If there’s one thing the coverage of Donald Trump has shown time and again, it’s that the mainstream media is more than happy to construct elaborate stories about him, based on nothing more than a tweet or a short GIF — even if the impression they give of events is distorted as a result.

The latest example was a mini-storm of coverage focused on the idea that Trump was ignored by Agata Kornhauser-Duda, the wife of the Polish prime minister, during a recent visit during the G20 summit. A video clip that made the rounds appeared to show Kornhauser-Duda avoiding a handshake with Trump in favor of one with his wife, Melania.

Headlines said things like “Watch Donald Trump Handshake Rejected by Polish First Lady in Hilariously Awkward Exchange” (Newsweek) and “Polish first lady passes over Trump’s handshake” (Washington Post). But is the video clip a fair representation of what actually happened? Not really.

If you look at longer video clips and those shot from a different angle, it’s obvious that the Polish first lady was heading for Melania Trump from the beginning, and didn’t pass over Trump, who was busy saying hello to her husband. And after she shook Melania’s hand, she turned and shook the president’s hand as well. Nothing very awkward at all.

So why did so many outlets — and plenty of Twitter accounts — choose to make so much out of the alleged rejection? Because it was funny, presumably, to think of the president of the United States being embarrassed or humiliated by someone refusing his handshake.

Short GIFS and clickbait headlines about Trump being rejected also likely drove a certain amount of low-quality, high-churn traffic to those news sites, something outlets like Newsweek are increasingly desperate for. But what is the long-term cost of these strategies?

The problem with posting a funny GIF of Trump is that, even though it might seem like a harmless laugh, to the extent that it distorts the reality of what actually happened, it plays right into the allegations of “fake news” coming from conservatives in the U.S. There are plenty of real things worth criticising Trump for — we don’t need to invent them.

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It was a pretty big scoop, at least as far as Twitter and Reddit were concerned: CNN’s “K-File” investigative unit, run by former BuzzFeed reporter Andrew Kaczynski, found the guy who created the GIF that Donald Trump used for a recent anti-CNN tweet. And then a single poorly-worded line in the story shifted the focus away from the GIF creator and onto CNN itself.

In the story, CNN said it had decided not to identify the Reddit user who originally created the GIF, someone who goes by the name HanAssholeSolo. But then it added a coda to that promise that created a controversy about its motives that continues to expand.

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

As soon as I read that last line, I thought to myself “That’s odd. It sounds like CNN is threatening to identify this guy if he steps out of line in the future.” That’s a pretty unusual thing for a mainstream news outlet to do. So I tweeted about it:

Kaczynski responded to me (and to others) that we were misinterpreting the phrase, and that it was intended only to make it clear that CNN had not made any kind of agreement with the Reddit user to keep his identity anonymous. But I was hardly the only one who saw it as an implied threat.

Unfortunately for CNN, this line was seized upon by pro-Trump forces (my tweet was retweeted over two thousand times, which is an unusually large amount) and used to accuse the media outlet of blackmailing their target. This in turn fed into the ongoing “CNN is fake news” campaign that gave rise to the original Trump GIF of him taking down a person with the CNN logo for a head.

I don’t think CNN deliberately wanted to threaten the Reddit user with that phrase, but I find it hard to believe that no one else could see that this is the way it would be interpreted. According to BuzzFeed, the line was added later by an editor. “All we intended to make clear is that there was no agreement about revealing or not revealing his identity,” a CNN executive said.

That may have been the intention, but the way it was handled has made CNN’s problems worse instead of better. If you have a target on your back the way CNN does, you should try reading everything you write in the most suspicious way possible, just in case.

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A large number of people, many of them in the mainstream media, spent a large part of Sunday up in arms about a tweet from Donald Trump in which he bashed CNN as “fraud news” (he’s apparently trying to get away from the term “fake news,” probably because it has been debased by him and his followers). The tweet included a GIF from a wrestling event in which he took someone down, but their face is obscured by a CNN logo.

Obviously, this is far from the only time Trump has attacked CNN on Twitter, and it’s not even close to being the worst thing he has said about them in speeches or at rallies. So why did it cause so much fuss? Mostly because some saw it as encouraging violence against members of the media, which they said crossed the line of acceptable behavior — and some argued that it should be seen as a breach of Twitter’s terms of service, which forbids harassment or threats of violence.

There’s a lot going on here, of course, which makes it more complicated than just some dumb tweet. First of all, it’s from the president of the United States. And it’s yet another in a long line of attacks on the mainstream media and threats against the press, and even threats against the First Amendment. Trump has deliberately made the traditional media the enemy, and this apparently plays extremely well with his base, who see the press as left-wing liars.

