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Ankhi Das: Facebook India’s policy head quits amid hate speech row



Ankhi Das: Facebook India's policy head quits amid hate speech row
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Facebook India’s policy head Ankhi Das has resigned two months after the social media giant was embroiled in a hate speech controversy in the country.

The Wall Street Journal had accused Facebook of going easy on ruling party supporters who allegedly violated hate speech rules with anti-Muslim posts.

The paper also alleged that Ms Das had made the controversial decisions and was politically partisan.

Facebook denied the allegations and said it did not favour any party.

But the row put the company in a delicate position in its biggest market. Its head of business for India, Ajit Mohan, was later grilled by an Indian parliamentary committee.

Mr Mohan said in a statement on Tuesday that Ms Das had stepped down from her role in Facebook to pursue “her interest in public service”.

He added that Ms Das, who was one of the company’s first employees in India, had “played an instrumental role” in its growth and had made “enormous contributions”.
She made headlines in August when a Wall Street Journal report alleged that Facebook deleted some anti-Muslim posts by a lawmaker from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party only after the paper asked about them.

Ms Das was at the centre of the controversy as she allegedly made the decision not to delete these posts.

According to the paper, Ms Das told employees that “punishing violations by politicians from Mr Modi’s [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.

The paper also alleged that similar posts by at least three others, who supported the BJP, were not taken down even after they were flagged for violating the company’s hate speech rules.

Ms Das was then the subject of a second report by the WSJ, which alleged that she supported the BJP and Mr Modi, while denigrating the opposition parties in internal messages.

Facebook, however, denied it favoured any political party, and said these messages were taken out of context.

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GOP objects to Biden nominees, a sign of what’s to come



GOP objects to Biden nominees, a sign of what's to come
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President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks are quickly running into the political reality of a narrowly controlled Senate that will leave the new Democratic administration dependent on rival Republicans to get anything done.

Under leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican senators will hold great sway in confirming Biden’s nominees regardless of which party holds the majority after runoff elections in January. Biden will have little room to maneuver and few votes to spare.

As Biden rolled out his economic team Tuesday — after introducing his national security team last week — he asked the Senate to give his nominees prompt review, saying they “deserve and expect nothing less.”

But that seems unlikely. Republicans are swiftly signaling that they’re eager to set the terms of debate and exact a price for their votes. Biden’s choice for budget chief, Neera Tanden, was instantly rejected as “radioactive.” His secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, quickly ran into resistance from GOP senators blasting his record amid their own potential 2024 White House campaigns.

Even as most Republican senators still refuse to publicly acknowledge President Donald Trump’s defeat, they are launching new battles for the Biden era. The GOP is suspended between an outgoing president it needs to keep close — Trump can still make or break careers with a single tweet — and the new one they are unsure how to approach. Almost one month since the Nov. 3 election, McConnell and Biden have not yet spoken.

“The disagreement, disorientation and confusion among Republicans will make them inclined to unite in opposition,” said Ramesh Ponnuru, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, during a Tuesday briefing.

“They don’t necessarily know what they’re for, but they can all agree they don’t like Neera Tanden.”

A new president often runs into trouble with at least a few Cabinet or administrative nominees, individuals who rub the Senate the wrong way and fail to win enough votes for confirmation or are forced to withdraw after grueling public hearings.

Trump’s nominees faced enormous resistance from Senate Democrats, who used their minority-party status to slow-walk confirmation for even lower-level positions. It’s been an escalation of the Senate’s procedural battles for at least a decade.

But the battles ahead are particularly sharp as Biden tries to stand up an administration during the COVID-19 crisis and economic freefall, rebuilding a government after Trump chased away many career professionals and appointed often-untested newcomers.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer praised the expertise Biden’s choices will bring to government. He scoffed at Republicans for complaining about Tanden’s penchant for sharp tweets after four years of Trump’s endless Twitter barbs that GOP senators often tried to ignore.

“After what all we went through over the past four years, I would expect that almost all of President-elect Biden’s nominees would be widely acceptable,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

Instead, he warned, the “switch is starting to flip” into Republican opposition.

To be sure, some key Biden choices will have an easier path to confirmation. Janet Yellen, who would become the nation’s first female treasury secretary, drew few public complaints from Republicans. Many had voted to confirm her in 2014 as Federal Reserve chair.

Democrats have their own battles ahead. Biden faces the daunting task of keeping the party’s centrist and progressive factions from splintering as he tries to put his team in place.

Republicans now hold a 50-48 advantage in the Senate, but if Democrats win both Georgia seats in the Jan. 5 runoff elections, they would wrest control, since the vice president, which will be Kamala Harris, becomes a tie-breaker.

