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Category Archives: Free Speech

FreeSpeech.com If liberty means anything at all, it …

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Just to followup on the earlier blog post of today, I received the following email from Keith Drazek (GNSO Council Chair),

Dear Mr. Kirikos,

Receipt of your letter is acknowledged.

We note and regret that you have elected to not accept and agree to abide by ICANNs Expected Standards of Behavior (ESOB).

As such, per the notice provided in the Council Leadership Teams letter of 29 March, you will be placed in observer status in the RPM PDP WG and any other GNSO-related forum until such time we receive the necessary communication confirming acceptance of the ESOB, or until such time the ICANN Ombuds rules that you may return to member status following any appeal.

Sincerely,

Keith DrazekGNSO Chair (on behalf of the GNSO Council Leadership Team)

So, unless I bend the knee and swear an oath of fealty (or unless the ICANN Ombudsman says I can return), Im forever banished. Is that reasonable and proportionate?

And, this affects participation for all working groups (not just the RPM PDP), even though theres no issue in the IGO PDP!

ICANN, in an affront to free speech and due process, has threatened to restrict my participation on important domain name policy issues, and I think its crucial that these topics be brought before the public for debate. Continue reading ICANN Threatens to Restrict Participation Rights of critic George Kirikos

I have launched this new blog today at FreeSpeech.com, in order to better educate the public about domain names, internet governance, ICANN, free speech, and other topics. Continue reading Hello, World!

To understand Verisigns anti-competitive monopoly for dot-com domain name registration services, it is important to analyze its agreements with the US government. NTIA has a page on their website documenting aspects of their cooperative agreement with Verisign. However, that page is incomplete, as it only lists Amendments 10 through 35. The original agreement (between the National Science Foundation and Network Solutions) and the first 9 amendments are not published.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was made to NTIA to obtain those additional historical records. Im happy to report that NTIA responded to that request and sent all the requested documents. [NB: the US government takes FOIA requests seriously, unlike ICANNs broken Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, which pretends to be like the FOIA but is far inferior to it]

Continue reading Original Cooperative Agreement That Laid The Foundation of Verisigns Monopoly

More and more people are coming to the realization that the ICANN comment periods are a sham, open to manipulation by ICANN insiders and staff. The comment period for the Phase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process ended on May 4, 2020, eleven days ago. I have previously written about it (see my prior blog posts here,here,here, here and here). Rather than diving in and actually doing the work of analyzing the public comments, ICANN staff are actively preventing working group members from having easy access to those submissions.

Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 6

The comment period for thePhase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process ends 23:39 UTC on May 4, 2020, just a day from now (which is not sufficient time to do a thorough analysis). I have previously written about it (see my prior blog posts here,here,hereandhere).

[Update: I finished my final comments at 1:30 am Toronto time on May 4, so Ive updated the article below with links to the newer PDF; the changes were relatively minor since the earlier draft, with just some tweaks on the TMCH comments, and stylistic changes, typos, etc.]

To help those who wish to submit public comments, or who wish to refine their own, Im posting a draft the final version of my extensive comments here. My answers are all in RED text. Im unable to use the broken online forms, so Ill need to submit via a DOCX file by tomorrow instead.

Continue reading URGENT: Last call to submit comments on RPM PDP Initial Report

The comment period for thePhase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process ends on May 4, 2020, less than 2 days from now (which is not sufficient time to do a thorough analysis). I have previously written about it (see my prior blog posts here,here,here and here). However, it continues to be fraught with problems. Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 5

Despite my misgivings about the sham that is the comment period for thePhase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process which Ive written about in the past 4 blog posts, I attempted to continue to submit my comments today, which I had already started over the weekend (already more than 20 hours invested, to get to about 25% through the various questions, including background research and reading the report, etc.). However, the comment system is entirely broken.

Continue reading ICANNs garbage public comment system

The comment period for the Phase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process ends on May 4, 2020, just 7 days from now (which is not sufficient time to do a thorough analysis). I have previously written about it (see my prior blog posts here, here and here). However, it continues to be fraught with problems, including coordinated duplicative submissions.

Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 4

ICANN actively mistreats stakeholders who dont understand English when it comes to policy development. While ICANN pretends to consider the global public interest, that cannot happen when non-English fluent participants are treated unfairly as second-class citizens. This is evident in the Phase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process which is now open for public comment, as Ive been writing about it for the past week (see my prior blog posts here and here).

Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 3

In my prior blog post, I wrote about the public comment period for the Phase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process. Any comments that are submitted by the public will be analyzed by the working group members. I believe that working group has been captured, and here are some numbers to back up that belief.

Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 2

ICANN has an open comment period for the Phase 1 Initial Report of the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs Policy Development Process. It ends in just 14 days, would have a great impact on registrants rights and not a single person has submitted any comments to date, as of the time of this post.

To be able to comment, one has to first read the 147 page initial report. Then, one has to contemplate its contents, analyze it, and research related issues, including what its authors removed from it (see below). Then, one has to carefully submit thoughtful comments via an online form that has 192 separate sections! The document simply describing all the questions in the online form is a whopping 71 pages. To actually submit thoughtful comments would take an enormous amount of time, far more than is available.

Continue reading ICANN RPM PDP Phase 1 Comment Period is another sham, part 1

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FreeSpeech.com If liberty means anything at all, it ...

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Can Free Speech Help Us Beat the Coronavirus? – Merion West

Posted: at 3:29 pm

(MATT ROURKE/AP)

We must remind those like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki that they should not silence ideas from the get-go because they fear that people are incapable of evaluating information for themselves.

