Congress is just using 'Russian bots' as a reason to finally regulate social media

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have an interest in controlling social media. On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Session announced plans to meet with state attorneys general to discuss possible regulation of social media over concerns that platforms are stifling conservative speech. On September 13, Senator Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, remarked on this heavy bipartisan support for future regulations at a conference hosted by The Atlantic on digital privacy. "Depending on how we framed it, I think we'd have an overwhelming majority," Warner said, noting that he thinks it's likely citizens no longer desire unconstrained liberty in their internet usage. "I think there is a high chance that people realize that the days of the wild, wild west are over—that there needs to be some guardrails."

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Every day, Congress is nearing implementation of these online guardrails. On September 5, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, explaining how foreign intelligence agencies were able to use their social media platforms to spread disinformation throughout the 2016 election. Indeed, the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-linked company specializing in online operations to promote Russian interests, created thousands of political ads and fake pages intended to sow division. Dorsey even described the Russian social media campaign as one comprised of "abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots and human coordination, disinformation campaigns and divisive filter bubbles."

All these concerns may have merit, but opening the door for government regulation of social media is a cure far worse than the disease. The federal government, which operates a massive surveillance program through the National Security Agency, isn't exactly the best gatekeeper of user privacy and data. Neither is government the best choice to determine what constitutes "fake news" considering how one of the jobs of the press is to hold government accountable. Allowing the government to decide what is acceptable content is a surefire path to harsher censorship than Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg could dream of.

Facebook should take steps to prevent fraudulent accounts from spreading disinformation, but it's a task for them, not Congress.

But, in relation to the actual extent of the Russian disinformation campaign, Congress' steps toward interference in social media seem absurd. Facebook revealed in last year's November hearingthat the Russian Internet Research Agency spent only $46,000 on pre-election Facebook ads. In terms of funding, that's remarkably minimal. Compared to the $81 million spent by the Trump and Clinton campaigns, that sum likely had little influence in voter decision-making. What the Russians did was fraudulent, but it's important to understand the scale of the Russian operation before making the case that Congress should intervene.

It's true that millions of Americans saw the Russian ads and clicked "like" on fake profile pages created by the IRA, but that illicit content still made up a miniscule fraction of what social media users saw on a daily basis. A Facebook report published on April 27, 2017, stated that the reach of known operations during the 2016 election was less than one-tenth of a percent of the total reach of civic content. Facebook should take steps to prevent fraudulent accounts from spreading disinformation, but it's a task for them, not Congress. Even if Facebook could remove all Russian propaganda from their site, users are still exposed to content created by their friends. Ultimately, ordinary Americans are just as capable of creating and sharing fake news or divisive political memes as Russian intelligence agents.

Before handing the reins over to lawmakers, social media users should make an effort to protect their own data and decide what content they want to see. And it can be done, but, unfortunately, a recent Pew Research poll found that most Facebook users are unaware of how their newsfeed works. Of the 4,594 surveyed U.S. adults, 53 percent said they didn't understand why certain posts appeared on their feed while others didn't. Yet, this isn't Congress's problem to fix.

People have means of controlling for themselves what they read on social media. Facebook allows its users the ability to prioritize the content they want to see and hide the posts they'd rather ignore. Users can even temporarily unfollow a friend if they find their long-winded political rants annoying. Despite having these tools, only 14 percent of those Pew surveyed said they had a lot of control over their Facebook experience. Yet, a majority of users—63 percent— said they haven't once tried to influence the content they see. Aaron Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, described this as a major contributing factor in fake news consumption: "Whether or not someone has made an effort to influence the content of their own news feed is often linked with their sense that users have control over the content that appears there."

People ought to take responsibility for their own news consumption.

Concern over social media is fueled, in part, by a lack of understanding of how these networks actually work. And Congress, ever-anxious to put regulations where they shouldn't be, is generating needless panic to exacerbate the problem. But the truth remains that social media users have, in their own hands, the tools for curating their experience online. A user can fact-check and unfollow fake news—whether from a Russian bot or a friend at work. But it should be up to the user to determine the validity of the content they see, not some bureaucrat in Washington. People ought to take responsibility for their own news consumption. No one else is qualified enough for the job.

