Is There a Political Reason Twitter Won’t Do More to Combat White Supremacy?

REX/Shutterstock; Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Since President Trump took office, Republicans have accused social media platforms of bias against conservative users. But according to a new report from Motherboard, Twitter has avoided censoring white supremacists out of fear that it could impact the accounts of Republican politicians.

The report cites a March 22nd meeting at Twitter during which it was explained to attendees that accounts like those of Arabic language broadcasters may inadvertently be flagged in the course of the platform ridding itself of ISIS propaganda. Twitter hasn’t made the same commitment to rid itself of white supremacist content, the speaker later said in another conversation confirmed by Motherboard, because it could have a similar effect on the accounts of Republican politicians.

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Twitter responded by noting to Motherboard that the report “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level.” The company later disputed the report in a statement. “The information cited from the ‘sources’ in this story has absolutely no basis in fact,” it read. “The characterization of the exchange at the meeting of March 22nd is also completely factually inaccurate. There are no simple algorithms that find all abusive content on the Internet and we certainly wouldn’t avoid turning them on for political reasons.”

As the report explains, Twitter took a broad, mostly algorithmic approach to eradicating ISIS-related content. To do so for white supremacist content would inevitably impact Republican accounts because of the extent to which white supremacist and white nationalist rhetoric has bled into American political discourse. “Cracking down on white nationalists will therefore involve removing a lot of people who identify to a greater or lesser extent as Trump supporters, and some people in Trump circles and pro-Trump media will certainly seize on this to complain they are being persecuted,” extremism expert and author JM Berger told Motherboard. “There’s going to be controversy here that we didn’t see with ISIS, because there are more white nationalists than there are ISIS supporters, and white nationalists are closer to the levers of political power in the U.S. and…

Trump’s 2020 Campaign: A Traditional Operation With a Wild-Card Candidate

Jason Andrew for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — On a former trading floor in an office tower in Rosslyn, Va., with sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Trump 2020 campaign is settling in. It has about 40 staff members and counting, reported $19.2 million in cash on hand in its last report and has spent $4.5 million on online ads since December.

It is a long way from Mr. Trump’s first presidential race, which came together in the summer of 2015 and was run as a taped-together operation, with a few desks strewn across an unfinished floor of Trump Tower.

But one thing is missing from the high-powered but traditional campaign operation underway in Rosslyn: a candidate who abides by tradition.

In a speech to a conservative group this month, as Mr. Trump described what he had in mind, he made a point of recounting “how I got elected, by being off script,” adding, “If we don’t go off script, our country is in big trouble, folks.” And at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday, Mr. Trump illustrated what he meant, delivering an 80-minute stemwinder in which he lashed out at familiar targets who fostered “the collusion delusion” and offered the in-depth rehash of his 2016 victory that is a staple of his rally speeches.

“We won a lot,” he said, after explaining where “Crooked” Hillary Clinton went wrong. “We won 306 to 223.” (Mrs. Clinton’s total was actually 232.)

Mr. Trump has made it clear that he wants to run on the same anti-immigration, anti-Islam, fear-mongering tropes that lifted him to victory in 2016, denouncing old enemies like Mrs. Clinton and adding new ones, even as his aides try to emphasize his accomplishments in office like the economy and the rout of the Islamic State. Advisers say privately that he has been distracted by the Mueller report, which he regards as a clear political victory, and has not focused on message for the coming months.

As the campaign tries to build a traditional re-election operation, which officials often compare to President George W. Bush’s 2004 race, the tension may build between campaign officials and Mr. Trump, who trusts his gut above all else.

“President Trump has always had his finger on the pulse of the nation and he understands what it is that the American people want, and that is why he won in 2016 and that has not changed,” said David Bossie, a former campaign adviser who, alongside the former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, attended the rally with Mr. Trump on Thursday night. “He is his best political barometer.”

Incumbent presidents running for re-election always come with built-in advantages: money, time, the stature of the office and the opportunity to define the terms of the race, while an inchoate field of opponents fight among one another.