Since its founding in the early 1980s, the Internet has largely been an open and interactive environment, where users could freely express their views and opinions. Not surprisingly, the virtual world was considered to be a refuge of liberty, a land of freedom. However, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads rapidly throughout the world, Silicon Valley technology companies have been moving towards taking tighter control over what types of content can be readily accessed online. Using a version of the longstanding argument that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, technology companies have pushed forward constraints on speech under the guise of tackling misinformation.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and YouTube issued a joint statement on March 16th and updated their guidelines, writing that ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global public health emergency, weve been working to connect people to accurate information and taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading. [] We remove COVID-19 related misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm.

Yet, the question remains: Is this a good idea? Will these restrictions on speech help curb the spread of the pandemic? Despite their intentions, these types of controls on free expression routinely generate more harm than good.

The Thin Line Between Right and Wrong

Theres often a gray area between information and misinformation. For instance, Facebook blocked videos of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro endorsing hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. Yet, at around the same time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard were investing $9.2 million in hydroxychloroquine clinical trials.

Twitter, in turn, locked the account of The Federalist after it linked to an article published on its website that suggested herd immunity was the best method for combatting COVID-19. It is time to think outside the box and seriously consider a somewhat unconventional approach to COVID-19: controlled voluntary infection. The Federalists account tweeted minutes before the account was locked down. But what Twitter considers utterly unspeakable, Sweden reckons to be the most feasible solution to COVID-19, as the Scandinavian nation opts against implementing lockdown policies.

Then, YouTube removed videos of a press conference in which two doctors in California, who have been working on the frontlines with COVID-19 patients, recommended lifting shelter-in-place orders.

The fact is that individuals, groups, and even governments can disagree deeply on what measures should be taken to fight COVID-19. There is no problem with that; the problem lies in closing down the marketplace of ideas.

Who Possesses the Truth?

The reasoning behind regulating online content is straightforward: If people receive the wrong information, they can hurt themselves, hurt others, and hinder necessary efforts to combat the virus. This is a legitimate concern. However, is it sufficient for allowing technology companies to adjudicate what is or is not trustworthy?

Technology company CEOs have been arguing that we must trust science-based knowledge at this moment, which basically means putting the WHO in charge. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that the WHO stated in the middle of January that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission (that was key misinformation) and insisted until the middle of February that no country should enact travel restrictions on China. This helped to enable the virus spread further beyond Chinese borders (that was very harmful).

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that some observers are not buying that the WHO is some sort of oracle of truth. We should never acquiesce to technology companiesor anyonedeciding what we are allowed to see, not even to get rid of bad ideas and not even during extraordinary times. Besides, science is not about monopolizing the truth; science is about asking questions, refuting non-verifiable consensuses, formulating hypotheses, and proceeding with systematic exploration. At the end of the day, as a society, we have two options: We can trust peoples intelligence and use social media as a tool to empower users to express different opinions on how to approach the problems we need to solve. Or, alternatively, we can grant technology companies the authority to enforce restrictions on speech, a road that leads ushowever well-intended it istowards a kind of censorship where information is evaluated based on its adherence to a current orthodoxy.

Now, it is important to note, as Dan Sanchez, editor-in-chief of FEE.org, reminds us that the constitutional right to free speech protects citizens from government censorship. Given that the properties of these technology companies are private platforms, if the government coerced their owners into keeping certain content online against their will, that would be much more a violation of the First Amendment. As such, using laws or the apparatus of the State to compel these companies to re-open their platforms to a diversity of ideas would be a terrible idea. However, we can use our most powerful weapon: free speech. We can urge them. We can remind them of their founding principles. We can convince them. In Sanchezs words: While the decision [of banning anything that would go against World Health Organisation recommendations] is not unconstitutional, it is unwise.

We are facing the most overwhelming challenge of our time. Therefore, we need as much help as possible. We need every idea and to explore and discuss every possibility. We must remind those like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki that they should not silence ideas from the get-go because they fear that people are incapable of evaluating information for themselves. Indeed, in the past, many of these very executives used to make the case for freedom of expression, such as when Zuckerberg asserted in October of last year: In a democracy, I dont think that we want private companies censoring. [] As a principle, people should decide what is credible and what they want to believe.

Free speech: the More the Merrier

Of course, some might argue that free speech is normally desirable, but, in extreme cases such as during a pandemic, we should suppress harmful views. For instance, questioning social distancing can be quite dangerous; doing so may incite people to socialize and, as a consequence, spread the virus.

However, as John Stuart Mill teaches, this notion that we should suppress an opinion because it is false or harmful assumes the infallibility of the suppressor making that judgment. It happens that we are all fallible creatures; human beings do not have unfailing access to the truth. For this reason, all of our beliefs, even the ones we think of as securely founded, must remain open to discussion and revision. If not, true ideas will be suppressed because they arewronglythought to be false or harmful.

In his tremendously influential 1859 work On Liberty, Mill reasons that truths, for the most part, are only half-truths. Thus, unity of opinion ison the wholeundesirable. Diversity, therefore, is far from an evil and is a goodto make humankind more capable of recognizing all sides of the truth. Needless to say, most opinions are neither completely true nor false. That is why free speech is so important: It allows for the airing of competing ideas and preserves the partial truths within each one of them.

Finally, even if a belief is ultimately found to be false, the fact that it is being articulated can still drive us to secure the truth by refuting the error. Debate tends to lead to greater understanding. For a true idea to keep its vitality and power, it needs to be confronted and probed. With no active defiance, we risk losing the real meaning of the ideas we adopt. It is, therefore, essential to hear counterargumentsunless we prefer to hold onto dead dogmas, rather than living truths.

So yes, free speech can help us fight COVID-19 by fostering ideas that will allow us to get through this health crisis. However, we must open our ears and eyes to as many voices and opinions as possible. In this sense, the most harmful idea is the idea that censorship, even in a time of crisis, is the preferable alternative to the ever-important need for free speech.

Jean Vilbert is a freelancer writer in Brazil.