Lindsay Marchello is a Young Voices Contributor and an Associate Editor with the Carolina Journal. Follow her on Twitter.@LynnMarch007.

How RFK's example can help our nation in the wake of Trump's attack

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How did you feel last Saturday when you heard the news that a former president of the United States narrowly avoided an assassin's bullet by a mere few inches? Were you angry at the media for their constant demonization of Trump and his conservative contingency? Did you blame the left for curating a political climate that fostered an assassination attempt?

In his immediate reaction to the news, Glenn pointed us back to a similar moment in American history: April 4th, 1968—the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

"The best speech I've ever heard given was by RFK Sr. on the day Martin Luther King was killed" - Glenn

Robert F. Kennedy, the father of current independent presidential candidate RFK Jr., was en route to Indianapolis when he heard the terrible news. His security team, expecting violent outrage across the country, asked RFK Sr. to turn around and head back to safety. But as Glenn said, RFK Sr. believed in the good in people and demanded to give his speech. He arrived in Indianapolis Park late in the day, and he addressed the crowd of predominantly black campaign supporters.

There were no riots in Indianapolis that night.

The message RFK Sr. gave that night wasn't one of vengeance, hatred, or hopelessness, but of calm and goodness. He appealed to the best in people. He called for people to set aside their differences, anger, fear, and confusion and instead express love and compassion towards one another. RFK Sr. asked for wisdom and the pursuit of justice so that we might be resolute in our unity as the country faces another difficult chapter.

What we need in this country is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another.

Glenn has made a similar plea to our nation—a plea for unity and not to lash out in fear and anger. Don't use this time to blame your friends and family who disagree with you politically for what happened or to tell them "I told you so!" Instead, reach out with compassion and grace. This is a turning point in American history. Let's turn it upward, away from hatred and violence and towards unison and compassion.

Fortunately, President Trump walked away from his attempted assassination with very minor injuries. The bullet that wounded Trump's ear could have just as easily ended his life, and his survival is nothing short of a miracle.

Sadly, that miracle didn't extend to everyone attending Trump's ill-fated Pennsylvania rally. Three other people were shot. David Dutch and James Copenhaver, both Pennslyavia residents, are thankfully in stable condition. Corey Comperatore, however, tragically died after being shot while protecting his wife and daughter from the hail of gunfire.

“Corey died a hero."

Camperatore, a 50-year-old loving father and husband from Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania leaves behind his daughter Allyson, his wife Helen, sister Dawn, and many other friends and family. Camperatore was a man of service, having spent 43 years as part of the Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Company and had worked his way to becoming the fire chief when he stepped down to spend more time with his daughter.

Corey Comperatore's firefighting gear outside the Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Company. The Washington Post / Contributor | Getty Images

Corey's friends and family have nothing but good things to say about him, and judging by their testimonies, Corey's final heroic act was consistent with how the volunteer firefighter lived his life.

According to many people who knew Compertore, he was a true patriot who loved his country. He was a fan of President Trump. Compertore was very excited to attend Saturday's rally, which he expressed in his last social media post.

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During his speech addressing the shooting, President Biden expressed his condolences to the Comperatore family, stating that "He was a father. He was protecting his family from the bullets that were being fired.”

Democrat Mutiny? These prominent Progressives and Democratic leaders DEMAND that Biden withdraw

NurPhoto / Contributor, Justin Sullivan / Staff, Cindy Ord / Staff | Getty Images

Biden is still taking hard blows from both sides of the aisle after his abysmal performance in last month's presidential debate. As Glenn pointed out in his post-debate coverage, Biden came across as so incompetent that it has made many Americans scared that, should the country face a major threat, Biden would be unable to respond to it. This includes many Democrats, who are finally admitting that Biden isn't as fit as they have been claiming for the last four years.

