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President Trump brings his attacks on the free press to the world stage at Davos. Republican senator and right-wing websites seed the notion of an anti-Trump “secret society” at the FBI before the context-free tweet is revealed as a joke. The White House asks The Guggenheim to borrow a Van Gogh but gets offered “America,” a work from its collection in the form of golden toilet. Justice Department sides in court filing with conservative groups suing Berkeley over alleged hurdles for events with right-leaning campus speakers. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

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

U.S.

Donald Trump booed at Davos after attacking ‘nasty, mean, fake’ press
“It wasn’t until I became a politician, that I realised how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be,” Mr Trump said. Pointing into the crowd, he added: “. . . as the cameras start going off in the back.” The comment was met by a mixture of boos and laughter from the audience.
INDEPENDENT

The full ‘secret society’ text between FBI agents: Was it meant in jest?
A number of Republican lawmakers have suggested that a months-old text message between two FBI officials reveals a “secret society” clandestinely plotting against President Donald Trump. Republican lawmakers pounced on the messages as evidence that the FBI and special counsel probes were propelled by political bias.
ABC NEWS

Guggenheim Offered Trumps Used Gold Toilet After Van Gogh Request
Curator Nancy Spector, who made the offer, wrote on the Guggenheim blog that Trump’s term has been “marked by scandal and defined by the deliberate rollback of countless civil liberties, in addition to climate change denial that puts our planet in peril.” The toilet has been seen as a comment on exorbitant wealth in the country.
NBC

Justice Dept. sides with conservative groups in free-speech lawsuit against Berkeley
In a court filing, Justice Department lawyers said the groups had properly pleaded that Berkeley violated their First Amendment rights, and the government was getting involved in the case because it “has a significant interest in the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms in institutions of higher learning.”
WASHINGTON POST

 
Global

A Lavish Bollywood Musical Is Fueling A Culture War In India
Historian Sunil Khilnani says, more than a victory for freedom of expression, Padmaavat’s release on the eve of India’s Republic Day is a kind of “narrow escape” for freedom of expression in India. He says, “The important thing to remember here is the many other works which don’t get this attention and which do get suppressed.”
NPR

Hundreds protest Morocco trial of journalists
“Freedom of expression is a red line,” activists chanted outside the courthouse in the capital Rabat. The journalists stand accused of publishing excerpts of a parliamentary commission’s debates over a huge deficit at the national pension fund. “We’re being prosecuted for publishing accurate information,” defendant Abdelhak Belachgar said.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Russians got tens of thousands of Americans to RSVP for their phony political events on Facebook
“Not only did they influence how people viewed Russian policy, they got people to take physical action. That’s unprecedented,” said Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent who studies Russian disinformation for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “They just did it persistently, and they did it well.”
WASHINGTON POST

China’s Bytedance seals BuzzFeed tie-up amid online content crackdown
Popular Chinese news portal Toutiao will now distribute Buzzfeed content to local readers, a rare tie-up that will test China’s tight rules on online content and its strict censorship machine. Toutiao said it was recruiting an additional 2,000 censors to add to its team of “content auditors,” whose main job is reviewing and censoring content.
REUTERS

Why This Czech Election Is A Verdict On Fake News
The Czech Republic is no stranger to fake news. But these elections have released a new wave of disinformation, as the pro-Russian incumbent, President Milos Zeman, fights off a determined challenge from pro-Western liberal Jiri Drahos, who has been accused online of being a pedophile and a Communist-era secret police informer.
CODA

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