavior that caused it to appear in the first place.”

Do (but don’t) be influenced by media

It’s the same illogical mentality behind the idea of product placement in television and movies: Don’t be influenced by the sex and violence on the screen, just the BMW and Coke that happen to be there. If content leads a person to act out in a way other than shopping, especially any negative way, that’s on them. Wu notes, “It would be an oversimplification to point to any single video, article, or blog and say it caused a real-world hate crime. But social media, news sites, and online forums have given an indisputably powerful platform to ideas that can drive extreme violence.”

Maybe all you do is look at hilarious cat videos and share links to your favorite recipes. Think your feed is safe? Think again. In “Facebook, Twitter and the Digital Disinformation Mess,” Banjo also highlights how “social media manipulation campaigns” have been utilized by governments and political parties in 70 countries, including China, Russia, India, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. Circumventing and outsmarting social media firewalls and algorithms, state-sponsored smear campaigns in these countries utilize artificial intelligence and internet bots to flood targeted news feeds with extremist messages and videos. The technology to do this exists, and it’s happening now.

Yet, not all algorithms exist to sway your purchasing decisions or serve tech-giant masters. One promising solution was presented by Binghamton University late last year. Computer scientist Jeremy Blackburn, along with a team of researchers and faculty, “have developed machine-learning algorithms which can successfully identify bullies and aggressors on Twitter with 90 percent accuracy.” While not perfect, it’s important to note that this technology also exists, and it’s a bright ray of hope.

Abuse on Twitter a regular occurrence

This concern over the unchecked power of Twitter, et al and their algorithms cross party lines and media bias, affecting celebrates and everyday citizens alike. (Even actor Sasha Baron Cohen uses the Trump-popularized phrase “fake news” stating in his op-ed piece for the Washington Post that online, “everything can appear equally legitimate.”) He isn’t alone in his criticisms. Fed up with the onslaught of abuse and hate speech, fellow celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Millie Bobby Brown, and Wil Wheaton have limited their presence on Twitter—and have been quite vocal about doing so.

While one might argue that living in the public eye comes with consequences, those not in the limelight are equally disgruntled with the social media platform’s refusal to address rampant harassment. Every day, average users continue to question why nothing operates on the platform to combat abuse. Especially critical of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, those active on the social media platform call him out for continually refusing to address cyberbullying concerns. In The Atlantic article “Twitter’s New Features Aren’t What Users Asked For,” author Taylor Lorenz shares one frustrated user’s tweet. “The annoying thing is that every few months Jack comes out with a big speech about how they’re going to fix twitter, and ever[y] time they just continue to get it wrong.”

And what of the onslaught of abuse and harassment suffered by private citizens who find themselves thrust into the spotlight as a result of sloppy reporting? Or peer-to-peer cyberbullying occurring across the personal devices of children and teenagers every day? What fills the Twitter feeds of their tormentors? As Wu states, “[Algorithms] don’t have a conscience that tells them when they’ve gone too far. Their top priority is that of their parent company: to showcase the most engaging content—even if that content happens to be disturbing, wrathful, or factually incorrect.” Are abusers fed more and more volatile articles and videos, which in turn fans the flame of the hate and anger they unleash on others?

Twitter slow to respond to user demands

Although Twitter states that combating abuse is a “work in progress,” the company instead chooses to implement useless updates and changes that are, in some instances, only making it easier to engage in harassment. Lorenz adds, “While the company continues to dedicate time and resources to making minor changes aimed at boosting engagement, easy fixes for harassment are ignored.” Most recently, Twitter purged an untold number of QAnon conspiracy theorists, but this one-time housecleaning will not solve how algorithms move the speech on Twitter.

Lorenz reports that in 2016, Online Abuse Prevention Initiative founder Randi Lee Harper laid out several improvement options in a Medium post. Although most were addressed by Twitter eventually, several suggestions that addressed minimizing harassment were ignored. Instead, some of the “updates” the social media platform chose to rollout were mostly cosmetic:

  • changing its user avatars from square-shaped to circular
  • redesigning Moments
  • adding topic tags to the Explore page
  • spamming users’ timelines with a “happening now” section
  • adding endless notifications
  • upping the character limit to 280
  • promoting live videos of sports events
  • revamping its algorithm to give older tweets more prominence

Taking Twitter to Task

Close on that last one, Twitter, but you miss the mark again. An algorithm revamp, but of a different sort, is what the public is demanding. New on the media scene (compared to that of television, movies, and the radio), social media’s persuasive power has remained largely unchecked, and the law is desperately trying to catch up.