Needless to say, this troubles many people in the media, including me. It’s a pernicious and dangerous attempt to destabilize the free press and to empower news outlets that are more friendly to Trump, such as Breitbart News, InfoWars and NewsMax.

That said, however, this is also just a dumb tweet that includes a joke video clip from a clearly staged wrestling match, with a poorly Photoshopped logo added to it — in other words, it seems to be an obvious parody. In any case, it is hardly a call to violence against the press. And since that is the case, if Twitter was to remove it, it would provide Trump’s base with even more ammo to argue that their guy is being treated unfairly by liberal media snowflakes.

On top of all that, I personally don’t want Twitter to be pushing the censorship line even further down the slippery slope it is already on. Should hate and outright violence be removed? Yes. But if we are going to take down every tweet or account that engages in parody or satire, that’s going to lead to some dark places. As Charlie Warzel points out, Twitter didn’t even take down Kathy Griffin’s severed-head parody tweet, and that was much closer to advocating actual violence.

Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci also makes a good point, which is that CNN is hardly a blameless actor in this whole scenario. The network has deliberately and crassly played to Trump’s supporters in a variety of ways, and arguably gave the candidate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free advertising during the campaign. As she put it, if you turn the election into a wrestling match, someone who comes from that background will turn it against you.

I realize that just because CNN has given Trump lots of coverage, that doesn’t justify him attacking them. That’s called blaming the victim. And I also know that as soon as a journalist is thrown to the floor by a Republican (as Ben Jacobs was not long ago by then Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte) or is otherwise harmed by a Trump supporter, someone will say that this GIF made them do it. I happen to think that’s unlikely, but I could be wrong.

In any case, I think Twitter was right not to remove the tweet, because that’s a slippery slope that I don’t think we want to go down. Feel free to argue the point with me in the comments below.

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Under the terms of a new German law, social networks like Facebook face fines of up to $57 million if they don’t delete illegal, racist or slanderous content within 24 hours. But free-speech advocates, including the Commission for Human Rights, say the law gives too much power to Facebook and other platforms to decide what constitutes hate speech.

“I am concerned with the lack of judicial oversight with respect to the responsibility placed upon private social networks to remove and delete content,” said David Kaye of the High Commission for Human Rights. “A prohibition on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous criteria, such as ‘insult’ or ‘defamation,’ is incompatible” with the International Covenant on Civil Rights.”

The European Digital Rights group, made up of civil and human rights organizations, also protested the new law, saying “there is no indication of how a decision is to be made on what ‘violating content’ might be.” The group added that it is “easy to see how the fear of high fines will bring platforms to delete and block any content that appears to generate a risk of being punished under this new law.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said that the law is ostensibly aimed at combatting disinformation and hate speech, but the way it is going to be implemented “raises concerns about restrictions on free expression and the privatization of censorship.”

This is a disturbing decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, as explained by my former colleague (and fellow Canadian) Jeff Roberts at Fortune. It follows some equally troubling decisions in Europe that have ordered Google to delete results worldwide because of the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

In a 7-2 decision, the court agreed a British Columbia judge had the power to issue an injunction forcing Google to scrub search results about pirated products not just in Canada, but everywhere else in the world too.Those siding with Google, including civil liberties groups, had warned that allowing the injunction would harm free speech, setting a precedent to let any judge anywhere order a global ban on what appears on search engines. The Canadian Supreme Court, however, downplayed this objection and called Google’s fears “theoretical.”

Source: Google Loses Supreme Court of Canada Case Over Search Results

Update: Daphne Keller published a smart piece on this issue at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (which I found via Eugene Volokh). Here’s some of what she said:

Canada’s endorsement of cross-border content removal orders is deeply troubling. It speeds the day when we will see the same kinds of orders from countries with problematic human rights records and oppressive speech laws. And it increases any individual speaker’s vulnerability to laws and state actors elsewhere in the world. Content hosting and distribution are increasingly centralized in the hands of a few multinational companies – Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft with their web hosting services, etc. Those companies have local presence and vulnerability to formal jurisdiction and real world threats of arrest or asset seizure in scores of countries.

Source: Ominous: Canadian Court Orders Google to Remove Search Results Globally

It should be noted that Keller is associate general counsel at Google, and as such was involved in this particular case at the Court of Appeals stage. But her warning is still worth listening to. Another smart post on the topic comes from my friend Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor.

What happens if a Chinese court orders it to remove Taiwanese sites from the index? Or if an Iranian court orders it to remove gay and lesbian sites from the index? Since local content laws differ from country to country, there is a great likelihood of conflicts. That leaves two possible problematic outcomes: local courts deciding what others can access online or companies such as Google selectively deciding which rules they wish to follow.

Source: Global Internet Takedown Orders Come to Canada: Supreme Court Upholds International Removal of Google Search Results