Category Archives: 1st Amendment – Free Speech Right

Facebook Censorship Contractor Hell

BODIES IN SEATS

At Facebook’s worst-performing content moderation site in North America, one contractor has died, and others say they fear for their lives

 Utley loved to help.

First, he served in the Coast Guard, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. He married, had a family, and devoted himself utterly to his two little girls. After he got out of the military, he worked as a moderator for Facebook, where he purged the social network of the worst stuff that its users post on a daily basis: the hate speech, the murders, the child pornography.

Utley worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. The 800 or so workers there face relentless pressure from their bosses to better enforce the social network’s community standards, which receive near-daily updates that leave its contractor workforce in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Tampa site has routinely failed to meet the 98 percent “accuracy” target set by Facebook. In fact, with a score that has been hovering around 92, it is Facebook’s worst-performing site in North America.

The stress of the job weighed on Utley, according to his former co-workers, who, like all Facebook contractors at the Tampa site, must sign a 14-page nondisclosure agreement.

“The stress they put on him — it’s unworldly,” one of Utley’s managers told me. “I did a lot of coaching. I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired.”

On the night of March 9th, 2018, Utley slumped over at his desk. Co-workers noticed that he was in distress when he began sliding out of his chair. Two of them began to perform CPR, but no defibrillator was available in the building. A manager called for an ambulance.

The Cognizant site in Tampa is set back from the main road in an office park, and between the dim nighttime lighting and discreet exterior signage, the ambulance appears to have had trouble finding the building. Paramedics arrived 13 minutes after the first call, one worker told me, and when they did, Utley had already begun to turn blue.

Paramedics raced Utley to a hospital. At Cognizant, some employees were distraught — one person told me he passed by one of the site’s designated “tranquility rooms” and found one of his co-workers, a part-time preacher, praying loudly in tongues. Others ignored the commotion entirely, and continued to moderate Facebook posts as the paramedics worked.

Utley was pronounced dead a short while later at the hospital, the victim of a heart attack. Further information about his health history, or the circumstances of his death, could not be learned. He left behind a wife, Joni, and two young daughters. He was 42 years old.

On Monday morning, workers on the day shift were informed that there had been an incident, and they began collecting money to buy a card and send flowers. But some site leaders did not initially tell workers that Utley had died, and instructed managers not to discuss his death, current and former employees told me.

“Everyone at leadership was telling people he was fine — ‘oh, he’ll be okay,’” one co-worker recalled. “They wanted to play it down. I think they were worried about people quitting with the emotional impact it would have.”

But the illusion shattered later that day, when Utley’s father, Ralph, came to the site to gather his belongings. He walked into the building and, according to a co-worker I spoke to, said: “My son died here.”

 February, I wrote about the secret lives of Facebook contractors in America. Since 2016, when the company came under heavy criticism for failing to prevent various abuses of its platform, Facebook has expanded its workforce of people working on safety and security around the world to 30,000. About half of those are content moderators, and the vast majority are contractors hired through a handful of large professional services firms. In 2017, Facebook began opening content moderation sites in American cities including Phoenix, Austin, and Tampa. The goal was to improve the accuracy of moderation decisions by entrusting them to people more familiar with American culture and slang.

Cognizant received a two-year, $200 million contract from Facebook to do the work, according to a former employee familiar with the matter. But in return for policing the boundaries of free expression on one of the internet’s largest platforms, individual contractors in North America make as little as $28,800 a year. They receive two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch each day, along with nine minutes per day of “wellness” time that they can use when they feel overwhelmed by the emotional toll of the job. After regular exposure to graphic violence and child exploitation, many workers are subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.

My initial report focused on Phoenix, where workers told me that they had begun to embrace fringe views after continuously being exposed to conspiracy theories at work. One brought a gun to work to protect himself against the possibility of a fired employee returning to the office seeking vengeance. Others told me they are haunted by visions of the images and videos they saw during their time on the job.

Conditions at the Phoenix site have not improved significantly since I visited. Last week, some employees were sent home after an infestation of bed bugs was discovered in the office — the second time bed bugs have been found there this year. Employees who contacted me worried that the infestation would spread to their own homes, and said managers told them Cognizant would not pay to clean their homes.

“Bed bugs can be found virtually every place people tend to gather, including the workplace,” Cognizant said in a statement. “No associate at this facility has formally asked the company to treat an infestation in their home. If someone did make such a request, management would work with them to find a solution.”

Facebook executives have maintained that the working conditions described to me by dozens of contractors do not accurately reflect the daily lives of the majority of its workers. But after publishing my story about Phoenix, I received dozens of messages from other contractors around the world, many of whom reported having similar experiences. The largest single group of messages I received came from current and former Facebook contractors in Tampa. Many of them have worked closely with employees at the Phoenix site, and believe working conditions in Florida are even more grim.

In May, I traveled to Florida to meet with these Facebook contractors. This article is based on interviews with 12 current and former moderators and managers at the Tampa site. In most cases, I agreed to use pseudonyms to protect the employees from potential retaliation from Facebook and Cognizant. But for the first time, three former moderators for Facebook in North America agreed to break their nondisclosure agreements and discuss working conditions at the site on the record.

A hallway in Cognizant’s content moderation site in Tampa, FL.
A hallway in Cognizant’s content moderation site in Tampa, FL. Despite pressure to improve their scores, moderators here have never consistently met the 98 percent accuracy target set for them by Facebook.

Employees told me that pressure from managers to improve its performance has taken a toll on the workforce. Cognizant’s contract with Facebook is coming up for renewal, and with the entire company struggling to hit the 98 percent accuracy target, there are widespread concerns internally that Cognizant will lose Facebook’s business.

Contractors told me that Cognizant had lured them away from less demanding jobs by promising regular schedules, bonuses, and career development, only to renege on all three.

They described a filthy workplace in which they regularly find pubic hair and other bodily waste at their workstations. Employees said managers laugh off or ignore sexual harassment and threats of violence. Two discrimination cases have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since April.

They said marijuana use is so prevalent that the site manager jokingly complained at an all-hands meeting that he had gotten a contact high walking in the door.

More than anything else, the contractors described an environment in which they are never allowed to forget how quickly they can be replaced. It is a place where even Keith Utley, who died working alongside them, would receive no workplace memorial — only a passing mention during team huddles in the days after he passed. “There is no indication that this medical condition was work related,” Cognizant told me in a statement. “Our associate’s colleagues, managers and our client were all saddened by this tragic event.” (The client is Facebook.)

Utley’s family could not be reached for comment. Employees who began working after he died told me they had never heard his name.

“We were bodies in seats,” one former moderator told me. “We were nothing to them — at all.”

 Speagle was 23 and employed at an online education company working with English language learners when he visited a Cognizant job fair. A recruiter there described to him a role in which Speagle would primarily help businesses analyze engagement on their Facebook pages. He might have to do some content moderation, the recruiter said, but Speagle entered the interview believing he was about to embark on a new career in high technology — one that he hoped would eventually lead to a full-time role at Facebook.

Cognizant offered Speagle $15 an hour to do the job full time — a marked improvement over his previous job, which was seasonal. Only after he began training did he realize that the job would not, in fact, involve helping businesses with Facebook marketing. Instead, two weeks after Speagle was put onto the production floor, a manager told him he and a colleague would be reviewing graphic violence and hate speech full time.

“For our associates who opt to work in content moderation, we are transparent about the work they will perform,” a Cognizant spokesman said in response. “They are made aware of the nature of the role before and during the hiring process, and then given extensive and specific training before working on projects.”

But had his managers asked, they would have learned that Speagle had a history of anxiety and depression, and that he might not be suited well for the role. No one did.

Shawn Speagle worked at Cognizant for about six months, where he mostly saw graphic violence and hate speech.

“They just said me and [my colleague] were very meticulous and had a lot of promise to move up to the SME position,” Speagle said, referring to the subject matter experts who make $1 more per hour in exchange for answering moderators’ questions about Facebook policy. “They said Facebook is basically shoving all of their graphic violence content to us, that they didn’t want it anymore. So they had to move more people to cover it. And that’s all that we saw, every single day.”

Speagle vividly recalls the first video he saw in his new assignment. Two teenagers spot an iguana on the ground, and one picks it up by the tail. A third teenager films what happens next: the teen holding the iguana begins smashing it onto the street. “They beat the living shit out of this thing,” Speagle told me, as tears welled up in his eyes. “The iguana was screaming and crying. And they didn’t stop until the thing was a bloody pulp.”

Under the policy, the video was allowed to remain on Facebook. A manager told him that by leaving the video online, authorities would be able to catch the perpetrators. But as the weeks went on, the video continued to reappear in his queue, and Speagle realized that police were unlikely to look into the case.

Speagle had volunteered at animal shelters in the past, and watching the iguana die on a regular basis rattled him. “They kept reposting it again and again and again,” he said, pounding the table as he spoke. “It made me so angry. I had to listen to its screams all day.”

 Tampa facility opened in a maze-like office park in the summer of 2017, about two months after the Phoenix facility came online. It operates out of a single-story building next to a pond fed by two storm drains. On most days, an alligator emerges from one of the drains to bask in the sun.

Before the office opened, the company began advertising work on Indeed and other job sites, using opaque titles such as “social media analyst.” Initially, applicants are not told they will be working for Facebook — only a “large social media company.”

