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Zuckerberg Faces Capitol Attack Grilling As Biden Signals Tougher Line On Big Tech |The Republican News

The head of Facebook, and his Google and Twitter counterparts, could face a rough ride at the scene of the insurrectionists’ crime

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Google and Twitter respectively.

By David Smith in Washington
@smithinamerica

Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook, could be in for a rough ride on Thursday when he testifies to Congress for the first time about the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol in Washington DC and amid growing questions over his platform’s role in fuelling the violence.

The testimony will come after signs that the new administration of Joe Biden is preparing to take a tougher line on the tech industry’s power, especially when it comes to the social media platforms and their role in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Zuckerberg will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Google and Twitter respectively, at a hearing pointedly entitled “Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation” by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.

The scrutiny comes after a report found that Facebook allowed groups linked to the QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements to glorify violence during the 2020 election and weeks leading up to the deadly mob violence at the US Capitol.

Avaaz, a non-profit advocacy group, says it identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that spread “violence-glorifying content” in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names aligned with several domestic extremist movements.

The top 100 most popular false or misleading stories on Facebook related to the elections received an estimated 162m views, the report found. Avaaz called on the White House and Congress to open an investigation into Facebook’s failures and urgently pass legislation to protect American democracy.

Fadi Quran, its campaign director, said: “This report shows that American voters were pummeled with false and misleading information on Facebook every step of the 2020 election cycle. We have over a year’s worth of evidence that the platform helped drive billions of views to pages and content that confused voters, created division and chaos, and, in some instances, incited violence.

“But the most worrying finding in our analysis is that Facebook had the tools and capacity to better protect voters from being targets of this content, but the platform only used them at the very last moment, after significant harm was done.”

Facebook claimed that Avaaz had used flawed methodology. Andy Stone, a spokesperson, said: “We’ve done more than any other internet company to combat harmful content, having already banned nearly 900 militarized social movements and removed tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups and accounts from our apps.”

He acknowledged: “Our enforcement isn’t perfect, which is why we’re always improving it while also working with outside experts to make sure that our policies remain in the right place.”

Meanwhile, a group of 12 state attorneys general have sent a letter to the Zuckerberg and the Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, urging the social media companies to crack down on misinformation about coronavirus vaccines on their platforms.

The group, led by the Connecticut attorney general, William Tong, warned the Zuckerberg and Dorsey that such misinformation is “threatening the health of our communities” and “slowing progress in getting our residents protected from the virus”. They called on the CEOs to “take immediate steps to fully enforce your companies’ guidelines against vaccine misinformation”.

But the reports are likely to prompt tough questions for Zuckerberg in what is part of a wider showdown between Washington and Silicon Valley. Another flashpoint on Thursday could be Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from liability for content their users post.

Repealing the law is one of the few things on which Biden and his predecessor as president, Donald Trump, agree, though for different reasons. Democrats are concerned that Section 230 allows disinformation and conspiracy theories such as QAnon to flourish, while Trump and other Republicans have argued that it protects companies from consequences for censoring conservative voices.

The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past.
The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
More generally, critics say that tech companies are too big and that the coronavirus pandemic has only increased their dominance. The cosy relationship between Barack Obama’s administration and Silicon Valley is a thing of the past, while libertarian Republicans who oppose government interference are a fading force.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have all come under scrutiny from Congress and regulators in recent years. The justice department, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general are suing the behemoths over various alleged antitrust violations.

In a letter this week to Biden and Merrick Garland, the new attorney general, a coalition of 29 progressive groups wrote: “It’s clear that the ability of Big Tech giants like Google to acquire monopoly power has been abetted by the leadership deficit at top enforcement agencies such as the FTC … We need a break from past, failed leadership, and we need it now.”

There are signs that Biden is heeding such calls and spoiling for a confrontation. On Monday he nominated Lina Khan, an antitrust scholar who wants stricter regulation of internet companies, to the FTC. Earlier this month Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor among the most outspoken critics of big tech, was appointed to the national economic council.

There is support in Congress from the likes of David Cicilline, chairman of the House judiciary committee’s antitrust panel, which last year released a 449-page report detailing abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

The Democratic congressman is reportedly poised to issue at least 10 legislative initiatives targeting big tech, a blitz that will make it harder for the companies and their lobbyists to focus their opposition on a single piece of legislation.

Cicilline, also working on a separate bill targeting Section 230, told the Axios website: “My strategy is you’ll see a number of bills introduced, both because it’s harder for [the tech companies] to manage and oppose, you know, 10 bills as opposed to one.

