News India Times – that’s all you need to know Opinion News India Times January 15, 2021 4 A 2005 Election ChallengeWas Bad. 2021 IsMuchWorse I n January 2005, Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, objected to counting Ohio’s electoral votes for President GeorgeW. Bush. It made Page A19 of the NewYork Times. It didn’t haunt her for the rest of her career. I didn’t remember her involvement myself, until the current Republican challenge to Joe Biden’s electoral victory brought it back into the news. That challenge has drawn a ferocious reaction. The Re- publicans behind it are being accused of subverting our form of government and lacking patriotism. They’re ask- ing why they are getting so much more heat. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who was the first senator to say he would object to the certification of Biden’s election, made a point of citing Boxer and other Democrats who acted similarly after Republicans won the presidency. A lot of Republicans say they’re being treated more harshly because of media bias. That’s part of the explanation. But there are other reasons the Republican campaign against 2020’s electoral result is a bigger story, and a more alarming one, than previous Democratic election protests. Texas Republican Ted Cruz, in his letter with 10 other Republican senators explaining why they will vote against certifying the election results, put his finger on the key difference: This time the belief that the election was stolen is widespread. They cite a poll that found that 39% of the country - and 67% of Republicans - agree that “the election was rigged.” After the 2004 election, by contrast, two-thirds of Democrats accepted that the election was conducted fairly. The senators say that there are so many allegations of fraud and irregularities in voting, and so many people are concerned about them, that the election should not be certified. The allegations are, however, nonsense. None of them have withstood the slightest scrutiny, and in court lawyers for President Donald Trump have slunk away from their shocking claims about voter fraud. Presum- ably that’s why the senators’ letter does not hold up any particular allegation as credible. It doesn’t claim that Trump actually won the election, as he keeps insisting. It doesn’t even say that there’s a strong probability that an audit would show that a single state was wrongly put in Biden’s column. The argument rests entirely on the facts that there are a lot of allegations and that many people think there is something to them. Those facts are accurate, but they cut against what Hawley, Cruz and their confederates are doing. The reason so many Americans have doubts about the election - “tragically,” as the Cruz letter puts it - is that Trump and his allies have been sowing those doubts. Trump has made one wild claim after another, offering no evidence of any of them and not correcting the record when proven wrong. He recently attacked Georgia’s Re- publican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, by saying his “brother works for China.” There is a Ron Raffens- perger who works for the Chinese tech firm Huawei, but he is not related to the Georgia official. They have doubts, as well, because too many Republi- cans and conservative media outlets have echoed Trump and too few have contradicted him. With a few excep- tions, such as Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Republican senators have generally been unwilling to say what all the evidence indicates: Biden won, there was no widespread fraud, and Trump isn’t telling the truth about the election. Republicans who refuse to certify the election aren’t dispelling doubts; they’re reinforcing them. They’re telling Republican voters that there is good reason to think Biden stole the election, without offering any such reason. The commission that many of the senators say should look into election irregularities is a dodge. If Re- publican politicians aren’t willing to call the delusion that Biden stole the election what it is, they won’t be willing to say it after a commission report. There are three potential harms from refusing to cer- tify a valid election, as Boxer did and many Republicans are now doing. First, the effort might succeed in prevent- ing a legitimately elected president from taking office - a catastrophic possibility, but thankfully one that is remote now, just as it was in 2005. Second, by legitimizing the tactic of not certifying election results that displease senators, the effort might keep a future elected president from taking office or at least cause severe political insta- bility. Boxer was the only senator to object in 2005. For a dozen or more senators to follow her example now (and to cite her approvingly, as Hawley has) would raise this risk considerably. Third, the effort could spread the poisonous and false idea that votes are not counted fairly in U.S. elections. That danger increases the more officials till the ground for the idea, as Trump and many other Republicans have done. What Boxer did in 2005 was irresponsible, and should have been widely condemned. What Republicans are doing right now is worse. Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News. -Bloomberg By Ramesh Ponnuru TheWashington Post Blame Facebook, Twitter And Youtube For TheMob At The Capitol and Twitter. Second, Zuckerberg’s speech - like other, similar shrugs from the industry - assured that his company would not immediately raise the ire of the sitting presi- dent, thereby helping it avoid regulatory scrutiny from his administration itself. Such concerns were live for the entire industry at the time, given ongoing scrutiny over alleged anti-competitive behavior, breach of privacy and anti-conservative bias by Facebook and Google. Third, the social media industry has consistently tried to avoid triggering a slippery slope of regulatory inquiry over content policy, whereby governments around the world would begin to discuss and define what Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should or should not allow on their respective platforms. Containing this debate as much as possible has always been in the social media indus- try’s interest, given its desire to operate global platforms despite the seemingly divergent approaches to internet governance and content moderation undertaken by vari- ous foreign jurisdictions. Fourth - and perhaps most importantly - Zuckerberg’s free-speech policy assured that the company did not have to immediately upset Trump’s massive following on Facebook. Crucially, his following is highly active on Facebook, representing user engagement that Zuckerberg would not have wished to willingly pass up since it di- rectly contributes to the company’s commercial success. One could therefore argue that the stance Zuckerberg espoused during his speech was in his - and the internet industry’s - financial interest. At the time, perhaps it was. But political circumstances have changed; Trump has lost the election, and with Democrats soon to be in power of the presidency, the House and the Senate. The regula- tory future no longer looks quite as rosy for the leading internet platforms, which have consistently managed to irk the likes of Joe Biden and the Democrats with ques- tionable content decisions. Facebook’s decision to indefinitely suspend Trump’s account - and the earlier 12-hour lockout that Twitter imposed - perhaps represent a step in the right direction for the industry. But such decisions must come much faster, else the industry risks being subject to a deserved legislative axe-swing. It is not enough to allow videos like Trump’s to be viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Instagram before they are brought down. These are the sort of posts through which he suggested that the Capitol attacks “happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” falsehoods that find an audience even if they’re only available briefly. Both companies should explore permanent takedowns of his accounts, with immediate effect. More broadly, we need the internet to work more effec- tively for us, its users. The core issue driving the problems of hate and misinformation online is not a matter of lax content moderation but rather the business model of so- cial media itself - a business model consistently focused on uninhibited data collection to the end of behavioral profiling, and the use of algorithms to manipulate the user’s media experience. These are the features of social media that Russian disinformation operators, domestic extremists and even the president himself have exploited to foist hatred, violence and conspiracy on American vot- ers in recent years. In the near term, the leading internet firms must consider ways of adjusting their content-curation, ad- targeting and behavioral-profiling machine learning algorithms - all of which contribute to the spread of of- fending content - toward a socially-acceptable norm, one that affirmatively replaces the industry’s near-term profit interest with the public interest. Ultimately, we must have better protections in place, protections that coun- teract the opacity of social media algorithms with radical transparency and the uninhibited collection and use of personal data with consumer privacy rights. Meanwhile, we must rethink the legal mechanisms - namely, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - the industry has employed to shield itself from the content modera- tion debate. Through American history, we have given preference to the openness of markets, unbridled by regulation. But this has come with a single important exception: When markets impede our progress as a democracy, they must be restrained. The internet must be subject to this principle. Ghosh is author of “Terms of Disservice” and leads the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is a former adviser at Facebook and in the Obama White House. -Special to TheWashington Post TheWashington Post - Continued From Page 3 Pro-Trump protesters clash with Capitol police during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton