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Paul M. Barrett

Disinformation In The 2020 Election

In 2016, Russian operatives used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sow division among American voters and boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. What the Russians used to accomplish this is called “disinformation,” which is false or misleading content intended to deceive or promote discord. Now, with the first presidential primary vote only five months away, the public should be aware of the sources and types of online disinformation likely to surface during the 2020 election. First, the Russians will be back. And there’s more to fear than just the Russians. Their most likely imitator will be Iran, especially if hostility between Tehran and Washington continues to mount. In May, acting on a tip from FireEye, Facebook took down nearly 100 Iranian-related accounts, pages and groups. And while foreign election interference has dominated discussion of disinformation, most intentionally false content targeting U.S. social media is generated by domestic sources. I believe that will continue to be the case in 2020. President Trump often uses Twitter to circulate conspiracy theories and cast his foes as corrupt. An electorate that has been fed lies about candidates and issues can’t make informed decisions. Votes will be based on falsehoods. And that means the future of American democracy – in 2020 and beyond – depends on dealing effectively with disinformation.

Paul M. Barrett is Deputy Director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the Stern School of Business of New York University.

‘If We Can Save Banks, We Can Save The World’

Greta Thunberg on climate: “If we can save the banks, we can save the world.” Truthout: “uring an event in New York City Monday night with author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg had a simple message for those who claim it is ‘too expensive’ to boldly confront the climate crisis with sweeping policies like a Green New Deal. ‘If we can save the banks,’ said Thunberg, ‘we can save the world.’ ‘If there is something we are not lacking in this world, it’s money,’ she added. ‘Of course, many people do lack money, but governments and these people in power, they do not lack money. And also we need to have the polluters… actually pay for the damage they have caused. So, to that argument, I would not even respond to that argument, because it has been said so many times, the money is there. What we lack now is political will and social will to do it.’ Thunberg arrived in New York late last month after nearly two weeks of sailing across the Atlantic. The young environmentalist made the journey ahead of the Sept. 20 global climate strikes, which she helped inspire through persistent activism that has included directly confronting world leaders and elites over their role in the planetary emergency. The strikes, which are expected to bring millions to the streets in over 150 countries, will coincide with the United Nations Summit on Climate Change on Sept. 23rd in New York.”

GOP Ekes Out Victory In NC

Why Republicans shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief after N.C. win. Politico: “Republicans went all-in to keep hold of a key congressional district in a special election Tuesday, and they won — but they still have good reason to be concerned about the result. While the GOP can celebrate the election of a new congressman, Dan Bishop, his 2-point victory in a district President Donald Trump carried by 12 points in 2016 continues a worrisome trend for the party, which suffered heavy losses in the 2018 midterms and has not seen the political environment improve as Trump gears up for reelection. Trump cannot win a second term without improving his political position, and Democrats know it, casting Bishop’s narrow win as a sign of progress in North Carolina. But Democrats also saw worrying trends of their own on Tuesday, as their candidate Dan McCready benefitted from a surge in metropolitan support that would have brought them victory — if not for an even stronger swell in rural support for Bishop and the GOP. In short, Tuesday’s results outlined the path to 2020 victory for both parties, cut along the fundamental trend of politics in the Trump era: cities and suburbs swinging more and more Democratic, while the president’s appeal brings exurbs and rural voters deeper into the GOP fold. Trump pushed harder on one side of the scale to win in 2016; Democrats pushed back on the other side to take the House last year. And next year, it will decide whether Trump gets another term or a Democrat takes the White House for four years.”

CA Moves To Protect Gig Workers

California passes landmark bill to remake gig economy. NYT: “California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure. The bill passed in a 29 to 11 vote in the State Senate and will apply to app-based companies, despite their efforts to negotiate an exemption. California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, endorsed the bill this month and is expected to sign it after it goes through the State Assembly, in what is expected to be a formality. Under the measure, which would go into effect Jan. 1, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business. The bill may influence other states. A coalition of labor groups is pushing similar legislation in New York, and bills in Washington State and Oregon that were similar to California’s but failed to advance could see renewed momentum. New York City passed a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers last year but did not try to classify them as employees.”

How GOP Guru Used Data To Disenfranchise Black Voters

Gerrymander guru’s secret files: He used racial data to disenfranchise black voters. Salon: “Secret files found on a longtime Republican operative’s computer after his death revealed that he compiled racial data to help his party draw new political maps and impose voter ID laws. Thomas Hofeller, who is considered the master of modern gerrymandering, left behind at least 70,000 files that were found by his estranged daughter after his death in August 2018. Some of those files have already been used to successfully challenge North Carolina’s gerrymander and the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the census, which Hofeller argued would help ‘Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.’ More files, obtained by former Salon editor David Daley at The New Yorker, show that Hofeller and his race research played a key role in Republican gerrymandering efforts in North Carolina and other states, as well as other efforts intended to make it harder for African-Americans and college students to vote. Though North Carolina Republicans have argued that their maps discriminate based on partisanship and not race, Hofeller’s files show that he compiled maps with overlays of the black voting-age population by district, suggesting that racial data was a key part of the gerrymander, which is at the center of a years-long legal battle. The files contradict claims Republicans have long used to defend their maps in court. Republicans had long denied that a congressional-district line that cuts right down the middle of the largest historically black college in the United States, North Carolina A&T State University, was intentionally drawn to dilute the black vote, even though it effectively guaranteed two Republican districts. But Hofeller’s files show that the effort clearly focused on the race of students.”

NYC Groups Sue To Stop Public Charge Rule

Community groups ask judge to halt “Public Charge” immigration rule before it takes effect. Common Dreams: “ommunity organizations suing the Trump administration over its proposed “public charge” rule today filed a request for a preliminary injunction, asking a federal court to stop the rule from taking effect next month. The organizations, Make the Road New York, African Services Committee, Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), are represented by The Legal Aid Society, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Attorneys say the rule would severely disrupt the legal immigration system by using vague and racist criteria to prevent immigrants the government considers likely to receive certain public benefits from obtaining lawful permanent residence status. The New York State Attorney General filed a similar request in its related case today. ‘This arbitrary, confusing and discriminatory rule will throw the family-based immigration system into disarray, tear families apart, and cause immense fear, food insecurity, and health instability,’ said Ghita Schwarz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. ‘It is immoral to penalize immigrants for low wages or disability, and the court should block the rule before it goes into effect.'”

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