Britain Poised to Ban Huawei 

The British government is set to end the participation of Chinese telecom giant Huawei in the building of Britain’s 5G phone network — a policy about-turn that will further deteriorate London’s strained relations with Beijing, but will please Washington, according to British media reports. The major policy change follows a fresh reassessment by Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, or NCSC, on the eavesdropping risks posed by the Chinese company, according to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper. British officials have confirmed to VOA the newspaper report is accurate. Previously the NCSC, a department within Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ, said the security risks posed by Huawei could be safely managed and mitigated, a view not shared by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the imposition last month of new U.S. restrictions on Huawei has altered the picture, the NCSC warns. Britain’s cybersecurity chiefs now conclude the sanctions, which block Huawei from using components and semi-conductors based on any American intellectual property, will mean the telecom giant will have to use “untrusted” parts, increasing security risks. British officials are drawing up a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment already installed in the 5G network. British telecom firms BT and Vodafone have asked the government to give them until 2030 to strip Huawei components from the existing 5G infrastructure, but officials say Downing Street wants much speedier action, even if it means slowing down the roll-out of the new network. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, welcomed the reports, saying, “The government’s change of heart is very welcome.” The planned policy reversal comes amid a mounting diplomatic dispute between Britain and Beijing over the introduction by the Chinese government of a new draconian security law that allows Chinese security agencies to arrest pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, a former British enclave. To Beijing’s anger, Britain announced Hong Kong residents would be allowed to move to Britain. A sign reading “Boris Stop Huawei” is seen next to the M40 motorway, Tetsworth, Britain, May 1, 2020.In January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to allow Huawei a limited role in building the less critical parts of the country’s next-generation cellular network, dealing a blow to a U.S. campaign urging allies to boycott the telecom giant. For more than a year, the Trump administration has urged Britain and other allies to ban Huawei from participating in the development of fifth-generation wireless networks. U.S. officials say there’s a significant risk that the company, which has close ties to Chinese intelligence services, will act as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s espionage agencies, allowing them to sweep data up and gather intelligence. FILE – A pedestrian walks past a Huawei product stand at an EE telecommunications shop in central London, Britain, April 29, 2019.Ahead of Johnson’s go-ahead, U.S. officials warned London that giving Huawei the green-light could jeopardize intelligence-sharing between Britain and the United States. The British prime minister sought to mollify Washington — and critics within his own ruling Conservative party — by allowing Huawei to build only 35 percent of Britain’s 5G infrastructure and to exclude it from critical networks and from locations near nuclear plants and military bases. Pressure has been mounting on Johnson to reverse his decision from within his own party, pressure that has been fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and accusations that Beijing downplayed the danger of the novel virus. A newly-formed Conservative group in the House of Commons called the China Research Group has been urging Johnson to take a robust line with China’s communist leaders on a range of issues, from Beijing’s security crackdown in Hong Kong to Huawei. The group has attracted the support of dozens of Conservative lawmakers and around 60 had warned Johnson that they would mount a backbench rebellion, if he did not block Huawei. Johnson recently instructed officials to draft plans to limit Britain’s reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in light of the coronavirus crisis. Britain is strategically dependent on China for 71 critical goods categories, including pharmaceutical ingredients and consumer electronics, according to trade data analyzed by the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank based in London. Last month, Christopher Patten, a former Conservative minister and Britain’s last Hong Kong governor, warned Johnson publicly about Huawei, saying, “If people argue we should deal with Huawei because they’re just like any other multinational company, that is for the birds: if they come under pressure from the Communist government to do things which are thought to be in Beijing’s interest they will do it.” With Britain poised to block Huawei, it would leave Canada as the only member of the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partnership, which includes the U.S., Britain Australia and New Zealand, not yet to have excluded Huawei from involvement in 5G development. Huawei issued a statement Sunday saying it remains “open to discussions with the British government” and accused the U.S. of seeking to boost the market position of American companies. Company officials say an any decision to reverse its role in Britain’s 5G network is based is based on “mistaken assumptions.” A Huawei spokesman said: “Huawei is the most scrutinized vendor in the world and we firmly believe our unrivaled transparency in the UK means we can continue to be trusted to play a part in Britain’s gigabit upgrade. It’s important to focus on facts and not to speculate at this time.”  

