Friday, May 29, 2020

The Scorpion and the Frog

Who despises fact checking more than someone who abuses facts?

Figures don't lie, but liars figure.

When a person in a position of power has a well-documented disturbingly distorted sense of the truth and labels any disagreement as fake news and further cannot engage in a rational discussion of right and wrong--it is an abuse of power. 

Everything and everyone is subject to fact checking. 

According to The Washington Post, 
President Trump made 18,000 false or misleading claims in 1,170 days
The attacks this week are against social media, but when will more overt attempts be made to muzzle the free and independent press?

And here is the really confounding aspect of the president's attack upon social media, from a New York Times article this morning, 

But the logic of Mr. Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages that a media provider might feel compelled to take down if it were forced into the role of a publisher that faced the risk of legal liability rather than a distributor that does not.

“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which instantly objected to the proposed order. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”

And the search for truth amidst the bluster remains. Twitter, however, as reported by the New York Times, responded:

Twitter said early Friday that a tweet from President Trump implying that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot violated the company’s rules against glorifying violence, in a move that threatens to escalate tensions between Mr. Trump and his favorite social media megaphone over its content policies.

The company prevented users from viewing Mr. Trump’s message without first reading a brief notice describing the rule violation. Twitter also blocked users from liking or replying to Mr. Trump’s post.

But Twitter did not take the tweet down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the message remain accessible.

Since the message was still available on Twitter, the inflammatory headline carried on Fox News this morning is both incorrect and irresponsible:

Legally, had Twitter been following the letter of the Executive Order and considering their potential liability, they likely should have removed the tweet as it violated their policies. Not censorship, but legally required!

The situation has become like the fable about the scorpion and the frog

A scorpion, which cannot swim, asks a frog to carry it across a river on the frog's back. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung the frog despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."

By "stinging" social media with an executive order, the President may lose access to the very forum which has enabled him to spread his particular brand of embarrassing vicious commentary and falsehoods.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD 

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