Commentary: In 2024, Digital Is Everything in Politics

Computer

As the 2024 election heats up, now is the time for campaigns to invest wisely. Questions abound: Do you invest in cable news advertising? Door-to-door canvassing? Social media? Something else?

For answers, I look back to the past. In 2000, I oversaw the South Carolina Republican Party’s history-making effort to post real-time presidential primary results online. The election night vote-counting for the epic Bush vs. McCain battle played out on screens across the world – not just in the South Carolina GOP’s vote tabulation center. On that night, the ground shifted beneath our feet.

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Commentary: Ban TikTok or Let Beijing Control Our Broadcast Networks, Too

Tiktok User

In the dynamic landscape of global entertainment, the influence of Beijing over Hollywood has long been a topic of heated discussion. While the box office power of the Chinese market has waned, giving a breath of creative freedom back to our filmmakers, there looms a new and more pervasive form of influence on Hollywood and well beyond: TikTok.

Beijing may have lost theatrical market leverage, but it has more than made up for that with an overpowering social media presence that has become an epidemic, not just in Hollywood but throughout the United States. In fact, the Chairman of Congress’s Select Committee on China, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), accurately labels TikTok as “digital fentanyl” and has been aggressively campaigning to ban the social media app.

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DHS Warned of Integrity of Mail-In Voting in 2020 Election but at the Same Time Censored Questions

Mail In Ballot

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was aware of the issues with mail-in voting during the 2020 election cycle but censored social media narratives about the risks as alleged disinformation, according to agency documents.

CISA documents were released on Monday by America First Legal, showing the agency’s concerns about mail-in voting while it was also monitoring online opinions about such concerns.

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Turkish Smugglers Use Social Media to Help ‘Citizens of Every Country’ Reach the U.S. Border

Illegal Immigrants

Turkish smugglers appear to be using social media platforms to help migrants from across the globe enter the U.S. illegally through the southern border, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of Telegram and TikTok posts.

The advertisements offer arrangements for travel, visas and transportation directly to the U.S.-Mexico border for migrants in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Border Patrol encounters of migrants crossing the southern border illegally have hit numerous records in recent years, with more than 2.2 million encounters in fiscal year 2022 and more than 2 million in fiscal year 2023, according to federal data.

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Pew Research: Many Teens Use Social Media ‘Almost Constantly’

A new study from Pew Research Center reveals that 1 in 5 American teenagers are on social media websites “almost constantly.”

As reported by Axios, the Pew survey, an online poll with a sample size of 1,453 kids in the 13-17 age range, recorded a significant rise in social media use among that particular age group compared to a previous survey in 2014 and 2015.

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The Biden Admin Is Pursuing Total Domination of Americans’ Digital Lives

President Joe Biden’s administration has recently taken unprecedented action to exert influence over Americans’ digital lives, including broadband internet, net neutrality, social media and artificial intelligence (AI).

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Tucker Carlson Sits Down with Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Sharing Hillary Clinton Memes

In episode 38 of his newest production, “Tucker on X,” host Tucker Carlson interviewed Douglass Mackey, the man sentenced to seven months in prison for sharing deceptive, anti-Hillary Clinton social media posts during the 2016 presidential election.

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Justice Alito Temporarily Lifts Ban on Biden Admin Contact with Social Media

Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito on Thursday temporarily blocked an order limiting the Biden administration’s contact with social media firms as litigation proceeds.

Alito’s stay will last until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 22, the Washington Examiner reported. The Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to lift the order from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Missouri v. Biden. That decision largely upheld a lower court order barring the government from working with social media companies to censor disfavored viewpoints online. Litigants have until Sept. 20 to file responses to the DOJ.

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Federal Judge Blocks Law Requiring Age Verification for Social Media

A federal judge blocked an Arkansas law Thursday that requires age verification for social media users.

Arkansas’ Social Media Safety Act, which restricts minors from creating social media accounts without parental consent, was scheduled to take effect Friday. U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Arkansas Timothy Brooks, an Obama appointee, sided with NetChoice, a group that includes companies like Google and TikTok, and temporarily blocked the law from being enforced.

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Commentary: A Generation Alone

The following is a condensed version of “One Generation Passeth Away, and Another Cometh” by Sam Negus, published at Law & Liberty.