The nomination fights will serve as an early indicator of the approach Republicans take toward Biden as they find their political footing in a post-Trump environment.

Trump continues to wield great influence over the party as he is being eased out, and senators, in particular, need to keep him close for the Georgia runoff elections.

The president is planning to visit Georgia on Saturday, where two GOP senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, failed to clear the 50% threshold to win reelection in November. Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff and Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in a state that flipped to support Biden.

McConnell has said almost nothing about Biden’s nominees or next year’s agenda as he continues to give Trump the time and space to challenge election results in court cases that have delivered few victories.

Instead, he’s letting other Senate Republicans, particularly those seen as having White House ambitions, make names for themselves. GOP Sens. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, among others, have all hurled pointed complaints about Biden’s picks.

Despite Trump’s defeat, Republicans in Congress may have little incentive to work with Biden. They performed better than Trump, retaining many House and Senate seats they were expected to lose. One lesson Republicans learned from the November election may be to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

McConnell gave a nod toward what’s ahead after GOP senators met Tuesday by conference call, forced to abandon their traditional sit-down lunches as the COVID-19 crisis surges and threatens to further disrupt the Capitol.

McConnell talked about finishing the remaining few weeks of “this government” and “the new administration” to come.

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Trump attorney issues call for violence against truth-telling former election cybersecurity official



Trump attorney issues call for violence against truth-telling former election cybersecurity official
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Washington (CNN)An attorney for the Trump campaign on Monday issued a call for violence against Chris Krebs, a former cybersecurity official who was unceremoniously ousted from his post by President Donald Trump after he rejected the President’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

Joe diGenova, the attorney for Trump’s campaign, said during an appearance on “The Howie Carr Show”: “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

A day later, diGenova tried to walk back his remarks by portraying them as a joke. “For anyone listening to the Howie Carr Show, it was obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest. I, of course, wish Mr. Krebs no harm. This was hyperbole in a political discourse,” diGenova said Tuesday in a statement distributed by the Trump campaign.

A source familiar with Trump’s election challenges said diGenova is believed to still be helping Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, in challenging the presidential election results.

Asked about diGenova’s comment, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah told CNN, “That statement was wildly inappropriate.”

Carr did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The remarks from diGenova, though much more extreme than others made by officials in the White House during Trump’s time in office, underscore the administration’s crusade against whistleblowers and others who have spoken out in opposition during the President’s term and refuse to adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

Krebs suggested Tuesday in an interview with the “Today” show that he may take legal action against diGenova following the comments, which he called “dangerous.”

“The way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I’ve got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court and I think they’re probably going to be busy,” he said.

DiGenova’s remarks were swiftly condemned on Monday by the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower group that warned that such threats could have a chilling effect on officials seeking to expose wrongdoing.

“Threats like these trigger an avalanche of them. They terrorize other whistleblowers into silence. It’s behavior befitting a mob attorney,” Louis Clark, the group’s executive director and chief executive officer, said in a blistering statement on Monday.

DiGenova’s comments also prompted a strong rebuke from Krebs’ former deputy, Matt Travis, who called diGenova, “a small man with a small mind and bad mustache.”

“It’s egregious, loss of words for just how absurd and offensive those comments are,” Travis said Tuesday during the Aspen Cyber Summit. “We certainly never expected CISA, its mission, its people, to be under attack like this and I hope it ends soon. I hope Mr. diGenova takes back those words, apologies and recognizes that maybe the hot lights of the studio got to him.”

Trump announced earlier in November that Krebs would be “terminated” from his job running the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security “effective immediately” because a Krebs’ statement — in which he had rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud — was “highly inaccurate.” CNN reported ahead of Krebs’ firing that he had expected the move.

Travis, who served as the No. 2 official at the agency, resigned last month in the wake of Krebs’ firing.

The statement from Krebs’ agency, along with state and private election officials, had read: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. … There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Krebs repeated his assessment that the election was secure in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, and he addressed diGenova’s comments, saying he wasn’t “going to be intimidated by these threats from telling the truth to the American people.”

“The 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history. This success should be celebrated by all Americans, not undermined in the service of a profoundly un-American goal.”

In the lead-up to the election, Krebs had often quietly disputed the President’s repeated false claims about mail-in ballots but went out of his way to not get drawn into criticizing his boss for spreading lies.

But in the days that followed, Krebs had adopted a more forceful approach, regularly posting on Twitter — often with blaring red siren emojis — fact checks of the claims and conspiracy theories being pushed by Trump, his allies and supporters around the country.

