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Mark Zuckerberg Tries to Clarify Remarks About Holocaust Deniers After Outcry

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Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, said in an interview published Wednesday that he would not automatically remove denials that the Holocaust took place from the site, a remark that caused an uproar online.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s comments were made during an interview with the tech journalist Kara Swisher that was published on the site Recode. (Read the full transcript here.) Hours later, Mr. Zuckerberg tried to clarify his comments in an email to Recode.

In the interview, Mr. Zuckerberg had been discussing what content Facebook would remove from the site, and noted that in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the dissemination of hate speech can have immediate and dire consequences. Moments earlier, he had also defended his company’s decision to allow content from the conspiracy site Infowars to be distributed on Facebook.

[Facebook plans to remove misinformation that could lead to physical harm.]

“The principles that we have on what we remove from the service are: If it’s going to result in real harm, real physical harm, or if you’re attacking individuals, then that content shouldn’t be on the platform,” he said.

“There’s a lot of categories of that that we can get into, but then there’s broad debate.”

Ms. Swisher, who will become an Opinion contributor with The New York Times later this summer, challenged Mr. Zuckerberg.

“‘Sandy Hook didn’t happen’ is not a debate,” she said, referring to the Connecticut school massacre in 2012, which Infowars has spread conspiracy theories about. “It is false. You can’t just take that down?”

Mr. Zuckerberg countered that the context of the remark mattered.

“I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, ‘Hey, no, you’re a liar’ — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down,” he said.

That’s when Mr. Zuckerberg brought up the Holocaust.

“But over all, let’s take this whole closer to home,” he continued. “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

Ms. Swisher interrupted him: “In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.”

Mr. Zuckerberg’s response was somewhat muddled.

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said, adding that he also gets things wrong when he speaks publicly, and other public figures do as well.

“I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times,’” he said.

Instead, Facebook would allow the content to exist on its site, but would move it down in the News Feed so that fewer users see it, he said.

In his follow-up statement, the Facebook chief executive tried to clarify his remarks.

“There’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in the email.

“If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution,” he wrote, adding that any post “advocating for violence or hate against a particular group” would be removed.

“These issues are very challenging,” he added, “but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”

But the interview had already set off a reaction from online commenters and drew widespread news coverage.

Benjy Sarlin of NBC News seemed baffled by Mr. Zuckerberg’s choice of words.

Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Holocaust denial is “a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites.”

“Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination,” he wrote.

This article originally appeared on  The New York Times.

 

Abortion

US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.

The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.

The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.

Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.

The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.

Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.

Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.

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Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act

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(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.

In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.

Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.

“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”

According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.

“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”

Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.

Read the full opinion below:

Asylum Ban Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

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US Supreme Court Rules Public Funds Allowed For Religious Schools In State Tax Credit Program

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USA Today writes:

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children’s religious school education. The court’s conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs.

The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers’ unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools.

Read the US Supreme Court ruling here or below.

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