Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight | TheHill

Progressives are feeling emboldened after President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats’ spending plan is ‘a bigger darn deal’ than Obamacare Biden says he’s open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas ‘not appropriate’ MORE backed “fundamentally” changing the filibuster, adding a jolt of momentum into the entrenched Senate stalemate.

Biden’s comments, made during a CNN town hall, come after weeks of activists and liberal lawmakers feeling frustrated that Biden wasn’t leaning into the fight against the Senate rule, which is a major roadblock for many of his administration’s priorities.

The remarks don’t automatically change the math problem — Democrats don’t have 50 votes for changes to filibuster right now — but they are the latest sign of growing pressure on Senate Democrats to reform the rule.

“We think this is a huge step forward and obviously a game changer,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Fix Our Senate, told The Hill. “It would be a big disappointment if he made those comments at a town hall and didn’t follow up on them. I think the expectation and hope is that he follows up with significant pressure, public and private.”

Ezra Levin, a co-executive director of Indivisible, said Biden’s comments “builds up pressure for there to be some sort of come-to-Jesus moment after reconciliation.”

“He all but said, ‘I will be pushing key holdouts,’” Levin added.

Biden has long appeared wary of nuking the rules of the Senate, where he served for decades. That’s frustrated progressives, who worry that without nixing, or at least significantly changing, the filibuster, which necessitates 60 votes for most legislation, much of the party’s agenda is dead on arrival in the chamber.

Republicans, for example, blocked a revised election reform bill this week and are poised to block a voting rights bill named after the late Rep. John LewisJohn Lewis Biden, Harris mark 10th anniversary of MLK memorial Democrats look for plan B on filibuster Senate will vote on John Lewis voting bill as soon as next week MORE (D-Ga.) when it comes to the floor as soon as next week. Bipartisan talks on issues including police reform, immigration reform and expanded background checks have also unraveled as Democrats have struggled to come up with a deal that could get at least the 10 GOP votes needed to break a filibuster.

Biden had previously embraced the idea of a talking filibuster, where senators objecting to the bill must speak continuously from the Senate floor. But he went significantly further during his town hall in Baltimore.

“I propose we bring that back now, immediately,” Biden said about the talking filibuster before adding: “But I also think we’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”

Biden pointed to the recent fight over the debt ceiling, where Republicans threatened for weeks that they wouldn’t help advance a debt hike before backtracking and providing 11 GOP votes for a short-term increase.

“If that gets pulled again, I think you are going to see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster. But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that,” he said.

He added that he was “open to fundamentally altering” the legislative filibuster, including on voting rights and “maybe more.”

Biden’s remarks won immediate praise from progressives and activists.

“Glad to hear [Biden] call to bring back the talking filibuster. If Republicans want to block enormously popular policies like protections for our freedom to vote, they should have to hold the floor and do it in public,” said Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Democrats look for plan B on filibuster GOP blocks Senate Democrats’ revised elections bill MORE (D-Ore.), a longtime advocate for Senate rules reforms.

But the remarks don’t immediately change the dynamics within the caucus.

To get rid of the 60-vote legislative filibuster or change it in any way, Democrats need total unity from all 50 of their members plus Vice President Harris to serve as tie-breaker. But Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a ‘reach’ Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a ‘reach’ Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (D-Ariz.) are opposed to nixing the filibuster, and Manchin, in particular, has voiced opposition to the idea of passing a “carve out” that would exempt specific issues from the 60-vote requirement.

And while Manchin and Sinema are the biggest targets of filibuster angst, several senators are viewed as wary of potentially changing it.

Democrats are also racing to finalize a deal on Biden’s sweeping social spending bill, which they are using arcane budget rules to pass without needing GOP support in the Senate.

Democrats and Biden don’t view it as politically savvy to pressure Manchin, Sinema and others on filibuster reform while at the same time needing their votes on the spending package.

Biden is expected to lean more heavily into the filibuster reform discussions after the spending bill and a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill are through Congress, which Democrats hope they can complete in a matter of weeks.

“If, in fact, I get myself into at this moment the debate on the filibuster, I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, on the foreign policy side of the equation,” Biden said during the CNN town hall.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House ‘grinches’ for Christmas delays Regional powers rally behind Taliban’s request for humanitarian aid MORE added on Friday that Biden would have more to say “in the coming weeks.”

Democrats also think they are nearing a long-anticipated conversation about what, if anything, they’ll be able to do on changing the Senate’s rules.

Democrats have tried to drive home the message to holdouts within their own caucus that Republicans won’t help them pass top priorities, such as voting rights, by repeatedly bringing bills up to the floor and forcing GOP senators to vote them down.

A recent standoff over the debt ceiling also provided unexpected momentum among Senate Democrats for creating a carve out from the 60-vote rule for legislation related to the nation’s borrowing limit. Congress now has until roughly Dec. 3 to pass a long-term debt ceiling extension.

“There are two senators who have said that they won’t. Although even they might have voted for a carve out on the debt ceiling. It was them telling [Senate GOP Leader Mitch] McConnell that, that led him to, you know, come up with an extension,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia Democrats look for plan B on filibuster GOP blocks Senate Democrats’ revised elections bill MORE (D-Va.).