Prior to the election, CISA “took the stance that it was not our role to fact check the candidates. We were going to stay out of that political process,” Travis said. “But once the election had been conducted … then we felt it was our role to be articulating the ground truth on what these processes entailed.”

“We generally had try to fly under the radar, knowing how fraught with peril this election might be because of the non-traditional way the votes would eventually be tabulated and the timing of that … we tried to kind of filter out that noise,” Travis said when asked about Trump’s continued politicization of the election leading up to Election Day.

Despite states certifying their results and awarding electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden ahead of the Electoral College meeting on December 14, Trump has not conceded the election. Instead, he has continued to falsely claim that he won.

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Georgia fraud claims could cost us the Senate – Republicans tell Trump



Georgia fraud claims could cost us the Senate - Republicans tell Trump
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Donald Trump’s sustained attacks on the integrity of Georgia’s presidential election tally are threatening the Republican Senate majority — and GOP senators are starting to fret.

Even as the key battleground states have certified their results and Trump’s legal challenges are crumbling, the president is refusing to let go of his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and fight to overturn the election results. Moreover, the official presidential transition is already in motion, and President-elect Joe Biden received his first presidential intelligence briefing on Monday.

But Republicans are increasingly seeing Trump’s posture as not just rhetoric. They view it as a self-serving quest that could imperil the GOP’s grip on the Senate by depressing turnout in two runoffs races that will decide which party controls the upper chamber. And they are publicly hoping he will refrain from pushing his false fraud claims when he visits the Peach State this week to campaign for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

“Making an allegation without having facts to back it up could be detrimental to his long-term legacy,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said flatly.

“I would hope when the president is in Georgia Saturday he talks about the importance of turning out the vote,” added Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership. “And I think what he says on that trip will probably matter more than what he’s said up until now.”

Republicans believe Trump’s involvement is key to motivating their voters for the Jan. 5 runoffs. But there are already signs that Republicans are trying to avert a collapse in Georgia, where the candidates and outside groups are raising millions.

Advisers to the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., are launching a super PAC aimed at turning out supporters in the runoffs — some of whom are calling for an all-out boycott of the races. And over the weekend, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tussled with a Trump backer who claimed the twin Senate races had already been “decided,” essentially echoing the president’s claims of voter fraud.

“It does no good if they self-fulfill a prophecy of refusing to vote, and lose the legacy that the president provides,” Rounds said when asked about the boycott that some of Trump’s supporters are plotting.

Even as Trump urges his supporters to vote for Perdue and Loeffler, he is continuing to hammer Georgia’s secretary of state and governor — both Republicans — for what he calls a “fraudulent” result in favor of Biden. Trump even said he was “ashamed” of his endorsement of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018, and on Monday called him “hapless.”

Republicans in Georgia are exasperated with his rhetoric, and they’re publicly urging the president to avoid talking about the Nov. 3 election.

“It’s time for this to be over,” said former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who previously held Perdue’s seat. “When he comes he needs to not be talking about his race, he needs to be showing his support for the two candidates in Georgia and put to rest anybody who makes any comment about the fact or has any idea about not voting because they might think these two candidates aren’t doing enough to question the election.”

“The ridiculous things claimed in some of these lawsuits are just that — they’re insanity, fever-dream, made-up internet cabal,” said Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and the voting system implementation manager for Georgia’s elections.

Even as Trump continues to wage his implausible legal fight, Senate Republicans are coming around to acknowledging Biden’s victory. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it’s “becoming clearer by the minute” that the former vice president won and, as a result, “I’m already moving on.”

And Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said the General Services Administration’s move last week to allow the presidential transition process to move forward after weeks of stalling “suggests [Trump] understands which way it’s headed.”

Republicans, meanwhile, were offering their thoughts on Biden’s choices for his Cabinet, another sign that they are preparing for the inevitable.

Underscoring Trump’s influence over the GOP, only a minority of Republicans are calling out the president for seeking to overturn the results of the election in battleground states. And most are waiting for the Electoral College to formalize the election results on December 14 before officially declaring Biden the president-elect.

But a handful of Republicans are starting to express concern about the long term impact Trump’s false allegations of a “rigged election” and widespread voter fraud could have on the country.

“There has not been evidence presented yet of any systematic or substantial nature, and so I think it’s most unfortunate and damaging to the cause of democracy to make serious accusations without serious evidence,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a frequent critic of the president who did not vote for Trump in November.

“I just worry about the erosion of the public’s confidence in our electoral process,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said of Trump’s allegations, and urged him Monday to concede. “It’s pretty integral to who we are as a country.”

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