June 4, 2021

Just because you’re a politician doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want on Facebook. Not anymore.

The Verge’s Alex Heath reports that Facebook is planning to end its controversial policy that gives special treatment to politicians, and that politicians will have to abide by the same rules as you and me.

Traditionally, Facebook has not enforced content moderation rules when it comes to politicians. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin in May 2020, “I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth. Political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say.”

That comment, and Facebook’s stance, drew heavy criticism from inside and outside of Facebook’s offices, especially as President Donald Trump’s posts routinely were considered untruthful and, potentially, dangerous.

Then things changed on Jan. 6 of this year when insurrectionists attacked the Capitol. Facebook, as well as Twitter, banned Trump after the horrific events of that day because of worries he would incite violence.

This move to crack down on politicians, which could become official as early as today, comes after Facebook’s Oversight Board criticized Facebook’s special treatment of politicians and said that the “same rules should apply to all users.” The Oversight Board gave Facebook until Saturday to respond to its recommendations.

Heath wrote, “Facebook also plans to shed light on the secretive system of strikes it gives accounts for breaking its content rules, according to two people familiar with the changes. That will include letting users know when they’ve received a strike for violating its rules that could lead to suspension.”

Heath called it “a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network.”

Walensky: ‘Get vaccinated’

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky appeared on Thursday’s “CBS This Morning” to push for more Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“You know, we want to get the majority of America vaccinated,” Walensky said. “And after we get to 70%, my goal is going to be to get to 80%. I think what we really understand is that this virus is an opportunist, and it will go to places where people are not vaccinated. And so, you are safe if you are vaccinated. You are not safe if you are not vaccinated. And my job is to keep America safe.”

As far as her current worries, Walensky said, “I am worried about what’s happening around the world. I’m worried about variants, if we have continued circulating virus. I’m worried that there will be people who don’t believe that this vaccine will protect them and that we are relying on each and every individual to step up.”

‘Maggie Haberman is right’

Earlier this week, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted, “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August (no that isn’t how it works but simply sharing the information).”

Haberman was criticized (as she often is) by many — and I still don’t understand why because she has proven to be a top-notch reporter. Most of the unfair criticism comes from those who are unhappy with her message so they blame the messenger.

Either way, it was interesting to see National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke write, “Maggie Haberman is right.”

Cooke wrote, “I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be ‘reinstated’ to office this summer after ‘audits’ of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.”

Of course, Trump is not going to be “reinstated.” But, Cooke writes, “The scale of Trump’s delusion is quite startling. This is not merely an eccentric interpretation of the facts or an interesting foible, nor is it an irrelevant example of anguished post-presidency chatter. It is a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government.”

Meanwhile, in an appearance on CNN, Alisyn Camerota asked former House speaker and Republican John Boehner if it’s possible we will see another attack like we saw on Jan. 6.

Boehner said no.

When Camerota asked why, Boehner said, “Listen, there’s some people who might believe the president and his musings, but most people in America are pretty rational about what happened. They’ve seen the evidence like I have, like you have. This doesn’t appear to me that he has that kind of support going forward.”

Twitter experimenting with subscriptions

Twitter is launching its first subscription service. It’s called Twitter Blue and is being rolled out in Canada ($3.49 a month) and Australia ($4.49 a month). Subscribers will have access to several features, including an Undo Tweet functionality that allows users to set a timer that gives them up to 30 seconds to remove a tweet if it needs to be removed or fixed.

As CNBC’s Salvador Rodriguez explains, “The feature is not quite an edit button, a feature often requested by users, but it will allow subscribers to preview what their tweets look like and adjust them before they’re published.”

Other features include a bookmark folder to organize saved tweets, a reader mode designed to make long threads easier to read and dedicated customer support.

No word yet on when or if Twitter Blue will be available to users in the United States.

So, what do we make of this Twitter subscription? Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton has notable thoughts in his column, “Is Twitter Blue a good enough product to earn your $3 a month?”