“There are a number of ideas about the way to facilitate passing of a bill like this without abolishing the filibuster,” Kaine added, referring to voting rights legislation. “We’ll start having those discussions ASAP.”

Some of the ideas that have been floated or discussed among Democratic senators, according to senators and sources familiar with the discussions, are passing a carve out for specific issues, changing the requirement from supporters needing to get 60 votes to the opposition needing to put up 41 votes and the idea of a talking filibuster, though there’s confusion within the caucus about how that would work, including what that would mean for the 60-vote threshold. Senators have also floated smaller rules changes such as skipping over an initial 60-vote hurdle that most bills need to overcome to even come up for debate, much less pass the Senate.

But those ideas are fluid and would need support from all 50 Democrats to be enacted.

Filibuster reform advocates acknowledge that while Biden’s support is significant, it might not be enough to win over both Sinema and Manchin.

“It’s Congress for God’s sakes, few people have lost money on betting they’re not going to get something crucial done,” Levin said.

“Our argument has never been once the president gets in, it’s game over, we won,” he added. “It’s just that it is a necessary condition for success. Is it sufficient? Time will tell, but I think there remains a narrow path to victory here.”

Virginia Democrats sue USPS over backlog of election-related mail

The Virginia Democratic Party filed suit against the U.S. Postal Service on Friday, alleging local branches of the federal agency have failed to process and deliver election-related mail ahead of a crucial gubernatorial race.

Filed in U.S. District Court, the lawsuit alleges the backlog in mail across several counties “threatens to disenfranchise thousands of Virginia voters.” Virginia Democratic officials asked the court to compel the USPS to expedite the process before Election Day on Nov. 2.

“To preserve the integrity of the present election, USPS must be ordered to greatly expedite its processing and delivery of election-related mail – particularly in Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City – so that voters across the Commonwealth are not unconstitutionally denied their fundamental right to vote.”

TERRY MCAULIFFE ABRUPTLY ENDS INTERVIEW, TELLS LOCAL VIRGINIA REPORTER ‘YOU SHOULD’VE ASKED BETTER QUESTION’

ARLINGTON, VA - OCTOBER 22:  Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe  speaks during a bus tour kickoff rally October 22, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. The Virginia gubernatorial election is November 2, where McAuliffe will face Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, VA – OCTOBER 22:  Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe  speaks during a bus tour kickoff rally October 22, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. The Virginia gubernatorial election is November 2, where McAuliffe will face Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Approximately 174,000 Virginia residents have voted by mail this year, the Washington Post reported, citing data from national voter roll vendor L2. An additional 183,000 early ballots have yet to be returned.

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gestures a he talks with supporters during a rally in Culpeper, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Youngkin faces former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gestures a he talks with supporters during a rally in Culpeper, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Youngkin faces former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP )

The lawsuit claims thousands of absentee ballots have arrived at USPS facilities but have yet to be processed, while some voters who requested ballots haven’t received them.

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The Virginia gubernatorial race has narrowed considerably in recent days in the context between Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, with the race too close to call.

USPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Search for Elijah Lewis shifts to 3rd state as investigation now focused on Abington

ABINGTON, Mass. — Massachusetts State Police blocked off Chestnut Street in Abington leading to an area authorities spent the day Friday searching for any sign of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis of Merrimack, New Hampshire.

“Investigators have corroborated some information that this area should be in the line of search,” said Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz.

A lead Thursday night shifted the focus from Merrimack, New Hampshire to Abington.

“Based on information that was corroborated by investigators, there may be evidence related to the disappearance of Elijah Lewis, and that’s why we’re here, that’s what we’re searching for,” Cruz said.

The boy, who has now been missing for weeks, was last seen about 30 days ago. Last weekend his mother, Danielle Dauphinias, and a boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, were found and arrested in New York.

>>>PREVIOUS: 2 people, including mother, arrested in connection to disappearance of NH 5-year-old boy

On Wednesday, they were arraigned in a Nashua, New Hampshire courtroom charged with witness tampering and child endangerment. Outside that courtroom, Danielle’s brothers pleaded with her to come clean.

“DD please, please talk to us. Talk to the detectives. Let us know where Eljiah is,” said Randy Stewart, who is Dauphinais’ brother and Elijah’s uncle.

It’s unclear if his plea pushed her to speak to police, but the sudden shift of the search and massive police presence indicate authorities believe that Elijah or an important clue is in those woods.

“Our special emergency response team is in the woods conducting a grid line search looking for any items of interest in pursuit of their investigation,” said Col. Christopher Mason of the Massachusetts State Police.

That includes the State Police airwing and K-9s on the ground all looking for anything leading them to the little boy.

“I think you’re always hopeful somebody’s alive until somebody’s found not to be,” DA Cruz said.

While that may be the hope, New Hampshire authorities now say new information makes them fear the worst.

“We were hopeful Elijah would be found alive. We are now facing the prospect that he is not. We do have a belief at this time that Elijah is deceased,” said Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati.

The search for Elijah resumes at 8 a.m. Saturday.

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New Facebook whistleblower claims execs downplayed Russian interference, hate speech: report

A new whistleblower has come forward with allegations that Facebook officials prioritized profit over their efforts to contain the spread of hate speech and misinformation on the social media platform, according to a report Friday.

The whistleblower, identified as a former Facebook employee and members of the company’s Integrity division, made the allegations in an affidavit to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Washington Post reported.