In his op-ed piece, Baron Cohen brings to light a chilling fact: the large technology companies behind these platforms are, for the most part, beholden to no one—not even the law:

“These super-rich “Silicon Six” care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy. This is ideological imperialism—six unelected individuals in Silicon Valley imposing their vision on the rest of the world, unaccountable to any government and acting like they’re above the reach of the law. Surely, instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world over, our democratically elected representatives should have at least some say.”

The “Silicon Six” Baron Cohen refers to are American billionaires and tech giant CEOs and/or founders Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sundar Pichai (Google), Larry Page (Google), Sergey Brin (Google), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), and Jack Dorsey (Twitter). Similarly, Wu notes that one of the biggest reasons to be wary of social media companies’ algorithms is that, “[only] a limited subset of people are privy to what’s actually in them.”

In his article for The Verge, reporter Casey Newton writes that while Baron Cohen efforts to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (the driving force behind his speech and opinion piece) are somewhat misguided, he raises some valuable points. Newton agrees with him about not only the dangers of algorithmic recommendations on social platforms but that the aforementioned “Silicon Six” have been permitted so much influence “thanks to a combination of ignorance and inattention from our elected officials.”

Data journalist Meredith Broussard, communications expert Safiya Noble, and computer scientist Nisheeth Vishoni (all interviewed for Wu’s article for “Nova”) feel social media algorithms should be tested and vetted as strenuously as drugs before they hit the market.

Noble further states, “We expect that companies shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the air and water in ways that might hurt us. We should also expect a high-quality media environment not polluted with disinformation, lies, propaganda. We need for democracy to work. Those are fair things for people to expect and require policymakers to start talking about.” These companies can’t police themselves, nor should they. If social media companies do not change their ways, then our elected officials in Washington should change the rules for them.

Todd McMurtry is a nationally recognized attorney whose practice focuses on defamation, social media law, cyberbullying, and professional malpractice. You can follow him on Twitter @ToddMcMurtry.

CategoriesSpeaking Freely with Todd McMurtry

So Someone Called You a Racist or Bigot, . . .

As many of you know, for the past few years my law practice has become more and more focused on reputational issues. Nearly every day, someone who has been called a racist or bigot contacts me to seek guidance. Businesspeople, professionals, professors, college students, and even high school students are targeted for condemnation and cancellation. It is routine for people to file website petitions (on sites like, calling for another person’s firing due to a comment perceived to be racist or bigoted. Today, a person who competes too aggressively on the playing field can be called a racist. Raising the slightest objection to a corporate policy geared toward the LGBTQ community earns you the “bigot” title. The smallest transgression can result in the immediate loss of a job, removal from an office, and even scrubbing from employer records. I am not exaggerating when I say that cancellation represents an existential threat to your future.

So, what is a person to do? The first and best policy is to avoid statements that lend themselves to misinterpretation. As a part of this strategy, you should get off social media entirely. Close your Facebook and become anonymous on Twitter. Even the most carefully cultivated social media posts, reinterpreted five years from now, can be condemned for saying the “wrong thing.”

At work, you must learn that you do not have any friends whom you can trust. You can never let down your guard. You can never trust that your coworkers, partners, or those whom you teach will not misinterpret something you said. The risks are too high.

However, if someone calls you a racist or bigot despite the best efforts, I have learned that the only effective response is to fight back with everything you have. I also recommend that you first hire an attorney to advise you about your circumstances before you do anything. Each state has different laws on these issues, so you need a competent professional familiar with your state’s laws to help.

If a coworker calls you a bigot and will not retract after you confront them, you need to have your attorney contact them. If a person establishes a petition calling you a racist, you need to send that person a letter and force them to take the petition down immediately or face the consequences. In today’s electronic society, these things do not go away. When you apply for college, for graduate school, for your first job, for your 2nd job, and on and on, the record of the false allegation will live forever.

