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June 2020
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No, Google Didn't Demonetize The Federalist & It's Not An Example Of Anti-Conservative Bias

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So, earlier today, NBC reported that Google had "banned" two well known websites from its ad platform, namely The Federalist and Zero Hedge. The story was a bit confusing. To be clear, both of those sites are awful and frequently post unmitigated garbage, conspiracy theories, and propaganda. But, it turns out the story was highly misleading, though it will almost certainly be used to push the false narrative that the big internet companies are engaged in "anti-conservative bias" in moderation practices. But that's wrong. Indeed, it appears what happened is exactly what Google has done to us in the past, in saying that because of certain comments people put on our stories, they were pulling any Google ads from appearing on that page. Now we've explained why this is a dumb policy, that only encourages bad comments on sites to try to demonetize them, but it's not got anything to do with "anti-conservative bias." Also, it's just pulling ads from a single page, not across the board.But that's not how NBC presented it. Indeed, NBC's coverage is weird in its own way. It took a report from a UK-based operation that put together a blacklist of websites it says should be "defunded" for "racist fake news." Of course, "racist" is in the eye of the beholder, and "fake news" is not a very useful term here, but whatever. NBC reporters took this report and reached out to Google to ask about these particular pages, and that set off Google's usual review processes, and the recognition that some of the comments on the page violated Google's ad policies on "dangerous and derogatory" content (the same thing we got dinged for above). Google, as it does, alerted the Federalist to this content and warned that if it wasn't corrected, ads would be removed on that page (Google claims that Zero Hedge's page had already gone through this process prior to the communication from NBC). While the fact that Google did a review after NBC's request for comment may upset some, this is the nature of content moderation: much of it happens after an inbound report is made in some form or another.Of course, as the story got bigger and bigger and spun out of control, even Google had to come out and clarify that The Federalist was never demonetized, but rather that they called out specific comments that would lead to ads being pulled on that page:

Again, this sounds exactly like what happened to us last year. But, still, tons of people are calling the NBC story an example of anti-conservative bias. I'll bet none of those people called this "anti-tech reporter bias" when it happened to us last year.

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Jun-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Minneapolis City Council Votes Unanimously To Disband Its Police Department

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In response to one of its own officers killing an unarmed, cuffed black man by kneeling on his neck until he was long past dead, the Minneapolis City Council pledged to defund the police department. It did this as the city burned and protests erupted around the nation. It maintained this pledge as city schools said "no thanks" to offers of assistance from police officers seeking to bring this level of violence to public schools and state colleges.At that point, it was all talk. But it was talk the Council could back up. It had a veto-proof majority willing to disassemble the system that hadn't worked for years and replace it with something new. But it was still talk until it was put into action. And it has now been put into action, as Scott McClallen reports for The Center Square.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution intending to disband their police department and create a new model of public safety in response to the death of George Floyd.The resolution states the Council will start a year-long process of research and community engagement to discover a replacement.City Council President Lisa Bender said that the resolution “advances our shared commitment to transformative change in how Minneapolis approaches public safety so that every member of our community can be truly safe.
How will this work? It's still up in the air. But there's a lot to work with. Cops are asked to police everything, including many things they aren't specifically trained to handle, like misbehaving school kids, people suffering mental health crises, and a variety of other societal issues like homelessness, interpersonal relationships, and wayward house pets.The police department hoovers up an inordinate amount of the city's annual budget, leaving it little to address underlying causes of crime and providing almost no support for city residents who need it most. Instead of help, they get guys with guns and a shitload of training that tells them all hand movements are furtive and any failure to comprehend conflicting shouted orders a sign of violent resistance.The resolution [PDF] lays it out very clearly: Minneapolis residents aren't getting their money's worth from their local law enforcement agency.
Whereas, the adopted 2020 budget allocated $193 million to the Minneapolis Police Department, which represents over 36% of the City’s General Fund of $532.3 million, and is more than twice as much as the combined City budgets for workforce development, building affordable housing, homeownership support, small business support programs, environmental sustainability, race equity, arts and culture, violence prevention, family and early childhood support, youth development, senior services, lead poisoning prevention, infectious disease prevention, and protection of civil rights…
Render unto Cop Caesar 36%. And unto man whatever is left over. Under-funding social services to ensure cops have the budget to beat every problem into submission isn't working. It hasn't worked for years. But it took three cops -- one with his knee on a black man's neck -- to drive that point home. The city can't afford to wait around for the department to fix itself. It has no desire to do this. So, the city will move forward without the department and make the changes the PD has resisted for decades.While still a little short on details, the resolution does lay down the next steps in the defunding process. It does not involve disbanding the PD, but it does severely curtail its responsibilities. A lot of committee work will precede the actual reformation of local law enforcement.
Research and engagement to inform the potential creation of a new City Department of Community Safety with a holistic approach to community safety, including a review and analysis of relevant existing models and programs and practices that could be applied in Minneapolis;Recommendations that advance the work of the 911 working group and other strategies for transitioning work of the Minneapolis Police Department to alternative, more appropriate responses to community requests for help and identifying the resources needed to perform this work in City departments, other agencies, and/or community partners while the work of creating a new public safety system is in progress…
Hopefully, this means calls for help won't always be greeted by cops trained to view almost everything as a threat. With some budget rerouted to social services, perhaps there won't be as many calls for help, since there will actually be a safety net for residents whose health and well being used to be a law enforcement problem.The unanimous vote is veto-proof. This is important because the city's mayor still believes the police department can be "reformed" through less drastic measures. This argument has been advanced without a shred of evidence being supplied by the city's leader. Reform can work, but most reform efforts end up being neutered by police unions and legislators unwilling to look "soft" on crime. It's unlikely to work as well as the council's proposal, which trims the PD back to its law enforcement roots and reroutes the leftover money towards improving the lives of underserved communities.This is a momentous event in the city's history. Unfortunately, it took an untold number of abuses by police officers to make it happen, culminating in the very disturbing killing of a resident by cops in broad daylight in front of several cameras to make the city take its problem seriously. Hopefully, other locales won't wait for daylight murders by cops to address their own law enforcement problems.

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Jun-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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