The claims purportedly corroborated many recent allegations by Frances Haugen, another former Facebook employee who delivered damning testimony about the company’s practices on Capitol Hill earlier this month. 

WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD TO MEET IN ‘COMING WEEKS’

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The new whistleblower said Facebook officials were often indifferent about public concerns regarding problematic content or undercut efforts to respond due to concerns about political blowback from then-President Donald Trump and damage to the company’s bottom line. 

The affidavit, dated Oct. 13 detailed one incident in 2017 in which a Facebook communications executive purportedly dismissed concerns about public backlash regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“It will be a flash in the pan. Some legislators will get pissy,” Facebook communications official Tucker Bounds said, according to the whistleblower. “And then in a few weeks they will move onto something else. Meanwhile, we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine.”

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Washington. ( ( (AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

The new whistleblower’s identity has not been publicly disclosed. 

A Facebook representative slammed the report in a statement obtained by the Post.

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“This is beneath the Washington Post, which during the last five years competed ferociously with the New York Times over the number of corroborating sources its reporters could find for single anecdotes in deeply reported, intricate stories,” Facebook spokeswoman Erin McPike said. “It sets a dangerous precedent to hang an entire story on a single source making a wide range of claims without any apparent corroboration.”

The latest allegations surfaced as Facebook contends with unprecedented criticism from lawmakers regarding its business practices. Damning media reports published by the Wall Street Journal and other outlets detailed internal Facebook documents indicating executives were aware the platform was causing public harm.

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The Journal’s series was based on documents provided by Haugen, who has called on Congress to regulate Facebook. 

Students at Howard University are protesting poor housing conditions on campus

Howard University students are entering their second week of protests demanding better housing on campus.

Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty


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Howard University students are entering their second week of protests demanding better housing on campus.

Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty

Going into their second week of sit-ins, students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., are continuing to fight for answers from the campus administration as they protest the school’s poor housing conditions.

A top Howard official says the school has worked with student leaders to “provide a best-in-class university experience.”

More than 150 students with the group Live Movement, an organization advocating for education reform and academic advancement, began protesting at the school’s Blackburn University Center on Oct. 12.

Protesters at Howard, one of the nation’s top historically black colleges, are demanding an in-person town hall with university President Wayne A.I. Frederick by the end of the month to address concerns about housing and student life.

Students who are protesting say they will not leave the building until campus officials agree to discuss their list of demands.

Since the start of the fall semester, students say they’ve raised concerns regarding mold in the walls of their dorms, the lack of COVID-19 testing for students and the overall safety on campus, according to DCist/WAMU.

As of last month, mold has been discovered in 34 rooms on campus, according to local news station WJLA-TV. There are roughly 2,700 rooms on Howard’s campus.

“There really doesn’t seem like there is a plan of action,” freshman Kaedriana Turenne said in an interview with WJLA.

Turenne said that given her issues with on-campus housing, she’s considering transferring from Howard after completing her first year, saying the campus “doesn’t live up to the expectation” she had prior to moving in.

In a statement on Twitter last week, Cynthia Evers, vice president of student affairs, said the well-being of students is always “one of our top concerns.” Evers said university leadership has collaborated with student leaders to address their concerns “and continue to provide a best-in-class university experience.”

Howard’s board of trustees also responded to the campus protests last week, saying, “Simply put, we hear you and we continue to welcome your viewpoints on all matters pertaining to Howard.”

The board says it recognizes where the issues on campus exist and is working to fix them.

“This sit-in reinforces the fact that hearing from a much wider group of students on a constant basis is not only necessary but critical,” the board said.

News of the protests sparked outrage on Twitter, as the school is celebrating its homecoming festivities this week.

In 2018, students led a nine-day occupation of the campus administration building after university officials and students reached an agreement on several campus changes.

The changes included a revision of the school’s sexual assault policy, the creation of a campus food bank and a review of policies allowing campus police officers to carry weapons.

How the Stop the Steal movement outwitted Facebook ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection

A protester unleashes a smoke grenade in front of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

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A protester unleashes a smoke grenade in front of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

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Hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, angry Donald Trump supporters on Facebook coalesced around a rallying cry now synonymous with the siege on the U.S. Capitol: “Stop the Steal.”

Inside Facebook, employees were watching with concern.

The presidential election may have passed without major incident, but in its wake, “angry vitriol and a slew of conspiracy theories” were fomenting, Facebook staff wrote in an internal report on the Stop the Steal movement earlier this year. Supporters perpetuated the lie that the election had been stolen from then-President Donald Trump — a lie that Trump himself had been stoking for months.

By the time Facebook banned the first Stop the Steal group on Nov. 5 for falsely casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election and calling for violence, the group had already mushroomed to more than 360,000 members. Every hour, tens of thousands of people were joining.

Facebook removed the group from its platform. But that only sent Stop the Steal loyalists to other groups on Facebook filled with misinformation and claims the election was stolen. It was a classic game of whack-a-mole that Facebook tried but failed to stay on top of. Droves of Trump fans and right-wing conspiracists had outwitted the world’s largest social network.

In the days after the election, researchers at Facebook later noted, “almost all the fastest growing groups were Stop the Steal” affiliated: groups devoted to spreading falsehoods about the vote. Some even continued to use the name.

