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 hearing that 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.

We've finally heard some news on the migrant caravan. Some of the migrants have given up and gone back home, but some are still there waiting at the border. A leader representing the group has decided to step forward, and he's made out a list of... demands. Remember when I said back in October that this caravan was originally formed as a Leftist act against the Honduran government by people with ties to Venezuela and Cuba? Well what do you know… wait until you hear who this guy is.

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Alfonso Guerrero personally walked into the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico with a list of demands from the caravan. Get a load of this. The caravan is demanding that if they're not granted immediate asylum they want the following:

  1. Fifty thousand dollars in cash for every caravan member (which would be a total of tens of millions).
  2. The immediate removal of all U.S. economic and military assets in Honduras.

Failure to comply to these demands will result in the caravan continuing to try and penetrate the U.S. border.

I mean, if you're trying to appear like some grassroots movement for migrants that are just escaping the dangers of their own country, you might want to - oh I don't know - tone down the crazy Leftist freedom fighter schtick. I'm just saying. Demanding millions of dollars AND the removal of the U.S. military from Honduras kinda just screams, "Hey check me out. I'm a Marxist terrorist." It would have been basically the same thing if he just charged up to the embassy wearing a beret and shouted "Viva la Revolution!!" while firing off an RPG.

Well, it turns out this isn't the first time Mr Guerrero has tried to claim asylum. Back in 1987 he claimed asylum in Mexico after being suspected by the Honduran and U.S. government for - wait for it - left wing terrorism… Jeez, you know you really can't make this stuff up. This is INSANE. Here's the story…

This is ridiculous. Can we all now agree that this entire charade is a fraudulent scam?

In 1987 Honduras was ground zero for U.S. and Soviet proxy forces fighting the Cold War. The Contra rebels were actually based there, and leftists terrorists would sometimes carry out operations in the country in response. On August 8th a bomb was thrown into the China Palace restaurant, just a few miles from the U.S. military base in Honduras. Six American soldiers were injured in the blast. Alfonso Guerrero was the primary suspect. He escaped to Mexico and claimed asylum. The Reagan Administration charged the Mexican government for quote "harboring a terrorist" for granting Guerrero protection.

But all the caravan wants is a better life in the United States… oh and millions of dollars AND a list of political demands for their home country. This is ridiculous. Can we all now agree that this entire charade is a fraudulent scam? This is a Leftist political stunt. It has been since the very beginning.

TRANS-INSANITY: Not everyone is bowing down to the PC culture

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Here's an incident that you won't hear about anywhere else. It doesn't fit the mainstream media's transgender narrative, their fairy tale of infinite genders, where any criticism is viewed as transphobic and taboo and certainly not something that the majority of Americans think or feel.

Last week, in West Point, Virginia, a high school French teacher named Peter Vlaming was fired after a five-and-a-half hour hearing that centered on his refusal to use a transgender student's specific gender pronouns. Vlaming said that doing so violated his religious beliefs.

RELATED: There is no truth anymore

Vlaming's lawyer Shawn Voyles told reporters:

Tolerance is a two-way street. Unfortunately, tolerance on the part of the school division has been noticeably absent. It chose to impose its own orthodoxy on Mr. Vlaming and fired him because he didn't relinquish his rights protected by the First Amendment.

School administrators fired Vlaming "due to this insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators."

The school justified the firing by pointing to a set of policies aimed at curbing misgendering of transgender students.

Vlaming's lawyer disputed this, saying that the policies include no such mention of transgenderism, adding that:

My client respects the rights of all students, including this student's rights; he simply asked that his rights be respected as well. Unfortunately, the school division refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved.

There is a ray of hope in all of this, though. The students. A group of students from the school immediately staged a walkout in protest of Vlaming's firing.

One student told reporters:

I feel like everyone should have the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion as well.

Students lined up outside the school with signs that said, "Free Vlam." Another included a quote from Ben Shapiro: "Facts don't care about your feelings." Another read "You can't impose delusion onto us."

You can sigh a sigh of relief. There's hope for the future yet.

Whether it's a 'War on Christmas' or just progressivism run amok, the song 'Baby It's Cold Outside' has been firmly in the crosshairs this holiday season. Here are just a few of the headlines making the rounds:

Should radio stations stop playing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

They range from the previous as questioning and then roll right into the following and assume facts not in evidence.

'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' Seen As Sexist, Frozen Out by Radio Stations

It may be seen as sexist but according to one radio stations polling, only about 5% do. Then they go from saying it's sexist to straight up claiming it as a rape song.

Radio Bans 'Baby It's Cold Outside' Over Claims It's A Rape Song, English Teacher Explains Its Real Meaning

And then they just flat out call for its retirement.

Is it time to retire 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

The left might think they are woke and on the right side of history in the wake of the #MeToo movement — but how shocked do you think they'd be if they knew Glenn beat them to the punch over a decade ago? Don't believe me? Take a listen to this clip from our audio vault from 2008.

Christmas has arrived early for mainstream media. They have their first sentencing of a major player in President Trump's inner circle. Yesterday, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan. How did it come to this and how did Cohen explain himself to the judge? We start there next…

President Trump's former attorney, 52-year-old Michael Cohen, is going to jail. Well, it will probably be one of those federal prison camps with a dorm that's more like a college campus. But he's going to be locked up. A federal judge sentenced him to three years in prison for financial crimes, and two months for lying to Congress. He also ordered Cohen to pay $2 million in financial penalties. The judge called Cohen's misdeeds a "veritable smorgasbord of criminal conduct."

RELATED: Michael Cohen's plea deal won't lessen Trump's support. Here's why.

The judge said:

As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better. While Mr. Cohen is taking steps to mitigate his criminal conduct by pleading guilty and volunteering useful information to prosecutors, that does not wipe the slate clean.

Cohen pled guilty in August to eight criminal charges in two different cases. One brought by special counsel Robert Muller for Cohen's lying to Congress about a potential Trump Tower project in Moscow. The second was for bank-fraud, tax, and campaign finance violations brought by federal prosecutors in New York.

President Trump said recently that Cohen has simply been lying to get a reduced sentence for crimes that have nothing to do with him. Cohen was very emotional as he apologized to the judge, saying:

It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. Time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.

The left thinks that Cohen's sentencing marks the beginning of the end for Trump's presidency. They may be ultimately disappointed in that regard. But this does intensify the long national nightmare of the Muller investigation that seems to have no end in sight.