Tag Archives: social media

Truth In Media with Ben Swann, Episode 25: Challenging Fact-checkers Who Didn’t Actually Fact Check “Flagged” Reports

Two “Fact Checks” from USA Today and Politifact have claimed recently that reports from Ben Swann are false. Here’s the problem: those so-called Fact Checkers have admitted to not actually checking the facts of these reports.


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Are Media Matters and George Soros Behind the Social Purge?

A nearly two year old document reportedly issued by Media Matters for America lays out a plan for “defeating Trump” and Republicans over the next four years. But is this strategy actually responsible for the social media taking place on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google? After all, this purge only protects establishment “left” and “right”.

Let’s give it a Reality Check.

Department of Justice Recruits Social Media Firms to Fight ‘Online Radicalization’

On February 23, the U.S. Department of Justice met with officials from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to discuss how online social media firms can take the lead in disrupting online radicalization.

Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, attended the meeting and told Reuters it was “a recognition that the government is ill-positioned and ill-equipped to counter ISIS online.”

George Selim, director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office for “countering violent extremism” activities, said the federal government is not equipped to push back against “online recruitment efforts” from terror groups. Selim said the objective is to help “communities and young people to amplify their own messages.”

Reuters reports that the U.S. government is also investing in “counter-narrative” programs “at schools and community groups.” Another program, funded by Facebook and the U.S. government, involved “peer-to-peer (P2P) college courses that teach students to create their own anti-militant messaging.”

A senior FBI official told Reuters that the bureau works with many other non-governmental organizations on spreading “counter-narrative” programs.

This latest meeting between social media firms and the U.S. government represents a continuation of policies the Obama Administration sought to enact at the end of 2015. In December 2015, President Obama gave a speech urging “high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.” The speech came after the terror attack in San Bernardino, California.

Despite the Obama administration’s push for closer relationships, it seems that many tech companies may be resistant to working with the government. Reuters reported in December that former employees of Facebook, Google and Twitter, stated that the companies “all worry that if they are public about their true level of cooperation with Western law enforcement agencies, they will face endless demands for similar action from countries around the world.”

In January 2016, The Guardian reported that senior intelligence officials were flying to California to meet with executives from Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, YouTube and others.

The Guardian obtained a copy of the agenda which showed the White House’s desire to channel the tech firms’ talent into a fight against radicalization.

It states: “In what ways can we use technology to help disrupt paths to radicalization to violence, identify recruitment patterns, and provide metrics to help measure our efforts to counter radicalization to violence?”

The meeting involved Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, National Security Agency chair Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper and FBI director James Comey.

What does the increasingly cozy relationship between government and technology companies mean for the privacy of Americans? Should the people continue to use these services if they agree to operate more closely with the already intrusive U.S. government?

We should remain skeptical of the government’s claims regarding their need to access private information shared through social networks.

Audit: EPA Engaged in ‘Covert Propaganda’ with Social Media Push for Water Rule

An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law by engaging in “covert propaganda” when it used social media to encourage the public to support a water rule backed by the Obama administration.

The audit was conducted after the New York Times released a report in May which alleged that in order to promote a rule claiming to “protect the nation’s drinking water,” the EPA “orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.”

As a result of the March 2014 campaign, when the agency produced data at a Senate committee in March 2015, it claimed to have received more than one million comments with nearly 90 percent favoring the proposal.

The report released by the Government Accountability Office on Monday claimed that the EPA “obligated and expended appropriated funds in violations of statutory prohibitions.”

[pull_quote_center]We conclude that EPA violated the described provisions through its use of social media in association with its rule making efforts to define ‘Waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act during [fiscal years] 2014 and 2015.[/pull_quote_center]

The report concluded that while the EPA’s use of hashtags such as #DitchtheMyth and #CleanWaterRules on social media did not break any federal laws, its use of Thunderclap “constituted covert propaganda” which was “in violation of the publicity of propaganda prohibition.”

The EPA describes the Thunderclap tool as one that helps the agency “get the word out about events, special alerts, tips or other special messages.” When users sign up for the Thunderclap, they give it access to “post our message” to the users’ Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr accounts which the agency described as a “virtual flash mob” where messages “will go out on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time.” 

