Tag Archives: FTC

President Trump is drafting executive order on social media’s censorship of conservatives

About three months ago, in May 2019, President Trump finally heeded the cries of conservative bloggers (including Fellowship of the Minds) and users of social media of being censored, blacklisted and abused by the tech giants. The White House created a webpage for us to relate our travails — as individuals, websites, and blogs.

The evidence that conservatives are being censored is overwhelming. See:

It is, of course, in President Trump’s self-interest to do something about this censorship. See “Insider Blows Whistle & Exec Reveals Google Plan to Prevent ‘Trump situation’ in 2020“.

In July, at a White House social media summit, President Trump decried the censorship and directed his administration to explore all “regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans.” Last Tuesday, citing the case of a Google engineer who says he had been fired for his conservative views, Trump warned that he is “watching Google very closely.”

Now, it is reported that the Trump White House is preparing an executive order to address the anti-conservative bias of the tech giants.

Tech giants’ love-fest with Barack Obama

Politico reports, August 7, 2019, that according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter, the Trump White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order to address social media companies’ anti-conservative bias.

The unnamed White House official said: “If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system. But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent.”

The executive order, which deals with other topics besides tech bias, is still in the early drafting stages and is not expected to be issued imminently. None of the three individuals would describe the contents of the executive order or what penalties, if any, would be visited on companies deemed to be censoring political viewpoints. But its existence, and the deliberations surrounding it, are evidence that the Trump administration is taking a serious look at wielding the federal government’s power against Silicon Valley.

The Trump White House faces many obstacles in crafting a policy against the censorship:

  1. The federal government’s options on combating online bias are limited by the First Amendment. Before he left his job in May, John Morris, who handled internet policy issues at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said: “There’s very little in terms of direct regulation the federal government can do without congressional action, and frankly I think that’s a positive thing. Although the government may be able to support and assist online platforms’ efforts to reduce hate and violence online, the government should not try to impose speech regulations on private platforms. As politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have historically urged, the government should not be in the business of regulating speech.”
  2. Another obstacle is Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which both protects online platforms from liability for content their users post and empowers the companies to remove content without fear of liability. Section 230 has increasingly come under fire from lawmakers of both parties frustrated with tech companies’ content moderation practices.
  3. A crackdown on social media companies would involve at least four federal agencies: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),  Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Justice, and Department of Commerce. However:
    1. Although the Justice Department has announced a sweeping antitrust review of whether tech giants are harming competition or stifling innovation, antitrust cases have not traditionally been used as tools to address complaints about online speech.
    2. Republicans at the FCC and FTC already have said publicly that they don’t see a role for their agencies in policing companies’ online content:
      1. Republican FCC Commissioner and Trump appointee Brendan Carr tweeted: “Outsourcing censorship to the government is not just a bad idea, it would violate the First Amendment. I’m a no.”
      2. Republicans at the FTC, which punishes companies for unfair or deceptive acts, also have said they don’t see a role for the agency in policing allegations of social media bias. During an FTC oversight hearing in the Senate last year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued that a tech company could be considered “actively deceptive” if it appears to be a neutral public platform and then engages in censorship. But Republican FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips said the FTC’s antitrust and consumer protection authorities are “not authorities to police the First Amendment itself.”
  4. Conservatives, such as the Heritage Foundation, have also spent decades opposing any attempt to revive the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to be balanced in their programming on controversial issues.

What the Trump White House can do:

  1. One potential approach could involve using the government’s leverage over federal contractors, a tactic the Obama administration used to advance LGBT rights via a 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Trump did just that last March when he signed an executive order to promote free speech on college campuses by requiring schools to agree to promote free inquiry (which they are already supposed to do, but many don’t) in order to receive federal research funding.
  2. The administration could have the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which handles communications policy, to convene interested parties to explore the issues.

See also:

~Eowyn

Drudge Report has gone to the dark side. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!

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Why FTC’s Do Not Call registry doesn’t stop those annoying robo-calls — and how you can stop them!

The short answer: Robo-callers make so much money that they can afford to pay a fine to the FTC.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood of the Washington Post uses the example of one telemarketer to explain why those robo-calls keep calling you.

Virtually all robo-calls, whatever they’re selling, are illegal. But that hasn’t stopped a middle-aged telemarketer named Aaron Michael (or Michael Aaron) Jones, who lives high by spamming people with robo-calls. He lives in a $25,000 a month Spanish Colonial Revival house in a gated community near Laguna Beach, Calif.; has a personal chef; drives a couple of Mercedes; and has a gambling account at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Jones had paid for exclusive access to a computer program capable of blasting out prerecorded phone messages to just about anyone in the country, peddling auto warranties, home security systems and search-engine optimization tools. He works with a revolving cast of co-workers under the auspices of about a dozen corporations, as well as rents the computer program out to other robo-callers.