It was spreading at a pace that outstripped Facebook’s ability to keep up, just as company insiders were feeling relief that election night did not devolve into civil unrest. There was no widespread foreign interference or hacking. These were worst-case scenarios for Facebook. Avoiding them provided solace to the company, even though a pernicious movement was gathering momentum on the platform, something that would only become clear to Facebook after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

The Stop the Steal report was included in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. A consortium of news organizations, including NPR, has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress. NPR also interviewed experts and ex-Facebook employees to shed light on the thousands of pages of internal research, discussions and other material.

Facebook rolled out “break the glass” measures for the election

As Facebook prepared for the 2020 election, it consulted its emergency playbook. Internally, staffers called these “break the glass measures” — a list of temporary interventions to keep its platform safe.

They included efforts to slow down the growth of political groups that could be vectors for misinformation and extremism. Facebook reduced the visibility of posts and comments deemed likely to incite violence so that people were less likely to see them. And the company designated the U.S. a “high risk location” so it could more aggressively delete harmful posts.

Facebook knew groups dedicated to politics and related issues — which it calls “civic groups” — presented particular risks, especially when it came to amplifying misinformation and growing more quickly than the company could keep up with.

So ahead of the election, the company tried to stop suggesting users join groups it thought they might be interested in; it restricted the number of invitations people could send out each day; in some cases it put group administrators on the hook for making sure posts didn’t break the rules, according to an internal spreadsheet describing the measures.

Despite these interventions, Facebook failed to curb the proliferation of the Stop the Steal movement. Inside the company, warnings about how the platform encouraged groups to grow quickly were getting louder. In its internal report, Facebook acknowledged something striking: it “helped incite the Capitol Insurrection” on Jan. 6.

In a statement on Friday, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone rejected the idea that Facebook bore responsibility for the Capitol siege.

“The responsibility for the violence that occurred on January 6 lies with those who attacked our Capitol and those who encouraged them. We took steps to limit content that sought to delegitimize the election, including labeling candidates’ posts with the latest vote count after Mr. Trump prematurely declared victory, pausing new political advertising and removing the original #StopTheSteal Group in November,” he said. “After the violence at the Capitol erupted and as we saw continued attempts to organize events to dispute the outcome of the presidential election, we removed content with the phrase “stop the steal” under our Coordinating Harm policy and suspended Trump from our platforms.”

But what unfolded on the platform and in Washington was especially disheartening to Haugen and other members of the civic integrity team, a group of employees dedicated to tackling political misinformation and protecting elections around the world, which Facebook disbanded in early December.

Haugen and other former employees NPR spoke with say the steps Facebook took around the election and Capitol insurrection show just how much the company knows about the problems endemic to its platform — and how resistant it is to make changes that affect the growth it prizes above all else.

“The thing I think we should be discussing is, what choices did Facebook make to expose the public to greater risk than was necessary?” Haugen said. “We should ask who gets to resolve these tradeoffs between safety and Facebook’s profits.”

Haugen has filed at least 8 complaints with the SEC alleging that Facebook violated U.S. securities law, including that Facebook allegedly misled investors and the public about its role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

While Facebook “has publicized its work to combat misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and insurrection,” the Jan. 6 complaint said, the company “knew its algorithms and platforms promoted this type of harmful content, and it failed to deploy internally-recommended or lasting counter-measures.”

But the picture that emerges from a review of the internal documents and interviews with former employees is murkier: Facebook did deploy many of its emergency measures. Some didn’t work; others were temporary. After the insurrection, as Facebook and the country reeled from images of the besieged Capitol, employees on the company’s internal message board blasted leadership for holding back efforts to make the platform safer.

Facebook, in its statement, said it considered “signals” on the platform and worked in collaboration with law enforcement prior to the election and after to decide what emergency steps to take.

“It is wrong to claim that these steps were the reason for January 6th — the measures we did need remained in place well into February,” Stone said, adding that some steps, like not recommending political groups, are still in place.

Company researchers highlighted the risks of political groups for months

Inside Facebook, employees had been ringing the alarms for months. In February 2020, staff flagged private political groups as a “high” risk for spreading misinformation during the election.

That’s because posts in private groups are viewable only by people who have been invited by a member, or approved by an administrator. Comments, links and photos in these groups operate in something of a Wild West: not subject to Facebook’s outside fact-checking program — a core part of the company’s approach to keeping lies off its platform. Most political content in groups is seen in these private channels, the employees noted.

Internal research has looked at how Facebook’s groups recommendations could quickly send users down partisan political rabbit holes. In a 2019 experiment called “Carol’s Journey to QAnon,” a Facebook employee created a test user named Carol Smith, a 41-year-old “conservative mom in the US south.”

After setting up the account to follow mainstream conservative political news and humor, including pages for Fox News and Donald Trump, the researcher found Facebook’s automated recommendations for groups and pages it thought Carol might like “devolved toward polarizing content.” Within two days, Facebook served her recommendations for more partisan political groups, such as one called “Lock Hillary Up!!!!” It suggested she follow a page promoting the baseless Qanon conspiracy in under a week.

Company researchers had also warned about how the most problematic groups were fueled by supercharged growth. An August 2020 internal presentation warned that 70% of political groups in the U.S. were so rife with hate, bullying, harassment, misinformation and other rule violations that Facebook’s systems were not supposed to recommend them to other users.

