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President Trump revises vision for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, shifting from nation-building to addressing terrorism (but has yet to provide policy details.) Jeffrey Lord, pro-Trump commentator fired from CNN, is in talks to join Breitbart. Gawker lawsuit sets concerning precedent for media and entertainment companies. Tech companies and social media platforms continue to censor content and activity by extremist groups, based on their own user policies. A participant in the counter-protests in Charlottesville chronicles how his Twitter post about the fatal violence became fodder for fake news and conspiracy theories. -Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator.

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


Trump announces new strategy for Afghanistan that calls for a troop increase
Trump’s decision to further commit to the nation’s longest war reflects a significant shift in his approach to Afghanistan, and marks a willingness to take ownership of a conflict that he had long dismissed as a waste of time and resources. But he provided few specifics about his policy, and how much military commitment in the region would increase as a result.

Jeffrey Lord, Fired Pro-Trump CNN Figure, in Talks With Breitbart
Should it materialize, Lord’s move to Breitbart would come amid a period of transition for the site. Steve Bannon has pledged to further weaponize Breitbart as a vehicle for right-wing populist-nationalist politics—and against that movement’s political foes, including the perceived enemies working in Trump’s administration.

Media Companies Just Got More Bad News in Gawker Bankruptcy
For many in the media, a billionaire secretly funding litigation that brought down Gawker.com was bad enough, though some observers pointed out that the verdict didn’t create much legal precedent. On Monday, that might have changed with an opinion from a New York bankruptcy judge that could make it easier to sue media and entertainment companies.

The Internet’s “Nazi Purge” Shows Who Really Controls Our Online Speech
Social media platforms have been making hard decisions about hate speech for a long time, but aren’t always transparent about how their rules are enforced or how much content is removed. You might not worry about companies censoring Nazis, but Silicon Valley being the judge and jury might not be the best solution.

How I Became Fake News
On Saturday, Brennan Gilmore witnessed the violence in Charlottesville. He shared footage with police, and after much deliberation, on Twitter. Within 24 hours he was giving interviews on major American news networks. Then came the flurry of attention from neo-Nazis online, targeting Gilmore and his family with hate mail and death threats, and concocting counter-narratives and conspiracy theories.

After Charlottesville Violence, Colleges Brace for More Clashes
Until recently, most colleges’ protest protocols were suited to the activism of the 1990s. Demonstrations over apartheid, abortion rights, or sexual assault rarely became violent; students marched and shouted, then went home. That was before the rise of the alt-right and the response by anti-fascist groups, as well as the use of social media to draw outside demonstrators.


Missing Widow of China’s Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, Surfaces in Video *PEN Case List
Poet Liu Xia has resurfaced for the first time since Liu Xiaobo’s death in a brief online video pleading for privacy and time to recover from her grief. But many of her supporters said the video appeared to have been made by Chinese security authorities who have kept her under secretive guard, cut off from family and friends.

U.S. halts visas for Russians, deepening a diplomatic spat
The latest U.S. sanctions, enacted three weeks ago, may not put a dent in President Vladi­mir Putin’s popularity at home or affect his policies beyond Russia’s borders. But they may have escalated a Cold War-style spiral of moves and countermoves that could keep U.S.-Russian relations in a deep freeze for years.

Russian theatre director Serebrennikov held in fraud case
Outspoken theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov has been detained by Russia’s investigative committee on suspicion of fraud. Serebrennikov is a vocal critic of censorship in the arts in Russia. The case has shaken Russia’s arts world, where people fear it is a move meant to silence Serebrennikov.

Chinese activist Jiang Tianyong’s subversion trial dismissed as sham
Jiang Tianyong was put on trial on Tuesday morning, having vanished into the custody of security services last November during a crackdown on lawyers described as China’s “war on law.” Government-controlled media claimed Jiang, whose past clients include the exiled dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng, had confessed to “inciting subversion of state power.”

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