Cognizant was not always straightforward with applicants about the nature of the work in Tampa. Marcus*, who worked in management, told me that a recruiter had persuaded him to leave a more normal job with the promise of a regular schedule, performance bonuses, and a good work-life balance. Once he joined, though, he was made to work nights, and the bonuses never materialized.

Marcus was made to moderate Facebook content — an additional responsibility he says he was not prepared for. A military veteran, he had become desensitized to seeing violence against people, he told me. But on his second day of moderation duty, he had to watch a video of a man slaughtering puppies with a baseball bat. Marcus went home on his lunch break, held his dog in his arms, and cried. I should quit, he thought to himself, but I know there’s people at the site that need me. He ultimately stayed for a little over a year.

Cognizant calls the part of the building where contractors do their work “the production floor,” and it quickly filled with employees. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.46, and at $15 an hour, the job pays better than most call center work in the area. For many content moderators — Cognizant refers to them by the enigmatic title of “process executive” — it was their first real job.

In its haste to fill the workplace, Cognizant made some odd staffing decisions. Early on, the company hired Gignesh Movalia, a former investment advisor, as a moderator. Cognizant conducts background checks on new hires, but apparently failed even to run a basic web search on Movalia. Had they done so, they would have learned that in 2015 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in a $9 million investment fraud scheme. According to the FBI, Movalia had falsely claimed to have access to shares of a fast-growing technology startup about to begin trading on the public market.

The startup was Facebook.

An entrance to the main workspace for Cognizant’s Tampa moderation site.

Movalia was eventually fired, but employees I spoke with believed his tenure exemplified Cognizant’s approach to hiring moderators: find bodies wherever you can, ask as few questions as possible, and get them into a seat on the production floor where they can start working.

The result is a raucous workplace where managers send regular emails to the staff complaining about their behavior on the site. Nearly every person I interviewed independently compared the Tampa office to a high school. Loud altercations, often over workplace romances, regularly take place between co-workers. Verbal and physical fights break out on a monthly basis, employees told me. A dress code was instituted to discourage employees from wearing provocative clothing to work — “This is not a night club,” read an email to all employees obtained by The Verge. Another email warned employees that there had been “numerous incidents of theft” on the property, including stolen food from the office refrigerator, food from vending machines, and employees’ personal items.

Michelle Bennetti and Melynda Johnson both began working at the Tampa site in June 2018. They told me that the daily difficulty of moderating content, combined with a chaotic office environment, made life miserable.

“At first it didn’t bother me — but after a while, it started taking a toll,” Bennetti told me. “I got to feel, like, a cloud — a darkness — over me. I started being depressed. I’m a very happy, outgoing person, and I was [becoming] withdrawn. My anxiety went up. It was hard to get through it every day. It started affecting my home life.”

Johnson was particularly disturbed by the site’s sole bathroom, which she regularly found in a state of disrepair. (The company says it has janitors available every shift in Tampa.) In the stalls, signs posted in response to employee misbehavior proliferated. Do not use your feet to flush the toilet. Do not flush more than five toilet seat covers at one time. Do not put any substances, natural or unnatural, on the walls.

“And obviously the signs are there for a reason, because people are doing this,” said Johnson, who worked at the site until March. “Every bit of that building was absolutely disgusting. You’d go in the bathroom and there would be period blood and poop all over the place. It smelled horrendous all the time.”

She added: “It’s a sweatshop in America.”

Michelle Bennetti and Melynda Johnson (from left) worked for Cognizant for about nine months
Melynda Johnson and Michelle Bennetti (from left) worked for Cognizant for about nine months. Johnson calls the office “a sweatshop in America.”

The work day in Tampa is divided into five shifts, and desks are shared between employees. Contractors I spoke with said they would frequently come to work and find their workstation for the day in dire condition — encountering boogers, fingernails, and pubic hairs, among other items. The desks would be cleaned whenever Facebook made one of its regular planned visits to the site. At other times, employees told me, the office was filthy.

Florida law does not require employers to offer sick leave, and so Cognizant workers who feel ill must instead use personal leave time. (They are granted five hours of personal leave per pay period.) Missing work is one of the few reasons Cognizant regularly fires its contractors. And so to avoid receiving an “occurrence,” as the company calls unapproved absences, contractors who have exhausted their break time come to work sick — and occasionally vomit in trash cans on the production floor.

A worker named Lola* told me that health problems had resulted in her receiving so many occurrences she was at risk of being fired. She began going into work even when she felt ill to the point of throwing up. Facebook contractors are required to use a browser extension to report every time they use the restroom, but during a recent illness, Lola quickly took all her allotted breaks. She had previously been written up for going to the bathroom too many times, she said, and so she felt afraid to get up from her desk. A manager saw that she was not feeling well, and brought a trash can to her desk so she could vomit in it. So she did.

“Then I was crying at my desk,” Lola said. “I was like, ‘I can’t go on.’ My co-workers said, ‘Just go home.’ I said ‘I can’t, because I’m going to get an occurrence.’” She stayed at her desk and cried.

Employees told me about other disturbing incidents at the Tampa site. Among them:

  • An employee who used a colostomy bag had it rupture while she was at work, spilling some waste onto the floor. Senior managers were overheard mocking her. She eventually quit.
  • An employee who threatened to “shoot up the building” in a group chat was placed on paid leave and allowed to return. He was fired after making another similar threat. (A Cognizant spokesperson said the company has security personnel on site at all hours. “Our goal is to ensure that our employees feel assured that they work in a safe environment,” he said.)
  • Another employee broadcast himself on Facebook Live talking about wanting to bash a manager’s head in. Another manager determined that he was making a joke, and he was not disciplined.

In April, two women who work at the Tampa site filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that they had been sexually harassed by two of their male co-workers. According to the complaint, the men regularly discussed anal sex in the office. When the women were not receptive to the discussion, one of the men said he “was going to start a YouTube channel and record himself shooting up the place,” according to the complaint. On April 3rd, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office came to the site to interview the women. According to the officer’s report, one of the men had been photographed following one of the women home.

A Cognizant spokesman told me that the employee has been suspended while the claims are being investigated. But some workers say they are still concerned.

“Every time I get an email or a phone call from my clients, I worry that there’s been a shooting — and I know that’s their worry as well,” said KC Hopkinson, an attorney who represents several current and former Cognizant employees in Tampa. “They go in there every morning asking, ‘what am I going to see today? And am I going to make it home tonight?’”

Hopkinson told me that her clients who have reported incidents to human resources are generally either ignored or retaliated against, a claim that was echoed to me by several other employees there. In some cases, the site’s human resources staff has followed workers who filed complaints to the bathroom, and questioned them about what they were doing for the few minutes they were inside. (“We take allegations such as this very seriously,” a company spokesman told me. “Cognizant strives to create a safe and empowering workplace.”)

“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to work there,” Hopkinson said. “It’s a terrible, terrible environment.”

 the six months after he was hired, Speagle would moderate 100 to 200 posts a day. He watched people throw puppies into a raging river, and put lit fireworks in dogs’ mouths. He watched people mutilate the genitals of a live mouse, and chop off a cat’s face with a hatchet. He watched videos of people playing with human fetuses, and says he learned that they are allowed on Facebook “as long as the skin is translucent.” He found that he could no longer sleep for more than two or three hours a night. He would frequently wake up in a cold sweat, crying.

Early on, Speagle came across a video of two women in North Carolina encouraging toddlers to smoke marijuana, and helped to notify the authorities. (Moderator tools have a mechanism for escalating issues to law enforcement, and the women were eventually convicted of misdemeanor child abuse.) To Speagle’s knowledge, though, the crimes he saw every day never resulted in legal action being taken against the perpetrators. The work came to feel pointless, never more so than when he had to watch footage of a murder or child pornography case that he had already removed from Facebook.

In June 2018, a month into his job, Facebook began seeing a rash of videos that purportedly depicted organs being harvested from children. (It did not.) So many graphic videos were reported that they could not be contained in Speagle’s queue.

“I was getting the brunt of it, but it was leaking into everything else,” Speagle said. “It was mass panic. All the SMEs had to rush in there and try to help people. They were freaking out — they couldn’t handle it. People were crying, breaking down, throwing up. It was like one of those horror movies. Nobody’s prepared to see a little girl have her organs taken out while she’s still alive and screaming.” Moderators were told they had to watch at least 15 to 30 seconds of each video.

Speagle helps to take care of his parents, who have health problems, and was afraid to quit Cognizant. “It was tough to find a job down here in this market,” he said. To cope with the stress, he began binge-eating pastries from the vending machines, and eventually put on a significant amount of weight. He sought out the on-site counselor for support, but found him unhelpful.

“He just flat-out told me: ‘I don’t really know how to help you guys,’” Speagle said. The counselor he spoke with had been substituting for the regular counselor, who had more training. Cognizant also offers a 24/7 hotline, full healthcare benefits, and other wellness programs. But the experience soured Speagle on the site’s mental health resources. Other times, when he was having a particularly bleak day in the queue, a manager would hand him a bucket of Legos and encourage him to play with them to relieve the stress as he worked. Speagle built a house and a spaceship, but it didn’t make him feel better.

Shawn Speagle holds the medication he was prescribed to deal with the effects of PTSD.
Shawn Speagle holds the medication he was prescribed to deal with the effects of PTSD.