The New York Times noted that while the opinion is “unlikely to lead to civil or criminal penalties,” it emerged “just as Republican leaders moved to block the so-called Waters of the United States clean-water rule through an amendment to the enormous spending bill expected to pass in Congress this week.” 

U.S. Senate Wants to Censor “Terrorist Activity” on Social Media Sites

The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a new measure which would force social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to report content that is believed to be connected to “terrorist activity”.

The Washington Post reported that the measure will be included as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2016. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the measure in a closed session on Wednesday July 1st. The measure is supposed to help intelligence and law enforcement officials detect terror threats.

The Post reports:

“It would not require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so, said a committee aide, who requested anonymity because the bill has not yet been filed. The measure applies to “electronic communication service providers,” which includes e-mail services such as Google and Yahoo.”

The bill would require any online company that “obtains actual knowledge of any terrorist activity . . . shall provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.”

Google, Facebook and Twitter declined to comment to The Post, however, “anonymous industry officials” reportedly called the measure a bad idea.

Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Post he believed the measure would erode privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

“If it becomes law, their natural tendency will be to err on the side of reporting anything that might be characterized as ‘terrorist activity’ even if it is not. And their duty to report will chill speech on the Internet that relates to terrorism.”

The U.S. government already maintains a massive surveillance state, including a number of programs that gather internet user data. This latest measure would only further codify the government’s ability to force private companies to hand over sensitive information.

Councilman Kirby Delauter apologizes for threatening to sue reporter

After much online ridicule was thrown his way, Frederick County, Md. Councilman Kirby Delauter has apologized to the Frederick News-Post for threatening to sue the publication for publishing his name.

In an article published by the Frederick News-Post on Saturday, Delauter was mentioned briefly in relation to asking for more parking spots for council members. Once this article was published, Delauter took to social media to chastise the Frederick News-Post as well as the author of the article, Bethany Rodgers.

The social media post, made to Facebook, reads, “Shame on Bethany Rodgers for an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article today…” Delauter admitted Rodgers attempted to contact him by phone, but he did not return her calls.

Delauter's Facebook post.
Delauter’s Facebook post.

Rodgers responded to the post by writing, “there is no requirement to get a person’s authorization in order to mention them in the paper…” Delauter then went on the offensive by writing, “you’ll be paying for an Attorney,” if his name is ever used again without his consent. Then, he felt the need to write, “Your rights stop where mine start.”

Terry Headlee, the managing editor for the News-Post, said, “Kirby Delauter can certainly decline to comment on any story… But to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I’m speechless.”

Now, after nationwide coverage of the incident, Delauter has issued an apology saying his statements made online were “wrong” and “inappropriate.”

The apology, which was posted by the News-Post, reads, “The first amendment is alive and well in Frederick County… Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my name in any article related to the running of the county.”

Delauter continued by saying he felt “misrepresented and misinterpreted” in past news articles about him. However, Headlee said, according to the AP, that he and his staff of editors found no factual errors in the article which sparked Delauter’s online outburst.

New Illinois Law Allows Schools to Discipline Students for Cyberbullying that Occurs Outside of School

As of January 1, 2015, a new law will go into effect in Illinois that allows schools to punish students for offenses that occur outside of the classroom, with an emphasis on combatting cyberbullying.

The News-Gazette reported that the law “allows schools to discipline students for any type of electronic bullying that causes a disruption to the school day,” even if that bullying occurred outside of school.

According to NBC Chicago, the new law “expands on a previous legislation banning cyberbullying in schools,” and “applies to devices that aren’t owned or used by a school.

Once the law goes into effect, Tuscola High School plans to launch an online “Issue Awareness Report,” which is a forum for concerned individuals to notify the principal, social workers, and guidance counselors of instances in which they have been bullied or harassed on the Internet.

Katie Hatfield, a social worker in Tuscola, told the News-Gazette that although when posting in the forum, users must include specific details about the incident of offense, the post is ultimately anonymous, and the user is not required to provide his or her name.