The Trump campaign is building an organization aimed at capitalizing on all of those advantages, crafting a conventional structure around a candidate whose nature is to buck against it. “There are lots of differences between being part of a bruising primary versus being the incumbent,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign communications director. “One of the differences is time. We have a big advantage on the Democrat field in that, and we intend to use it.”

But the wild card is Mr. Trump himself.

“It’s easy to build a beautiful operation,” said Robby…

Libya’s political instability makes room for ISIS to regroup

This week Libya’s prime minister and the a rival opposition leader agreed to hold nationwide elections in the war-torn country. A previous election attempt was delayed as territorial disputes and instability were allowing groups like ISIS to take advantage of the power vacuum. Christopher Livesay reported from inside Libya in October, 2018 with funding from the Pulitzer Center.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This week the head of the Libyan government and the country’s opposition military leader met and agreed to hold nationwide elections in the politically torn country. A previous attempt at an election had been delayed as territorial disputes and instability across regions were allowing groups like ISIS to take advantage of the disarray.

    PBS NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Christopher Livesay and videographer Alessandro Pavone reported on that instability back in October and the power vacuum that ISIS was trying to fill.

    Their reporting was supported in part with funding from the Pulitzer Center.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    The city of Sirte. Once the crowning jewel of the Islamic State in Libya. It was part of 150 miles of ISIS-controlled coastline from 2015 to the end of 2016. Today, the city has been reduced to rubble, first in an offensive against ISIS led by Libyan security forces in 2016, then by nearly 500 precision airstrikes from the United States. Bombing largely ceased last year. Large swaths of town remain abandoned. The government has yet to clear hundreds of corpses beneath the rubble for fear of mines and unexploded ordnance. Because of that, the air is still thick with the stench of rotting bodies. Colonel Ibrahim Bin Rabaa is the commander of Libyan counter-terrorism forces in Sirte.

  • Colonel Ibrahim Bin Rabaa:

    My son volunteered to fight ISIS and protect Sirte. ISIS killed him. He was 24 years old.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    The six-month offensive eventually wiped out an estimated 2,500 ISIS combatants. But Bin Rabaa tells us sleeper cells still lurk, especially in Sirte’s desert. Though it no longer controls any territory, the spike in violence has been sharp. In 2017, ISIS managed to pull off only four attacks. So far this year, it’s more than a dozen. The most audacious was in May when ISIS gunmen stormed Libya’s election commission headquarters in Tripoli, detonated suicide vests, and killed at least 16 civilians.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    So ISIS is in this direction, they’re regrouping in the desert, here in the south?

  • Colonel Ibrahim Bin Rabaa:

    At anytime they can come in one or two people and blow themselves up. We rely on shepherds to tell us if there are any ISIS fighters passing through their pastures.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    So far this year in Libya there have already been more than twice the number of ISIS attacks. Is ISIS trying to regroup in order to launch attacks abroad outside of Libya as well?

  • Colonel Ibrahim Bin Rabaa:

    Right now they lack the ability to control any major territory in Libya. But they are doing their best to regroup and mount attacks again. Our men have proven themselves in this war with the Islamic State. But we ask and we hope for help…

On Politics: Trump Ordered Kushner’s Security Clearance

Good Friday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today.


Internal memos reveal that President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns from intelligence officials. The memos contradict statements made by the president, who told The Times in January that he had no role in Mr. Kushner’s clearance.

Mr. Trump bet that his self-described skills as a master negotiator would be enough to persuade North Korea to renounce its nuclear weapons program. In failing, he laid bare the risks of one-to-one diplomacy.

Under a new Pentagon plan being offered in peace talks with the Taliban, all American and foreign troops would leave Afghanistan in the next three to five years.

Mr. Trump declared on Thursday that troops “took over 100 percent” of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Syria. “It’s 100 percent not true,” one senior official said.

