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What We’re Watching: US mail-in vote drama, Argentina protests, Facebook allows hate speech in India

What We’re Watching: US mail-in vote drama, Argentina protests, Facebook allows hate speech in India

US mail-in vote mess: US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agreed Tuesday to delay until after the November election a series of long-planned cost-cutting measures that would hamper states' efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the drama doesn't end there. President Donald Trump — who often claims (without evidence) that voting by mail will lead to a fraudulent election result — last week suggested he's happy to starve the US Postal Service of $25 billion in additional funding that Democrats have proposed in order to ensure ballots are delivered in time to meet state deadlines for ballot counting. That, along with the fact that DeJoy is a Trump donor, makes many Democrats fear that the president is indeed trying to rig the election by suppressing mail-in voting (although traditionally Republicans vote more by mail than Democrats). Over a dozen US states plan to sue both Trump and DeJoy, who the plaintiffs claim are conspiring to slow down election mail to favor Trump's reelection chances. Stay tuned for next week, when DeJoy is scheduled to appear before Congress to discuss the controversy.


Facebook's India double standard: The social media giant looked the other way as a prominent politician in India used his accounts to spew hate speech and incite violence against the country's Muslim minority, according to a Wall Street Journal report [paywall]. Facebook employees in India say they flagged the account of T. Raja Singh — who is a member of the ruling BJP party — for violating company policies when he called for the execution of Muslims and the destruction of mosques. But Facebook's top policy executive in India refused to ban the account, the report says, because of concerns about hurting the company's business in one of its largest markets. This isn't the first time Facebook has been in the spotlight in India — the company struggled to deal with disinformation ahead of last year's election. But with communal violence rising in the world's most populous democracy, story highlights the difficult tradeoffs that social media platforms like Facebook face as they try to balance their obligation to quash hate speech against their obligation to maximize profits. Ball's in your court, Mark.

Argentinians demand end to lockdown: Thousands of Argentinians have taken to the streets of Buenos Aires and other major cities to rail against President Alberto Fernández's plan to extend stay-at-home rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Defying stringent social distancing rules, the protesters also complained about the government's controversial judicial reforms, which the opposition views as an attempt to manipulate the system by creating new courts and diluting the power of existing ones. (Some point out that the reforms are coming right as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the former president and now vice president, faces several pending charges for corruption). While it's no surprise that much of the crowd was made up of upper- and middle-class Argentines who aren't natural Fernandez voters anyway, there is evidence that the popularity of the president — who was initially praised for his better-than-expected handling of the pandemic — is now taking a hit due to fatigue with the lockdown and two years of economic recession.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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10: Violent protests against new coronavirus restrictions have erupted in at least 10 regions in the Netherlands, which recently imposed the country's first nationwide curfew since World War Two. Protesters clashed with police and looted stores — and police say that a far-right anti-immigrant group has taken advantage of the discontent to exacerbate tensions.

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One result of the law enforcement crackdown on pro-Trump Capitol rioters following the events of January 6 is that many right-wing extremists have left public social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for encrypted apps like Telegram and Signal. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher isn't all that concerned. "The white supremacist stuff, it's like mold. They thrived in the light, actually." Now that these groups no longer have such public platforms, their recruiting power, Swisher argues, will be greatly diminished. Plus, she points out, they were already on those encrypted apps to begin with. Swisher's conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no doubt that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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