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Advertisers Boycott Facebook, Demand Changes

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, Ford and Lego are boycotting Facebook this month, pulling ads that appear on the social network in the United States. Some advertisers are part of an organized boycott demanding the company do more to crack down on hate speech, conspiracies and misinformation on its site on topics such as voting. Facebook has responded with some changes but will it be enough? Michelle Quinn reports.
Camera: Deana Mitchell

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Twitter Removes Image Tweet by Trump Over Copyright Complaint

Twitter Inc has taken down an image tweet by the U.S. President Donald Trump on June 30, in response to a report from a copyright holder. Twitter now displays the message “This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder,” in place of the tweet. News website Axios reported that the tweet was removed after a copyright complaint from the New York Times, which owns the rights to the photo. 

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Turkish President Calls for Tighter Social Media Controls

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he would tighten controls on social media, days after remarks were made on Twitter about his daughter and son-in-law.“Turkey is not a banana republic,” Erdogan said in a televised address to his party members. “We will snub those who snub this country’s executive and judicial bodies.”Erdogan’s eldest daughter, Esra Erdogan, and his son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak reportedly received what were called insulting tweets after the couple announced the birth of their fourth child on social media.Eleven of 19 Twitter users who allegedly insulted Erdogan’s family were detained, Turkish police said in a statement on Wednesday.“Do you understand now why we are against social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Netflix?” Erdogan ask while addressing his party. “These platforms do not suit this nation. We want to shut down, control [them] by bringing [a bill] to parliament as soon as possible.”Rights groups have accused Erdogan of using the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to tighten controls on the media, with only a few independent publications continuing to report on the Turkish president’s handling of the pandemic.Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, called Twitter a “propaganda machine” after it recently suspended 7,340 accounts. Twitter said the accounts were “employing coordinated inauthentic activity” promoting favorable narratives to Erdogan and his party. 

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Reliance on Social Media News Amplifies COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories, Report Finds

People who get most of their news from social media like Facebook and YouTube are much more likely to believe conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, according to research from Kings College London. The report also suggests those reliant on social media for news are much more likely to ignore government messaging on staying safe during the pandemic and more likely to disobey lockdown rules.The research was published earlier this month in the journal A 5G logo is displayed on a screen outside the showroom at Huawei campus in Shenzhen city, China’s Guangdong province.One prominent conspiracy theory is that 5G mobile technology is causing the disease. In recent weeks, dozens of 5G mobile telecom towers have been destroyed across Britain. Police say a belief that the masts are causing the respiratory ailment appears to have motivated many of the attacks. The researchers questioned 2,254 British residents. Overall, 8 percent believed that 5G technology was causing the pandemic. Of those people, 60 percent said they got their information from YouTube. Out of the 92 percent of people who don’t believe the 5G conspiracy theory, only 14 percent said their information came from YouTube.Among people who believe the coronavirus does not exist at all, some 56 percent cited Facebook as their primary source of news. Allington says the most disturbing finding has been the readiness among those who believe in conspiracy theories about the disease to break quarantine and lockdown rules.“We found that people who had gone out, gone outside or gone to work despite having what they knew were possible coronavirus symptoms were much more likely to be getting their information from social media,” Allington told VOA.That presents a health risk that must be addressed, says British lawmaker Damian Collins, co-founder of the group ‘Infotagion’ which aims to fight misinformation about the pandemic.“A lot of this content is still there and a lot of the times when it’s referred to social media companies, they don’t act immediately to take this content down,” Collins told VOA via Skype, adding that he has big concerns over the role social media might play in any vaccination program. “If we get to a position where we’ve got a vaccine and for the vaccine to be effective, we need the vast majority of people to agree to take it. It’s important that people have got confidence in that. And if people are spreading conspiracy theories and lies about the vaccine and trying to persuade people not to take it, then there’s a serious public health risk to that.”FILE – The Twitter and Facebook logos are seen with binary cyber codes in this illustration, Nov. 26, 2019.Facebook, YouTube and Twitter say they have removed hundreds of thousands of videos and posts relating to COVID-19 misinformation that could lead to imminent harm. In written evidence submitted to the British parliament, Facebook said that during the month of April it had “displayed warning labels on around 50 million pieces of content related to COVID-19 on Facebook,” adding, “…When people saw those warning labels, 95% of the time they did not click to view the original content.”Despite such claims, the internal systems in place to deal with misinformation remain opaque, says Allington of Kings College London. “Those systems have got to be opened up for auditing by democratically-accountable bodies,” he told VOA.The social media giants are facing a backlash on multiple fronts. More than 150 companies – including Starbucks and Coca-Cola – have stopped buying advertising on Facebook over concerns around misinformation and hate speech.At the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in May seeking to strip social media companies of legal immunity for the content posted by users, after Twitter tagged one of his tweets with a fact-check notice. “If Twitter were not honorable and you’re going to have a guy like this being the judge and jury, I think you shut it down, as far as I’m concerned. But I’d have to go through a legal process to do that,” Trump told reporters May 28.