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Can Free Speech Help Us Beat the Coronavirus? - Merion West

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Coronavirus Arrests Over Fake News Silence Journalists, Dissenters in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Across Southeast Asia – Foreign Policy

Posted: at 3:28 pm

A 14-year-old in Kampot, Cambodia, was detained and forced by police to publicly apologize after expressing fear about the coronavirus in a Facebook message. A Siem Reap man was arrested after posting social media videos criticizing Cambodias lackluster coronavirus testing. Altogether, dozens of Cambodians have been arrested in recent weeks after being accused of spreading fake news about COVID-19, released only after signing apology documents. Among those still in jail are four members of the banned opposition party. Lumping together criticism with misinformation, Prime Minister Hun Sen has branded those who spread fake news as terrorists.

The Cambodian cases are part of a broader trend of Southeast Asian governments using the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on free speech. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the region, governments have adopted new measures, including emergency decrees, to slow the rate of infections. These effortswhile crucial to protect public healthhave been accompanied by sweeping free speech restrictions under the pretext of combating the spread of false information and maintaining public order.

Many of these new regulations have been used to arrest, detain, or question hundreds of people for criticizing government handling of the crisis, or merely for sharing coronavirus-related information. Authorities have also resorted to strict measures against the press to censor and stifle independent media, confirming fears that authoritarian governments are exploiting the pandemic to advance their political interests.

In my home country, Cambodia, 12 supporters or members of my former party, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, have been arrested since the outbreak began, under spurious charges including inciting military personnel to disobedience and provocation to commit offenses. The party was dissolved under politically motivated charges in 2017, and many of its former members, including myself, are now in exile.

This worrying trend looks set to continue. Last month, Cambodias National Assembly passed the state of emergency law, which grants the government broad powers to monitor, observe, and gather information from all telecommunication mediums and control the distribution of information that could scare the public, [cause] unrest, or that can negatively impact national security.

Given Hun Sens history of rights violations and use of any means necessary to retain power, this new law is likely to become yet another tool in his playbook to silence dissent.

Neighboring countries under strongman rule, including Thailand and the Philippines, have employed similar emergency powers to restrict information related to the virus. Just two days after the emergency law was passed in the Philippines, police filed criminal complaints against a mayor and two journalists for allegedly sharing false information that a patient with the virus had died at a hospital in Cavite City, close to Manila.

Governments are increasingly targeting reporters and news providers as part of efforts to curb so-called fake news, or they are using laws that grant authorities vague powers under the guise of national security. In Malaysia, the South China Morning Post journalist Tashny Sukumaran was questioned by the police for her reporting on the raids and arrests of hundreds of migrant workers and refugees as part of government efforts to tackle the pandemic. She is being investigated for provoking a breach of peace and misusing network facilities. In Myanmar, the Ministry of Communications and Transport blocked more than 200 websites, which they claimed spread fake news, under a provision that allows the government to suspend the use of telecommunication services for the benefit of the people. Such laws are problematic, as they confer extensive powers to states to determine what is true or false, as well as the type of information that can be published and accessed by the public.

Sign up for Foreign Policys latest pop-up newsletter, While You Werent Looking, for a weekly update on the world beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Delivered Friday.

Wider efforts in the region to tackle misinformation about the virus also saw Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha warn that the government could suspend or edit news that is untrue, and Malaysian authorities have instructed the police and the Communications and Multimedia Commission to take stern action against online media that supposedly misreport the news.

There is no doubt that misinformation surrounding the coronavirus can be dangerousleading, for instance, to false treatments or the scapegoating of vulnerable populations. But governments in Southeast Asia are resorting to disproportionate methods to fight misinformation by censoring both legitimate information and valid criticisms that are vital to the promotion of transparency and accountability.

Journalists in the region are already operating in hostile environments, and governments heavy-handed approach will make reporting more difficult and exacerbate the decline of free speech and independent media.

Beyond reporters, anyone who dares to speak on social media about COVID-19 is increasingly at risk of arrestas the Cambodian cases demonstrate. In Thailand, a street artist was arrested and charged with causing damage to Bangkoks main airport after posting on Facebook about the absence of coronavirus screenings there. Meanwhile, an Indonesian man who criticized President Joko Widodo on social media for his response to the virus was slapped with charges relating to defamation and inciting racial hatred.

Reportedly, more than 600 Facebook users in Vietnam have been hauled in by the police for questioning, while hundreds more in Malaysia are being investigated for disseminating supposed fake news. A Malaysian lawmaker, Fuziah Salleh, has also been charged for allegedly causing fear or alarm to the public for a video posted on her Facebook page that appeared to show crowded scenes at a border crossingwhich the police said was an old video. While governments have the responsibility to counter misinformation, they should never resort to criminal prosecution or heavy censorship. This could stifle open communication and heavily restrict the right to freedom of expression, important to curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, authorities should adopt less intrusive methods, such as supporting digital literacy and proactively disclosing information relating to COVID-19.

Now more than ever, citizens must remain vigilant and continue to urge their governments to uphold human rights during this pandemic. Even where parliaments are in recess, or where there is no longer an opposition, lawmakers past and present can use their influence to call out rights violations and support civil society and the mediawhich also play crucial roles in the fight against COVID-19.

While freedom of expression is not absolute and restrictions are warranted during crises, our leaders should be reminded that measures taken must remain necessary and proportionate to containing the virus. They should also not quash dissent or serve other aims. Although the spread of misinformation can undermine health efforts, ensuring an enabling environment for freedom of expressionincluding an independent mediawill safeguard the free flow of information that is vital in tackling the pandemic, and which can effectively address misinformation.

Any curtailment of rights that can be implemented for an indefinite period must be closely monitored to prevent the deepening of human rights violations beyond COVID-19.

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Coronavirus Arrests Over Fake News Silence Journalists, Dissenters in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Across Southeast Asia - Foreign Policy

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Twitter expands on conversation tools | News, Sports, Jobs – Youngstown Vindicator

Posted: at 3:28 pm

After months of teasing changes to their conversation tools, Twitter officially announced major upgrades to how we control replies to our posts. This is good news for people who have been avoiding the microblogging platform because of its reputation for fostering online negativity.