Many names have already been suggested as potential replacements for the Democratic nominee, but many people, including some Democrats, don't believe Biden should even stay in office for the election. Here are some prominent progressives and Democratic lawmakers who have called for President Biden's resignation:

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas)

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Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Arizona)

NurPhoto / Contributor | Getty Images

Rep. Seth Moulton (Massachusetts)

Justin Sullivan / Staff | Getty Images

Rep. Mike Quigley (Illinois)

Pool / Pool | Getty Images

Rep. Angie Craig (Minnesota)

Anna Moneymaker / Staff | Getty Images

Rep. Adam Smith (Washington)

Scott J. Ferrell / Contributor | Getty Images

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey)

Chip Somodevilla / Staff | Getty Images

Rep. Pat Ryan (New York)

Tom Williams / Contributor | Getty Images

Rep. Hillary Scholten (Michigan)

Bill Clark / Contributor | Getty Images

Senator Peter Welch (Vermont)

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Oregon)

Chip Somodevilla / Staff | Getty Images

BONUS: Actor George Clooney

Cindy Ord / Staff | Getty Images

These TOP 5 new technologies left Glenn SHOCKED

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Glenn has been covering some of the most groundbreaking, exciting, and often terrifying technological advances. Some new tech has the potential to make a positive impact. Some tech is just SUPER cool, like a flame-throwing robot dog. However, there is also a dark side to technology. Glenn exposes how some new technological developments, particularly in the realm of AI, pose serious ethical questions.

Here are the top five new technologies that Glenn covered that will make your jaw drop:

Anti-gravity device

This new technology developed by Dr. Charles Buhler and his team may change everything we know about transportation and travel. Described as "propellant-less propulsion" by Dr. Buhler, this technology appears to defy gravity and is potentially a way for people to travel into and through space without the need for rockets. It doesn't stop there either, this tech could be used to forever change the way we travel here on Earth.

Human embryo-powered supercomputer

To have massively powerful AI, something, which many people seem to have an invested interest in, you need a lot of electricity to power the computers that host the artificial intelligences. Naturally, this energy consumption upsets the environmentalists so in response a terrifying solution was developed. Bio Processors are essentially computer chips powered by human cells, specifically stem cells, which are predominantly harvested from embryos. These Bio Processors have a limited shelf life, meaning they need a steady supply of stem cells to keep the computers that use them operational. What could be more terrifying than an AI that eats human cells?

Voice-stealing AI

When ChatGPT came out in late 2022 its power and versatility took the world by storm. Suddenly, students had it write entire essays in mere seconds, and it was creating songs and poems with ease. The capabilities of the ChatGPT AI were as disturbing as they were impressive, but after a recent update, it took a hard turn towards disturbing. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, decided to give the program a voice and tried to recruit famous actress Scarlett Johansson to lend her voice to the machine. After she declined the offer, OpenAI went ahead and released the update for ChatGPT featuring a voice that sounded eerily similar to Johansson's. While OpenAI claims it's a different, similar-sounding voice actress, the idea that a computer is going around with your stolen voice is terrifying.

Flamethrower robot dog

How could you possibly ever make something cooler than a flamethrower? Simple, strap it to the back of a robotic dog of course! Originally built to help fight forest fires (ironically enough) by creating backburns, Glenn pointed out that a pack of these bad boys patrolling your property would be the ultimate home defense. Nobody would come anywhere near your house if it was guarded by a few of these firey companions.

Wormhole-generating UFO's

It's been a decade since the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. No trace of the aircraft or any of its passengers, except a few small pieces of debris, were ever found nor was an official cause of the disappearance ever given. There have been an infinite number of theories explaining what might have happened, but this one from investigative journalist Ashton Forbes might take the cake for the wildest. Forbes joined Glenn on his radio show and brought with him convincing video evidence that seemed to show the now-missing aircraft being circled by three mysterious orbs before suddenly disappearing in a flash of light. Does this video show the doomed aircraft being sucked into an artificial wormhole, or is it an amazing piece of hoaxwork?