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Facebook Bans Violent ‘Boogaloo’ Groups, Not the Term Itself

Facebook has banned an extremist anti-government network loosely associated with the broader “boogaloo” movement, a slang term supporters use to refer to a second Civil War or a collapse of civilization. But the platform didn’t try to name the group, underscoring the difficulty of grappling with an amorphous network linked to a string of domestic terror plots that appears to obfuscate its existence. Among other complications, its internet-savvy members tend to keep their distance from one another, frequently change their symbols and catch phrases and mask their intentions with sarcasm. The move by Facebook designates this group as a dangerous organization similar to the Islamic State group and white supremacists, both of which are already banned from its service. The social network is not banning all references to “boogaloo” and said it is only removing groups, accounts and pages when they have a “clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public safety.”  The loose movement is named after “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a 1984 sequel to a movie about breakdancing. Boogaloo supporters have shown up at protests over COVID-19 lockdown orders, carrying rifles and wearing tactical gear over Hawaiian shirts – a reference to “big luau,” a homophone for “boogaloo” sometimes favored by group members. Facebook said that the movement dates to 2012 and that it has been tracking it closely since last year.  FILE – Steven Carrillo is seen in a booking photo from the Santa Cruz County (California) Sheriff’s Office, June 7, 2020.Earlier in June, Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant with ties to the boogaloo movement, fatally shot a federal security officer and wounded his partner outside a U.S. courthouse, ambushed and killed a California sheriff’s deputy, and injured four other officers in Oakland, California. According to the criminal complaint, Carrillo posted in a Facebook group, “It’s on our coast now, this needs to be nationwide. It’s a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois. Keep that energy going.”  The statement was followed by two fire emojis and a link to a YouTube video showing a large crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol vehicles. According to the FBI, “soup bois” may be a term that followers of the boogaloo movement used to refer to federal law enforcement agents.  While the term “boogaloo'” has been embraced by white supremacist groups and other far-right extremists, many supporters insist they aren’t racist or truly advocating for violence. As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Facebook said it has removed 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages and 106 groups that that comprise the violent Boogaloo-affiliated network. It also took down 400 other groups and 100 pages that hosted similar content as the violent network but were maintained by accounts outside of it. The company said it has so far found no evidence of foreign actors amplifying boogaloo-related material. Social media companies are facing a reckoning over hate speech on their platforms. Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules. YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform, and several major advertisers have signed on to the boycott.  Violent and extremist groups are increasingly turning to encrypted communications networks and fringe social platforms with no content moderation, which makes them more difficult to track.  

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In Rare Move, US Clears Limited Cooperation Between US Firms, Huawei

In a rare twist to Washington’s long-standing restrictions on the Chinese tech giant Huawei, the Commerce Department recently reversed its ban preventing U.S. firms from working with Huawei on developing new technical standards.The move was seen by many in China as an admission by President Donald Trump’s administration that it cannot ignore Huawei’s influential role in developing the technical standards critical for future technologies.  “America finally bowed its head” read a headline by Chinese network Phoenix TV.The new rule, announced by the Commerce Department on June 15, amends the Huawei “entity listing,” to allow American companies to collaborate with Huawei on setting standards that will determine the technical rules of the road for 5G and other emerging technologies.   “This action is meant to ensure Huawei’s placement on the entity list in May 2019 does not prevent American companies from contributing to important standards-developing activities despite Huawei’s pervasive participation in standards-development organizations,” the department said.  The situation with Huawei is no accident. For years, Beijing has focused on joining international standard-setting bodies, such as 3GPP and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which are little-known among the public, but make some of the most consequential decisions in modern telecommunications.
 3GPP and the future of your smartphone
 
Nestled in a quiet industrial park in southern France, a technology consortium with esoteric name, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, sets the technical standards behind the world’s communication platforms, the fundamental building blocks for product development. As the primary global standard setting organization for the last 20 years, 3GPP helped create technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth as well as today’s 5G high-speed networks.
“Standards are not very sexy but extremely important,” Andrew Polk, partner at Beijing-based research and consultancy firm Trivium China, told VOA. “And it takes sustained long-term effort and attention. While western companies try to set standards, China has a long-term coordinated game plan to influence standards,” he said.FILE – A staff member holds a Huawei ‘Mate20 X 5G’ smartphone at the IFA 2019 tech fair in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 5, 2019.China’s leaders have long seen technology as a key to the country’s economic and military might, and have financially backed companies such as Huawei to become powerful global competitors that will help the country’s political and military goals. Critics say Beijing takes the same approach to setting technical standards.
 