Its true that some people abandoned their Twitter accounts years ago because they were unable to control unwanted replies. Im all about free speech, but unrelated, negative replies made it hard to have meaningful conversations with people who wanted to interact with me.

For example, I received everything from replies that encouraged debate and sought clarifications to Youre an idiot (negative) and Buy these sunglasses for $9.99 (unrelated) to my tweets.

Since last year, weve been working to give people more control over their conversations, starting with the ability to hide replies, Suzanne Xie, Twitters director of product management said last week. We also began trying out new ways to start conversations.

Now Twitter is testing new settings that let us choose who can reply to our tweets and join in on our conversations.

Being able to participate and understand whats happening is key for useful public conversation, Xie said. So, were exploring how we can improve these settings to give people more opportunities to weigh in while still giving people control over the conversations they start.

Heres how it works.

Before you post a tweet, choose who can reply with three options:

Everyone (this is the default setting);

Only people you follow;

Only people you mention.

Tweets with only people you follow or only people you mention will be labeled as such, and the reply icon will be grayed out. This makes it clear to those who are viewing your tweet as to whether or not they can reply.

For example, if someone tries to reply to a tweet that Ive set as only people you mention, theyll get a pop-up message that reads Why cant you reply with @adamearn chose to let only people they mentioned in the original tweet reply.

Those who cant reply will still be able to view tweets, like or retweet them, or retweet with comments (which doesnt necessarily stop the negativity, but helps foster positive conversations on your timeline).

One thing we know for sure is that youll be creative with this update, Xie said. Maybe youll host a debate on the benefits of pineapple on pizza (#TeamPineapple) with fellow pizza pals or invite a panel of distinguished guests for a fireside chat. You could even play a game of tic-tac-toe for people to follow along without messing up your moves.

Twitter is also trying to make it easier to read all conversations around a tweet by giving us better access to retweets with comments. Most users can now see a new layout for replies with lines and indentations to make it clear who is talking to whom. This was also done to help fit more of the conversation into one view.

For now, only a limited group of people globally on Twitter for iOS, Android, and twitter.com can Tweet with these settings, but everyone can see these conversations, Xie added.

So, while most of these changes are still in testing mode, some of you are the lucky few who can test these options now. Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to wait.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at http://www.adamearn .com.

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Twitter expands on conversation tools | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator

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Wuhan’s survivors find no closure from the coronavirus – Los Angeles Times

Posted: at 3:28 pm

The steelworker counted as corpses were dragged out of the hospital in twos and threes, loaded into funeral cars and driven away. Every body bag meant another empty bed and a chance for his fathers survival.

The steelworker, whose name is Yang, had been sleeping in his car outside the hospital for two days. His father was shivering on a bench in the emergency room, wrapped in a blanket and wheezing while breathing oxygen from a tank. Hed tested positive for the coronavirus, but there were no beds for the old man.

Yang had warned his father not to go out in early January, when he started seeing more funeral tents than usual and hearing rumors about a new virus in Wuhan. But his father wouldnt listen. No one else around them seemed worried at the time, only his stubborn son who read too much insidious information from the non-Chinese internet.

Im old. Ill die sooner or later, Yangs father had joked, sneaking out to take walks when Yang was at work.

A month later, he was dead.

Those days replay in Yangs mind even now, a month after Wuhans celebrated reopening. Here in the city where the coronavirus began, the governments victory narrative is filled with slogans about Peoples War led by the Chinese Communist Party printed on red banners and flashing on the Yangtze River skyline.

The Yangtze River at dusk next to Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, China.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

Months of lockdown have wiped away the industrial centers usual haze of pollution, revealing open skies over soaring bridges and pink water lilies floating on lakes. People line up for buckets of crayfish, snack on crunchy, spicy lotus roots, and linger at breakfast stalls serving sesame-paste noodles and tofu skin stuffed with rice.

Fishermen and families are back on the riverbanks, flying kites, taking selfies and sleeping Sundays away in hammocks.

Yet anxiety lingers. Some fear a second wave of the coronavirus new infections were recently reported, sparking citywide testing. Others worry about the economic toll: lost jobs, looming debts and the cost of continuing shutdowns as much of the world recoils from a scourge that has infected more than 5 million people and killed more than 340,000.

For many in Wuhan, the initial fury at being lied to, locked down and abandoned has been replaced by horror at how other countries have failed to contain the virus despite early warnings. There is also a sense of anger that the world is blaming them for the coronavirus, when they were the first to suffer from it.

Beijing has meanwhile made a hero out of Wuhan, the sacrificial city whose people struggled and died to stop a virus and save the nation. But many in Wuhan say they never asked for that burden, and now they spend their days remembering the ones they lost while trying to make sense of what lies ahead.

Wuhans lockdown has lifted, but anxieties about the coronavirus remain. Travelers, above, take precautions while heading to the grocery store.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

It was hell, Yang said. His father got a hospital bed on Feb. 14, three days after he tested positive. But the doctor said it was too late to save him, and assigned a spot outside of the intensive care unit. There would be no nurses to feed or bathe him. Yang, 53, decided to stay and nurse his father himself.

But his mother, who lost her arm in a factory accident and suffers from Alzheimers, was still at home. His wife, daughter and sisters were locked down in other districts. By then, cars couldnt drive to the hospital, so for six days Yang biked back and forth between home and his fathers ward.

Three times a day, hed don a shower cap, raincoat, gloves, goggles and factory mask, feed his father, disinfect himself, then bike home, strip everything off, douse himself in alcohol, and cook for his mother who kept asking if her husband was dead. Hes not. I wouldnt lie to you, Yang told her.

Mr. Yang sat in his car in front of a hospital, watching funeral workers load corpses into vehicles to be cremated. Every body was another empty bed and chance for his fathers survival.

