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.”

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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

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Smart post from Eugene Wei about how information gets distributed now, and things that were commonly known in specific circles (like a certain VC’s reputation for sexual harassment) become more widely known.

We live in the age of distributed truth, and it’s an environment in which fake news can spread like mold when in viral form. But the same applies to the truth, and if there’s one lesson on how to do your part in an age of distributed truth, it’s to speak the truth and to support those who do. It may be exhausting work—is it really necessary to point out the emperor is buck naked?—but it’s the best we can do for now.

Source: The age of distributed truth — Remains of the Day

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Copy editors at the New York Times have written an open letter to executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn, protesting the downsizing of editing functions at the paper. The Times is planning to get rid of its central copy desk, and aims to reduce the number of editors by about 50%.

“Dear Dean and Joe,” the letter begins. “We have begun the humiliating process of justifying our continued presence at The New York Times. We take some solace in the fact that we have been assured repeatedly that copy editors are highly respected here. If that is true, we have a simple request. Cutting us down to 50 to 55 editors from more than 100, and expecting the same level of quality in the report, is dumbfoundingly unrealistic. Work with us on a new number.”

Source: New York Times copy desk to top editors: ‘You have turned your backs on us’ – Poynter

I have a huge amount of respect for copy editors, and editors of all types — the good ones are invaluable, and have saved me from more stupid errors than I care to enumerate. But the harsh fact is that the kind of structure newspapers used to have, in which four or five different editors touched every story, simply doesn’t make any sense any more.

When I worked at Fortune, one editor was responsible for assigning, copy editing and publishing. Obviously we still made mistakes, but not that much more than any other publication I don’t think. As touching and heartfelt as the New York Times editor’s letter is, there is no way to turn back the hands of time and make the newspaper business what it used to be.

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