“Beijing views standards as foundational to its goals to reshaping global governance and expand geostrategic power,” said Dr. J. Ray Bowen, analyst of Pointe Bello, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic intelligence firm.
 
Even though U.S. companies remain world leaders in most areas of technology, observers such as Dustin Daugherty, head of North America Business Development at Dezan Shira & Associates, a pan-Asia business consulting firm, say China’s strategy means “in the future the U.S. could fall behind a coordinated government effort in standard setting (such as from China).”
 China’s long-term plan
 
As of May, Chinese firms and government research institutes have accounted for the largest number of chairs or vice chairs in 3GPP, holding 16 of the 45 available leadership positions, according to VOA’s count based on the data release by 3GPP. By comparison, U.S. companies hold nine such leadership positions.
 
That’s up from a year ago, when 3GPP sent VOA a file showing that representatives from Chinese and U.S. companies each held 12 chair and vice chair positions.
While the 3GPP is the primary global group setting 5G standards, another major global organization, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is now led by a formal Chinese government official Zhao Houlin.
 
Zhao, who began his career in China’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, was first elected as the secretary-general of ITU in 2014. He was reinstated in November 2018 for another four-year term.
 
Established in 1865, ITU is one of the oldest international organizations in the world and has historically avoided politics. However, Zhao publicly criticized Washington in its dispute with Huawei, the Chinese communications giant that U.S. officials say has deep links to the military. “I would encourage Huawei to be given equal opportunities to bid for business,” Zhao told reporters in Geneva earlier this year. “But if we don’t have anything then to put them on the blacklist – I think this is not fair.”FILE – Zhao Houlin, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, May 28, 2018.Under Zhao’s leadership, another Chinese national, Richard Li, serves as the chairman of a critical group with the ITU called Focus Group Technologies for Network 2030. Li, according to his LinkedIn Page, is still currently employed by Huawei as Chief Scientist and Vice-President of Network Technologies, is in charge of examining the world’s emerging technologies and 5G.
 
Doug Barry, the spokesperson for The US-China Business Council (USCBC), a private organization with the mission of promoting trade between the two countries, said there are companies that are concerned about the abuse of leadership positions by China, but so far he has not heard any examples of this happening in practice.
 
“Most international standards setting bodies have strong due process which makes it difficult for stakeholders to abuse leadership positions to force proposals through or block proposals,” said Barry.
 
Daugherty said because Chinese companies are among the most important international players in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, their presence in industry groups and standard setting bodies is logical. But he said there is an important difference between them and their counterparts from democratic countries.  
 
“Chinese companies (and by extension possibly their individual representatives on such bodies) may ultimately need to answer to Beijing’s priorities for strategically important issues,” said Daugherty.
 
In an interview with VOA, he said the politicization of such international bodies could conceivably lead to a decrease in legitimacy in international standard setting. “The damage could be immense,” he said.
 Flooded with proposals
 
Holding leadership positions is one part of Beijing’s strategy. Another part involves massive investments in submitting technical proposals to the international groups.
 
In a rare disclosure last September, Huawei said for one particular technical area alone, the company submitted 18,000 5G New Radio proposals. “If printed on A4 paper and piled up high, would stand a staggering 10 meters tall,” it said proudly on its official twitter account.FILE – A 5G logo is displayed on a screen outside the showroom at Huawei campus in Shenzhen city, in China’s Guangdong province, March 6, 2019.The U.S.-China Business Council said last February this is an issue of concern.  “Some companies and experts complained that Chinese stakeholders submit large numbers of proposals that are low-quality or irrelevant to market needs in some industries, including for products that China does not actually produce.”
 
The report titled “China in International Standards Setting” said this takes valuable time and resources away from considering serious proposals.
 
China also sends more people to attend international meetings that discuss, vote and make decisions on standards.
 
