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.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Innovation Center (“CMMI”) recently announced a new model for health care providers in rural areas to receive payment from the federal government. The Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (“CHART”) initiative aims to improve rural health care while promoting the Trump Administration’s push to shift health care providers into a more expansive value-based payment model.
TikTok continues to rise in popularity, though their history of complaints and lawsuits paints a different picture. On February 27, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled with TikTok for $5.7 million in response to a child privacy complaint. This settlement was the largest civil penalty obtained for a child privacy complaint, prompting TikTok to take corrective action by hiring compliance focused employees. Consumer groups now argue that TikTok has failed to make such changes and continues to “flout the law”. In response to national security concerns, President Trump signed an executive order on August 6, 2020 effectively banning the application in the U.S.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released new guidance for skilled nursing facilities (“SNFs”) as part of a larger rulemaking agenda for healthcare institutions in the throes of the current public health emergency with COVID-19. CMS has also detailed the fines for non-compliance with the new COVID-19 requirements for SNFs and other healthcare institutions such as hospitals and laboratories.
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.
On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, the Trump Administration issued a statement regarding the recent outbreak of illnesses and deaths related to the use of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”). Soon after, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) quickly followed suit. The Trump Administration’s statement comes after reports of 380 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes in 36 states, in addition to 7 deaths. Both political parties have pressed for flavor bans, age restrictions, and other restrictions on the sale of vaping products. They have urged the FDA to move quickly and decisively to investigate and regulate e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been touted by manufacturers as a way to wean people from traditional cigarettes but have recently led to an “epidemic” of youth vaping of nicotine. E-cigarettes are popular among teens due to their availability, advertisements, e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they are safer than cigarettes. The long-term risks of vaping are currently unknown, but a growing numbers of studies show that e-cigarette vapor has severe health risks, including damaging lung tissue and blood vessels.
On January 31, 2019, the Trump administration proposed yet another regulation in efforts to control rising prescription costs for Americans. If the regulation becomes final, drug manufacturers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (“PBM”) will no longer be able to harbor from Anti-Kickback violations when negotiating discounts with Medicare and Medicaid managed care programs. The Administrations, continuing the tone of transparency, will instead provide Medicare Part D beneficiaries with the ability to receive discounted prices at the pharmacy counter. The administration hopes this will allow patients to not endure high out-of-pocket costs by purchasing medications at a more affordable price necessary to sustain their health.
The Trump administration recently delivered a one-two punch to late Obama administration environmental regulations designed to curb the release of methane gas into the atmosphere while simultaneously encouraging its capture for sale. Two Obama era regulations were modified. The first, from the Department of the Interior, was effectively abrogated, while the other stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA)” is expected to retain only a fraction of its original force. Environmental groups have already responded to the repeal of the department of interior regulation with a lawsuit in federal court. Methane gas pollution became a greater concern in recent years as the production and use of natural gas as an energy source continues to increase. Proponents of earlier regulations point to methane’s potent contribution to the greenhouse effect, while critics argued the regulations were unnecessary given the natural gas industry’s own efforts and incentives to reduce leaks and capture as much usable gas as possible.
With the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed in 2017, there have been several changes to the tax system. The Opportunity Zone program was a small piece of the tax reform that has recently gained more publicity. The Opportunity Zone program provides tax benefits to real-estate investors. The Trump Administration recently released definitions and rules in a package of proposed regulations.
The battle over pesticide use has long plagued the agricultural sector. The legal challenges to the use of chlorpyrifos has created a debate about how to protect our agricultural system and the harm caused by these dangerous chemicals. A lawsuit was filed based on the EPA’s failure to follow advice of their own scientists. The battle over the use of certain pesticides, and the shifting focus of the EPA has created concerns over the ethical standards of officials in key positions.