As our society moves more and more in the direction of cancellation for people who fail to abide by prevailing opinions, they run a severe risk of losing their economic livelihood or suffering hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages to their ability to earn an income. Again, I am not exaggerating when I say that people call me and tell me how they were fired or how their businesses were destroyed over racism and bigotry allegations.

So, is there hope? I have always believed that truth wins out in the end. Unfortunately, right now, we are at a point in our history that does not tolerate dissent. I am sure in time, as has happened in the past, things will balance out. Until then, be very careful. A parting thought is that you personally do not need to fight this fight. There are many people out there who have already been canceled and can speak truth to power. Let them do their job, and maybe in time, things will get better.
Be safe.

CategoriesFarm Girl News

I’m Not Buying It!

Lately there’s been much news about boycotting this company, and not patronizing that company, because of their political views or actions. While I’m all for making a stand for what we believe in, it does become increasingly harder to adhere to all the constraints we have put on ourselves in the name of solidarity. 

Recently there’s been a huge push to boycott Amazon for the part they played in the recent de-platforming of Parler. What Amazon did to Parler was unconscionable, no matter what your political affiliation is.  Can censorship ever be acceptable?  Is it ever to okay to stifle the free speech of another just because it doesn’t align with what’s popular?  Our country was founded on dissension from the norms.  What if our forefathers had allowed their words, their beliefs and their lives to be stifled by popular political doctrine?  Would we all be sipping tea and bending the knee to the English monarchy?

In additional to their pay for services, Amazon is also a forum for small businesses to sell their goods.  In many respects, it’s a virtual mall where individual companies’ set up shop.  If we boycott Amazon, then what happens to these small online retailers?  If you see something you want/need on Amazon, check to see who the seller is.  Often times, you can order the item directly from the seller instead. 

Ultimately giving money to the “tech titans” is the last thing I personally want to do.  If only I could put down my iphone, Ipad and Macbook.  But what is the alternative?  Supporting Microsoft, HP and Google?  It’s a darned if you do and darned if you don’t situation. Either way your are supporting big tech.

Maybe it’s better to replace boycotting with conscientious buying.  Sounds kind of the same doesn’t it?  But it’s not.  Conscientious buying is purchasing from a retailer because of who they are and what they support, rather than not buying from someone because of what they support.  Do you see how I gave it a positive spin there?

Conscientious buying is about buying local and supporting companies that you want to thrive.  It’s about taking your money and having it be part of what makes a company successful.  Go to the local markets instead of going to a big box grocery.  Buy gifts from a local boutique instead of one of the major chains.  Eat at a local cafe rather than a franchise restaurant. Be thoughtful about what you spend and who you spend it with.  It’s not about depriving the large companies, but it’s more about supporting the small ones. 

Knowing who you support goes a long way with online services too.  One of my favorite online softwares is Airtable.  It’s a database software that I use for most of my clients.  If you can create a spreadsheet, you can create a database in Airtable. I never gave it much thought in the past, but recently felt led to see whether Airtable is a US based company.  Happily, it is. Going forward I plan to make sure that future purchases support our country.  Even a company with differing political ideology that supports the US economy is preferable to one that benefits countries that seek to do us harm.

When it comes to boycotts to social media, rather than seek out a new social media, maybe it’s time to we set down our phones and our tablets and enjoy the world around us.  Go outside and build a snowman. Play a game with your kids. Do anything that doesn’t include “screen time”.  If you can’t or don’t want to walk away completely, reduce your online time.  It’s called “fasting” social media and it can be so rewarding by giving you and your family the opportunity to spend time together and create memories.

Ultimately there are many ways we can make a stand for what we believe in. Concentrating on the positive by supporting businesses that appreciate our patronage, is far better than boycotting a company in retaliation. In the end the result is the same, but one can feed your soul while blessing a business that is deserving of your hard-earned dollars.

CategoriesSpeaking Freely with Todd McMurtry

Adios Mr. President, You Are Banned from Twitter!