Facebook removed more posts for violating its hate speech rules in one private Trump-supporting group than any other US group from June to August, the presentation noted. And groups that were punished for breaking the rules found it easy to re-establish themselves; admins regularly set up alternate “recidivist groups” that they encouraged members to join in case Facebook shut them down.

The researchers found many of the most toxic civic groups were “growing really large, really fast,” thanks in part to “mass inviters” sending out thousands of messages urging people to join.

So, as the election neared, Facebook put a new “break the glass” measure in place: it allowed group members to invite just 100 people a day. As Stop the Steal flourished after the election, the company dropped that limit to 30.

“The groups were regardless able to grow substantially,” the internal Stop the Steal report said. “These invites were dominated by a handful of super-inviters,” the report concluded, with 30% of invitations coming from just 0.3% of group members — just as researchers had warned about back in August. Many were admins of other Stop the Steal connected groups, “suggesting cooperation in growing the movement,” the report said.

Stop the Steal organizers were also able to elude detection, the internal report said, by carefully choosing their words to evade Facebook’s automatic systems that scan content, and by posting to its disappearing “Stories” product, where posts vanish after a day.

While invitation limits were kept in place, other “break the glass” measures were turned off after the election. For example, it dialed back an emergency fix that made it less likely users would see posts that Facebook’s algorithms thought might break its rules against violence, incitement and hate.

Haugen and other former employees say those guardrails were taken away too soon. Many on the integrity team lobbied to keep the safeguards in place longer and even adopt some permanently, according to a former employee.

Facebook says it developed and implemented the “break glass” measures to keep potentially harmful content from spreading before it could be reviewed. But it also says those measures are blunt instruments with trade-offs affecting other users and posts that do not break its rules, so they are only suited for emergencies.

One “break the glass” intervention that some members of the integrity team thought should be made permanent slowed down “deep reshares” of political posts. That’s Facebook lingo for a post that has been repeatedly shared before appearing in someone’s feed — sort of like a game of telephone.

In April 2019, a Facebook data scientist wrote in an internal report that controls on “deep reshares” would reduce political misinformation in links by 25% and cut in half the number of photos containing political misinformation spreading across the platform.

For example, a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi that distorted her voice so it sounded slurred as if she were drunk went viral on Facebook a week before the 2019 memo. Nearly half of the views, the researcher found, were due to deep reshares — people who shared a post with the video from a friend, who had shared it from another friend, and so on down the chain.

But while Facebook was willing to tamp down reshares temporarily, it resisted making a permanent change, according to a former employee.

“In rare circumstances we reduce how often people see any content that has been shared by a chain of two or more people,” Stone, the Facebook spokesman, said. “While we have other systems that demote content that might violate our specific policies, like hate speech or nudity, this intervention reduces all content with equal strength. Because it is so blunt, and reduces positive and completely benign speech alongside potentially inflammatory or violent rhetoric, we use it sparingly.”

Leadership resisted calls to do more in lead-up to Jan. 6, employees say

As a pro-Trump mob poured into the Capitol on Jan. 6, Facebook employees watched in horror, and the company scrambled to put back in place many of the “break the glass” measures that it had turned off soon after the election.

It also banned then-President Donald Trump for 24 hours (later extended to two years), a move some employees argued was too little too late.

“Do you genuinely think 24 hours is a meaningful ban?” one employee wrote in response to an internal post from Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer on the day of the Capitol attack.

“How are we expected to ignore when leadership overrides research based policy decisions to better serve people like the groups inciting violence today,” the employee wrote. “Rank and file workers have done their part to identify changes to improve our platform but have been actively held back.”

“The atrophy occurs when people know how to circumvent our policies and we’re too reactive to stay ahead,” another employee lamented. “There were dozens of Stop the Steal groups active up until yesterday, and I doubt they minced words about their intentions.”

It was only after the events of Jan. 6 and a wave of Storm the Capitol events around the country that Facebook realized it was dealing with a coordinated movement, the company’s internal Stop the Steal report from March said.

The report concluded that there was a broader failure in Facebook’s approach. It focused on removing individual groups, rather than quickly seeing the systemic breakdown of Facebook’s broader network that enabled misinformation to emerge and flourish.

Its policies were built to root out “inauthentic behavior” — such as networks of fake accounts and Russian trolls impersonating Americans — but had little scope to confront “coordinated authentic harm” — that is, real people, using their real names, undermining confidence in American democracy.

“There’s not a single meme or a single post that is going to necessarily cause somebody to bring their zip ties to the Capitol,” said Lisa Kaplan, chief executive of the Alethea Group, a company that fights online misinformation and other threats. “It’s a slow drip narrative that ultimately changes people’s perceptions of reality.”

Editor’s note: Facebook is among NPR’s recent financial supporters.

Brian Laundries lawyer: FBI has everything they need in Gabby Petito murder probe

The attorney for now-deceased Brian Laundrie and his vilified parents said he has been told by the FBI that they believe they “have everything they need” with respect to the investigation into the murder of Gabby Petito. 