According to a report release last November by German intellectual property research firm Iplytics, Huawei dispatched over 3,000 engineers to participate in the 5G standard-setting process. American chipmaker Qualcomm sent 1,701 engineers to attend 3GPP meetings.
 
Dr. Melanie Hart, director for China Policy Center for American Progress, said the Chinese government is channeling state financial support to help Huawei and other Chinese firms send personnel to attend 3GPP meetings and flood the process with Chinese technical contributions.
 
“It is difficult for private companies from other nations to match that level of activity because sending engineers overseas to participate in 3GPP meetings and devoting R&D resources to develop 3GPP technical contributions are costly activities,” she testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission last March.   

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Social Media Platforms Face Reckoning Over Hate Speech 

For years, social media platforms have fueled political polarization and hosted an explosion of hate speech. Now, with four months until the U.S. presidential election and the country’s divisions reaching a boiling point, these companies are upping their game against bigotry and threats of violence. What’s not yet clear is whether this action is too little, too late — nor whether the pressure on these companies, including a growing advertiser boycott, will be enough to produce lasting change. FILE – Reddit employees work at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, April 15, 2014.Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Also on Monday, live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules. YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer.  Social media companies, led by Facebook, now face a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform.  Companies such as the consumer goods giant Unilever — one of the world’s largest advertisers — as well as Verizon, Ford and many smaller brands have joined the boycott, some for the month of July and others for the rest of the year. New companies have been signing on to the boycott almost every day. While some are pausing ads only on Facebook, others have also stepped back from advertising on Twitter and other platforms. On Monday, Ford Motor Co. put the brakes on all national social media advertising for the next 30 days. The company says hate speech, as well as posts advocating violence and racial injustice, need to be eradicated from the sites. FILE – The Twitter and Facebook logos are seen with binary cyber codes in this illustration, Nov. 26, 2019.While the ad boycott has dinged Facebook’s and Twitter’s shares, analysts who follow the social media business don’t see it as having a lasting effect.  Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler noted that YouTube has faced several ad boycotts in the past over hate speech and other objectionable material. Each time, it adjusted its policies and the advertisers returned. In addition, July is generally a slow month for advertising. Companies have also been cutting their ad budgets due to COVID-19, so the spending declines are not a surprise for investors. Kessler called Facebook’s stock pullback — its shares fell more than 8% on Friday, then rallied a bit Monday — a “buying opportunity.” Reddit’s action was part of a larger purge at the San Francisco-based site. The company said it took down a total of 2,000 forums, known as the site as “subreddits,” most of which it said were inactive or had few users.  The Trump Reddit forum, called The_Donald, was banned because it encouraged violence, regularly broke other Reddit rules, and defiantly “antagonized” both Reddit and other forums, the company said in a statement. Reddit had previously tried to discipline the forum. “We are cautiously optimistic that Reddit is finally working with groups like ours to dismantle the systems that enable hateful rhetoric on their platform,” Bridget Todd, a spokeswoman for the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement.  The group said its members met with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman via Zoom last week, encouraging him to address racism and hate speech on the platform. Despite optimism from some critics, others said it is not clear if such measures will be enough. For years, racist groups “have successfully used social media to amplify their message and gain new recruits,” said Sophie Bjork-James an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in white nationalism, racism and hate crimes.  “However, limiting access to a broader public will have unintended negative consequences. Far-right and white nationalist groups are increasingly gathering on encrypted apps and social media sites that do not monitor for offensive speech or violent content,” she added. “This shift allows for coordinating more violent and radical actions.” The algorithms tech companies developed to keep users glued to their services “have provided perhaps the biggest boon to organized racism in decades, as they help racist ideas find a much larger and potentially receptive audience,” Bjork-James said, adding that she is hopeful that the same companies that “helped this anti-democratic movement expand” can now help limit its impact. For its part, Twitch pointed to comments the president made at two rallies, videos of which were posted on the site.  Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as he arrives on stage to speak to a campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.In one, a live stream of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into someone’s home. The other was from a 2015 campaign rally that was recently posted on Twitch, in which Trump said Mexico sends rapists and criminals to the U.S. Twitch declined to say how long the suspension will last. The White House referred a request for comment to Trump’s reelection campaign. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, said that people who want to hear directly from the president should download the campaign’s app. Reddit has  tweaked its rules and banned forums  for white nationalists  over the years in an attempt to rid its platform of vitriol, sometimes producing significant user backlash as a result. CEO Steve Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit was working with moderators to explicitly address hate speech. 

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