By last fall, Speagle told me, he was sleeping only an hour or two each night. The lack of sleep, coupled with depression, made it difficult for him to exercise. He began lashing out at his parents. Meanwhile, at work, he felt micromanaged by his team leaders, who pressured him to moderate more posts.

“I felt like I was trapped inside my own body,” he said. “I couldn’t, for the life of me, get up from my desk, or I would be yelled at to stay in my desk. So I was trapped at my desk and in my body. I was so scared.”

Cognizant periodically purges large numbers of staff members in what have come to be known as “red bag days” for the red bags that managers give to the newly fired to collect their belongings. Sometimes the dismissals are related to job performance, and sometimes employees aren’t given any explanation at all. Speagle was laid off as part of a red bag day last October.

In February, he went to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with PTSD. He is currently in treatment. Meanwhile, he has gone back to school to get his teaching certificate. Seeing so many children harmed on Facebook made him want to make a positive contribution to the lives of young people, he said.

“I really wanted to make a difference,” Speagle told me of his time working for Facebook. “I thought this would be the ultimate difference-making thing. Because it’s Facebook. But there’s no difference being made.”

I asked him what he thought needed to change.

“I think Facebook needs to shut down,” he said.

 week, I visited the Tampa site with a photographer. It had received a deep cleaning the night before I visited, according to two employees I spoke with, and the bathroom sparkled. As I walked the floor with the site manager and a Facebook spokeswoman, I noted that most rooms smelled of cleaning products.

Work stopped while we were there to ensure we did not see any Facebook user’s personal information. Moderators, mostly in their 20s and 30s, chatted at their desks, or shot baskets in one of the miniature hoops around the building. The site’s senior managers, who employees say are normally cloistered in their offices, made a show of walking the production floor and chatting with their subordinates.

Every few feet, a wall decal or poster offered an inspirational platitude. Exhortations to always try your hardest and maintain a positive attitude were punctuated with other signs that came across as slightly more sinister. “No news is good news,” read one. “Our reputation depends on you,” read another.

We saw an activity room where workers are invited to participate in yoga sessions, and a break room presided over by a small Buddha holding an electric candle. Across the room from the Buddha, coloring books were fanned out on a table beside windows overlooking the alligator pond.

The tour ended about an hour after we arrived.

“That was a dog-and-pony show,” an employee named Bob told me over the phone the next day. “That was completely staged. We’re out there playing games, and the senior management are out there interacting with people — it’s all a facade.”

Facebook sees a similar facade when it visits the site, he said.

The person responsible for managing Facebook’s growing contractor workforce is Arun Chandra, whose title is vice president of scaled support. Chandra arrived at Facebook last November after a long career at HP, where he helped to oversee the company’s global supply chain. In his new role, he told me, he hopes to gradually improve contractors’ standard of living while also working to ensure they become more effective at their jobs.

Signage inside a stall of the women’s bathroom at Cognizant in Tampa, FL.
Signage inside a stall of the women’s bathroom at Cognizant in Tampa, FL.

“I’m trying to address the macro picture, and move the bigger things forward in the right way,” said Chandra, who struck me as energetic and deeply sincere. “We’ll never solve 100 percent, but I’m trying to show I can solve 80 to 90 percent of the larger problems.”

Chandra has visited more than a dozen of the company’s far-flung partner sites in the United States and abroad, and has plans to visit them all. When he arrives, he likes to pull rank-and-file contractors into rooms and ask them about working conditions without their managers around. He told me that in the Philippines, content moderation has become an attractive career track, and that everywhere he goes, he meets moderators who take great pride in their work. “The level of enthusiasm people have is amazing,” he said.

This spring, Chandra organized a summit of around 200 leaders from content moderation sites around the world — an event he plans to hold twice a year, with another coming this fall. Up until now, vendors have had different policies and programs for promoting workers’ mental health. At the summit, they agreed to share information about their approaches — effectively agreeing to stop competing on the basis of who does a better job taking care of workers.

“We have to run a very large-scale platform. We have to take care of the community. And that means we have to get a whole lot of work done,” Chandra said. “But that is not at the expense of [contractors’] well-being.”

Chandra plans to launch a new audit program later this year to promote better working conditions. That will include more surprise visits — an effort to get around the dog-and-pony-show phenomenon I observed last week. He also plans to stop evaluating partners on the sole basis of whether vendors achieve a 98 percent accuracy rate — instead, he said, Facebook will develop a balanced “scorecard” approach to measuring vendors’ performance. Chandra intends for worker well-being to be part of that score, though Facebook has not yet determined how it will be measured.

In May, Facebook announced that it will raise contractor wages by $3 an hour, make on-site counselors available during all hours of operation, and develop further programs for its contractor workforce. But the pay raises are not due to take effect until the middle of 2020, by which time many, if not most, of the current Tampa workforce will no longer work there. Turnover statistics could not be obtained. But few moderators I have spoken with make it to two years on the job — they either are fired for low accuracy scores, or quit over the working conditions. And so while the raises will be a boon to a future workforce, the contractors I spoke to are unlikely to benefit.

Nor will the many contractors who have already left the job. As in Phoenix, former employees of the Tampa site described lasting emotional disturbances from their work — one for which neither Facebook nor Cognizant offers any support.

I asked Chandra whether Facebook should hire more content moderators in house, rather than relying on big staffing companies. He told me that Facebook’s business changes so quickly that it might not be possible. But he did not rule it out.

“I completely get the debate,” he said. “If anything I’m very empathetic to the entire conversation, having spent a lot of time with these people. I don’t think we have a better answer right now.”

In the meantime, Facebook is building a “global resiliency team” tasked with improving the well-being of both full-time employees and contractors. Chris Harrison, who leads the team, told me that he aspires to build a wellness program that begins at the point of hiring. He wants to screen employees to gauge their psychological fitness — a move that might prevent someone like Shawn Speagle from being assigned to a queue filled with graphic violence — but says Facebook is still working to understand whether this is possible under employment law.

Harrison plans to make “resiliency” — the art of bouncing back after seeing something awful — a key part of contractor training. He helped to develop new tools for moderators that can automatically blur out faces in disturbing videos, turn them grayscale, or mute the audio — all things that can reduce the psychological harm to the moderator viewing them.

Eventually, Harrison hopes Facebook will offer post-employment counseling to moderators who suffered psychological harm on the job. “Of course we should do that,” he said. But the idea is still in the earliest discussion stages, he said. “There’s just so many layers of complexity globally. It’s really, really hard to pull it off in a legally compliant way.”

I asked Harrison, a licensed clinical psychologist, whether Facebook would ever seek to place a limit on the amount of disturbing content a moderator is given in a day. How much is safe?

“I think that’s an open question,” he said. “Is there such thing as too much? The conventional answer to that would be, of course, there can be too much of anything. Scientifically, do we know how much is too much? Do we know what those thresholds are? The answer is no, we don’t. Do we need to know? Yeah, for sure.”

“If there’s something that were to keep me up at night, just pondering and thinking, it’s that question,” Harrison continued. “How much is too much?”

 you believe moderation is a high-skilled, high-stakes job that presents unique psychological risks to your workforce, you might hire all of those workers as full-time employees. But if you believe that it is a low-skill job that will someday be done primarily by algorithms, you probably would not.

Instead, you would do what Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have done, and hire companies like Accenture, Genpact, and Cognizant to do the work for you. Leave to them the messy work of finding and training human beings, and of laying them all off when the contract ends. Ask the vendors to hit some just-out-of-reach metric, and let them figure out how to get there.

At Google, contractors like these already represent a majority of its workforce. The system allows tech giants to save billions of dollars a year, while reporting record profits each quarter. Some vendors may turn out to mistreat their workers, threatening the reputation of the tech giant that hired them. But countless more stories will remain hidden behind nondisclosure agreements.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of people around the world go to work each day at an office where taking care of the individual person is always someone else’s job. Where at the highest levels, human content moderators are viewed as a speed bump on the way to an AI-powered future.

In such a system, offices can still look beautiful. They can have colorful murals and serene meditation rooms. They can offer ping pong tables and indoor putting greens and miniature basketball hoops emblazoned with the slogan: “You matter.” But the moderators who work in these offices are not children, and they know when they are being condescended to. They see the company roll an oversized Connect 4 game into the office, as it did in Tampa this spring, and they wonder: When is this place going to get a defibrillator?

(Cognizant did not respond to questions about the defibrillator.)

I believe Chandra and his team will work diligently to improve this system as best as they can. By making vendors like Cognizant accountable for the mental health of their workers for the first time, and offering psychological support to moderators after they leave the company, Facebook can improve the standard of living for contractors across the industry.

But it remains to be seen how much good Facebook can do while continuing to hold its contractors at arms’ length. Every layer of management between a content moderator and senior Facebook leadership offers another chance for something to go wrong — and to go unseen by anyone with the power to change it.

“Seriously Facebook, if you want to know, if you really care, you can literally call me,” Melynda Johnson told me. “I will tell you ways that I think that you can fix things there. Because I do care. Because I really do not think people should be treated this way. And if you do know what’s going on there, and you’re turning a blind eye, shame on you.”


Have you worked as a content moderator? We’re eager to hear your experiences, especially if you have worked for Google, YouTube, or Twitter. Email Casey Newton atcasey@theverge.com, or message him on Twitter @CaseyNewton. You can also subscribe here to The Interface, his evening newsletter about Facebook and democracy.