Sitting down with Fox News Digital at his New York office Friday, Steven Bertolino addressed questions about whether Chris and Roberta Laundrie planned to cooperate in the investigation into the death of their son’s late fiancée. After explaining what the FBI had told him, Bertolino added: “I was unaware of that as of yesterday. So, things change every day in this saga.”

“And it is tragic. It’s very sad,” he continued. “So, ultimately, we’ll see that through as it needs to be.”

The FBI declined to comment when Fox News Digital sought confirmation on this revelation.

Bertolino contends his clients cooperated with investigators when it came to the search for their fugitive son. But the Laundries have otherwise stayed mum in relation to Petito’s homicide, for which the FBI has said their son was a person of interest

Petito, 22 and Laundrie, 23, had embarked on a cross-country trip in mid-June with the plans to sightsee and visit national parks in a white Ford Transit. 

Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie are seen in bodycam footage released by the Moab City Police Department in Utah.

Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie are seen in bodycam footage released by the Moab City Police Department in Utah.
(Moab City Police Department)

According to law enforcement records, they got into a physical altercation during their stay in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, which led to a police stop for a possible domestic violence case.

Police closed out the call without filing any charges or issuing citations, but officers ordered Laundrie and Petito to spend the night apart. Officials are now investigating if the officers’ handling of the case violated Utah law.

On Sept. 1, months after the couple began their trip, Laundrie returned to the North Port, Florida, home in the van, but without Petito, officials said. The young woman was not reported missing until 10 days later, on Sept. 11, when her mother filed a police report in New York. Police seized the van from the Laundries’ home that same day. 

BRIAN LAUNDRIE WAS ‘GRIEVING’ WHEN HE VANISHED, DAYS BEFORE GABBY PETITO FOUND DEAD: LAWYER

Petito’s relatives said they repeatedly tried reaching Laundrie and his parents when they grew nervous about their daughter’s wellbeing, but the messages went unanswered. 

On Friday, Bertolino said he spoke to Brian Laundrie on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, the same day he is alleged to have disappeared after leaving for a hike in the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park. 

The attorney, who said he has known the Laundrie family for more than 20 years, said during a previous television interview that Brian was “grieving” and was upset when he left for the hike that day.

On Friday, he stepped away from that, saying he used the “wrong term,” and “could have used a better choice of words.” 

“I still stand by that Brian was upset, he was distressed. … He was out of sorts,” Bertolino told Fox News Digital. “At the time, Chris said, you know, ‘I couldn’t stop him. He was going.’ Brian was determined to go for a hike, and that seems to be something that we wish he didn’t do.” 

I still stand by that Brian was upset, he was distressed … he was out of sorts.

— Steven Bertolino, Laundrie family attorney

He would not explain why Brian Laundrie was so upset that day, citing confidentiality concerns. 

BRIAN LAUNDRIE SEARCH: NO DISCREPANCY BETWEEN FBI AND PARENTS ON MISSING TIMELINE, SAYS FAMILY LAWYER

Brian Laundrie

Brian Laundrie
(Instagram)

“There was a lot going on. They were getting phone calls over the weekend. You know, Gabby was missing,” Bertolino said. “He needed to get out and clear his head.” 

Bertolino, who had initially identified the date of Brian’s disappearance as Sept. 14 before changing the timeline weeks later, stands by his revelation earlier this week that he did notify the FBI on Sept. 13, the day Laundrie left for the hike. 

BRIAN LAUNDRIE SEARCH: FAMILY LAWYER ADDRESSES RUMORS PARENTS PLANTED EVIDENCE IN FLORIDA SWAMP

He previously attributed the confusion over when Brian was reported missing to authorities to a lack of communication between himself and law enforcement agencies. 

After initially notifying the FBI on that Monday that Brian had not returned, “there was never any communication between myself and law enforcement in the next three days,” he said on Thursday.

When asked on Friday why neither he nor the parents followed up with authorities about Brian’s whereabouts, he said, “Blame could go on either side.” He added that he, the North Port Police Department and the FBI had since “cleared the air.” 

Police outside Brian Laundrie's house on Saturday morning

Police outside Brian Laundrie’s house on Saturday morning
(Maciel/Backgrid)

“In my words, I never called the FBI on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, and the FBI never called me on Tuesday, on Wednesday or Thursday,” he went on. “We had our reasons for not calling them, and they perhaps had their reasons for not calling us.”

When it came to officially filing a missing persons report for Brian, Bertolino said he went as far as getting an outside opinion as to whether or not he would be violating attorney-client confidentiality by doing so. 

“I had to get an ethical opinion on Thursday the 16th, just to make sure that if I were going to report Brian missing that I wouldn’t be violating any privileges or confidences that my client had,” he said. “I am confident in what I did in my role here — the parents were aware of it every step of the way.”

The FBI’s Denver Field Office announced in a statement Thursday that Laundrie was positively identified using dental records as being those found within the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Wednesday morning. 

That same morning, Chris and Roberta Laundrie searched the park, which is attached to the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve, with the assistance of two law enforcement officers. 

GABBY PETITO HOMICIDE: TIMELINE OF DISAPPEARANCE WITH BRIAN LAUNDRIE

Laundrie’s remains and some of his belongings, including a notebook and a backpack, were found on or near a trail that he was known to frequent, said authorities and the attorney. In announcing the discovery on Wednesday, Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the FBI Denver, said the remains and the items were found in an area that had been underwater until recently.

