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The New York Times outlines how purchased fake followers on Twitter up their owners’ influence in the public dialogue and drown out other voices. The National Gallery of Art postpones exhibition after allegations of sexual harassment against the artist Chuck Close, surfacing more questions about how creative work should be regarded when its creator is accused of such conduct. Mainstream conservatives sound alarm at Fox News’ role in perpetuating unproven claims about “deep state actors” and undermining institutions such as the FBI in misinformation campaigns intent on spinning public confusion. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

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


The Follower Factory
As tech companies are grappling with an epidemic of political manipulation and fake news, fake followers also serve as phantom foot soldiers in political battles online. Devumi’s customers include both supporters and critics of President Trump, liberal cable pundits, and a reporter at the alt-right bastion Breitbart.

Chuck Close Is Accused of Harassment. Should His Artwork Carry an Asterisk?
Museums are wrestling with the implications of the National Gallery of Art’s decision to indefinitely postpone a Chuck Close exhibition because of allegations of sexual harassment. Some say museums can no longer afford to simply present art without addressing the issues that surround the artist and should provide more context.

Fox News hosts ramp up ‘deep state’ conspiracies
Fox News opinion hosts have seized on claims by Republican lawmakers about an FBI “secret society” and “deep state actors” to fashion unproven narratives designed to protect Trump and delegitimize Mueller. Other conservative commentators are now expressing alarm at what they see as a threat to their movement and the country.

South Dakota to Consider Free Speech Bill After College Under Fire for Restrictive Codes
The bill was put into place after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, took notice of the policies, which ban online hate speech and limit free speech to certain areas on campus, and gave the college the rating of a “Red Light” because of its restricting codes.


Hong Kong’s election ban on Agnes Chow ‘unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional,’ top lawyers say
Election officers have rejected Chow’s candidacy, saying she “cannot possibly comply” with electoral laws after advocating notions of self-determination. A group of top legal professionals stated that the decision “frustrates the core purpose of an open and fair election, which is to guarantee the free expression of the will of the electors.”

Lawmakers vote to outlaw references to ‘Polish death camps’
The legislation calls for prison sentences of up to three years. It still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president. Critics say enforcing such a law would be impossible outside Poland and that within the country it would have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression.

Philippine news site challenges regulator’s decision to revoke license
Rappler, an online news platform critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, asked the Court of Appeals to set aside the SEC’s decision to revoke its license, invoking freedom of the press. “The SEC’s real purpose in going after Rappler is to silence them and muzzle freedom of speech,” the firm told the court.

Egypt renews Mahmoud Hussein’s detention for 11th time
After his initial arrest in December 2016, Egypt’s interior ministry accused the Al Jazeera journalist of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation.” Since then, he has been held for 403 days, being denied his legal rights, and yet to be formally charged.

Thai woman who fled royal insult law decries targeting of activists
Activist Chanoknan Ruamsap was summoned by police and forced to flee the country after sharing a revealing BBC profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Facebook. In Thailand, information about the royal family is ruthlessly censored, and Chanoknan could face up to 15 years in prison if prosecuted.

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