Update June 19th, 10:37AM ET:This article has been updated to reflect the fact that a video that purportedly depicted organ harvesting was determined to be false and misleading.

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SEDITIOUS MARXIST BERKELEY “TEACHER” YVETTE FELARCA

Antifa Group
dailycaller.com
Public school teachers are behind a leading far-left militant group that is part of the Antifa network that federal officials say is committing “domestic terrorist violence.”

By Any Means Necessary, which has played a key role in riots in Berkeley, Sacramento and elsewhere, has dozens of public school teachers among its members, including among its most prominent leaders.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security began paying closer attention to Antifa groups in general after BAMN and other extremists started a riot and attacked marchers at a white nationalist rally in Sacramento last July, Politico reported on Friday. The Sacramento violence left at least 10 people hospitalized, several of whom had knife wounds.

One of BAMN’s most prominent organizers is Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley middle school teacher and pro-violence militant. Felarca currently faces charges of inciting a riot for her role in the Sacramento violence.

After BAMN and other antifa groups staged violent protests in Berkeley to keep right-wing author Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking, Felarca defended her group’s acts of violence. BAMN was able to cancel another event, this time an April speech by pro-Trump author Ann Coulter, by promising a repeat performance of the Milo riots. (RELATED: ‘INFERNO’ — Milo Speech Cancelled After Rioters Set Campus Ablaze [VIDEO])

The FBI and DHS say Antifa groups like BAMN are engaging in “domestic terrorist violence,” according to the Politico report.

Just last weekend, Felarca helped organize BAMN’s mass demonstrations that “shut down” an anti-Marxism rally in Berkeley. As with BAMN’s other organized actions, left-wing actors at Saturday’s demonstrations violently attacked peaceful protesters. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned the Antifa violence in Berkeley, while Felarca called BAMN’s actions a “resounding success.”

She got the attention she sought – from DOJ and FBI.

BAMN’s members appear to be mixing their far-left activism with their roles as teachers. (RELATED: Documents Tie Berkeley Riot Organizers To Pro-Pedophilia Group)

BAMN organizer and high school teacher Nicole Conaway organized a “sickout” at her school in 2015, leading other teachers in calling in sick to protest the policies of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. The sickout forced six Detroit-area schools to cancel classes, affecting nearly 4,000 students.

One month later, Conaway led students in a school walkout protesting poor building conditions. She was one of three BAMN organizers arrested in connection with the protest. Other BAMN members have led similar protests at the schools where they teach.

In Berkeley, Felarca and other BAMN members repeatedly abused their positions of influence over students in service of their own radical goals, Berkeley’s public school district charged in court filings obtained by local news organization Berkeleyside.

Despite repeated warnings, the district said Felarca continued to try to recruit students into her radical organization, including during work hours. The leftist teacher frequently tried to bring students on school-sponsored trips to BAMN-related activities, the district said, describing the trips as attempts to “indoctrinate” the students.

ANTIFA coward empowered by Berkeley PD and city

The school district accused Felarca and other BAMN members of weaponizing students to derail disciplinary hearings for Felarca, after student protesters repeatedly swarmed into the disciplinary hearings. The school district claimed that Felarca and other BAMN members “were actively trying to brainwash and manipulate” students to serve her “own selfish interests,” calling her conduct “particularly reprehensible.” Felarca continues teaching today.

Oakland Technical High School teacher and BAMN member Tania Kappner worked with Felarca this past January to organize students and teachers in a walkout in protesting Trump. Kappner was identified in the media as a BAMN member as early as 2011.

BAMN is active within both the National Education Association — the nation’s largest teacher’s union — as well as with local and regional teacher’s unions in Michigan and California.

Last year, 17 different BAMN members ran for elected positions on the Detroit Federation of Teachers, according to a newsletter sent out by the DFT. BAMN also ran five candidates for different national leadership positions with the NEA in 2017.

When the Berkeley school district suspended Felarca for her violent activism in 2016 (for which she was charged with inciting a riot), the local teacher’s union sued the school on Felarca’s behalf.

In January 2015, BAMN organizer Steve Conn was elected president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The DFT’s executive board charged Conn with misconduct later that year and removed him from office.

Conn and his wife, former teacher Heather Miller, were fired back in 2007 after leading a student protest that resulted in students being pepper sprayed. The couple sued and got their jobs back, in addition to a $300,000 settlement. Conn continues teaching today at Western High School.

BAMN was founded by the Revolutionary Workers League, an openly Marxist organization, in 1995.

As TheDC first reported in April, internal documents from the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) tie BAMN to NAMBLA., reveal the RWL — BAMN’s parent organization — worked with NAMBLA in the years just before the communist group founded BAMN.

One of BAMN’s founding members is on record identifying as a NAMBLA member, calling the pro-pedophilia group the victim of a “witch-hunt.” (Read TheDC’s full story on the ties between NAMBLA and BAMN here.)

ANTIFA COWARDS

 

A Beating in Berkeley
www.weeklystandard.com

Samoan and Japanese American “white supremacists” according to Nancy Pelosi

As white supremacists go, Joey Gibson makes for a lousy one. For starters, he’s half Japanese. “I don’t feel like I’m Caucasian at all,” he says. Not to be a stickler for the rules, but this kind of talk could get you sent to Master Race remedial school.

And it gets worse. The founder of Patriot Prayer—a Vancouver, Wash.-based operation that sponsors rallies and marches promoting freedom and First Amendment rights along with all-purpose unity—also spews hippie-dippie rhetoric like “moderates have to come together” and “love and peace [are] the only way to heal this country.” Joey tends to sound less like an alt-right bully boy than a conflict-resolution facilitator or a Unitarian Sunday school teacher.

For his late August “Liberty Weekend” in the Bay Area, which was to include a free speech rally in San Francisco followed by a “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley (headed by a local “transsexual patriot”), Joey advertised that “no extremists will be allowed in. No Nazis, Communists, KKK, Antifa, white supremacists .  .  . or white nationalists.” (So much for free speech.) Likewise, the advertised docket of speakers was to include “three blacks, two Hispanics, one Asian, one Samoan, one Muslim, two women, and one white male.” If becoming a liberty movement fixture doesn’t work out for Gibson, he has a promising future as a UC Berkeley admissions officer.

Despite all this, you’d have thought from the avalanche of alarmist walk-up stories that Gibson and friends would be dancing in a “Springtime for Hitler” kick line. Donald Trump, of course, who draws frequent Hitler comparisons in some quarters, has already set nerves on edge with his nativist rhetoric, perpetually divisive style, and what’s widely perceived as his winks ’n’ nods to white nationalists. But in the wake of the recent white supremacist hoedown in Charlottesville—a cesspool of racial hatred that resulted in the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer when a Nazi fanboy drove his Dodge Challenger into her and 19 others—opportunistic leftists/Democrats have been on the prowl to paint everyone to the right of Angela Davis as a dangerous racist lunatic.

They seem to have forgotten that the far right hardly has a monopoly on political violence. Just a couple of months before Charlottesville, a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on a baseball-field full of Republican congressmen, almost killing Rep. Steve Scalise. And this, of course, has been the year of antifa, the masked anarchists in black ISIS pajamas, who advocate violence while battling “fascists,” defined loosely as anyone they don’t like (including run-of-the-mill Trump supporters).

ANTIFA coward empowered by Berkeley PD and city

Antifa have shown up at one right-leaning gathering after another this year to administer random beat-downs with everything from metal poles to bike locks to bear spray, causing multitudinous injuries and large-scale property damage. Back in February, they literally set fires on the Berkeley campus, smashing windows as they rampaged through the city streets, to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from appearing, even though the professional provocateur frequently speaks about his penchant for sex with black men, which used to count as a social-justice twofer during less polarized times.

But when it came to Joey Gibson’s Liberty Weekend, enter Nancy Pelosi, who seems to be pining for girlhood activism days, as she’s billed this “Resistance Summer.” Gibson secured a permit for his free speech rally to be held at Crissy Field, a former Army airfield next to the Golden Gate Bridge. But Pelosi loudly suggested the permit be pulled, saying the National Park Service should reflect on its “capacity to protect the public during such a toxic” event, which she termed a “white supremacist rally.” The fact that over two-thirds of the event’s scheduled speakers were minorities, that race wasn’t being discussed, and that the event was billed a “day of freedom, spirituality, unity, peace, and patriotism” didn’t seem to cut much ice with her.

No matter, Pelosi had lots of company. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote a letter to the Park Service, expressing her dismay that Crissy Field “will be used as a venue for Patriot Prayer’s incitement, hate and intimidation.” The mayors of San Francisco and Berkeley denounced the group, too. Conservative news outlets subsequently revealed that Berkeley’s mayor, Jesse Arreguin, was a Facebook member of BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), one of the antifa affinity groups that had helped trash his own city during the Milo riots. Yet this didn’t stop him from announcing that the city had printed up 20,000 “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” posters for its citizens, not in anticipation of antifa’s next vandalizing, sucker-punching Viking raid, but to put everyone on notice about the Patriot Prayer rally. Perhaps Arreguin was worried antifa would unfriend him on Facebook.

