Bitrefill, a crypto gift card marketplace, announced today it has integrated 73 new and popular gift cards for the best local and international brands in Saudi Arabia. Users in Saudi Arabia can now pay with bitcoin, litecoin, ether, USDT, and other tokens on gift cards including: Noon Amazon STC Careem Lulu Hypermarkets Tamimi Markets Nahdi […]
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Zionodes, a bitcoin mining marketplace recently announced its strategic partnership with the mining service provider, ViaBTC. The Zionodes platform offers a decentralized marketplace that aggregates data centers, hardware sellers, and miners in a single place offering ease-of-use with superior utility. While Zionodes offers ownership, easy verification, cost leadership, transparency, security, and liquidity, ViaBTC’s USP provides […]
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Greene is the first national US politician since Trump to be permanently suspended on Twitter, but she may not be the last.
It’s not exactly surprising that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — a politician who’s built her career by promoting viral conspiracy theories like QAnon — was suspended on Sunday from Twitter and on Monday from Facebook for posting misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.
It’s equally unsurprising that Greene and her supporters reacted by accusing Twitter and Facebook of censoring her for her political beliefs, rather than for making repeated false statements denying the harms of Covid-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines.
But Marjorie Taylor Greene’s suspension from social media resurfaces a question ahead of the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot and the 2022 midterm election cycle: How will social media companies deal with the oncoming onslaught of contentious speech from elected officials and political candidates running for office this year?
“I haven’t seen or heard anything about how [social media companies] are planning on handling it,” said Katie Harbath, a director of public policy at Facebook from 2011 to March of last year who now leads a tech policy consultancy firm. “From what I’ve seen, they wait until something’s at their front door that they have to decide on. I’m just really worried.”
In 2019 and 2020, the world was caught up in a fierce debate about whether or not tech companies should intervene when politicians like former President Donald Trump used social media to broadcast harmful misinformation or encourage violence. That debate peaked around the January 6 riot and Trump’s subsequent ban from the sites. Prior to that, Facebook and Twitter had let Trump and other world leaders get away with breaking their rules because their speech was largely deemed “newsworthy” — but they retreated from that position with the Trump ban. It was a controversial but justifiable move in the view of Facebook and Twitter, given the imminent violent threat to US democracy.
But for the past several months, there hasn’t been much movement on the topic of social media platforms’ approach to moderating politicians’ speech. Facebook kicked the can down the road until 2023 about whether or not Trump will be allowed back on its platform. Twitter is still in the process of crafting a new policy about how it should police world leaders, which it says it expects to roll out in the coming months.
Now, Greene’s situation is a reminder that whether or not social media companies are ready for it, the debate about how politicians should be allowed to use social media is reigniting. And it’s happening in a political climate that’s highly polarized and conspiracy-theory-driven.
Much like her political ally, Trump, Greene has built a career around making bombastic, inflammatory, and false statements on social media.
Before her recent suspension, Greene had already accumulated four “strikes” from Twitter for posting Covid-19 misinformation, and a 12-hour suspension in July. Her fifth strike, which triggered her permanent suspension, was a post including the false statement that “extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths are ignored.” Greene posted a similar message on Facebook, which responded with a 24-hour account suspension on Monday.
While Twitter permanently banned Greene’s personal account, she still has access to Twitter through her official congressional Twitter account that has nearly 400,000 followers. She’s now actively fundraising for “emergency contributions” to her political campaign to fight “Big Tech censorship.”
Greene, like some other far-right and conservative figures who have been banned from mainstream social media, has turned to the social media app Telegram — which has more lax content moderation and encrypted chat — to reach her followers. “Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth,” Greene said in a post on Telegram in response to Twitter’s suspension. “That’s fine, I’ll show America we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies.”
On Monday, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a public statement that didn’t reference Greene by name but seemed to be referring to her case, urging for a landmark internet law called Section 230 to be changed so that tech companies can be held legally liable for their content moderation decisions.
Today, under First Amendment law, companies like Facebook and Twitter are considered private actors that are well within their legal rights to ban whoever they want. That includes those like Greene who have repeatedly violated their stated terms of service.
But legality aside, there is widespread concern about how much influence private corporations like Facebook and Twitter should have in politics. Facebook and Twitter have shirked the responsibility to weigh in on political matters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that the company shouldn’t be an “arbiter of truth” and Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey making freedom of expression a central tenet of the company’s philosophy. But despite these companies’ reluctance to make judgment calls on political speech, the reality is that both companies continue to have to deal with these issues every day by virtue of having people discuss politics on their platform. And that opens them up to criticism and accusations of censorship.
