Last week, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held its first round of hearings regarding passage of HR 5, known as the “Equality Act.” The Equality Act aims to codify protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. President Biden has continually reiterated his support, urging “Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation.” While the bill has been introduced multiple times before, its potential impact has changed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in cases like Bostock v. Clayton Co, which held that terminating a man’s employment because he had a same-sex partner qualified as sex discrimination under Title XII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Rather than rely on the term ‘sex’ as an umbrella encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equality Act would actually amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, sex and national origin. For all of these groups, the Equality Act would also go beyond the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s protections in the areas of employment and housing to have a broader reach, by including federally funded programs and “public accommodations,” which can include retail businesses.
Last Friday, Facebook’s Oversight Board (“the Board”) issued its latest verdict, overturning the company’s decision to remove a post that moderators alleged violated Facebook’s Violence and Incitement Community Standard. This judgment brings the Board’s total number of decisions to seven, with the Board overturning the Facebook’s own decision in five out of the six substantive rulings it has issued. The Board’s cases have covered several topics so far, including nudity and hate speech. Because Facebook’s Oversight Board does not have any modern equivalents, it is worth exploring what went into this experiment’s formation.
Twitter made the news once again yesterday after removing a tweet by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s main White House Coronavirus advisors. The tweet, which questioned the effectiveness of wearing masks in combatting the virus, was said to have violated a policy on misleading information relating to COVID-19.
This comes just days after Twitter was criticized for “limiting sharing” of a New York Post article because it exposed private information (read: personal email addresses) and contained material obtained through hacking.
Allegations that big tech companies are guilty of “censoring” information on their social media platforms are far from new. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 revealed that 72% of the public thought that social media platforms actively censored political views. Results from this year’s version of the same survey found roughly the same results.
Even the President has waged a war against Twitter. His criticisms of Twitter for “silencing conservative viewpoints” escalated to threats of “shutdowns” or at least heavy regulation in response to the site adding a fact-check warning to tweets that claimed that “mail-in ballots are fraudulent” without any evidence. Not long after, Trump signed an executive order attempting to punish social media companies.
If you live in Illinois, you have likely seen in the past couple of days this vibrant blue commercial at least once or twice. The commercial encourages Illinois voters to “Vote Yes for Fairness” at the polls this November by voting their approval of an amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The proposed amendment would change the state’s current state income system from a flat tax to a graduated income tax. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker made the adoption of a progressive income tax a centerpiece of his policy agenda in a budget address back in February 2019, and it was geared up to be a focus of election-season debates before the COVID-19 pandemic took precedence. With the Illinois general election less than fifty days away, however, the ‘Vote Yes for Fairness’ campaign has bolstered its attempts at garnering voters’ approval of the proposed amendment.
Mail-in voting has been in the forefront this election season due to persistent COVID-19 concerns. Tensions exist between those who claim that mail-in voting is a safe and valid alternative to in-person voting and those who argue that it will lead to widespread voter fraud and inaccurate election results. Illinois was recently front and center in this national discussion when a Facebook post went viral, asserting that an Illinois couple who received multiple ballot applications could submit them all and vote multiple times without anyone knowing. Far from true, such misconceptions have many questioning how states will monitor mail-in voting to ensure that it remains an effective option in this crucial election.