Properly whipped into an anti-racism frenzy, the Bay Area did what the Bay Area loves doing most. Or second most, after driving low-income minorities out of hopelessly expensive neighborhoods so that tech millionaires can live in them. They planned counterprotests! Lots of them. The events list ran to multiple pages.

There would be “empathy tents” and “mobile dance” counter rallies. They slated candlelight vigils and Michael Franti concerts, “anti-hate” marches and “Flowers Against Fascism.” One event was titled “Calling All Clowns”—a “call for anti-racist, anti-fascist clowns to descend upon Crissy Field to mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt-right trolls who dare show their face.” Then there was the invitation for concerned citizens to deposit “your dog poop on Crissy Field” in order to “leave a gift for our alt-right friends.” A Guardian headline-writer billed this the “Turd Reich.”

Joey, for his part, wasn’t worried about menacing clowns or dog droppings. He was worried that his rallies would come to resemble Altamont, a hellscape of dark and eruptive violence. Since rally-goers would likely be outnumbered by hecklers and antifa ninjas by about 10-to-1 in one of the most aggressively liberal enclaves in the world, Joey was growing increasingly uneasy with the security arrangements, or lack thereof, by Park Service and law-enforcement officials.

Convinced the security situation would resemble an antifa turkey shoot for his attendees, Joey canceled Liberty Weekend. I heard the news on TV during my flight. But when I landed, he told me there was no need to board a return flight home. He was still going to pop up around town, and “there will be craziness—they will still come after me.” He wasn’t kidding.

Joey and ‘Tiny’

I meet up with Joey and his ever-present sidekick, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, in front of their budget hotel on San Francisco’s Lombard Street. Joey doesn’t look so much half-Japanese as like a Latino gang-banger, in head-to-toe black (including his Patriot Prayer T-shirt), with generous arm ink. Tiny, you might have guessed, is named ironically. He’s a 6′6″, 345-lb. Samoan. His favorite food, he says, “is food.” Grabbing a bear-paw’s worth of his own flesh, he says, “I ain’t fat, I’m stab-resistant.”

We pack into a compact rental Toyota so small that the steering wheel crushes Tiny’s crotch. Joey always buys the full-insurance package, since antifa has done everything from slash his tires to douse his car in degreaser to strip the paint job. He has been punched, pepper-sprayed, hit in the head with silly-string cans, and choked (“he looked like a dolphin,” Tiny mocks, making limp flipper motions with his hands). Tiny shows me a slash wound on his arm, courtesy of an earlier antifa encounter at one of their rallies, and a gnarled bruise on the bridge of his nose, where he caught an axe-handle from a nominal ally who thought Tiny was antifa and whacked him by mistake.

All of this sounds like the Crips versus the Bloods for white people (or for Japanese and Samoans, as the case may be). Joey is fully aware of the ridiculousness. Never particularly political—he detests labels, but allows that he’s a moderate libertarian with a strong taste for freedom—Joey came to activism through anger, as most people do these days. “I’m surrounded by anger all the time, and I really struggle with that,” he says of the often unsavory people he crosses paths with, both on his side and the other. Joey himself, though, rarely loses his cool, and even in high-pressure situations appears as calm as a Zen monk.

A Washington state house-flipper who has also spent the past decade coaching high school football (he was a starting high school quarterback himself), Joey counted himself a vague Trump supporter. Like many people, he enjoyed watching someone upset the establishment. But he was radicalized after watching online the aftermath of the June 2, 2016, Trump rally in San Jose, where departing rally-goers were hunted down, egged, and beaten like dogs in the street by vicious mobs. For those who thought Trump rallies got violent—and they occasionally did, with hecklers getting decked and candidate Trump sometimes rooting on the deckers—there are hours and hours of online footage of Trump supporters catching sustained abuse from “liberals,” assuming that term any longer applies.

Joey believed that a person should be able to attend the political rally of his choice in America, or to wear a MAGA hat in a place like Portland, Ore., without worrying about getting hit in the face. So he started Patriot Prayer in 2016—it has no employees, and he takes no money from it. He began throwing rallies and marches in liberal cities on the West Coast. In the early days, his rallies had overtly pro-Trump themes. These days, mentions of Trump have mostly been scrubbed from his own rhetoric, as he knows even invoking the name can be alienating. (Plenty of those who show up at his events are ardent Trumpers, with whom he maintains an easy rapport.) Instead, his emphasis is on freedom and unity. When I ask him to distill his message, he says, “Unity, peace, love, truth—these simple things,” sounding not at all like your average Trumpkin. “People get mad when I say that, because they say that’s not good enough. They want more specifics, like ‘What’s your view on abortion?’ They want all these political messages.”

But politics, as the last several years have evidenced, are by definition divisive. They have both amped up and divided us as a people. “We have to focus on the division, first,” Joey says. “The division is allowing extremists to be involved.” He learned that lesson the hard way earlier this year when Jeremy Christian showed up in the crowd at one of his rallies in Portland, spewing hatred and Nazi talk. Joey and his cohorts were wigged out by him and showed him the door. A month later, Christian stabbed three people on a Portland commuter train, killing two of them, after they came to the defense of two girls at whom Christian was barking anti-Muslim slurs. Proving that people are never simple—especially insane ones—Christian was largely portrayed as a Trumpkin/far-right tool, although he’d written on his Facebook page: “Bernie Sanders was the President I wanted.”

Tiny, 21, also came to politics through anger. Convinced all Trumpkins were racists, “I’d drive around and beat them up,” he says nonchalantly. When he couldn’t find any to sass him back in street encounters after he’d provoked them, he’d go home and watch other Trump supporters get pounded online. “It made me happy. F‌—‌in’ racists getting beaten up,” he said. While looking for more anti-Trumpkin-violence to enjoy, he clicked one day on video from one of Joey’s rallies. “He gave a speech” about love and unity, says Tiny. “Everything he said made me confused. I thought all these f—ers were violent and racist. So I kind of had a change of heart and reached out to Joey. If I had found out about antifa before finding out about him, I’d have been antifa, too.”

Here, Joey chants a favorite antifa chant: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”

Everyone’s redeemable

Together, Joey and Tiny represent a sort of yin and yang of antifa foes. Joey doesn’t begrudge any of his comrades defending themselves if they’re attacked, which plenty, along with Tiny, lustily do. For instance, there’s Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman. Stickman gained Internet folk-hero status, along with his nickname, by breaking a wooden signpost over some antifa ninja’s head after they’d invaded a Trump rally in March in one of this year’s Battles of Berkeley. We head over to Stickman’s house just south of San Francisco for a strategy session and then again later to watch the Mayweather/McGregor fight.

Providing Krispy Kremes and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer as he chain-smokes American Spirits, Stickman, a squared-off salvage diver who looks like the fifth Baldwin brother, tells me that he faces eight years in the pen for some of his Braveheart exploits—all captured on YouTube, of course. Perhaps even worse, the judge said he’s not allowed to go anywhere near sticks, putting a crimp in the trademark. While Stickman admits he’s a “Western chauvinist” (his antifa adversaries love to portray him as a supremacist), he’s called the participants in Charlottesville “racist alt-right f—in’ Nazis.” His Asian wife and child appear while I’m there, once again complicating assumed narratives.

At Crissy Field, the originally scheduled Patriot Prayer rally site, a counterprotester, left, argues with a Patriot Prayer supporter, at right, August 26. (Photo credit: Helena Zemanek)

Tiny, a former youth pastor and now a strip-club bouncer, will proudly show you Internet footage of himself dropping an antifa combatant like a sack of wet cement when he foolishly chopped at the mighty Samoan. But he says Joey never, ever fights back. While Joey’s years on the gridiron suggest he can both take a hit and deliver one, Tiny says his strategy seems to be “making people feel badly about beating him up.” He’s never seen Joey throw a punch, no matter how much he’s assaulted. For the sometimes-violent racket that he’s in, it’s a very Gandhi/Jesus approach. I point out to the 33-year-old that he’s the same age J. C. was when He died. It seems to bother Joey for a second. “Well, my birthday is in November,” the married father of two says.

Joey admits he’s not some perfectly pure-of-heart missionary, that he’s also a bit of a provocateur. Though how provocative should it be, he wonders, to attend your own free-speech rallies in liberal enclaves in a free country without wishing to be physically attacked? Media types frequently charge that violence follows his rallies, and indeed it does. Precisely because antifa brings it. Blaming Patriot Prayer for provoking antifa into attacking them at their own events is a bit like blaming black marchers for provoking racist Alabama policemen into creasing their skulls with billy clubs for traversing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It’s both a denial of basic human freedoms and victim-blaming of the highest order.

When Joey draws antifa out to show themselves, it’s not really conservatives he’s trying to reach. Conservatives already loathe antifa, he says. Rather, Joey’s interested in appealing to good, honest middle-of-the-road liberals. He likes them and believes there are plenty of them still out there. They’re just not terribly vocal at the moment when it comes to suppressing their own extremists, who seem hellbent on suppressing everyone else. As with some of the rancid elements of the right, when the moderates are quiet, extremist voices become amplified. “I’m also trying to help conservatives understand that they have a warped perception of liberals, because the good liberals are keeping quiet.” Joey says. “You go on YouTube and see thousands of videos of social justice warriors acting like crazy Batman because that’s what gets the views. You’re not going to see a video of a normal liberal making sense, you know?”