(Mr. Yang)

By the fourth day, his father was losing consciousness. He lost movement in his right arm and started punching the air and trying to pull off his oxygen mask with his left arm. Yang scolded him. Youre trying to kill me, his father said.

The old man stopped eating. Yang asked a nurse for help. She restrained his fathers arm and gave him a tranquilizer and a feeding tube. Yang and his sisters spent several thousand dollars on 30 nutrition shots to save him. The nurse gave him just one. The next day, on Feb. 21, he died.

Before the lockdown, few in Wuhan knew what danger they were in. For three weeks in January, government officials had said the virus was controllable, preventable, and not contagious between humans. Eight people, including the later-famous Dr. Li Wenliang, were rebuked on state TV for rumor-mongering about the new illness.

The Wuhan health commission insisted that there were no new cases of the virus for more than a week in January, while the city was holding political meetings. Residents kept shopping, eating and attending Chinese New Year potlucks with tens of thousands of guests, unaware of death spreading in their midst.

Only on Jan. 20 did Zhong Nanshan, a doctor famous for speaking up during the SARS epidemic, announce on state TV that there was human-to-human transmission. Three days later, the city of 11 million was locked down.

During the lockdown, residents of old, cramped apartment buildings in Wuhan like this one had poorer services than residents of newer buildings with better management and financial capacity.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

One front-line doctor, who asked not to be named because he is forbidden from speaking to foreign reporters, said his colleagues had already been wearing masks for weeks, trusting their own judgment over officials statements. He oversaw 50 of the hospitals 400 beds, all of which were quickly filled.

They had one ventilator for 50 patients and oxygen tanks for the others, but not enough pressure for the oxygen. People collapsed in the hallways, foaming at the mouth a sign that their lungs were drowning, the doctor said. Others collapsed in fear, he said, perhaps with sudden cardiac arrest.

Many of those early deaths went uncounted. Only patients with confirmed coronavirus infections were recorded, the doctor said, and many were dying too fast to be tested, especially as there werent enough tests. Worse, there wasnt any treatment.

There was no way to save them. Not enough beds, not enough equipment, not enough facilities, not enough people, he said. As a doctor, you feel helpless, trying to help them breathe. Youre just watching their oxygen go down, down, down, and you cant do anything. You cant keep up.

Elderly people in Wuhan, already more vulnerable to the coronavirus, struggled during the lockdown as they were separated from caretakers and family members.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

The city whose pain and loss would be duplicated across the world whispered with such stories. Outside the hospitals, the streets were cold and empty as if the city was dead, said MC, 35, a nail salon owner who became a volunteer, delivering food and masks to hospitals and poor families across the city.

On Chinese New Years Eve, Jan. 24, state TV had broadcast the annual Spring Festival Gala, complete with extravagant dances and glamorous hosts aglow with laughter. In Wuhan, it was the second day of lockdown; the city was silent.

I felt like: My city is sick, MC said. She remembers driving across bridges in the dark, seeing only ambulances and funeral cars on the road. She kept hearing people say China would sacrifice her city to save the nation. If thats true, we have to save ourselves, she recalls thinking.

One night, an ambulance dropped off an old man and woman in a Qiaokou district neighborhood, then sped away. They were Grandma Wu and Grandpa Xu, both 94. Their daughter who lived upstairs usually took care of them. But she had been hospitalized with COVID-19 on Jan. 28, and died two days later.

A security guard took this video of Grandma Wu walking toward her husband, who collapsed on the floor after being dropped off by an ambulance in early February. Their daughter, who usually takes care of them, had died of COVID-19 without their knowledge. The daughters husband soon died as well.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

Grandpa Xu had been a literature professor with a lifetime achievement award for his writing. He and Grandma Wu were honored last year at a city ceremony for respected scholars, as part of Chinas 70th anniversary celebration. It was also their 70th wedding anniversary, and Xu had been in his element, reciting poetry and singing Beijing opera.

A security guard took a video that night: Grandpa Xu fell down, crumpling to the floor. Grandma Wu tottered toward him in pajamas, pushing a walker. No one dared to touch them. Theyd just come from the hospital and their family had the virus. Who knew if they were sick?

I was pulling him and pulling him, and he wouldnt move, Grandma Wu said.

Somehow, the two made it to their apartment upstairs. But Grandpa Xu would not survive.

In October 2019, Grandpa Xu and Grandma Wu had been celebrated in a city ceremony for the the nations 70th anniversary, which coincided with their 70th wedding anniversary. In January 2020, seven members of their family fell sick after having dinner together, unaware of the coronavirus spreading in Wuhan. Two of them died.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

We couldnt see them, we couldnt care for them; we were helpless, their oldest daughter said in an interview. She and her husband live in New York, but had come to Wuhan for the holiday. After recovering from COVID-19, theyd reunited with Grandma Wu in mid-February, and stayed to care for her. They asked that their names not be used for their protection.

Wed already lost one, my sister. And my dad died without any reason or clarity. We have no idea how he died. What happened when he came home? What did he die of? the daughter said. Her mother began to cry.

For 10 days, the only person who cared for Grandma Wu was a government-employed grid worker, whose job was to monitor the households in their neighborhood.

Dont touch her, the workers colleagues said. But the worker came every day, coaxing Grandma Wu to swallow spoonfuls of congee.

America couldnt do what we are doing here, with workers checking every house, testing, taking temperatures and sending food, Grandma Wus daughter said. Her husband agreed: Local officials were three weeks late in announcing the disease, and he wanted to sue the hospital that expelled his in-laws. But the central government did a good job when it took over in February, he said though the city remains traumatized.

In Wuhan, those whove had the sickness also feel different from those who havent. You dont know that feeling of terror, said Grandma Wus daughter. We wrote our own wills and prepared to die.

