Rand Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, Thomas Massie, Ron Wyden Join Forces To Unplug the President’s ‘Internet Kill Switch’

Civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress have joined forces to call for canceling a little-known executive power.

Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Ron Wyden (D–Ore), and Gary Peters (D–Mich.), along with Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) and Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), introduced bills this week to abolish the so-called “internet kill switch”—a sweeping emergency executive authority over communications technology that predates World War II.

“No president from either party should have the sole power to shut down or take control of the internet or any other of our communication channels during an emergency,” Paul argued in a statement announcing the Unplug the Internet Kill Switch Act.

The bill aims to revoke Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934. When that law was passed, there was no internet. But the broad language included in Section 706 means that it could be invoked today to give a president “nearly unchallenged authority to restrict access to the internet, conduct email surveillance, control computer systems, and cell phones,” Gabbard explained in her statement on the bill.

It’s even worse than that. As Michael Socolow wrote in Reason last year, the law is so broad that it effectively gives the president the ability to commandeer any electronic device that emits radiofrequency transmissions. These days, Socolow noted, that includes “everything from your implanted heart device to the blow dryer for your hair. It includes your electric exercise equipment, any smart device (such as a digital washing machine), and your laptop—basically everything in your house that has electricity running through it.”

Since the United States is technically engaged in 35 ongoing “national emergencies“—thanks in large part to an executive branch that has stripped those words of their meaning—we should probably be grateful that President Donald Trump hasn’t yet reached for this power. He’s already invoked Cold War–era laws to impose greater executive control over global commerce in the name of “national security” and has declared illegal immigration to be a national emergency as a political maneuver to redirect funding for a border wall.

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Spotify Employees Threaten to Strike If Joe Rogan Podcasts Aren’t Edited or Removed

Late last week, we first reported that Spotify employees were demanding direct editorial oversight over the recently-acquired Joe Rogan Experience podcast.  That would include the ability to directly edit or remove sections of upcoming interviews, or block the uploading of episodes deemed problematic. The employees also demanded the ability to add trigger warnings, corrections, and references to fact-checked articles on topics discussed by Rogan in the course of his multi-hour discussions.

Some of the group’s demands have already been met by Spotify management, though a refusal to allow further changes is stirring talk of a high-profile walkout or strike.  According to preliminary plans shared with Digital Music News, the strike would principally involve New York-based Spotify employees, and would be accompanied by protests outside Spotify’s Manhattan headquarters.  Other aspects would involve media appearances and coordination with other activist organizations.

For Spotify, the decision to offer some concessions may have only emboldened demands for wide-scale editorial oversight.

During the transition of Rogan’s podcast episodes onto the Spotify platform, multiple past episodes were omitted.  Those included interviews with Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and Alex Jones.  Additionally, Rogan issued a rare public apology and correction over his claim that left-wing anarchists had set fires in Oregon, a point that was made during a recent interview with Douglas Murray.  The apology is now believed to be the result of pressure from Spotify staffers.

But those measures apparently don’t go far enough. Rogan’s claim during the Murray podcast is still part of the podcast recording, despite demands that the offending section be removed or directly corrected within the audio itself.  It now appears that Spotify is unwilling to directly edit or otherwise alter any existing episodes, with content alteration considered a bright line that shouldn’t be crossed.

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Facebook Will Restrict Certain Users If US Election Gets “Extremely Chaotic Or Violent”

Earlier this week, Facebook gave us a welcome break from the virtue-signaling by threatened to pull its business from Europe should courts uphold an EU-wide ban on transfering European user data to US-based servers (something Washington is desperately trying to stop TikTok from doing, in a sense).

But that didn’t last long. On Tuesday, the social media giant’s head of global communications, former deputy PM Nick Clegg, told the Financial Times that the company is developing contingency plans should the US election lead to an outbreak of chaos and uncertainty. Though he didn’t go into too much detail, the implication is clear: Facebook is planning to significantly curtail speech on its platform, echoing the Internet blackouts utilized by authoritarian regimes including Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Clegg preferred to call them the “break-the-glass” options, and assured readers that they probably wouldn’t happen anyway.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Nick Clegg, the company’s head of global affairs, said it had drawn up plans for how to handle a range of outcomes, including widespread civic unrest or “the political dilemmas” of having in-person votes counted more rapidly than mail-in ballots, which will play a larger role in this election due to the coronavirus pandemic. “There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” Mr Clegg said, though he stopped short of elaborating further on what measures were on the table. The proposed actions, which would probably go further than any previously taken by a US platform, come as the social media group is under increasing pressure to lay out how it plans to combat election-related misinformation, voter suppression and the incitement of violence on the November 3 election day and during the post-election period.

Of course, post-election day indecision is nothing new in American politics, though it will be the first time we’ve seen one since Facebook was founded in 2004. It also comes – as the FT none-too-subtly points out – as “conerns mount that even US president Donald Trump himself could take to social media to contest the result or call for violent protest, potentially triggering a constitutional crisis.”

But don’t worry: Because as Clegg explains, Facebook has done this before in “other parts of the world.”

“We have acted aggressively in other parts of the world where we think that there is real civic instability and we obviously have the tools to do that [again],” Mr Clegg added, citing the previous use of “pretty exceptional measures to significantly restrict the circulation of content on our platform”.

Facebook has also taken several steps to immediately step up and address any harmful activity that might emerge on its platform during the election. Citing unnamed sources, the FT says Facebook has planned for more than 70 scenarios, and that any high-stakes decisions will fall to a team of executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. The company is employing a range of experts, including military planners, to help the company’s leadership make the best decisions possible.

“We’ve slightly reorganised things such that we have a fairly tight arrangement by which decisions are taken at different levels [depending on] the gravity of the controversy attached,” Mr Clegg said. The executive also said that “the amount of resources we are throwing at this is very considerable”. Facebook will have a virtual war room – dubbed its “Election Operations Centre” – for monitoring for suspicious activity and updating its “voter information hub”, which will showcase verified results to users, he said.

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