“Private companies have so much power. There are only a few platforms — and Twitter and Facebook are two of them — that control so much of the public discourse,” said Gautam Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who specializes in First Amendment law and technology policy. “I think that makes all of us a little uncomfortable.”
In some ways, Greene’s case around breaking social media rules was clear-cut because it was about Covid-19, an issue that Facebook and Twitter have been stricter about moderating since the pandemic began in early 2020.
But when it comes to other topics like Trump’s “Big Lie” false narrative about the 2020 election being stolen from him, or whether the January 6 Capitol riot was justified, social media’s guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable are a lot more ambiguous.
Around the time of the 2020 presidential election, for example, Twitter and Facebook increased their efforts to police voter misinformation. The companies regularly labeled or removed information that made false claims about voter fraud or the election being rigged.
But now, one year later, it’s unclear exactly how those standards might change, particularly as many Republican members of Congress and candidates continue to support “The Big Lie.”
In the time period immediately after the Capitol riot, social media platforms also employed urgent measures to try to minimize the glorification of the violence that occurred. Facebook, for example, issued an emergency policy to remove any praise of the storming of the Capitol, or calls to bring weapons to locations anywhere in the US.
Facebook did not respond to a question about whether those measures are still in place on the one-year anniversary of the event, when some 34 percent of Americans believe that violent action against the government is sometimes justified, according to recent polling.
Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert said on a November call that the company is “taking steps to combat election interference and misinformation while also working to help people vote,” but she provided few details about any potential new plans.
“We’re enforcing our policies against removing voter interference content and we’ll continue to refine our strategy to combat content that discusses the legitimacy of voting methods, like voter fraud claims,” Bickert said on that call. “And this is all building on our efforts during the US 2020 elections and we’ll have more to share as we get closer to next year’s elections.”
A company spokesperson for Twitter sent the following statement to Recode on Tuesday:
Our approach both before and after January 6 has been to take strong enforcement action against accounts and Tweets that incite violence or have the potential to lead to offline harm. Engagement and focus across government, civil society, and the private sector are also critical. We recognize that Twitter has an important role to play, and we’re committed to doing our part.
There’s a long way that Facebook and Twitter could go to make their policies on politicians’ speech more clear. But even then, the problem around the complicated boundaries of political speech won’t be entirely resolved.
“You can have all the clear rules and guidelines,” said Hans. “But fundamentally, there’s always some human discretion that comes into this, and that’s a little disconcerting.”
Correction, January 4, 5:12 pm ET: A previous version of this story referred to Greene as a nationally elected politician. She is a national politician elected by the citizens of Georgia.
Silicon Valley is ignoring the Elizabeth Holmes story. Hollywood isn’t.
Elizabeth Holmes’s trial is finally over, but that doesn’t mean her time in the spotlight is finished. After months of arguments and seven days of deliberation, jurors convicted the former Theranos CEO on four of 11 counts of conspiracy and fraud. Now, as Holmes awaits her final sentence, Hollywood is producing its own versions of the former CEO’s story.
Some say the Holmes trial represents an indictment of Silicon Valley’s “fake it till you make it” approach, and indeed, criminal cases — let alone guilty verdicts — against tech leaders are a rare occurrence. Upcoming productions from Hulu and Apple, however, may soon deliver the real reckoning. These dramatic retellings of the Theranos saga could define how the world comes to understand Holmes and the Silicon Valley culture that gave rise to her.
On the legal front, Holmes’s fate is not yet sealed. The jury found the 37-year-old former CEO guilty on one count of conspiracy to defraud investors and three counts of wire fraud. But while the jurors found Holmes not guilty on one count of conspiracy to defraud patients and three counts of wire fraud related to patients, they remained deadlocked on three other fraud counts related to misleading investors. Presiding Judge Edward Davila plans to declare a mistrial for those undecided charges.
Federal prosecutors will also have to decide whether to pursue a new trial for those three unresolved charges, and the defense will likely appeal the guilty verdicts. Holmes faces fines of up to $250,000 for each count (plus restitution) and a maximum of 20 years in prison. It will likely take months for the judge to decide on Holmes’s sentence, and there is no mandatory minimum sentence. So it’s possible Holmes won’t go to prison at all.
But inevitably, Holmes will face the court of public opinion.