While the coronavirus awakened some Chinese to the flaws of their government, it also shattered many peoples idealized notions of the West.

Mr. Liu, a migrant worker in Wuhan, took secret phone videos of overcrowded hospitals in hopes of spreading information to the world. He was shocked and disappointed when other countries seemed to fail in containing the coronavirus despite having more open societies and early knowledge of the epidemic.

(Liu Bowen / For The Times)

Im surprised and disappointed. Im rethinking what I thought I knew about America, said Liu, 43, a migrant worker and security guard who helped build the emergency hospitals for the coronavirus.

Liu called himself awakened hed long been critical of the Communist Partys authoritarianism, corruption and suppression of free speech. He had regarded the United States democracy as a model for what China could be. He was friends with activists, and had taken secret phone videos on the construction sites and in hospitals to alert other countries to what was unfolding in Wuhan.

We were trying so hard to tell the world, Liu said. Yet with their free press and free speech, they still failed. Why in the world did it become like this?

If even he was disillusioned with the United States, Liu said, there was no doubt that the Communist Party had won over most of Chinas population.

People were so angry. The government silenced our doctors. But now its the opposite: It seems the West is worse. The numbers speak for themselves, he said. Even with economic struggles, workers will say it was a natural disaster. They wont blame the government. They think it protected them well.

Key Zhou, 40, another Wuhan volunteer, said he worried most now about U.S.-China tensions and a rise in nationalism. He saw hateful rhetoric every day on state TV and online, where the Wuhan novelist Fang Fang was labeled a sellout to the West because her diary of life under coronavirus was being published in English.

The way people attacked one another reminded him of scenes hed seen during lockdown: Infected people had spat on elevator buttons out of spite, and screamed at volunteers, If I cant live, no one else can live! Sometimes hed felt like screaming, too.

Zhou feared a second Cultural Revolution or a third World War. Some of his friends are stockpiling food now, he said, not because of the coronavirus but in case of sanctions or coming inflation.

Whats scarier than the virus is how it rips our relations apart, Zhou said. When people are fearful, anxious, we harm one another. But this is our fault, not the virus fault. Its human, not Chinese or American.

Column One

A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.

Yang, the steelworker, hasnt had the time or heart to think about global affairs. After his father died, he had to be quarantined in a hotel. He resisted at first: He had two dogs, six chickens, his fathers rooftop vegetable garden, and his mother to take care of at home.

In the end, his mother came with him; the dogs were sent to a pet hospital and the chickens survived on some extra feed.

The dogs, the chickens, I saved them all, Yang said. The only one I didnt save was my father.

Yangs oldest sister had a mental breakdown after their fathers death. She has refused to see the rest of her family but is receiving psychological treatment. Yang fears a relapse of his own depression, which paralyzed him two years ago.

Hes returned to the steel factory, which has a special department for retired cadres. They supervised when he picked up his fathers ashes and stored them in a cemetery. He and his second sister placed a handful of chrysanthemums there, plucked from the rooftop. He eventually wants to bring his fathers ashes to their hometown in Hunan. The supervisors will probably follow him there, too.

Its political, he said. They wont let you go on your own.

Mr. Yangs fathers rooftop garden, which he and his mother now maintain.

(Mr. Yang)

When Yang thinks about his fathers death, he swears, then says: This was all preventable. We need justice from the heavens. But he also blames himself: He must have touched something with the virus. I should have given him gloves.

Every day, his mother asks where his father went. Her memory is going; all that once was is fading. Yang answers her questions, and keeps the garden alive.

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Column: Surrounded by people without masks on Niagara River gorge trail – Buffalo News

Posted: at 3:28 pm

One of the most spectacular places in Western New York is the lower Niagara River gorge.

That is where my wife and I took a hike Thursday afternoon from Devil's Hole State Park, along the Niagara Gorge rim, down the steep stone steps to the whirlpool rapids, along the Devil's Hole Trail on the river's edge, and then back up those steep Whirlpool State Park steps.

If you were among the hundreds of people I passed on the trail, perhaps you noticed me.

I was that guy with a mask that I put over my mouth and nose whenever I approached anyone.

If you saw me, you were probably among the 99% of the hikers that afternoon who didn't don a mask as you hiked along the narrow trail, which is about 2 feet wide in most places.

The no-mask crowd included moms and dads with kids, lots of young adults with college T-shirts, starry-eyed couples and groups of more than a dozen people.

I'm sure they are all good people whom I would love to meet.

But frankly, it was discouraging. I thought Western New Yorkers were smarter, more caring and more considerate of others.

When we passed, most of you didn't bother to turn your head away or walk on the edge of the trail as you labored up the steep steps by the whirlpool, breathing loudly, sending microscopic droplets of whatever was inside your lungs in my direction.

Normally, that wouldn't bother me. But I've spent the past two months editing stories about some of the 555 Western New Yorkers who have died with Covid-19 and the more than 6,000 who tested positive many of whom might have taken their last breath if not for ventilators or dedicated doctors and nurses.

I'm a freedom-loving guy. I'd start a revolution, if necessary, to preserve our rights to free speech, as well as our right to peacefully assemble, to vote, to worship the God that we want, and to seek redress if the government violates our rights.

I get it that as Americans we don't like the government telling us what we can and can't do.

But when you decide that it's your right to not wear a mask in public in places where it is impossible to stay 6 feet away from me and my wife, then you are infringing on our rights and you could cost us our lives.

If the droplets that come out of your mouth when you breathe or talk or cough carry the coronavirus, you freedom-lovers could take away someone else's rights all because you refuse to cover your mouth and nose with a piece of cloth for 15 seconds while you pass by them.

Now you say you didn't wear a mask on the trail because you don't have Covid-19. How do you know? Plenty of people have tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.

Yes, epidemiologists say the risk of transmitting Covid-19 outdoors is lower than the risk indoors. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't help keep each other safe in our parks.