Three millennia ago, King Solomon wrote that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” It has ever been thus: the rueful old lament the apparent decadence of the young. In her new book Generations, social scientist Jean Twenge suggests an obvious explanation for this ageless trend: “It might be because they [are] always right. With technology making life progressively less physically taxing, each generation is softer…”

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Censorship Case Involving State Collusion with Social Media Companies Could Be Heard by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court could hear a case questioning a California agency’s coordination with Twitter to censor election-related “misinformation.”

O’Handley v. Weber, which concerns the California Secretary of State’s Office of Election Cybersecurity’s work with Twitter to monitor “false or misleading” election information, was appealed to the Supreme Court on June 8. The case raises questions similar to those posed in the free speech lawsuit Missouri v. Biden, now being appealed in the Fifth Circuit: Can the government lawfully induce private actors to censor protected speech?

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Federal Judge Denies Biden Admin’s Request to Keep Coordinating with Big Tech to Censor Americans

A federal judge denied the Biden administration’s attempt to pause an injunction that bars federal officials from communicating with social media companies for the purposes of censoring protected speech on Monday.

The Biden administration appealed Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty’s July 4 injunction on Wednesday, also requesting an emergency order to pause the injunction while the appeal is pending on Thursday night. Doughty denied the administration’s emergency order Monday, finding that plaintiffs would likely succeed in proving the government colluded with social media companies “to engage in viewpoint-based suppression of protected free speech.”

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Commentary: Today’s Youth Are Digital, De-Churched, and Depressed

The kids aren’t alright, and it’s starting to show. Last week, the New York Post published a front-page story that heralded “The New Great Depression,” tracking the twin rise of social media and juvenile depression. 

Since 1991, the University of Michigan has annually polled thousands of students in middle and high school, asking whether they agree with the following three statements: “I can’t do anything right,” “I do not enjoy life,” and “My life is not useful.”

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Tucker Carlson Releases Second Episode of ‘Tucker on Twitter’

Former Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson on Thursday released the second episode of his newest production, “Tucker on Twitter.” The episode, titled, “Cling to your taboos!” is a 12-minute long video podcast where Carlson addresses the connection between pedophilia and the growing acceptance of white supremacy without defining it.

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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Proposes Forcing Social Media to Police ‘Unwelcome’ Speech

A Pennsylvania legislator is asking her colleagues cosponsor a measure to police “unwelcome” speech on social-media platforms. 

In a memorandum describing her emerging bill, state Representative Darisha Parker (D-Philadelphia) wrote that her policy “would require social media network companies to establish and maintain effective and transparent complaint procedures for reporting hate speech content.” She further stated the legislation would “mak[e] it clear that hate speech is unwelcome on social media in Pennsylvania.”

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Utah Becomes First to Limit Teens’ Social Media Use with New Law

Utah passed legislation Thursday to require parental consent for children to use certain social media apps, becoming the first state in the country to limit teenagers’ social media usage.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed two bills into law that limits minors from using social media apps like TikTok, requiring parental consent for those under 18. Minors are prohibited from using these platforms between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., and are subjected to age verification prior to social media use.

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Commentary: The Importance of Reading Difficult Books

In his work The Western Canon, Harold Bloom wrote that a “reader does not read for easy pleasure or to expiate social guilt, but to enlarge a solitary existence.” The apparent message in Bloom’s flourish is that a reader ought to be after something more difficult to attain than mere pleasure. Passive consumption of entertainment will simply not do. Instead, readers are to be fully engaged with the work in front of them, especially when the process is difficult. It’s through this difficulty that a reader inevitably enlarges what Bloom refers to as a “solitary existence,” or, put another way, an existential engagement with the human condition.

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Social Media Use in Children Linked to Significant Brain Changes

Person on phone with Twitter open

A new study from the University of North Carolina shows children and teens who frequently check social media may become more sensitive in the long term to “social feedback” in the form of “likes” and “dislikes” at a time when the brain is experiencing significant developmental changes.

In the study, published at the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, researchers Maria Maza, et al, investigated whether the frequency with which middle-school age children check their Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat social media accounts is associated with long-term changes in brain development as they mature further into adolescence.

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Vatican Defrocks Priests for Life Director Father Frank Pavone for ‘Blasphemous’ Social Media Posts

The Vatican defrocked Priest for Life Director Frank Pavone without the possibility of appeal for social media posts the church considered to be “blasphemous.”

The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy dismissed Pavone on November 9, according to a December 13 letter to U.S. bishops from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who serves as Pope Francis’ representative to the United States, the Catholic News Agency reported Saturday.