“It also is an opportunity for members of the committee who have expressed a real interest or enthusiasm about a particular issue, to sort of take that on and champion it.”

Joan Greve contributed reporting.

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Trump And Giuliani Sued By Democratic Congressman Over Capitol Riot |The Republican News

Former President: Donald Trump

Lawsuit brought by Bennie Thompson and NAACP argues ex-president and lawyer violated law known as Ku Klux Klan Act

By David Smith in Washington
@smithinamerica

Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, have been accused of conspiring to incite the violent riot at the US Capitol, in a legal action filed under a historic law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.

The lawsuit was brought on Tuesday by the Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the eminent civil rights organisation the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

It comes three days after Trump was acquitted by the US Senate on a charge of inciting the 6 January insurrection, only for the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit, to point out that presidents are “not immune” to being held accountable by criminal or civil litigation.

The suit alleges that Trump, Giuliani and the extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers conspired to incite the attack on the Capitol with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.

It argues that they therefore violated a law often referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act, passed in 1871 in response to Klan violence and intimidation preventing members of Congress in the Reconstruction south from carrying out their constitutional duties. The NAACP, founded in 1909, says the statute was designed to protect against conspiracies.

Joseph Sellers, who is with the Washington law firm Cohen Milstein and filed the lawsuit on Thompson’s behalf, told the Associated Press: “Fortunately, this hasn’t been used very much. But what we see here is so unprecedented that it’s really reminiscent of what gave rise to the enactment of this legislation right after the civil war.”

Thompson, who chairs the House homeland security committee, was among members of Congress who donned gas masks and were rushed to shelter in an office building during the mayhem of 6 January, in which five people died. Members of he Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been charged with taking part in the riot.

Thompson said in a statement that Trump’s “gleeful support of violent white supremacists led to a breach of the Capitol that put my life, and that of my colleagues, in grave danger. It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier.

“While the majority of Republicans in the Senate abdicated their responsibility to hold the President accountable, we must hold him accountable for the insurrection that he so blatantly planned. Failure to do so will only invite this type of authoritarianism for the anti-democratic forces on the far right that are so intent on destroying our country.”

Filed on Tuesday in federal district court in Washington, the suit charts an expansive effort by Trump and Giuliani to undermine the election result despite state officials and courts rejecting their false allegations of fraud. The two men portrayed the election as stolen while Trump “endorsed rather than discouraged” threats of violence from his supporters leading up to the attack on the Capitol, the suit says.

“The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence,” it continues. “It was the intended and foreseeable culmination of a carefully coordinated campaign to interfere with the legal process required to confirm the tally of votes cast in the Electoral College.”

Presidents are typically shielded from the courts for actions carried out in office but this one focuses on Trump in his personal rather than official capacity. Seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, it alleges that none of the conduct at issue is related to Trump’s responsibilities as president.

Sellers explained: “Inciting a riot, or attempting to interfere with the congressional efforts to ratify the results of the election that are commended by the constitution, could not conceivably be within the scope of ordinary responsibilities of the president. In this respect, because of his conduct, he is just like any other private citizen.”

Trump faces a potential slew of lawsuits now he has lost the legal protections of office. Additional actions could be brought by other members of Congress or police officers injured in the riot, a prospect acknowledged by the White House on Tuesday.

Jen Psaki, the press secretary, told reporters Biden “certainly supports the rights of individuals, members of Congress and otherwise, to take steps through the judicial process but I don’t think we have a further comment on it than that”.

She added: “I am not going to speculate on criminal prosecution from the White House podium. The president has committed to having an independent justice department that will make their own decision about the path forward.”

Trump defence lawyers are expected to argue that his speech was protected by the first amendment to the constitution and point out that, in a speech on 6 January, he told supporters to behave “peacefully”.

Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said in a statement Trump had not organised the rally that preceded the riot and “did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on 6 January”. (The Guardian)

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West Virginia Lawmaker Who Filmed Self Storming Capitol To Face Charges |The Republican News

West Virginia House of Delegates member Derrick Evans, left, will face charges for storming the U.S. Capitol.;
PERRY BENNETT/WEST VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE/AP

■ Federal prosecutors will charge right-wing legislator Derrick Evans and others with entering a restricted area and entering the Capitol.

By Ryan J. Reilly

WASHINGTON ― A right-wing West Virginia lawmaker who stormed the U.S. Capitol during an insurrectionist attack in support of President Donald Trump’s losing reelection campaign will face charges, a federal official said Friday.