According to the FTC’s investigation, Jones was “facilitating” roughly a billion robo-calls a year, more than any individual the FTC had ever identified. On Oct. 1, 2015, Jones was called to the Washington headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to testify under oath.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood writes:

At 9:50 a.m., Jones and his attorney arrived at a fifth-floor FTC conference room, where two of the commission’s lawyers, James Evans and Ian Barlow, would confront him. But a curious thing happened as they began asking questions: Jones didn’t deny much of anything. When Evans tried to pin down the volume of calls he was capable of placing, he answered, “I did a lot,” then punched out an estimate on his phone’s calculator. Jones eventually grew restless and tried to move the interview along: “Obviously, the underlying issue is the calls are illegal. We know that already.Afterward, he returned to California and resumed robo-calling. In January 2017, the FTC sued him. Five months later, a federal judge banned him from telemarketing and hit him with a $2.7 million penalty. He didn’t bother contesting the judgment. […]

Jones, it appears, didn’t really care about getting caught. The same goes for the rest of the robo-calling industry. The financial rewards of bothering people on the telephone are clearly greater than the risks. “We continue to bring cases and shut down as many folks as we can,” says Janice Kopec, the FTC’s point person on robo-calls. “What we recognized, though, was we shut down an operation and another one springs up behind it almost instantaneously.” Hence our modern scourge. In 2015, the call-blocking app YouMail estimated that close to a billion robo-calls were being placed every month. Two years later, that number has leapt to 2.5 billion. At best, these calls annoy. At worst, they defraud. By far, they constitute the top consumer complaint received by the FTC.

In theory, there is a fix: the National Do Not Call Registry, created in 2003. Today, 230 million numbers are on it. The point, obviously, is to not be called. And yet the FTC receives 19,000 complaints every day from list members who have, in fact, been called. There is a battle being waged over the inviolability of our telephone numbers — over the right to not be bothered. On one side there is Mike Jones and his robot army. On the other side, there is the federal government and its list. It is clear who’s winning. But why?

Zuylen-Wood identifies some key players and moments in the history of telemarketing:

  • In 1967, Murray Roman, a public-relations consultant, first invented telemarketing.
  • In 1969, Douglas Samuelson, a Virginia telecom analyst, invented predictive dialing — a technology that allowed department stores, politicians and scammers to dial widely and quickly, while weeding out phone lines that were busy or unresponsive — which exponentially increased telemarketing.

Note: Hmm, Aaron Michael Jones, Murray Roman, Douglas Samuelson. Does anyone see a pattern here?

  • In 1991, Congress created the first Do Not Call registries, which were ineffective because the registries were maintained by telemarketers so that the only way to get on them was to call the companies themselves.
  • In 2003, Congress passed a bill to create a nationwide Do Not Call Registry, administered by the FTC. (The House bill passed 412 to 8, opposed by Ron Paul, Jeff Flake and a handful of other shrink-the-state types.) In three months, 50 million people signed up. Telemarketing groups found to have called any of the registered numbers could be fined up to $11,000 per call. By downloading the list of numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and then declining to call them, telemarketers largely policed themselves out of existence.
  • By the late 2000s, though, a new threat had emerged: robo-calls, prerecorded phone messages instead of live telemarketers. Legitimate companies began outsourcing illegal robo-calls to third parties. Will Maxson, an assistant director in the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, explains that voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) dialing “allows telemarketers to make lots and lots of calls for less money, from anywhere in the world. It also allows you to set up shop, tear down, move. All you really need to make a lot of calls is a computer and an Internet connection.” Combine that with an automated dialing platform, plus some co-workers, and you’re Aaron Michael Jones.
  • Robo-calls also employ another technology — “spoofing” or faking a telephone number enables robo-callers to call targets from numbers that bore their own area codes, and, simultaneously, throw law enforcement off their scent. (Now you know why so many robo-calls come from phone numbers with your area code!)
  • In 2009, the FTC outlawed almost all robo-calls, exempting those from political organizations, schools and other entities not trying to sell you things. Alas, the ban had no perceptible effect. From 2010 to 2011, the number of annual Do Not Call complaints jumped from 1.6 million to 2.3 million; in 2012, the number rose again by nearly 70%. In 2017, the FTC received a record 7.2 million complaints. The top violations reported were debt-reduction schemes, vacation and timeshare offers, warranties and protection plans, and impostors.

At the root of the FTC’s public relations problem is a misapprehension about how the Do Not Call Registry works:

  • When you add your number to the list, nothing actually happens. No legal muscle or technological wizardry  prevents a solicitor from calling you.
  • All the list does is provide you with vague recourse in the event you are called, by allowing you to complain that someone has called you, by calling a toll-free number or filling out a form on the Do Not Call website.
  • If the number you were called from shows up in enough complaints, the FTC will leap into action and prosecute the offending dialer. Except, it almost certainly won’t.

