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Facebook struggles to find enough local news to include in ‘Today In,’ amid spreading news deserts and shuttering media outlets across the country. Facing unprecedented volume of video sharing of the New Zealand shooting, platforms disabled search functions and used other mechanisms in struggles to halt proliferation of the video. American intelligence group details wide scope of Saudi campaign to crush national dissent, over at least a year leading up to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and including the detention and torture of Saudi women activists. (PEN America is awarding the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to three of these imprisoned Saudi women. See more about the Award and our advocacy in the Khashoggi investigation.) Writer Wajahat Ali pens op-ed in support of PEN America’s lawsuit against the president for his unconstitutional threats and retaliation against the media. (See more about our lawsuit here.) -Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs

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


Facebook Enters the News Desert Battle, Trying to Find Enough Local News for Its ‘Today In’ Feature
Sometimes there simply isn’t enough local news to serve up ‘Today In’ in a meaningful way: 35 percent of users in the Midwest, Northeast, and South—and 26 percent in the West—live in places where where users can’t find much local news on Facebook.

Inside YouTube’s Struggles to Shut down Video of the New Zealand Shooting—and the Humans Who Outsmarted Its Systems
The team worked through the night, trying to identify and remove tens of thousands of videos—many repackaged or recut versions of the original footage that showed the horrific murders. As soon as the group took down one, another would appear, as quickly as one per second in the hours after the shooting.

If You’re Running for President, You Should Be Talking to Journalists
“Virtually all presidential candidates—and plenty of congressional candidates, too—regularly treat journalists as vermin to dodge and mislead. This is as true of Democrats as it is Republicans. … This disdain for journalists is increasingly common in the very people who have always needed our coverage to reach voters.”

Opinion: Trump’s Media Attacks Are an Abuse of Power. We’re Holding Him to Account
“When an administration blatantly fails to protect a free press and instead willfully and maliciously abuses its power to threaten writers, journalists, and critics, then it’s imperative for the rest of us to band together, rise up, and fight back using facts, our words, and the rule of law.”


Saudi Crown Prince’s Brutal Drive to Crush Dissenters Began Before Khashoggi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters—which included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention, and torture of Saudi citizens—over a year before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Professor Sings at Indonesia Rally. He Faces 4 Years in Jail for Defaming Army.
A professor, Robertus Robet, sang an old anti-army song at a rally outside the state palace in central Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. After a video of his performance appeared online, the police arrested him this month for insulting a state institution.

Under Vietnam’s New Cybersecurity Law, U.S. Tech Giants Face Stricter Censorship
The law will not only compel companies such as Google and Facebook to remove content that the government deems offensive but also to store data inside Vietnam. Additionally, they must set up offices in the country, something they are reluctant to do for fear of exposing staff to official pressure or even arrest.

Protesters Rally Outside Serbia President’s Residence, Police Use Pepper Spray
Thousands of anti-government protesters staged a rally outside President Aleksandar Vucic’s residence on Sunday to press their demands for greater media freedom and free and fair elections, a day after they briefly broke into the state television building.

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