Derrick Evans, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates who livestreamed himself invading the U.S. Capitol but claims he “committed no criminal act,” will face charges, an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said. The case was expected to appear on a court docket on Friday.

West Virginia House of Delegates member Derrick Evans, left, will face charges for storming the U.S. Capitol.
The charge was an indication that federal officials would use social media posts and other evidence to go after the insurrectionists even though they were allowed to leave the Capitol Building without being arrested and processed.

Also charged was Richard Barnett, who posed for photos inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and gave an interview identifying himself. Another defendant who had 11 Molotov cocktails in a truck with Alabama license plates will also face charges, officials said.

Ken Kohl, the No. 2 official in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said the investigation was the highest priority for the Justice Department. “We literally have hundreds of prosecutors and agents working from three command centers on what is really a 24-7 operation,” he said. “It is active, it is fluid, it is evolving.”

Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said the bureau was “far from done” and that the rioting and destruction “would not be tolerated” by the FBI.

“I want to stress this: Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol,” D’Antuono said.

Richard Barnett sits in Nancy Pelosi’s office on Wednesday.
SAUL LOEB VIA GETTY IMAGES
Richard Barnett sits in Nancy Pelosi’s office on Wednesday.

Federal officials said they appreciated the tips they’d received from the public, and that hundreds of federal law enforcement officials were working around the clock to identify and charge as many of the insurrectionists as possible. (Huffington Post)

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Six Republican Lawmakers Among Rioters As Police Make Public Photos Of Wanted |The Republican News

By Gustaf Kilander

DC police release photos of alleged members of Trump mob (DC Police)

At least six Republican state legislators took part in events surrounding the storming of the US Capitol. West Virginia Delegate Derrick Evans posted a video of himself entering the building but later deleted it, The New York Times reported.

Tennessee state lawmaker Terri Lynn Weaver told the Tennessean that she was “in the thick of it” during the rally before the storming of the Capitol. She said there was “Just a whole heck of a lot of patriots here”. She later tweeted a picture of the mob at the base of the Capitol, saying: “Epic and historic day gathering with fellow Patriots from all over the nation DC.”

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase denied that any violence had taken place, despite the overwhelming evidence, and later accused the police of murder after the shooting of a California woman inside the Capitol. “A veteran who was brutally murdered by Capitol Police today,” Chase wrote on Facebook according to the Henrico Citizen.

“These were not rioters and looters; these were Patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turn into a socialist country. I was there with the people; I know. Don’t believe the fake media narrative,” she wrote.

Missouri State Representative Justin Hill skipped his swearing-in ceremony to be in DC. He marched to the Capitol but didn’t enter, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported him as saying.

Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano made sure that a busload of people could be in DC. He said in a video that he didn’t participate in the clashes with police, The Hill reported.

Michigan State Representative Matt Maddock was also at the scene, according to The Hill.

This comes as the FBI and DC Police released images of people wanted on federal charges for violently storming the US Capitol. They are trying to track down 36 people after 68 were already arrested after violent clashes with police as the Trump-supporting mob broke into the Capitol, forcing members of Congress to evacuate and seek shelter in undisclosed locations. Four rioters died and 56 officers were injured in the ensuing chaos. One officer remains in hospital after being beaten and tased by the mob.

Charges include inciting a riot and weapons violations. Rioters scaled the Capitol building, defaced statues, committed countless acts of vandalism and fought with police.

The suspects include Holocaust deniers, White supremacists, and conspiracy theorists.

Several of them have already been identified online, such as 32-year-old Jake Angeli, sometimes called the “QAnon Shaman” according to the Arizona Republic. Shirtless and wearing horns and a fur, the Trump-supporting QAnon conspiracy theorist was seen in numerous images from the Capitol on Wednesday.

An unnamed man was fired from his job at a Maryland marketing firm after wearing his company badge while storming the Capitol.

Trump news – live: President ‘asking to pardon himself’ as he flees to Camp David amid 25th amendment talk

But many have yet to be identified. Former Deputy Director of the FBI Danny Coulson told Fox News that: “It didn’t just happen,” asserting that inciters of the riot were to blame. “There were people there that came to do it and generated it and caused this horrible mayhem,” he said.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement: “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our Government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law.”

“Some participants in yesterday’s violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law.”

DC Police released 26 pages of images showing people wanted for “Unlawful entry”.

“We still have a significant amount of work ahead of us to identify and hold each and every one of the violent mob accountable for their violent actions,” Metropolitan Police Department chief Robert Contee said. (Yahoo news)

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