As the tech industry continues its yearslong effort to treat Holmes as an aberration, the entertainment business is just getting started. The projects from Hulu and Apple — Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lawrence, respectively, will play Holmes — plan to deliver a referendum on what went wrong at Theranos, and stand to shape how the public remembers Holmes and her company in ways her camera-free trial never could.
Silicon Valley cast off Elizabeth Holmes not long after news broke about the Theranos technology not working. Tech industry leaders then argued for years that the blood-testing startup did not follow their approach. They pointed out that Theranos was largely funded by private investors, not major venture capital firms, and that the company didn’t include prominent biotech experts on its board.
This argument doesn’t entirely hold up. Holmes did have support from some prominent tech investors, including venture capitalist Don Lucas and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. Often dressing in a uniform black turtleneck and embracing her status as a college dropout-turned-founder, Holmes also welcomed comparison to Silicon Valley royalty, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Even throughout the trial, Holmes’s lawyers tried to defend Theranos’s misleading claims about its blood-testing technology as par for the course in the startup world.
“Holmes’s alleged fraud was really a symptom of much broader root causes that promoted her actions, and she’s not alone,” Len Sherman, a business professor at Columbia and former Accenture senior partner, told Recode. “That just happens to be the extreme case that got to trial and is garnering — hopefully — a lot of attention.”
Silicon Valley might try to draw attention away from the Theranos story, but Hollywood is putting a spotlight on it. Since the Wall Street Journal first sounded the alarm on the accuracy of the company’s blood tests in 2015, several documentaries have investigated what went wrong at Theranos. These include the Alex Gibney-directed HBO documentary The Inventor and ABC’s investigative podcast The Dropout.
Big-budget streaming series and feature films are next. Hulu is releasing a new miniseries based on the ABC podcast in March — it’s also called The Dropout — and has already released images of Seyfried as Holmes. And though it has not announced a release date, Apple recently confirmed it will be backing and distributing a Theranos movie directed by Adam McKay and starring Jennifer Lawrence. It’s called Bad Blood, and is based on the eponymous book by John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who first reported on Theranos’s faulty technology.
Welcome to Theranos. Amanda Seyfried is Elizabeth Holmes.
— The Dropout on Hulu (@TheDropoutHulu) December 15, 2021
Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom at Elizabeth Holmes’s trial, which means these documentaries, TV series, and films will continue to be the primary way people watch (rather than read about) Theranos. But these treatments will also become a chance for the public to decide what it thinks about Holmes and her company, according to Dan Birman, a documentary director and professor at the University of Southern California.
“When we get into a major story like this, it’s a constant sorting process that will happen over time,” Birman said. “That’s what history does.”
Theranos isn’t the only disgraced tech company getting the streaming treatment. Next month, Showtime will release a series called Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Uber’s co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Apple is similarly working on a limited series called WeCrashed about the rise and fall of WeWork, in which Jared Leto will star as the company’s former CEO, Adam Neumann, and Anne Hathaway will play his wife, Rebekah Neumann.
You might even say that taking shots at Silicon Valley founders is becoming a bit of a Hollywood tradition. These projects follow in the footsteps of the 2010 blockbuster about the founding of Facebook, The Social Network, with Jesse Eisenberg playing a sinister Mark Zuckerberg. There were also two films about Steve Jobs: the 2015 drama written by Sorkin, starring Michael Fassbender as the Apple founder, and the 2013 biopic, starring Ashton Kutcher. None of these movies offer flattering portrayals of the tech titans.
In the meantime, there are even more Theranos courtroom scenes that have yet to be written. A separate trial that centers on Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, Theranos’s former chief technology officer and Holmes’s ex-boyfriend, is scheduled to begin on February 15. Balwani is also charged with defrauding patients and investors, but his case was separated from Holmes’s because her lawyers expected to accuse him of abuse as part of her defense. His upcoming case is a reminder that the story of Theranos never seems to end.
Pokemon Go is going classic on Community Day in January with Bulbasaur as the featured Pokemon.
On Saturday, January 22 from 2-5pm local time, players will return to the roots of Community Day during the Season of Heritage with the grass/poison-type Pokemon.
During this time, Bulbasaur will be appearing more frequently in the wild and you may even catch a shiny version.
Kojima Productions and 505 Games announced today that Death Stranding Director’s Cut will be released on PC this spring.
Releasing simultaneously on both Steam and the Epic Games Store, it was also announced today the game will incorporate Intel’s new Xe Super Sampling (XeSS) graphics technology for an enhanced experience.
The tech uses machine learning to enable players to explore the game’s unique environment in high graphical detail along with enjoying elevated performance.