Perhaps you think that I should just stay the heck home and stop complaining. But don't you recognize others have the same right to take a hike as you?

So how do we resolve this?

Do we obey the advice of the top health experts in the country and voluntarily don a mask in public when social distancing is not possible, like on the crowded narrow gorge trails?

Or do state and local law enforcement authorities have to step in to safeguard the public health?

Would you be happier if the state put a police officer on the narrow gorge trails and barred every hiker who wasn't wearing a mask? How about if the state just shut down the gorge trails until the virus threat drops, like it has closed playgrounds, schools and businesses?

Would that make you feel free?

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Church that defied coronavirus restrictions is burned to the ground – Boston.com

Posted: at 3:28 pm

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs,

The New York Times Company

May 22, 2020

The burning of a church in northern Mississippi this week is being investigated as arson because of a spray-painted message at the scene that seemed to criticize the churchs defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

First Pentecostal Church had sued the city of Holly Springs, which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, arguing that its stay-at-home order had violated the churchs right to free speech and interfered with its members ability to worship.

After firefighters put out the blaze early Wednesday, police found a message, Bet you stay home now you hypokrits, spray-painted on the ground near the churchs doors, according to Maj. Kelly McMillen of the Marshall County Sheriffs Department.

A photograph of the graffiti also appears to show an atomic symbol with an A in the center, which is sometimes used as a logo for atheist groups.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said on Twitter that he was heartbroken and furious about the fire.

McMillen said police had found a can of white spray paint and a flashlight at the scene. He said that no suspects had been identified but that investigators including from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and potentially the FBI would be going through the scene Friday.

Well probably be there till dark tomorrow night because were going to have to go through each and every piece of it, he said.

After growing frustration with the citys executive orders, the first of which was issued March 23, the churchs pastor, Jerry Waldrop, confronted city officials at a demonstration at a local Walmart. The church also filed a lawsuit against the city in April.

A lawyer for the church said in the lawsuit that police had cited Waldrop on Easter for holding a service in violation of the citys order and had later shut down a Bible study.

In a blistering opinion filed last week in response to the lawsuit, Judge Michael Mills wrote that he feared that the church was proceeding in an excessively reckless and cavalier manner and with insufficient respect for the enormity of the health crisis which the COVID-19 pandemic presents.

The judge declined to block the citys stay-at-home order, as the church had requested, and noted that the city had, in a subsequent executive order, allowed for drive-in church services.

On Friday, Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, a group that uses the logo found at the scene, strongly condemned the church burning, calling it a heinous act of destruction.

Im disgusted that anyone would associate a symbol of our community with something so incompatible with our values as atheists, Fish said in a statement.

Arguments over whether religious services can be held in person have become increasingly contentious in recent weeks.

Some churches in Minnesota this week said they would resume services in defiance of the governors orders. That followed a federal judges ruling in North Carolina that allowed for indoor religious gatherings after the governor said they were largely banned. In California, five lawyers with the Justice Department said in a letter to the governor that the states restrictions to combat the virus discriminated against religious institutions, and more than 1,200 pastors signed a declaration protesting the restrictions.

McMillen said the fire had shocked Holly Springs, a city of fewer than 8,000 people.

Hopefully, with the Lords help, he said, we can get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.

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French Government Passes Hate Speech Law, Will Allow Law Enforcement To Run The Internet – Techdirt

Posted: at 3:28 pm

from the thanks-I-hate-it dept

Whatever ills there are in the world, the French government is pretty sure American tech companies should solve them. Or, at the very least, agree to be punished for failing to prevent the unpreventable.

Having decided Google should pay French newspapers for sending them traffic, the French government is finally enacting its long-threatened "hate speech" law -- one that took all the bad/backfiring ideas from Germany's hate speech legislation, reformatting it slightly for French sensibilities.

Officials claimed it was more difficult to remove anti-Semitic speech than it was to remove pirated content, which must have come as a surprise to several incumbent industries. The law falls into one of those "we'll know it when we see it" gray areas that tech companies will be forced to police. Facebook has already helpfully offered to forward user info to French authorities to ensure no online stupidity goes unpunished. And special interest groups have already offered their input, asking the government to treat things like the online disparagement of agriculture and livestock breeding as a criminal act.

The law is now in place, reports Politico.

After months of debate, the lower house of Parliament adopted the controversial legislation, which will require platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to remove flagged hateful content within 24 hours and flagged terrorist propaganda within one hour. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to 1.25 million.

The law, which echoes similar rules already in place in Germany, piles more pressure on Silicon Valley firms to police millions of daily posts in Europe's two most populous countries.

Apparently this legislation has been at the top of the French government's to-do list for a couple of years now. Politico points out it's the first non-Covid-related legislation to have come up for a vote since the middle of March. Supposedly the French public demanded action, albeit indirectly.

"During the lockdown, hate speech online has increased ... We can no longer rely on the platforms' goodwill..." Junior Digital Affairs Minister Cdric O told the National Assembly ahead of the vote.

Having more people online more often is going to increase anything, not just "hate speech" the French government believes it can regulate into nonexistence. The bill's passage also comes front-loaded with irony. MP Laetitia Avia, one of the sponsors of the law, has been accused of making racist, homophobic, and sexist comments to her assistants.

The law has received plenty of criticism on its way to a vote, but nothing seems to have stopped its momentum -- not even the EU Commission's assertion that France's hate speech law is not compliant with EU law.

What's next for platforms is more of the impossible: moderation at scale targeting speech that isn't easy to target. Expect collateral damage, starting with satire and moving on to those who attempt to highlight hateful speech by others, only to find themselves censored and/or prosecuted for pointing out the bigotry of others.

This hate speech law has been cobbled onto existing anti-terrorism laws, turning law enforcement into the final arbiters of perceived offenses. Any notions of due process have been eliminated, streamlining the consolidation of power to a single branch of the government. This is digital rights group NGO La Quadrature's assessment of the law.