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Wisconsin’s Gallagher and Illinois’s Krishnamoorthi File Bipartisan TikTok Ban Legislation

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers this week filed legislation in the House of Representatives to ban the TikTok video-sharing application nationwide. 

Congressmen Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-8) submitted their bill in the House of Representatives while Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced companion legislation in his chamber. They call their measure the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act). It is written broadly enough to possibly prohibit use of other platforms operating under the influence of “a country of concern” such as China or Russia. 

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‘Twitter Files Part 4’ Details How Platform Changed Policy Specifically to Ban ‘Trump Alone’

The fourth entry in the ongoing “Twitter Files” series of explosive revelations dropped on Saturday night, with part four in the series focusing on the removal of Donald Trump from the popular social media platform in early 2021. 

The latest thread, published by writer Michael Shellenberger, details the process that “Twitter executives” took as they were “build[ing] the case for a permanent ban” against the former Republican president. 

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Musk Makes Offer to Buy Twitter per Original Agreement

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is proposed to buy Twitter at the price he originally offered, according to letter from his attorneys to those representing the social media company.

The letter, obtained by NBC News, was date Monday and confirmed news reports early Tuesday that Musk had offered Monday evening to purchase Twitter at $54.20 per share, which amounts to $44 billion for the entire company.

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Feds Used Private Entity to Target Millions of Social Posts in 2020

A consortium of four private groups worked with the departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State to censor massive numbers of social media posts they considered misinformation during the 2020 election, and its members then got rewarded with millions of federal dollars from the Biden administration afterwards, according to interviews and documents obtained by Just the News.

The Election Integrity Partnership is back in action again for the 2022 midterm elections, raising concerns among civil libertarians that a chilling new form of public-private partnership to evade the First Amendment’s prohibition of government censorship may be expanding.

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Biden Admin Must Produce Docs About Alleged Collusion with Social Media Giants, Court Rules

A U.S. district court Tuesday ordered the Justice Department (DOJ) to produce communications between National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and social media companies.

Republican Attorneys General Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the administration in May for allegedly colluding with social media companies or coercing them to suppress disfavored content on platforms using “disinformation,” “misinformation” and “malinformation” labels in violation of the First Amendment. District Judge Terry Doughty mandated as part of the case Tuesday that communications between the companies and Fauci and Jean-Pierre be provided based on Schmitt and Landry’s requests.

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California Social Media Bill Could Force Big Tech to Run Facial Scans on Children

California legislators passed a bill Tuesday that, if signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, will require social media companies to consider the mental health of minors that use their products before releasing them to the public.

The legislation would require companies to bolster privacy and security measures for products likely to be used by children and to consider and address potential mental health risks they pose to children. The bill comes amid increasing pressure on companies like TikTok and Instagram following a 2021 report that Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, knew its products were harming teenage girls’ mental health but didn’t fix the issues.

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Commentary: Catholics, Log Off

The fight against Lucifer was going pretty well – until the devilish enginery appeared. As John Milton depicts the battle of Satan’s rebellious angels against the forces of Heaven in his epic poem “Paradise Lost,” the demons were on the backfoot, until they devise “implements of mischief” that will “dash/To pieces, and orewhelm whatever stands/Adverse, that they shall fear we have disarmd/The Thunderer of his only dreaded bolt.”

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Government-Social Media Communications Reveal ‘Vast Censorship Enterprise,’ State Attorneys General Allege

Newly released communications between federal officials and social media companies reveal how the Biden administration and Big Tech coordinated to silence opposing views on a number of topics—especially COVID-19— in “a vast censorship enterprise,”  the attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana alleged in a court filing Thursday.

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After Zuckerberg Revelation, FBI Says It Routinely Warns Social Media About ‘Malign Influence’

The FBI said it “routinely notifies” private companies, including social media platforms, of potential threats after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook “decreased” the distribution of the Hunter Biden laptop story right before the 2020 election because of a warning from the FBI.

The FBI’s defense comes after Zuckerberg appeared Thursday on the “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. Host Joe Rogan asked Zuckerberg about how Facebook handled the story first broken by The New York Post involving the questionable contents on the laptop of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

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Twitter Sues Elon Musk to Force Him to Purchase Company

Twitter sued Elon Musk to force him to purchase the social media giant for $44 billion after Musk stated last week that he plans to walk away from the deal.

