Image for post
Image for post

One of the most consequential — and for some confusing — pieces of internet legislation of the past 25 years has been the subject of white-hot political debates in Washington this election year.

And no one seems more confused by Section 230 than Donald Trump, who in May signed an executive order to undermine this seminal law and force social-media sites to amplify his lies and propaganda with little fact checking or contextualizing.

Trump’s move was well timed… for him at least. …


Image for post
Image for post

“Yes, but …”

That’s the opening refrain of many media pundits when asked to comment on the phenomenal success of the #StopHateForProfit boycott, which now counts more than 750 companies pausing their Facebook advertising in July to protest the spread of racism on the platform.

Yes, but the monthly advertising budget of these companies is only a sliver of the ad revenues Facebook takes in each year.

Yes, but Facebook’s stock price, which dropped some eight percent at the outset of the campaign, will rebound soon.

Yes, but this is only a temporary public-relations stunt; these companies will return to advertising on Facebook as usual. …


Image for post
Image for post

Earlier this spring, Amy Brothers was busy at The Denver Post covering the most significant news event of her career: the fallout across Colorado from the rapid spread of COVID-19.

But on April 17, without warning, the Post let the video journalist go along with 12 other newsroom colleagues. They were causalities of the plummeting ad spending that has struck local-news operations across the country.

“I really loved my job,” Brothers tweeted. “Going out into our community and telling your stories, on your best days and your hardest always inspired me.”

Brothers later told me that her workload had increased significantly during the crisis: “I want to keep telling these stories, but I’m also tired. I was working really hard before I was laid off.” …


Image for post
Image for post

Donald Trump’s latest assault on the media’s free-speech rights comes in the form of a defamation lawsuit against a Wisconsin television station that ran liberal political ads that the president’s campaign didn’t like.

A Trump campaign spokesperson said they had “no other option than to use the force of law” to stop WJFW Channel-12 from airing the ads.

But don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Brendan Carr to intervene on behalf of this local broadcaster’s rights.

It wouldn’t be the first time these Trump appointees have ducked their duty to defend the First Amendment against Trump’s unceasing attacks on the press. …


Image for post
Image for post
Official White House Photo: Joyce Boghosian

As COVID-19 spreads from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood and house to house, disinformation is being spread over the public airwaves by syndicated right-wing personalities and the media conglomerates that air their programs.

In many cases, radio and TV hosts like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh are simply following President Trump’s lead as he convenes daily press briefings to boast about his supposed expertise, attack those he sees as political foes, demean the press corps, blame the disease’s spread on immigrants and foreigners, and make false claims about the federal response to the global pandemic.

In other instances he’s following the news personalities’ lead, using his daily national platform to repeat falsehoods he’s gleaned from watching his favorite programs. …


Image for post
Image for post
Bob at home on Bainbridge Island

Robert Payne Karr, 83, passed away peacefully on March 16 at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. Robert, or Bob as he was known to everyone, was born in Seattle on March 6, 1937. His parents, Day Payne and Susan Fitch Karr, raised Bob alongside sisters Susan and Cindy and brother Bill in homes in the city’s hilly Madrona and Mount Baker neighborhoods.

Bob attended nearby Franklin High School. His academic record has been lost to the ages. He’s better known by his many friends for his service on the sidelines as a cheerleader for the Franklin Quakers, and for his ability later in life to perform long-outdated Franklin cheers before a surprised audience of grandchildren. …


Image for post
Image for post

In its content-moderation report released this week, Facebook revealed that it had removed a whopping 3.2-billion fake accounts from March through September 2019.

That’s a lot of disinformation, wrote tech reporter Aditya Srivastava: “To put it in perspective, the number is [nearly] half of living human beings on planet earth.”

Facebook also claims to have removed or labeled 54-million pieces of content flagged as too violent and graphic, 18.5-million items deemed sexual exploitation, 11.4-million posts breaking its anti-hate speech rules, and 5.7 million that violated its bullying and harassment policies.

We need to consider these large-seeming numbers in the context of the social-media giant’s astronomical growth. Facebook, Inc. now hosts so much content that it’s hard to imagine any filtering apparatus that’s capable of sorting it all out. …


Image for post
Image for post

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s decision to ban political ads from the platform lit up Twitter with praise Wednesday night.

But this issue isn’t as straightforward as many believe.

To his credit, Dorsey’s announcement is a clear rebuke of Facebook’s hands-off approach to campaign ads, which amounts to giving politicians carte blanche to lie and mislead voters.

Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly tried to characterize Facebook’s decision as a defense of free expression. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Timothy Karr

Freedom (to lie) isn’t free. For the campaign to re-elect Donald Trump it costs $1.5 million. And that’s just last week’s Facebook tab.

In exchange, Trump’s team gets to spread false and misleading political ads across the social network. This includes a 30-second ad that makes the unsubstantiated claim that former Vice President Biden used his influence to block an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company with ties to his son. CNN rejected the ad, noting it contained inaccuracies. But it passed muster with Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube, where it’s been viewed millions of times.

The 2020 election cycle is shaping up to be very lucrative for all the leading tech platforms. Digital political-ad spending is expected to top $2.7 billion before Election Day, according to industry forecasts. Presidential candidates have already spent more than $70 million on Facebook and Google placements, according to data firm Acronym. …


Image for post
Image for post

Last Saturday, the final printed edition of the Vindicator rolled off the presses in Youngstown, Ohio. After 150 years, the city’s last remaining daily closed its doors, handing its subscription list and masthead to the Tribune Chronicle, based in nearby Warren, which has begun to produce a dramatically pared-down online version of the “Old Vindy.”

The editors of the new digital Vindicator assured readers that they will “consistently strive to produce this newspaper with good journalism.”

But gone are almost all of the 144 employees who once collected paychecks at the printed daily.

The Vindicator is following in the footsteps of other U.S.-based papers that have ceased production of daily print editions and live on in online versions that are phantoms of their former selves. …

About

TimKarr

All things media, online & off, but mostly on. Timothy Karr advocates for universal access to open networks at Free Press and Free Press Action Fund.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store