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So how did this happen? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others unilaterally decided to kick the president of the United States off their platforms and terminate his social media relationship with as many as 80 million Americans. It seems to most Americans that this is a violation of former Pres. Trump’s right to freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, our Constitution offers no such protection. Generally, your speech in only protected in public spaces, not private property.
As you have likely heard, many people refer to social media companies as private corporations that can do whatever they want on their platforms. This is true. It is also true that in 1996 Congress passed the law called the Communications Decency Act or the CDA. It says: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of — (A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” This act gives companies like Twitter the absolute right to police any content that any person, including the president of the United States, posts on their platform. The courts in the United States have broadly interpreted the law to provide maximum discretion to these companies to decide what their users can post on their platform.

When you sign up for Twitter, you must press a button agreeing to the terms of service (“TOS”). Social media platforms constantly update their TOS to decide exactly what you or former Pres. Trump can or cannot say on social media. First, you can talk about election interference’s, then they decide that you cannot. First you can complain about the origins of the Covid-19 virus, next if you mention it on social media, they shut you down. Examples like this go on and on. Will this end? It likely will not until Congress or the courts change the law. Right now, there are several lawsuits challenging how social media companies use their TOS to interpret their authority under the CDA. We can hope that a more conservative court would temper the way the social media companies use the law. Time will tell.

In the interim, I think we can rest assured that none of the currently existing major social media companies will allow former Pres. Trump to reengage on their social media platforms. The beautiful thing about this is that eventually another platform, be it Parler, Gab or another, will be able to open and provide social media interaction that allows former presidents and other prominent people to post their views on politics and current events without censorship. It may take a few months or a year to get there, but eventually the fact that large social media companies have censored a former U.S. president will result in greater competition. We have already seen companies such as Twitter and Facebook lose value on the stock market. Once a competing company establishes a large presence, there will be real competition. We then can regain much of our right to hear what our leaders have to say.

Todd McMurtry is a nationally known attorney. His practice focuses on defamation, social media law, professional malpractice, and business disputes. You can follow him on Twitter @ToddMcMurtry.

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CategoriesMarcus Carey Perspective Blog

What The Establishment Fears Most: The Rise Of Grass Roots Americans

The Republican Party of Kentucky was asked by several voting members of its central committee to urge Mitch McConnell to stand behind Donald Trump in the second impeachment trial. The party overwhelmingly rejected that request.

Trump won 118 of Kentucky’s 120 counties in 2020. He received 62% of the popular vote. McConnell received 58%.

Cut off from directly communicating with his supporters by the censorship imposed by Twitter and Facebook Trump is now at the mercy of media influence over public opinion.

McConnell’s recent remarks in advance of the senate trial indicate that he has pre-judged Trumps responsibility for the actions of a few rioters who sought to confront Congress and secure a pubic vetting of the legitimacy of the November election in several states. A handful of the protesters did property damage to the Capitol and after Capitol security seemed to have stood down, gained access to areas of the public building usually off limits to visitors.

McConnell recently expressed what seemed to some to be his pre-judgement that Trump “provoked” the violence of a few (though speaking to millions). McConnell’s comments expressed his agreement with the allegation contained in Article 1 of the house impeachment document.

Over the years McConnell has exercised a great deal of control over the Kentucky state party apparatus which operates out of a building in Frankfort which bears his name.

But in a state which showed such strong support for Trump, McConnell’s public statements in advance of the senate trial (due to begin on February 8th) have left many republicans wondering who he speaks for.

The motion before the RPK to urge McConnell to support Donald Trump was soundly defeated. That result will be used to suggest that Ky republicans have abandoned Trump. It will certainly be used to show that McConnell’s control over the party apparatus is stronger than ever. But are either of these impressions true?

Kentucky republican voters will likely not accept or react favorably toward either narrative unless party leadership explains the committee vote in a way which does not slap them in their face on either account.

Failure to do so could have repercussions in the near future as the RPK is about to enter that period during which party reorganization takes place.

Beginning at the precinct level and having impact all the way to the next national presidential nominating convention four years from now, Kentucky republicans get the first and last word on who runs the party, to whom it listens and for whom it speaks.

Traditionally this process has been controlled from the top down with little grass roots participation. But as 2021 arrived and draconian top down censorship, crackdowns and turncoat politics seem to have been absorbed into the GOP a quiet, peaceful, process driven revolution seems to be building.

And what those in power fear most is being watched very carefully. It’s not the fringe, they only make headlines.

What the establishment fears most is the organization of, the collective power of, and the determination of grass roots Americans.