Despite deflecting the company’s legal threat with humor on Monday, Musk now faces a lawsuit in Chancery Court in Delaware, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

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Elon Musk Cancels Bid to Buy Twitter

Twitter logo

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday announced that he was canceling plans to purchase social media giant Twitter, citing the company’s failure to produce information on fake accounts.

Musk sent a letter to Twitter’s board of directors on Friday announcing he would not acquire the company. He told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Twitter has “not complied with its contractual obligation,” according to the Associated Press.

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‘Civility Be Damned’: Michigan Professor Built Technology to Go After Pro-Trump Social Media Content

University of Michigan associate professor Libbey Hemphill recently urged social media platforms to “extend beyond civility” in their hate speech moderation efforts.

In her article “To Truly Target Hate Speech, Moderation Must Extend Beyond Civility,” Hemphill holds up a machine learning program she co-created as a better way to detect hate speech.

“Platforms claim content moderation at scale is too difficult and expensive,” Hemphill writes, “but our team detected white supremacist speech with affordable tools available to most researchers–much less expensive than those available to platforms.”

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Commentary: GOP Must Promise Inquisitions, Not Meaningless Task Forces

Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows

Using the pretext of the so-called insurrection on January 6, 2021, the long knives are out for Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Post-election text exchanges between Mrs. Thomas and Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief-of-staff, recently were leaked by the January 6 select committee to none other than the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, who darkly described the communications as proof that “Ginni Thomas used her access to Trump’s inner circle to promote and seek to guide the president’s strategy to overturn the election result.”

The small cache of texts—29 total—shows Thomas expressing frustration at the election’s outcome. There is nothing sinister, and certainly nothing criminal, about the messages.

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Puskaric to Ask Pennsylvania Agencies to Ditch Social Media Platforms That Censor

Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Puskaric (R-Jefferson Hills) indicated Wednesday he will urge state agencies to ditch social-media platforms he says engage in censorship.

In a memorandum asking fellow representatives to cosponsor his upcoming resolution, the Pittsburgh-area legislator argued that especially large information-technology companies violate the state and federal constitutions when they make politicized publishing decisions. He insisted government institutions and officials should respond by cancelling their accounts on such sites and signing onto more permissive online venues instead.

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Hacking Group ‘Anonymous’ Signals All-out Campaign Against Russia

group of people wearing masks

The infamous hacking group Anonymous appeared to declare an all-out digital war against Russia late this week, indicating the opening of a hacking front against Russian president Vladimir Putin amid his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Anonymous is a loosely federated collective of hackers who regularly carry out digital sabotage of targets they claim deserve to be hacked. On Friday, a Twitter account purporting to represent some members of Anonymous issued a broad call for hackers to target the Russian government.

“Hackers all around the world: target Russia in the name of #Anonymous,” the account posted. “Let them know we do not forgive, we do not forget. Anonymous owns fascists, always.”

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Pennsylvania Professor Files Lawsuit Following Dismissal over Anonymous Tweets

Greg Manco, Ph.D. of St. Joseph University

Professor Gregory Manco has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, St. Joseph’s University, citing undue discrimination after a previous student of his complained to the institution about what she perceived to be racist activity on Manco’s Twitter account. 

Manco had served as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at St. Joe’s for 17 years. In 2017, Hadassah Colber, a student that Manco failed, claimed that she found offensive tweets on the scholar’s anonymous Twitter account, Broad + Liberty reports. 

According to the lawsuit, Colbert learned about his Twitter account on Jan. 22, 2021, and emailed the University to complain about the “racist” and “transphobic” content she saw.

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Enthusiasm to Join Trump Social Media Platform, Truth Social, Causes Waitlists, Registration Delays

person holding a smart phone up

The enthusiasm to join former President Trump’s new new social media platform – Truth Social – on its official launch day appears to have overwhelmed the site.

The site went live Sunday night ahead of its official President’s Day launch. However, potential users in roughly the past 24 hours have reported problem getting on the platform.

“Due to massive demand, we have placed you on our waitlist,” read the message received by several users, according to Reuters.

Other users reported having trouble registering for an account amid the early scramble to join.

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Commentary: Big Tech Has Been Destroying Local News

close-up of a newspaper showing the "Classified" section

It’s no secret that local newspapers have been dying. Since 2004, the United States has lost a quarter of its newspapers — 70 dailies and over 2,000 weeklies. This has been devastating for communities across the country who depend on these newspapers to stay informed and engaged. There are many factors causing this decline, but one of the main culprits, especially as of late, has been Big Tech.