After a weeks-long search of the Florida swamp left authorities with no answers, the park was reopened to the public Tuesday. The Laundries then notified authorities they wanted to search Brian’s frequented spots, Bertolino said at the time. 

During the couple’s time inside the park, a Fox News Digital reporter witnessed Chris and Roberta Laundrie search the area with two law enforcement officers. 

The images show Gabby Petito in her sophomore year and Brian Laundrie as a junior at Bayport-Blue Point High School in New York.

The images show Gabby Petito in her sophomore year and Brian Laundrie as a junior at Bayport-Blue Point High School in New York.

During their search, the Laundries discovered a white bag and a dark-colored object after traveling through a patch of brambles at the edge of the brush at a clearing. They then could be seen putting the object into the bag and handing it over to the law enforcement officer shortly thereafter.

In video obtained exclusively by Fox News Digital, the Laundries and the law enforcement officer are seen huddling and speaking as the officer appears to show the couple another discovered object. The officer appeared to tell the parents: “I think we might have found something.” The officer could be seen patting Chris Laundrie’s shoulder as he huddled with them.

The now-deceased couple met years earlier on Long Island, New York, where they grew up, and later moved into the Florida home with Brian’s parents.

Petito’s body was discovered in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Investigators have ruled her death a homicide and found she died of manual strangulation. 

Fox News’ Michael Ruiz contributed to this report. 

Minneapolis police officer Brian Cummings charged in crash that killed Leneal Frazier

Minneapolis Police Officer Brian Cummings has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide for a high-speed, squad-involved crash that killed 40-year-old Leneal Frazier. The investigation found the chase initiated by Officer Cummings reached speeds of 100 mph through residential neighborhoods and his squad struck Frazier’s Jeep, which was not involved in the pursuit, at 78 mph. LIVE NOW – Watch the press conference announcing charges at fox9.com/live.

Frazier was driving west on North 41st Avenue on July 6 around 12:30 a.m, on his way to his girlfriend’s house, when Cummings’ squad car, pursuing an armed robbery suspect northbound on Lyndale Avenue North, collided with his vehicle in the intersection. Frazier’s car was pushed into a nearby bus shelter. Frazier died at the hospital a short time later.

A memorial has been set up at Lyndale Avenue North to honor Leneal Frazier. (FOX 9)

MPD squad fatal crash caught on camera

Prosecutor: Officer Cummings ‘deviated from his oath’

“Police are supposed to protect and serve citizens, and to act in a manner consistent with their sworn oath to do so. Officer Cummings’ actions deviated from his oath and his negligence caused the death of Leneal Frazier,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “These charges are appropriate based on the thorough investigation conducted. I hope the victim’s family and loved ones find some solace in knowing we are doing everything we can to get justice for Mr. Frazier,” Freeman said. 

Surveillance video showed the suspect vehicle go through the intersection of North 41st and Lyndale Avenue at a high rate of speed. Cummings’ squad car, which appeared to have its flashing lights on, comes through the intersection a few seconds later, colliding with an uninvolved vehicle that was headed west on North 41st. The impact sent the vehicle careening onto the sidewalk, where it crashed into a bus shelter. 

Speeds up to 100 mph in residential neighborhoods

According to the criminal complaint, the chase went for more than 20 blocks through north Minneapolis, including residential neighborhoods. The chase reached speeds of nearly 100 mph, going through multiple stop signs.

When Cummings pursued the Kia northbound on Lyndale Avenue North, and just before reaching the intersection of 41st Avenue North and Lyndale Avenue North, Cummings was driving 90 mph. Prosecutors noted this is a speed that would take approximately 337 feet to come to a complete stop. The posted speed limit in that area is 25 mph. 

Accident reconstruction compiled through technology found in Cummings’ squad car and area surveillance footage revealed that, Cummings hit Frazier’s Jeep at roughly 78 mph, the complaint states. Frazier’s Jeep was estimated to be going 25 mph. 

Fatal MPD chase

The driver a Jeep, Leneal Frazier, died after his vehicle was struck by a Minneapolis police squad car pursuing an armed robbery suspect. (FOX 9)

Accident reconstruction determined the crash was due to Officer Cummings’ “failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists.” 

Cummings’ first court appearance has been scheduled for Nov. 9 in Hennepin County District Court.

Minneapolis police pursuit policy

Minneapolis Police Department policy on continued vehicle pursuits states: “Officers shall not initiate a pursuit or shall terminate a pursuit in progress if the pursuit poses an unreasonable risk to the officers, the public or passengers of the vehicle being pursued who may be unwilling participants.”

Following the crash, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has said the city will review its police pursuit policy again. The Minneapolis Police Department updated its pursuit policy in 2019 to be more restrictive, including not pursuing suspects for nonviolent offenses or lesser crimes. In light of the Frazier crash, however, Frey said the city will be reviewing that policy again, independent of the investigation.

You can read the complete Minneapolis Police Department policy manual on the city’s website at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/media/-www-content-assets/documents/MPD-Policy-and-Procedure-Manual.pdf. The pursuit policy can be found on page 396.

Call to update pursuit policies 

“The pursuit policies of law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are inadequate and do not do enough to protect human life,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman wrote in a memo urging all law enforcement agencies in Minnesota to update their pursuit policies. “From 2013 through 2020, there were 40 reported fatal injuries for people involved in, or affected by, pursuits. This must stop.”