Joey holds the door open for liberals in his freedom-loving unity movement, and some, including liberals of color, have joined. One African-American liberal I meet, Ryoga Vee, signed on after having an antifa member call him a Nazi and then try to set him on fire with a road flare when Vee attempted to attend Milo’s Berkeley speech out of curiosity. “I don’t care who you vote for,” Joey says, so long as you’re pro-freedom.

When Joey first started protesting, and was still operating with a lot of anger, he headed to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. He saw an “anarchist and his stupid little buddy” holding a “f— the police” sign. Joey snapped, and ripped the sign in half. “His buddy came up to the other guy and said, ‘You need to tell the police!’ ” (Presumably, not the same police referred to in the sign.) “But I felt bad,” he says. “People just need to express what they believe. You think if I tear his sign in half, all of the sudden he’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, you’re right. I shouldn’t say f— the police’? So I gave him 20 bucks for his sign. He was just shocked. He thought I was going to beat them up. He was like, ‘Do you want change?’ I said no. He said, ‘Thanks, man, I appreciate that.’ ”

It’s a lesson he has to learn over and over again: Treat people like they’re human, and they’ll cease merely to be one-dimensional objects of scorn. Joey tells me he used to be a bad person. After high school, he had a wild, self-destructive streak. He dropped out for a time, willingly going homeless, though he came from a decent, stable family. He tramped around for three years, backpacking everywhere from Hawaii to Mexico, camping in the woods and sponging off girlfriends. He used people. He used a lot of drugs, whatever was available. He even did a short stint in jail for breaking into a restaurant and “stealing 1,200 bucks just for the fun of it.”

But Joey came back. People helped him. He remembered who he was and got his heart straight again. Maybe because of his own time in darkness, he thinks everyone’s redeemable and anyone can be helped, including those we think are bad guys who don’t even know they need it. This is a truth that he thinks we’ve all but forgotten.

Dodging Antifa

With Patriot Prayer’s rallies canceled at the last minute, the Patriots who made it to town anyway decide to have a press conference. They slate it for Alamo Square, across from San Francisco’s Painted Ladies. But the cops, still fearing violence, fence it off before they can get there. Unable to find a secure indoor venue, the Patriots notify some reporters, tell them not to announce the particulars so that antifa doesn’t disrupt them, and have a hurried presser in a pasture at a far-flung community center down the peninsula in Pacifica.

An ethnically diverse group of Patriots address the assembled reporters. One of them, Will Johnson, announces that he is a black American and a Christian. “This is not a neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally,” he says. “I don’t know where they got that from. I actually called Nancy Pelosi’s office and asked her to change that. There’s no way I am a white supremacist.” Looking at this black man with dreads, reporters laugh, but press on anyway with skeptical questions about the Patriots being potentially violent, forgetting that the entire reason we’re in this out-of-the-way place is to stay one step ahead of antifa, whose stated goal is shutting down “white supremacists” like an African-American man saying “we’ve got to stop this fighting in America.”

When a cop informs the Patriots that their whereabouts have leaked on social media, the press conference is hastily concluded, and Joey, Tiny, and I beat it back to the Toyota. With many of the counterprotests proceeding despite Liberty Weekend being canceled, Joey wants to pop up all over the city anyway in order to have “dialogues,” reasoning that if people can just talk to him, some of their anger and fear will recede. It does and doesn’t.

We hit Crissy Field, the originally scheduled rally site. There are just a few protesters, scattered antifa, and an overwhelming police presence. Everyone is still nervous violence will go off. Whatever dialogue could occur is mostly drowned out by a screaming woman in a shirt that reads “F— you, f— you, f— you, f— you, have a nice day.” Further dialogue is obscured by an antifa member holding two eardrum-shattering horn sirens. The cops hustle us off, suggesting we have to leave, as though the Patriots are the disturbers of the peace. On the way out of the park, another group of Patriots get their car stoned by antifa.

We stop by a restaurant, where I see a multi-generational family sitting. They are clearly protesters, as one has a “Stop Trump/Pence Fascist Regime” sign sticking out of a stroller. Another wears a Cuban revolutionary hat. Two have “Indivisible” T-shirts on. A gray-haired woman literally has flowers in her hair. I walk over to their table and ask if they’d like to meet the man they are protesting, who is sitting at the bar, nursing a Patrón while Tiny has a Sprite. Their faces grow pinched. They look uneasy. “No, thank you,” one of them says sternly. “Have a nice day.”

Afterwards, we walk down to Civic Center, where an all-day protest wrapped up about 30 minutes earlier. Joey’s presence there causes an immediate stir among the stragglers. A panicked woman in a “Resist” shirt closes a security gate, as though he might crash the stage and boost the sound system. She films him with her iPhone, as though Joey’s a dangerous wild animal she spotted on safari.

Others end up forming a circle around him, with spirited exchanges taking place as bike cops press in on all sides. A demented Indian guy wants Joey to reclaim the symbol of the swastika, which the Nazis appropriated from his people. “That’s your battle,” Joey says. There’s a Black Panther who wants to kick Stickman’s ass for allegedly pepper-spraying him at a rally, and he’s hoping Joey will give him his address. Joey won’t, but the Panther says he respects him anyway for coming down and facing the people. There’s a huffy white beardo in a rainbow “Orlando” shirt who keeps interrupting Joey accusatorily, while trying to give the floor to people of color, who he deems worthy of listening to. A masked-up antifa blasts a horn siren a foot away from Joey’s ear for a good 10 minutes, while a man dressed in a Super Girl costume, complete with red boots and cape, yells at him to stop.

A forceful black surgical nurse who calls herself a liberal ends up fiercely defending Joey and Tiny against all comers, turning the tables on liberal hypocrisy. “They’re so progressive, but they go home in their BMWs back to Glen Park, where they don’t have to walk through Tenderloin shit.” She shames people for slandering these black men as white supremacists when “we’re missing one vital element, which is whiteness.” Joey sheepishly points out that he’s not black, he’s Japanese. “You’re a person of color,” the woman barks. “I’ll take that,” he says.

The exchanges last for an hour. Though Joey stays serene throughout, the conversation rages around him like a whirlwind. It is raucous and rude but occasionally affirming and generous. It’s untidy, but there’s something beautiful about it, as there often is when people just stand in front of each other and interact, instead of regarding each other from a distance with mutual suspicion. Close your eyes and shut off the antifa horn siren, and free speech can sound a lot like music.

Mayhem in the park

The next day in Berkeley, a different tune is played. A small band of Patriots decide to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where the “No to Marxism” rally was to be held. It has now been appropriated by thousands of impromptu protesters. The Patriots will make a stand for free speech, without actually expecting to be able to talk. I ask Joey what the objective is today. “Not dying,” he says.

From the jump, it’s a goat rodeo. Our four-car caravan gets separated coming out of the hotel parking lot. When the Patriots try to rendezvous, their radios aren’t working. “Why do we need radios?” wonders Joey. “Couldn’t we just use phones like everyone else? The veterans like to have their fun.” When we get to Berkeley, nobody can find parking near each other, while staying 10 or so blocks away from the action in order to protect the cars. As the ex-military types among them seem to take a half an hour to kit up (pads, tear-gas goggles, GoPro cameras, etc.), Joey and I both have to take a leak. We do so stealthily in a nearby park. Joey doesn’t want to get caught on camera literally pissing on Berkeley. Bad optics.

While the preparations continue, I grow impatient. “Let’s go! This is Berkeley, not Somalia,” I say. Joey agrees and isn’t sure it’s wise to come in with a large contingent anyway. It makes it look like you’re spoiling for combat, and fighting is not his intention. So he stalks off towards the demonstration with me, Tiny (now in goggles and football shoulder pads), and a political rapper who plays Patriots events named Pete V, aka Political Muscle. Pete looks like a pirate with a stars’n’stripes do-rag, which in these parts doubles as a bull’s-eye on your head.

On the walk up to the square, Joey’s several paces ahead, seemingly in another zone, not even noticing the protester in the “Nasty Woman” shirt who starts filming him, as though she’s doing surveillance. After all the hype, he is now so infamous in Berkeley his face is instantly recognizable, and people act like it’s Jesse James walking into a bank. They elbow each other, scandalized.

From the moment we hit the square, the “Nazi” catcalls start. Whatever’s happening on the stage seems to cease to exist, and the energy around us turns very dark, very fast. Joey, Tiny, and Pete start walking with greater purpose, on the balls of their feet, almost like fighters entering a ring or Christians entering the Coliseum, except instead of facing one lion, they’re facing thousands. As the chants rain down (“Nazis are here! .  .  . F— you! .  .  . F—ing fascists!”), we near the stage thinking we might find some kind of buffer zone, since the police knew that some of Joey’s original rally-goers would show up. But there isn’t one. Our progress is halted when we run up into a small clearing snug up against a barrier. And behind that barrier, near the park’s “Peace Wall,” is a wall of human blackness.

A hundred or so masked-up antifa ninjas and affiliated protesters seem to simultaneously turn. It looks like we’ve interrupted al Qaeda tryouts. Joey, Tiny, and Pete all raise their hands high in the air, and flash peace signs, a conciliatory gesture. But nobody here wants peace. Not with fascists on the scene. As Joey nears the barrier, one of the ninjas swings and misses. Then the barrier topples, and they pour over, chanting, “Fascists go home!”

As I’m reading the action into my recorder, antifa slides around me on all sides, nearly carrying me off like a breaking wave. The boys are about 20 yards off and walk backwards. Pete catches a shot right on his stars’n’stripes dome from a two-by-four and goes down, blacking out for a second. Tiny, trying to protect everybody, pulls him up with his massive Samoan hand and pushes him out of the scrum. The mob ignores Pete, as he’s just an appetizer. Joey is the entree.

First he catches a slap in the head, then someone gashes him with something in his ribs. He keeps his hands up, as though that will save him, while he keeps getting dragged backwards by his shirt, Tiny trying to pull him away from the bloodthirsty ninjas. Someone crashes a flagpole smack on Joey’s head, which will leave a welt so big that Tiny later calls him “the Unicorn.” Not wishing to turn his back on the crowd, a half-speed backwards chase ensues, as Joey and Tiny are blasted with shots of bear spray and pepper spray. They hurdle a jersey barrier, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way while antifa continue throwing bottles at them. The mob stalks Joey and Tiny all the way to an Alameda County police line, which the two bull their way through, though the cops initially look like they’re going to play Red Rover and keep them out. No arrests are made. Except for Joey and Tiny, who are cuffed.

A crack reporter for the Los Angeles Times will later write that they were arrested for charging the police, which couldn’t be less true. A Berkeley cop tells me they were arrested for their own safety (and weren’t charged). When I catch up and reach the police line, the cops won’t let me past to follow my subjects. My reportorial dispassion has worn thin. I yell at the police for doing nothing, for standing by while two men could’ve been killed. One cop tells me there’s a thin line between solving one problem and being the cause of more, as though they’re afraid to offend antifa. I am sick at what I just witnessed. Angry, even. I wheel around on some protesters, asking them if they think it’s right to beat people down in the street. “Hell yeah,” says one. I ask them to cite anything Joey has said that offends them, as though being offended justifies this. A coward in a black mask says: “They’re f—ing Nazis. There’s nothing they have to say to offend us.”

All around me, good non-antifa liberals go about their business, pretending none of this has happened, carrying “Stand Against Hate” signs. There’s the sound truck with preachers in clerical garb, leading a “Whose streets/our streets” chant. There’s the gray-haired interdenominational “Choral Majority” singing peace songs: “There’s no hatred in my land / Where I’m bound.” I want to vomit on the Berkeley Peace Wall.

Brown Hispanic “white supremacist” attacked by ANTIFA Commie JINO Brats

I’m made even more sick when I look down the road and see a punching, kicking mob form a circle around a new victim. By the time I roll up on them, an older man in camo-wear spits out from the maelstrom. As he runs to safety, an antifa thug runs up behind him, sucker-punching him as hard as he can in the back. I will go home that night and watch several more cold-blooded beatdowns on YouTube that I didn’t personally witness.

A squad car rolls up on the mob, but the black masks block it. The cop throws his car into slow reverse, inching backwards, as if to say “please don’t hurt me,” while an antifa member yells “F— you, pig!” Finally, I start hearing whistling smoke grenades fired by the otherwise useless police, dispersing the crowd. I watch antifa retreat in every direction, some jumping fences and cutting through residential yards. As I run down the street, getting out of range, I’m joined by a middle-aged man I saw witnessing what I just witnessed, filming it on his phone.

His name is Bobby Hutton, or at least that’s the name he gives me. He’s not antifa. He looks and talks like a surfer dude, with long hair and aviator shades, and identifies himself as a political activist. He’s smiling, seemingly entertained by the spectacle. I ask him how he can smile, as if what we’ve just witnessed is all okay. “It’s politics,” he says, shrugging. “Politics is in the street. Always has been, and always will be.” I tell him I’m profiling Joey. “Oh, that’s fun,” he says. I add that I haven’t heard one disturbing, racist thing come out of Joey’s mouth. “I’m familiar with Joey’s presence,” Hutton says. “And you’re right that he stays on this side of white supremacy. But he’s a shit disturber. And if you wanna disturb shit, Berkeley’s always been a good place for that. There aren’t a lot of places in America where you can get this kind of opposition, and Joey knows that. Which is why Joey’s here.”

Hutton claims antifa has “legitimate political beliefs.” I tell him beating people down in the street to suppress their speech doesn’t sound very legitimate or American to me, and that eventually, if this nonsense continues, somebody’s going to get killed, just as someone was in Charlottesville. Violence, he says, still smiling, is “as American as apple pie. Berkeley pie.”

“You can’t like this,” I tell him.

“If you like the horseshoe theory of American politics,” he rejoins, “the far right and the far left are closer than either believe.”

‘We can’t just shut up’

My phone rings, showing Joey’s number, but it’s Tiny, telling me Joey’s been taken to the hospital. Tiny’s about to be released from police custody. He’ll pick me up on a side street behind the station, so as not to attract more antifa attention. When I get into the Toyota, I suggest that Tiny maybe ought to change out of his American flag shirt if he wants to be stealthy. A red-white-and-blue 6′6″ Samoan doesn’t exactly whisper, “Ignore me.” But Tiny is obstinate: “They wanna rip off this shirt? Kill me. Because it ain’t comin’ off.”

We head to the hospital. Joey is discharged, wearing doctor scrubs and socks, holding his clothes and shoes in a plastic bag, completely saturated with bear and pepper spray. They had to scrub him down in the shower for an hour to get it off, his skin burning all the while. I’ve taken the wheel of the Toyota, with Tiny sleeping in the cramped back seat after injuring his ribs. He insists they’re not broken, but his forehead is clammy, and he’s cold sweating.

 

Tiny and Joey, post-release. (Photo credit: Helena Zemanek)

I tell my battle-weary subjects I’ll treat them to dinner and drinks after their ordeal, but we’re getting the hell out of Berkeley, as I honestly don’t trust that they won’t be attacked again, here in the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, if somebody spots them. As we drive over the San Mateo Bridge, I ask Joey how he feels about what happened today. “I’m starting to love this town,” he deadpans. “It’s starting to be my playground.”

Then he gets serious. “We can’t just shut up, just be quiet, and let this evil continue. The darkness continues to get bigger and bigger in our country, and it will be gone. The country will burn, I’m telling you, if we don’t do things to stand up against it. We all take it for granted. We take for granted everything that we have. That’s why we have to wake up and understand. Goddamn, we have too much to lose.” His eyes well as he takes a long pause, looking out on the shimmering San Francisco Bay. “We can’t stand by, we’ve gotta stand up. And we’ve got to do it together, or it’s gonna be gone.”

COMMENTS (294)

CNN LIARS’ CLUB – BIG LOSERS

CNN war with Trump gets personal
thehill.com

President Trump’s war with CNN took an even more personal turn on Tuesday after the White House used its press briefing to tout a hidden camera video calling the cable news network’s coverage of the Russia controversy “bullshit.”

The undercover video from conservative sting artist James O’Keefe showed a CNN producer questioning the network’s coverage and suggesting important stories had been buried to keep the focus on Trump and Russia.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged viewers to watch the O’Keefe video, calling it “a disgrace to all of media, all of journalism.”
She also took a dig at CNN President Jeff Zucker, saying the sensationalism and disregard for facts was “coming directly from the top.”

CNN is standing by the producer, John Bonifield, who covers health and medicine from the network’s headquarters in Atlanta. In a statement, the network said “diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong.”

“We welcome it and embrace it,” a spokesperson told The Hill.

A CNN source told The Hill that the tempest over the video will pass, saying it was recorded after an undercover conservative operative approached Bonifield claiming to have had a history of personal hardships and asking to be taken in to a mentoring program.

“It’s silly, it’s been spun up as something it’s not,” the CNN source said. “He’s a health unit producer in Atlanta. He has nothing to do with Washington politics or the investigative unit.”

The video appeared at a difficult moment for CNN, however, which was just forced to retract a story alleging that one of Trump’s associates had improper dealings with a Kremlin-backed bank. The episode led three of CNN’s reporters to resign and reinforced the notion among many conservatives that the network is hell-bent on taking Trump down.

On a Tuesday morning conference call with CNN officials, Zucker stressed that the network has to “play error-free ball” going forward, as all their mistakes will be magnified.

“He’s been saying it for months, it’s just unfortunate because there is no more room for mess-ups,” a second source at CNN told The Hill.

The feud between Trump and CNN, smoldering for years, had already intensified before the firings and O’Keefe video.

It pits against one another two men with a long history: Zucker was the head of NBC when Trump hosted his hit reality show “The Apprentice.”

Conservative media outlets such as Breitbart News are now agitating for Zucker’s removal, while Trump let the insults fly on Tuesday.

“Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories,” Trump tweeted. “Ratings way down!”

“CNN just posted it’s most-watched second quarter in history,” the network’s communications department shot back. “Those are the facts.”

According to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings, released on Tuesday, CNN is up 10 percent year-over-year in prime time and 25 percent overall. It is running third overall in the cable wars, behind Fox News but also MSNBC, the openly liberal outlet that has seen a dramatic 86 percent spike in prime-time ratings.

The new round of controversy has rekindled a briefly dormant cable news war between Fox News and CNN, with top talent from both outlets basking in the failings of the other.

Last week, CNN anchor John King likened Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” to “state TV.”

This week, Fox News anchors Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are flooding the airwaves with coverage of CNN’s controversies, returning the favor after CNN leaned into reporting of former Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly, who left the network amid a slew of sexual harassment allegations.

“Hey CNN, when will you fire Zucker?” Hannity tweeted. “He has destroyed the network with lies and VERY FAKE NEWS.”

CNN has been registering small acts of protest against the administration by focusing on Trump’s treatment of the press, with chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta leading the charge in demanding more on-camera briefings.

The network sent a courtroom sketch artist to do a rendering of White House press secretary Sean Spicer at an off-camera briefing last week. Spicer has repeatedly ignored questions from Acosta and chided him in a tense off-camera exchange on Monday.

“There’s no camera on, Jim,” Spicer said as Acosta shouted questions at him.

CNN has displayed chyrons at the bottom of the screen accusing the president of lying and is airing a television ad with footage of anchors lecturing White House officials and musing about Trump being impeached. Earlier this year, CNN refused to run a Trump campaign ad because it cast the mainstream media as “fake news.”

The network has absorbed withering criticism from the right for its relentless focus on Russia and overwhelmingly negative coverage of Trump. A Harvard study found that CNN’s coverage of Trump was negative 93 percent of the time over the course of his first 100 days in office.

CNN has also taken a hit from other controversies; it cut ties with comedian Kathy Griffin for taking a photo with a fake severed head meant to look like Trump. CNN also canceled a series with documentary maker Reza Aslan after he cursed at the president over Twitter.

CNN also recently had to walk back a report authored by its top network talent, including anchor Jake Tapper and political analyst Gloria Borger, stating that former FBI Director James Comey would refute Trump’s claims that he was not the target of an investigation.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey confirmed that he told Trump three times that he was not the target of an investigation.

“I think this is the day when the left rues ever coming up with the phrase ‘fake news,’ because now we have the evidence,” Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka said Tuesday on a Breitbart podcast. “We have the consequences of systematic generation of fake news happening at the epicenter of one of the places that was producing the most of it.”

The CNN source responded: “They’ve made it fairly clear they view this as a war. We view it as determination to seek truth and hold the powerful accountable regardless of how difficult they try to make it.”

BRAIN-COMPROMISED JOURNALISTS

Journalists drink too much, are bad at managing emotions, and operate at a lower level than average, according to a new study
www.businessinsider.com
Journalists also are apparently good at managing the stresses that come with their jobs. UNClimateChange / Flickr

Journalists’ brains show a lower-than-average level of executive functioning, according to a new study, which means they have a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking.

The study, led by Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and leadership coach, analysed 40 journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcast, and online platforms over seven months. The participants took part in tests related to their lifestyle, health, and behaviour.

It was launched in association with the London Press Club, and the objective was to determine how journalists can thrive under stress.

Each subject completed a blood test, wore a heart-rate monitor for three days, kept a food and drink diary for a week, and completed a brain profile questionnaire.

The results showed that journalists’ brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, particularly because of dehydration and the tendency of journalists to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and high-sugar foods.

Forty-one percent of the subjects said they drank 18 or more units of alcohol a week, which is four units above the recommended weekly allowance. Less than 5% drank the recommended amount of water.

However, in interviews conducted in conjunction with the brain profile results, the participants indicated they felt their jobs had a lot of meaning and purpose, and they showed high mental resilience. Swart suggested this gave them an advantage over people in other professions in dealing with the work pressure of tight deadlines.

Journalists scored pretty high on:

Abstraction, the ability to deal with ideas rather than events. It’s related to the part of the brain where the most sophisticated problem-solving takes place. In other words, it highlights the ability to think outside the box and make connections where others might not see them.
Value tagging, the ability to assign values to different sensory cues, such as whether something is a priority or has meaning. Scoring highly in this area indicates a good ability to sift through information and pick out what’s important.
Journalists scored lower on:

Executive function. As well as the traits mentioned above, low scores for executive function also suggest poor sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. Many participants reported they had no time for breaks while working.
Silencing the mind, which is related to the ability to have thoughts without getting distracted by them, or a powerful ability to focus. Low scores indicate the opposite, suggesting journalists have a hard time preventing themselves from worrying about the future or regretting the past.
Compared with bankers, traders, or salespeople, journalists showed that they were more able to cope with pressure. Traits that make journalism a stressful profession are deadlines, accountability to the public, unpredictable and heavy workloads, public scrutiny, repercussions on social media, and lower pay.

The results, however, showed that the journalists were on average no more physically stressed than the average person. The blood tests showed that their levels of cortisol — known as the stress hormone — were mostly normal.

“The headline conclusion reached is that journalists are undoubtedly subject to a range of pressures at work and home, but the meaning and purpose they attribute to their work contributes to helping them remain mentally resilient despite this,” the study says. “Nevertheless, there are areas for improvement, including drinking more water and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption to increase executive functioning and improve recovery during sleep.”

NOW WATCH: Before starting her own company, this 26-year-old told Google she’ll quit in 2 years before taking the job Loading video…
COMMENT

Berkeley cops sit in patrol car as Trump supporters attacked –
www.theamericanmirror.com
There were numerous reports from those on the scene that Berkeley police largely stayed back as Antifa agitators took pot shots at Donald Trump supporters on Saturday.

“As the violence escalated police in Berkeley stood down and retreated from the crowds,” reporter Tim Pool tweeted.

As the violence escalated police in Berkeley stood down and retreated from the crowds. I have never seen so few police at an event like this

— Tim Pool (@Timcast) April 16, 2017

“I have never seen so few police at an event like this.”

One observer claimed police “ran away,” despite several Trump rally attendees being attacked.

Literally blood on the streets and the police ran away from the #BerkeleyProtest live now on twitter pic.twitter.com/XRbh8hhMB5

— Luke Rudkowski (@Lukewearechange) April 15, 2017

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer saw two officers at a patrol car, not engaged in protecting citizens from violence.

I tell a police officer I’ve been seeing people get beat up all day and they haven’t been around. “Okay, and?” he says. pic.twitter.com/OuGEcvvb8R

— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) April 15, 2017

“Hey, how come you guys are hanging back?” he asked an officer standing in an open door of the car and another sat in the back seat.

“That would be a question for the chief of police,” an officer sitting in the driver’s seat responded.

“You want a public statement, right?” the standing officer asked the reporter.

“I would refer you to our public information officer.”

“Do they told you to hang back?” Bauer said.

“As I said, I refer you to our public information officer,” the cop responded.

“I’ve been watching all day people get beat up pretty bad and I haven’t seen you guys around much,” Bauer said.

“Okay, and?” the officer responded.

Numerous videos show Trump supporters being beaten in the streets as police failed to keep the two sides apart.

Breakouts in Berkeley California #berkrally on #PatriotsDay Trump supporters Vs AntiFapic.twitter.com/FZZtZ7qG30

At one point, several black-clad agitators isolated a lone Trump supporter and pummeled him with fists and feet.

Someone jumped in and clubbed him with a skateboard.

Here’s an aerial angle:

Absolutely chaotic scenes in Berkeley where pro- & anti-Trump protesters are clashing. @BuzzFeedNews also on scene: https://t.co/GHfElQPq6U pic.twitter.com/XX5mR0s7LC

— David Mack (@davidmackau) April 15, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEMS ASSAULT THE 1st AMENDMENT

New York Assemblyman Unveils Bill To Suppress Non-Government-Approved Free Speech
www.zerohedge.com

In a bill aimed at securing a “right to be forgotten,” introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and (as Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella), liberal New York politicians would require people to remove ‘inaccurate,’ ‘irrelevant,’ ‘inadequate’ or ‘excessive’ statements about others…

Within 30 days of a ”request from an individual,”
“all search engines and online speakers] shall remove … content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is ‘inaccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’ or ‘excessive,’ ”
“and without replacing such removed … content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice.”
“ ‘[I]naccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’, or ‘excessive’ shall mean content,”
“which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication,”
“is no longer material to current public debate or discourse,”
“especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information … is causing to the requester’s professional, financial, reputational or other interest,”
“with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester’s role with regard to the matter is central and substantial.”
Failure to comply would make the search engines or speakers liable for, at least, statutory damages of $250/day plus attorney fees.

As The Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh rages, under this bill, newspapers, scholarly works, copies of books on Google Books and Amazon, online encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others) — all would have to be censored whenever a judge and jury found (or the author expected them to find) that the speech was “no longer material to current public debate or discourse” (except when it was “related to convicted felonies” or “legal matters relating to violence” in which the subject played a “central and substantial” role).

And of course the bill contains no exception even for material of genuine historical interest; after all, such speech would have to be removed if it was “no longer material to current public debate.” Nor is there an exception for autobiographic material, whether in a book, on a blog or anywhere else. Nor is there an exception for political figures, prominent businesspeople and others.

But the deeper problem with the bill is simply that it aims to censor what people say, under a broad, vague test based on what the government thinks the public should or shouldn’t be discussing. It is clearly unconstitutional under current First Amendment law, and I hope First Amendment law will stay that way (no matter what rules other countries might have adopted).

Remember: There is no “right to be forgotten” in the abstract; no law can ensure that, and no law can be limited to that. Instead, the “right” this aims to protect is the power to suppress speech — the power to force people (on pain of financial ruin) to stop talking about other people, when some government body decides that they should stop.