The main reasons why the FTC’s Do Not Call registry doesn’t and can’t stop robo-calls are:

  1. Robo-callers couldn’t care less because nobody knows who they are or where they’re calling from since they all spoof (fake) their numbers.
  2. More robo-calls are done every year because it’s cheap and easy to blast out automated calls from anywhere in the world.
  3. 1 and 2 make it nearly impossible for the FTC to identify robo-callers, let alone penalize them. At a hearing on robo-calls in October, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was getting so many of them, she’d disconnected her home phone. “The list,” she said, “doesn’t work.”
  4. The FTC doesn’t have the resources to go after robo-callers, with an annual budget of $300 million (the FBI’s is $9 billion) and only 43 employees in the Division of Marketing Practices, which oversees unwanted calls, none of whom work full time on the issue. Ami Dziekan, who works in a different department, is the lone steward of the Do Not Call Registry.
  5. Since the robo-call ban went into effect in 2009, the FTC has brought just 33 cases against robo-callers. In those cases, defendants have been ordered to pay nearly $300 million in relief to victims, and nearly $30 million in civil penalties to the government. But even then, the FTC can’t force perpetrators to pay the fine if they argue they’re broke, which robo-callers often seem to be. So the FTC has only collected on a fraction of those sums: $18 million in relief and less than $1 million in penalties.

This is how I deal with robo-calls:

When a call rings and I don’t recognize the caller ID number, I answer the call but stay silent. If it’s a human calling, the person eventually will say: “Hello? Hello?”. If it’s a robo-call, after a few seconds of my silence, the robo-call simply hangs up.

After weeks of employing the silent method, I’ve noticed that the number of robo-calls has greatly decreased.

Let’s hear from our readers of your methods of dealing with these irritating robo-calls!

See also “Beware of cold calls from Windows Technical Support – It’s a scam

UPDATE:

Thanks to reader Roy’s advice, I just signed on to a service called Nomorobo, which blocks robo-calls. The service is free for landline phones, but costs $1.99 a month for mobile phones. I followed the instructions, and successfully enabled robo-calls to be blocked from my landline phone. Click here or go to: https://nomorobo.com/.

Update (July 25, 2019):

The House passed a bill to crack down on spam robocalls in a 429-3 vote. The bill would strengthen the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to take action against illegal robocalling operations and would require all carriers to implement technology to make sure all calls are authentic (instead of using fake phone numbers). READ

On Dec. 30, 2019, President Trump the bill into law.

~Eowyn

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Food Nazi goes after school lunch and frosty flakes

Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard.
The Big Brother-Nanny State is now encroaching on yet another of our freedoms. Led by lard-butt Moochelle, government is now the Food Nazi, telling the American people what we can or cannot eat.
Audrey Hudson writes for Human Events, June 21, 2011, that the Nanny State is going after your frosty flakes:

Tony the Tiger, some NASCAR drivers and cookie-selling Girl Scouts will be out of a job unless grocery manufacturers agree to reinvent a vast array of their products to satisfy the Obama administration’s food police.

Either retool the recipes to contain certain levels of sugar, sodium and fats, or no more advertising and marketing to tots and teenagers, say several federal regulatory agencies.

The same goes for restaurants.

[…] Food industries are in an uproar over the proposal written by the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The most disturbing aspect of this interagency working group is, after it imposes multibillions of dollars in restrictions on the food industry, there is no evidence of any impact on the scourge of childhood obesity,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers.

The “Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulation Efforts” says it is voluntary, but industry officials say the intent is clear: Do it, or else.

[…] “The Interagency working group recommends that the food industry, through voluntary self-regulatory efforts, make significant improvements in the nutritional quality of foods marketed to children and adolescents ages 2 to 17 years,” the proposal says. “By the year 2016, all food products within the categories most heavily marketed directly to children should meet two basic nutrition principles.  Such foods should be formulated to … make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet and minimize the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health and weight.”

[…] Beth Johnson, a dietician for Food Directions in Maryland, said many of the foods targeted in this proposal are the same foods approved by the federal government for the WIC nutrition program for women, infants and children. “This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Johnson said.  “It’s not going to do anything to help with obesity. These are decisions I want to make for my kids. These should not be government decisions.”

The Food Nazi marches on.
On Jan. 30, a preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, N.C., was forced to eat three chicken nuggets for lunch because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious. The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. After consuming the approved nuggets, she was sent home with her mom-packed lunch and a bill from the school for $1.25.
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day-care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.
But if the chicken nuggets at West Hoke Elementary School are anything like McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, they are far inferior to the mom-packed home lunch. From Wikipedia:

The 2004 documentary Super Size Me states “McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets were originally made from old chickens no longer able to lay eggs. These chickens are stripped down to the bone, and then ‘ground up’ into a chicken mash, then combined with a variety of stabilizers and preservatives, pressed into familiar shapes, breaded and deep fried, freeze dried, and then shipped to a McDonald’s near you”. Super Size Me also alleged inclusion of chemicals such as tertiary butylhydroquinone (a phenolic antioxidant used as a chemical preservative), polydimethylsiloxane (an anti-foaming agent), and other ingredients not used by a typical home cook. This was recently restated by CNN. June 201d author of What to Eat, says the tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysiloxane in McNuggets probably pose no health risks. As a general rule, though, she advocates not eating any food with an ingredient you can’t pronounce.

Jackie Samuels


The principal of West Hoke Elementary School is Mr. Jackie Samuels. Here’s his contact info:

  • Mail: 6050 Turnpike Road, Raeford, NC 28376
  • Phone: 910-875-2584
  • Fax: 910-875-7312
  • E-mail: Click here

 
~Eowyn

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