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Fox News presenter Sean Hannity denies having influenced the president’s decision to release the controversial Nunes memo on alleged bias in the FBI, in spite of regular contact between the two. At Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, members of the press are escorted out as the president launches into criticism of media coverage of his State of the Union address. Further evidence emerges that YouTube’s algorithms recommend clips to viewers that promote conspiracy theories, fraudulent news, and other forms of misleading and divisive content. After Cleveland’s baseball team retires its logo, deemed to be outdated and perpetuating racist stereotypes of Native Americans, the debate over team names and logos continues, including over university sports teams. -Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator

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

U.S.

Hannity denies report he advised Trump on Nunes memo: ‘A total lie’
Fox News host Sean Hannity denies that he personally advised President Trump regarding a controversial memo alleging surveillance abuses by the Justice Department. The memo’s release comes despite objections from Democrats and the FBI that it contains misleading and inaccurate claims, and omits key details.
THE HILL

At RNC winter meeting, Trump hits media as they’re ushered out
Media was escorted out of the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting just as President Donald Trump labeled them “haters” and criticized coverage of his State of the Union address. The president has had a rocky relationship with the media since his campaign and has become more strained since becoming president.
POLITICO

‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth
Much has been written about Facebook and Twitter’s impact on politics, but in recent months academics have speculated that YouTube’s algorithms may have been instrumental in fueling disinformation during the 2016 presidential election.
THE GUARDIAN

An Indian ‘Chief’ Mascot Was Dropped. A Decade Later, He’s Still Lurking.
Decisions to end the use of Native American imagery out of concerns about perpetuating racist and offensive stereotypes have run up against protracted battles with alumni groups and fans, who say they are attached to their team’s symbols and often insist that they are intended to honor indigenous people.
NEW YORK TIMES

 
Global

This Gay Journalist Is Being Detained in Russia—And May Not Be Released
Ali Feruz is currently in the Sakharovo Detention Center for Foreign Nationals, where people are routinely detained unlawfully. His detention is the result of a complicated intersection of international politics, shady relationships between governments, systemic homophobia, and the oppression of a free press.
THEM

How Australia’s Espionage Laws Could Silence Whistle-Blowers and Activists
The bills were seen by many in government as a vital tool for protecting against foreign meddling. But lawyers, human rights organizations, journalists, and government watchdogs have all criticized the new rules as so far-reaching that they threaten to make Australia more like the authoritarian regimes it aims to resist.
NEW YORK TIMES

Kenyan court suspends government shutdown of radio and TV stations, as journalists complain of harassment
The court ordered authorities to allow the networks to resume broadcasting, pending a court hearing challenging the shutdown in two weeks. The government action against independent media has been criticized by Kenyan rights activists, amid fears the country could be taking a more authoritarian turn under President Kenyatta.
LOS ANGELES TIMES

How WeChat came to rule China
WeChat has a reputation for being heavily monitored. But even if the company says otherwise, on a technical level, it doesn’t offer users much protection against government surveillance. Tencent scored a zero out of 100 for WeChat’s lack of freedom of speech protection in a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy.
THE VERGE

In Italy, Facebook will have fact checkers ‘hunting’ for fake news for the first time
Independent fact checkers in Italy will hunt down and debunk fake news on the social network ahead of the March elections. This is the fifth anti-hoax experiment Facebook has launched in various countries recently. But this is the first time that professional fact-checkers will have a “proactive role” in finding hoaxes circulating on the site.
WASHINGTON POST

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