“The forum is a good way for people to share information and let us know what is going on without us having to get it second-hand,” said Hatfield. “If we know about what is happening, we can more easily address it.”

NBC Chicago reported that the new legislation, which was approved by the Illinois Legislature earlier this year, and signed by Governor Pat Quinn in August, would require districts to “update their disciplinary policies to reflect the new law.”

Darren Loschen, the Principal of Armstrong High School, expressed concern about the liability the new law will put on school districts.

It’s really a situation where you would hope schools would deal with bullying, no matter when the harm happens, but if it’s happening off school grounds and it’s not tied to the school, then there’s always the question: Should it be handled by someone else?” Loshchen said.

High school prostitution ring broken up in Florida

A high school teenager in Florida has been arrested and charged with human trafficking after she allegedly organized a prostitution ring consisting of students from different high schools.

Alexa Nicole De Armas a student at Sarasota High School, was arrested Friday after four students told the administration of Venice High School how De Armas approached them to join the ring.  De Armas, according to the Herald Tribune, used the social media website Facebook to plan and orchestrate the exchanges and meetups.

Why pimp out old hoes when I have fresh young hoes I can give up for money?” reads one Facebook post between De Armas and a business partner in the operation.  “As long as I’m getting paid I’m trafficking all these (expletive).”

This faceless partner said they would invest $200 to get the business off the ground.  De Armas then set prices between $20-$70 as well as $100 to have sex with a virgin, according to the NY Daily News.  The profits would then be split and the girls would be given 40 percent.

One of the known exchanges reportedly involved a 15-year-old student and a 21-year-old man.

The man, named John  Michael Mosher, has been arrested alongside De Armas.  He reportedly gave De Armas $40 and a bottle of liquor as payment to have sex with the 15-year-old student.

According to WFLA, De Armes planned for the 15-year-old to have sex with Mosher in August, but when the girl and Mosher met, she reportedly no longer wanted to participate.

A police report reads, “She stated she told Mosher she did not want to have sexual intercourse with him to which he disregarded and forcefully held her against the wall of the pool shed building, restricting her movement and ability to flee,” 

Mosher however pushed the girl against a nearby wall, and he forced her to have sex with him.  Mosher is currently being charged with sexual battery on a victim older than 12-years-old.

Students told officers De Armas had setup at least three other deals using Facebook, and more arrests are expected.

Political motives behind Vegas shooting

Two politically motived shooters shot and killed two officers and one civilian this past weekend before turning their guns on themselves in Las Vegas.

Jerad and Amanda Miller have been identified as the shooters who opened fire on police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo inside a Las Vegas Cici’s Pizza this past Sunday, killing both officers.

Upon shooting the two officers at point-blank range, the couple stripped the equipment from the dead officers before leaving and saying, “This is the start of a revolution!”

The two shooters then made their way to a nearby Walmart, where they shot and killed one civilian in the store.  After a firefight with police inside the Walmart, the couple made their way to the back of the store where they turned their guns on each other.  Local authorities believe the couple made a suicide-pact prior to the shooting.

The couple made various postings on social media websites before the shooting where they voiced their concerns and anger over how the government handled the Bundy Ranch, gun control laws, and the Benghazi attack.  A Google+ post from Jerad says the couple had “sold everything” and left their jobs in order to be a part of the Bundy Ranch protests.  However, other protestors at the ranch asked the couple to go home, much to Jerad’s disdain.

This same post claims the reason the couple was turned away was because of Jerad’s criminal status as a felon.  According to the IndyStar, Jerad has a criminal record in Indianapolis, where he lived before moving to Las Vegas, dating back to 2007.  He was charged with various offenses including intimidation, felony battery, and “pointing a firearm.”

The Saturday before the shooting, Jerad made a chilling post to his Facebook saying, “The dawn of a new day. May all of our coming sacrifices be worth it.”

One neighbor of the couple said the Millers had handed out “white-supremacist propaganda,” and had wanted to perform a mass-shooting similar to Columbine.

The Millers subscribed to various conspiracy theories revolving around the government, the latest in which they believed the shooting spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara, was a plot by the government, carried out in order to suppress gun rights.