The separation of powers is entirely ruled out : it is the police who decide the criteria for censoring a site (in law, the concept of "terrorism" is broad enough to give it wide discretion, for example against demonstrators ); the police decide whether a site should be censored; it is the police who execute the sanction against the site. The judge is completely absent from the entire chain that leads to site censorship.

At the very least, the law is a handy way for the French government to insert itself into the moderation efforts of companies located halfway around the world. Setting up impossible mandates guarantees failure by those affected by them. And it's not just going to make companies like Facebook and Google reconsider their offerings in other countries. It's going to prevent new platforms and services from entering the market, since they'll be asked to do the impossible the moment they start hosting content created by French users. Meanwhile, French citizens are being asked to fund the diminishing of their own free speech rights -- all under the guise of stopping hate and terrorism. All the while, regulators can sit back on watch the tech company-targeting money printer go brrrrr.

Filed Under: censorship, content moderation, france, free speech, hate speech, law enforcement, takedownsCompanies: facebook, google

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The Response film will air on Free Speech TV through May 7th – Shareable

Posted: April 24, 2020 at 3:00 pm

Update (April 23rd): The tv premiere was a great success! If you missed it, the film will be re-broadcast several more times (through May 7th) on Free Speech TV (all times in Eastern Daylight Time):

Free Speech TV can be watched on DISH channel 9415, DIRECTV channel 348, and by streaming on Roku, Apple TV, Sling TV, and at freespeech.org)

Were proud to announce that our award-winning micro-budget film, The Response: How Puerto Ricans are Restoring Power to the People, will be premiering nationally in the United States this Wednesday, April 22 (4:00pm PT / 7:00pm ET)!

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Shareable and Free Speech TV (FSTV) will host a special online simulcast of the film which will immediately be followed by a panel discussion about community-led disaster response, collective resilience, and mutual aid.

Register for this free event to secure your spot at the screening and panel discussion.

The 30-minute film explores how, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a quiet revolution percolated on the island of Puerto Rico. What began as an impromptu community kitchen meant to help feed survivors in the town of Caguas quickly grew into an island-wide network of mutual aid centers (Centros de Apoyo Mutuo) with the ultimate goal to restore power both electric and civic to the people.

The panel after the film will be hosted by producer Tom Llewellyn (Shareable) and feature Susan Silber (NorCal Resilience Network), Tr Vasquez (Movement Generation), Juan C. Dvila (The Response film director), and Christine Nieves (co-founder of Proyecto Apoyo Mutuo Mariana).

The special will air on Free Speech TV (DISH 9415, DIRECTV 348, and stream on Roku, Apple TV, Sling TV, and at freespeech.org).

More information can be found on the FB event page and at shareable.net/the-response-film.

Please feel free to contact theresponse@shareable.net with any questions.

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The Response film will air on Free Speech TV through May 7th - Shareable

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At Home With EFF: COVID-19, Free Speech, and Privacy – EFF

Posted: at 3:00 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced both individuals and companies to adopt new practices and new technologies quicklysometimes creating serious risks to our civil liberties. Join EFF for a livestreamed video discussionabout what we've learned as online platform moderation becomes more automated, with platforms like Facebook flagging and censoring morecontentthan ever before.Following that discussion will be a conversation aboutprivacy, apps, and digital rights, and how to protect yourselfasyou adopt new technologies like Zoom, and as companies like Google and Apple create new apps and products intended tofight the pandemic.

We're excited to be joined byJeff Deutchof Syrian Archive and Mahsa Alimardani of Article 19 for a discussion ofcontent moderation, moderated by EFF's Director for International Freedom of Expression, Jillian C. York. EFF Legal Director, Corynne McSherry, will also join. Then, Legislative ActivistHayley Tsukayamawill moderate a panel on the pandemic, apps, and privacy, with EFF Staff Technologist Bennett Cyphers, Project Manager Lindsay Oliver, and Grassroots Advocacy Organizer Rory Mir.

Register Here

Have questions now? Sendthem to jason@eff.org.

This event will be livestreamed viaTwitch, where you can chat and ask questions. It will also be streaming onFacebook LiveandYouTube Live. (ForTwitch'sPrivacy Policy, see here.)

A recordingwill be made available.

EventTime:Wednesday, April 22, 12:00PM Pacific / 3:00 PM Eastern (check your local time here)

Social media has never been more crucial than it is right now: its keeping us informed and connected during an unprecedented moment in time. At the same time, the content moderation challenges faced by social media platforms have not disappearedand in some cases have been exacerbated by the pandemic. In the past weeks, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have all made public statements about their moderation strategies at this time. While they differ in details, they all have one key element in common: the increased reliance on automated tools. Learn how this pandemic has changed our ability toshare information with one another nowandpossibly,forever.

EFF's Corynne McSherry and Jillian C. York will be joined by Mahsa Alimardani, a freedom of expression researcher at Article 19 who is also working on her PhD at the Oxford Internet Institute; and Jeff Deutch, the lead researcher at Syrian Archive and a PhD candidate at the Humboldt-University in Berlin.

Pianist MC Angebot will join us for a few songs during our break.

Zoom might've received the most attention in the last few weeks, but plenty of new apps and tools that are being implemented during the pandemicoften without much oversightare cause for concern. What could the "proximity tracing" that companies like Apple and Googlehave been talking about mean for our civil liberties? When it comes to working from home, what privacyshould remote workers expect? And, due to many reports EFF has received about the use of privacy-invasiveproctoring tools for students shifting to remote learning and testing, we'll be discussing the various ways that these sorts of apps often burrow themselves into user's machines.

EFF Legislative ActivistHayley Tsukayama will be joined by EFF Staff Technologist Bennett Cyphers, Project Manager Lindsay Oliver, and Grassroots Advocacy Organizer Rory Mir.

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