For many Americans, the testimony of Mr. Trump’s ex-fixer…

Graham says Trump slowing down planned withdrawal from Syria

Graham says Trump slowing down planned withdrawal from Syria
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after his meeting with President Donald Trump, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has ordered a slowdown to the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

“I think we’re in a pause situation,” the South Carolina Republican said outside the White House after lunch with the president.

Trump announced earlier this month that he was ordering the withdrawal of all the roughly 2,000 troops from war-torn Syria, with aides expecting it to take place swiftly. The president had declared victory over the Islamic State group in Syria, though pockets of fighting remain.

After criticism, Trump pushes out Mattis sooner than planned

WASHINGTON (AP) — Irritated with the criticism and fallout from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation, President Donald Trump on Sunday pushed the Pentagon chief out the door two months earlier than planned, an acrimonious end to a tense relationship that had been eroding in recent months.

In a series of tweets, Trump appeared to question why he had put Mattis in his Cabinet in the first place and said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over as acting secretary on Jan. 1 to cover the accelerated departure.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, not the president, notified Mattis of the decision, said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss personnel issues.

The sudden change strips Mattis of any chance to further frame national security policy or smooth rattled relations with allies through the originally planned transition at the end of February. And it reflects White House displeasure with the retired Marine Corps general’s blistering resignation letter, which he delivered to Trump on Thursday.

Mattis resigned in protest over Trump’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria. U.S. officials, however, said that the reaction to his decision to leave — including the shock and dismay expressed on Capitol Hill — annoyed Trump and likely led to Mattis leaving earlier than planned.

“When President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should,” Trump tweeted Saturday, foreshadowing his displeasure and the Sunday announcement. He also fumed over the media coverage of his Syria withdrawal order, suggesting he should be popular for bringing troops home.

“With me, hit hard instead by the Fake News Media. Crazy!” Trump tweeted.

A White House official said Trump decided Mattis should leave the administration earlier than planned to avoid a drawn-out transition when someone on hand whom they consider a qualified deputy capable of running the Pentagon in an acting capacity. The official asked not to be identified publicly discussing personnel matters.

Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said the former Boeing Co. executive will accept the appointment as acting secretary.

“Deputy Secretary will continue to serve as directed by the president, and the Department of Defense will remain focused on the defense of the nation,” Buccino said on Sunday.

It is unusual for the Pentagon to have an acting secretary of defense. Historically when a secretary has resigned, he has stayed on until a successor is confirmed. For example, when Chuck Hagel was told to resign in November 2014, he stayed in office until Ash Carter was confirmed the following…

Trump Named Man of the Year by ISIS

Photograph by Win McNamee / Getty

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Capping an extraordinary 2018, Donald J. Trump announced on Thursday that he had been named Man of the Year by the terrorist organization known as ISIS.

Trump made the announcement after receiving the news from the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom Trump called “a terrific, fabulous guy.”

Leaders of ISIS and Al Qaeda Puzzled Why Trump Has Not Invited Them to White House

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The leaders of ISIS and Al Qaeda said on Friday that they were totally perplexed as to why Donald J. Trump had not yet invited them to the White House.

The terror chiefs said that, as sworn enemies of the United States, they had certainly attacked the country enough to warrant an invitation for an official visit, and possibly a state dinner.

“Maybe we haven’t done anything to directly undermine their democracy—I get that,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, said. “But we’ve been nemeses of America for years, and that ought to…

White House: ‘Indisputable’ Trump has done more to defeat ISIS than Obama

White House: 'Indisputable' Trump has done more to defeat ISIS than Obama

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that it’s “indisputable” that President Trump has done more to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) than President Obama did.

Sanders also tweeted a statement from Vice President Pence in which he praised Trump for “achieving real results on the international stage.”

“While critics engage in empty rhetoric and baseless attacks, under the President’s leadership, ISIS is on the run; North Korea is isolated like never before; and our NATO allies are doing more to pay…