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Conspiracy theories circulated after prison death of Jeffrey Epstein, including retweet by President Trump, demonstrate how unconfirmed information circulates and amplifies via digital platforms, feeding public confusion and distrust. U.S. academic and free expression coalition condemns federal government surveillance of Chinese-American researchers as ‘racial profiling.’ (See the coalition letter and PEN America’s statement.) Proposed draft executive order by President Trump to allow FCC and FTC regulatory power over social media platforms ‘blasted’ by legal and free expression experts. Democratic party created deepfake video featuring DNC chairman to demonstrate the threat manipulated content poses for 2020 election. (See PEN America’s report on disinformation and the effect of fraudulent news online.) Professor at Johns Hopkins University who tried to end a month-long student protest sit-in has been fired. -Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs

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

U.S.

Trump Promotes Epstein-Clintons Conspiracy Theory, the Latest in a Pattern of Baseless Claims Spread by President
President Trump on Saturday promoted a conspiracy theory linking the Clinton family to the death of multimillionaire and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, the latest instance of Trump propagating baseless conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
CNN

U.S. Academics Condemn ‘Racial Profiling’ of Chinese Students and Scholars over Spying Fears
Nearly 20 American organizations issued a statement on Monday against racial profiling, in response to the U.S. government urging colleges to monitor Chinese students and scholars over fears they may be stealing information for Beijing.
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

‘Anti-American’: Trump Order Regulating Social Media Companies, Possibly Favoring Conservatives, Blasted by Experts
The Trump administration is drafting an executive order that would regulate the largest social media platforms and “Big Tech” companies in the country. Trump’s goal apparently is to make these critical platforms extra-friendly to conservatives, who falsely claim there’s an anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley’s operations.
NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

The Democratic Party Deepfaked Its Own Chairman to Highlight 2020 Concerns
The Democratic National Committee wanted to demonstrate the potential threat to the 2020 election posed by deepfake videos—clips created with artificial intelligence that can make people appear to do or say things they never did. So the committee came up with a novel solution: It had experts make one, with its chair as the victim.
CNN

A Professor Tried to End a Sit-In With Bolt Cutters. Now He’s Been Fired.
Andrew Douglas, the vice dean for faculty, wrote in the letter that Daniel Povey, an assistant research professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, had “endangered the university community” by forcibly entering the building after the university had told him not to.
NEW YORK TIMES

 
Global

Artists Turn Hong Kong’s Airport into a Protest Art Studio as Anti-Government Demonstrations Escalate
Artists joined demonstrators occupying the Hong Kong International Airport over the weekend to create protest art in its arrival hall, transforming the airport into a makeshift art studio.
ARTNET NEWS

China’s Influence on Campus Chills Free Speech in Australia, New Zealand
As a more-authoritarian China projects its influence deeper into the South Pacific, attempts by Chinese students and diplomats to interfere with anti-Beijing dissidents and stifle free speech on campuses pose an uncomfortable challenge for Australia and New Zealand.
WASHINGTON POST

Beijing’s New Weapon to Muffle Hong Kong Protests: Fake News
Over the past two months, Chinese state media outlets have gone from near silence on the protests and blanket censorship of footage of the demonstrations to actively pushing news, editorials, videos, and online discussions. The demonstrations, most of which have been peaceful, are routinely described as “riots.”
GUARDIAN

U.S., Britain Voice Concern in Case of Imprisoned Tanzanian Journalist
Britain and the United States are asking Tanzania to uphold the rights of all its citizens after a journalist was arrested on charges his lawyer and rights groups say are politically motivated.
VOICE OF AMERICA

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