There’s a term to describe the actions of massive corporations manipulating the levers of state power to dominate their markets and pad their bottom lines at the expense of others. It’s crony capitalism. Under this system, crony capitalists flood Washington, DC with campaign contributions, pay-to-play experts, and legions of lobbyists to shape the laws and regulations that govern their industries.

Sound familiar? If you have observed Big Tech’s movements within the halls of power in our nation’s capital over the past decade, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s said that if you whisper “Section 230” to yourself three times while walking through the Capitol, a Big Tech-funded lobbyist will suddenly appear to explain why changing even one word in the arcane law might trigger the apocalypse.

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Capitol Police Is Surveilling Americans’ Social Media Feeds: Report

The U.S. Capitol Police is running background checks and examining the social media histories of people meeting with lawmakers, Politico reported Monday.

Following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, the Capitol Police adopted a new policy to dig into the social media feeds of individuals meeting members of Congress, Politico reported, citing three people familiar with the matter as well as internal Capitol Police documents and communications. Targets of the surveillance included congressional staffers as well as lawmakers’ constituents, donors and associates.

Julie Farnam, acting director of intelligence for the Capitol Police and former Department of Homeland Security official, directed analysts to run “background checks” on donors and associates of lawmakers, including instructions to “list and search all political opponents to see if they or their followers intend to attend or disrupt the event,” according to documents reviewed by Politico.

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Chinese Tech Firm Takes over, Shuts Down World Leader’s Personal Social Media Account

WeChat social media app open on phone

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had his personal account on Chinese-owned social messaging service WeChat taken over by a Chinese tech company and shut down Monday, Reuters reported.

Fuzhou 985 Technology, a China-based technology firm, managed to take control of Morrison’s WeChat account, which currently has 76,000 followers, several months ago, Reuters reported. Morrison reportedly used the account to communicate with Australians of Chinese origin.

Fuzhou rebranded the account as “Australian Chinese New Life” and redirected users visiting the account to Fuzhou’s website, according to a CNN translation.

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Trump’s Entertainment Venture Outperforming All Similar Companies: REPORT

Donald Trump sitting at desk

Former President Donald Trump’s entertainment venture is currently outperforming all other special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), according to a recent market report.

Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC), the SPAC used to take Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) public, is outperforming all other SPACs, according to a market analysis by SPAC Research reported by Reuters. The company’s shares ended trading at $73.12 on Friday, giving the company a valuation of roughly $13 billion, according to Reuters.

A SPAC is a company that acquires private companies and lists them publicly on a stock exchange without the private company engaging in an initial public offering (IPO). In this case, Trump used DWAC to take his company public in order to raise funding for his social media venture, TRUTH Social, which he has billed as an alternative to major tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna Calls out Twitter for Trying to Hide Hunter Biden Laptop Story

Ro Khanna

Democratic California Rep. Ro Khanna criticized Twitter and Facebook for censoring the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden, saying the story should not have been blocked.

“I thought it was a mistake for Twitter to take down some of this stuff about Hunter Biden, or Facebook to do that,” Khanna said during an interview with Joe Lonsdale on the American Optimist podcast while promoting his book “Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us.”

The New York Post published a story in October 2020 detailing a meeting between Hunter Biden, then-Vice President Joe Biden and a top executive at Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2015, relying on data recovered from a laptop reportedly belonging to Hunter. Shortly after the story was published, Twitter blocked users from sharing the link and suspended accounts that attempted to tweet it out.

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Facebook Suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene for 24 Hours

Smart phone with Facebook etched out

Facebook suspended the account of Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for 24 hours on Monday, one day after Twitter permanently suspended her account over repeated violations of COVID-19 misinformation policies.

Greene posted on Telegram that Facebook blocked her from posting or commenting for 24 hours for not abiding by the company’s “Community Standards” on Monday.

“This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards,” Facebook’s temporary restriction announcement said, according to Greene.

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Twitter Permanently Suspends Georgia U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Personal Account

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene

Twitter permanently suspended the personal account of Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene over repeated violations of its COVID-19 misinformation policy, the company confirmed early Sunday.

Greene’s personal account, @mtgreenee, was no longer active Sunday morning, and it has been labeled with an “account suspended” notice. Greene’s official government account, @RepMTG, is still active.

When reached for comment, Twitter confirmed Greene’s account was suspended, and the company said she committed “repeated” violations of its policy on COVID-19 misinformation.

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