A noteworthy punishment

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, center, leaves court after receiving a six-month prison sentence for leaking confidential financial reports to a journalist at BuzzFeed. (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)

In January 2020, a former Treasury Department official pleaded guilty to leaking thousands of confidential reports on suspicious financial transactions. On Thursday, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was sentenced to six months in prison for those leaks.

Edwards leaked documents known as Suspicious Activity Reports to a reporter from BuzzFeed News. SARs are filed by banks to federal authorities that flag potential criminal activity. In this case, the documents Edwards leaked were related to the Robert Mueller investigation and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It was a violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.

U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods said Edwards’ actions were “illegal and wrong” and “made our country less safe.” He added that it should have been clear that Edwards violated her oath and exposed “sensitive law enforcement information that could be used to help the bad guys and to tarnish the reputations and interests of innocent people was both illegal and wrong.”

According to The Associated Press’ Larry Neumeister, “Prosecutors said Edwards shared her information with a journalist who then shared thousands of suspicious activity reports with publications worldwide. While the journalist has not been named by prosecutors, other court documents identify him as Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold.”

BuzzFeed News’ David Mack wrote, “BuzzFeed News has neither revealed the identities of any confidential informants nor acknowledged whether Edwards was a source, until now, when she publicly acknowledged that she was the source.”

Edwards’ defense was that she leaked the documents to show that the Treasury Department was doing a bad job and potentially violating the law.  A spokesperson for BuzzFeed News condemned the sentence in a statement that read:

Edwards is a brave whistleblower who fought to warn the public about grave risks to America’s national security, first through the official whistleblower process, and then through the press. She did so, despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves. Thanks to her bravery, BuzzFeed News, along with the 108 media organizations of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, were able to publish the FinCEN Files, which revealed financial corruption on a global scale. That investigation has helped to inspire major reform and legal action in the United States, the EU, and countries around the world. BuzzFeed News has not acknowledged Ms. Edwards’ role in the project until today, after the judge sentenced her and after Edwards herself gave permission to acknowledge that she provided the SARs. BuzzFeed News strongly supports the actions of whistleblowers and condemns efforts to prosecute them for bringing the truth to light.

The judge in the case called whistleblowing an “incredibly important exercise,” but that the information Edwards leaked “did not have a relationship” to her complaints about the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Check out Mack’s story on BuzzFeed News or Josh Gerstein’s story for Politico for more details.

Al Michaels to Amazon Prime?

Starting in 2022, Amazon Prime has exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package. And it already has its eyes on who it wants to broadcast the games — Al Michaels.

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand broke the news that Amazon is targeting NBC’s Michaels, but also might have interest in Fox’s Joe Buck and CBS’s Ian Eagle.

Michaels, considered by many (including me) to be the best play-by-play voice in the NFL, has one year left on his deal to call “Sunday Night Football” for NBC and is scheduled to call next season’s Super Bowl. After that, Mike Tirico is expected to take over as the lead play-by-play voice on “SNF.” Marchand reports that Michaels could stay on at NBC in a reduced role.

Marchand wrote, “In this scenario, Michaels would call Amazon Prime’s 15 regular-season games, while also broadcasting one of NBC’s wild-card playoff matchups. NBC could make Michaels part of its Olympics or golf coverage, if he wanted.”

As far as game analyst, Marchand writes Amazon could have interest in Nate Burleson, a studio analyst at CBS and NFL Network. And ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio mentioned, to borrow a football cliche, a Hail Mary choice: former NFL great Peyton Manning.

The real Erin Brockovich

Erin Brokovich during an interview with ABC News. (Courtesy: ABC News)

You remember Erin Brockovich, probably because you remember Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning performance portraying the woman who helped find the connection between groundwater contamination and the energy company Pacific Gas & Electric. It led to a $333 million settlement with the residents of Hinkley, California.

Can you believe that was 25 years ago?

Now ABC News goes back to Hinkley with Brockovich for a one-hour special called “The Real Rebel: The Erin Brockovich Story.” It will air Thursday, June 10 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Brockovich will talk about the landmark case, as well as what her life has been like since Roberts portrayed her in the popular movie.

Lots of media tidbits today …

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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