Freeman cited the 2020 Uniform Crime Report for Minnesota, which showed there were 3,109 reported pursuit incidents, with 7.88 percent initiated because of a felony offense. 

Freeman wrote that pursuit policies must include specific language directing officers to consider risk factors when determining appropriate speed for a pursuit. But policies must also include intersection approach guidance and list tactics to help avoid intersection collisions, such as not assuming drivers will yield to an officer’s right of way. Read the complete memo

Leneal Frazier’s family demands justice

Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed the video of George Floyd’s murder. 

“I don’t understand how he didn’t see my father,” Leneal’s daughter Lanesha Frazier told FOX 9 in the days after the crash. “And my father was an innocent bystander.”

“They took the most important person from us and it hurts,” said brother Orlando Frazier. “And yes, we want justice. How can this keep going on like this?”

The Frazier family has retained the services of civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the Floyd family and the family of Daunte Wright. 

Youngkin under fire for invoking George Soros in school board debate | TheHill

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin came under fire this week after he accused allies of Democratic megadonor George Soros of planting political operatives on Virginia school boards, with some critics calling Youngkin’s comments antisemitic. 

“It was just offensive,” said Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D), who is Jewish and represents the district where Youngkin made the comment. “I was absolutely shocked and just could not believe that he would go there.” 

Filler-Corn’s comments followed remarks from Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Business groups create new headache for Pelosi Chamber of Commerce warns moderate Democrats against voting for reconciliation MORE (D-Va.), who is also Jewish. 

“I call it out in my own party and I’m calling it out now. Evoking George Soros as a shadowy funder is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory,” Luria said in a tweet on Wednesday. “This is an unacceptable statement from Glenn Youngkin.” 

The Washington Post on Thursday highlighted Luria’s criticism as well as concerns from the Jewish Democratic Council of America, in which the group told the Jewish website The Forward that Youngkin is “not disassociating himself from Republicans who use antisemitism as a political strategy. 

Youngkin made the comments during a rally in Burke, Va., on Tuesday, where he formally called for an investigation into the Loudoun County School Board amid fallout over the handling of two sexual assault cases that occurred in the county’s school system this year. The Republican nominee and his supporters have been very critical of the Loudoun County School Board and others, accusing schools of pushing critical race theory in the classroom as well as sexually explicit content in learning material. 

“The blame for these wrongs and the present chaos in our schools lays squarely, squarely at the feet of 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe,” Youngkin said. “But also at George Soros-backed allies. They’ve inserted political operatives into our school system disguised as school boards.”

Youngkin’s campaign spokesman Matt Wolking dismissed the claims of antisemitism from his critics as “ridiculous partisan nonsense.” 

“Glenn Youngkin stated facts reported by The Washington Post, so by Elaine Luria’s absurd standard, The Washington Post is anti-Semitic,” Wolking said in a statement. “The millions of dollars that Soros gives to Virginia Democrats and PACs funds the efforts that elect school board members.”

Youngkin’s campaign pointed to a number of Jewish voices who have defended Youngkin’s remarks, including conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, Caucus for America president Rabbi Aryeh Spero and Rabbi Yaakov Menken. 

“The charge by Terry McAuliffe’s supporters that his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, is anti-Semitic because he criticized George Soros is preposterous,” said Spero, who is a Republican. “Mr. Soros actively and openly engages in politics and in influencing state and local governments and is, therefore, a legitimate object of criticism, especially concerning the leftwing policies he’s tried to force on America through his massive underwritings. Thus, this accusation is just another dishonest attempt to win an election by playing the ‘anti-Semitism card.’ It is specious chutzpah.” 

Youngkin’s campaign also pointed to campaign donations from Soros and his affiliated PACs to McAuliffe, Luria, a Loudoun County prosecutor and other Virginia Democrats. 

The accusations come as the governor’s race between McAuliffe and Youngkin is neck and neck with less than two weeks until Election Day. 

Autopsy of Brian Laundrie: No cause, manner of death able to be determined

The attorney for Brian Laundrie’s parents says an autopsy on their son’s remains, which were described as “bones” by North Port police, did not reveal a cause or manner of his death. 

Laundrie’s autopsy was completed Friday and his remains will be sent to an anthropologist for further examination, according to reporting from FOX 5’s Jodi Goldberg.

The Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, said they were hoping for more answers from law enforcement regarding the cause of death for Brian, who was a person of interest in the death of fiancée Gabby Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip.

The manhunt for Brian ended Thursday when skeletal remains, found the day before at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in a previously underwater area, were identified as belonging to Brian by the FBI using dental records.

Laundrie was wanted on a federal warrant, charged with intent to defraud for one or more unauthorized uses of Gabby’s bank card, between August 30 and September 1, taking more than $1,000. Officials did not initially call him a suspect in Gabby’s homicide. A Wyoming coroner said she died by strangulation, and her body was likely outside for up to four weeks, but no suspects have been named in her death.

For weeks, Florida authorities scoured Carlton Reserve and neighboring Myakkahatchee Creek park, searching for any sign of Brian before scaling back those efforts nearly a week later

On Friday, Sept. 17, his parents said he was missing, telling North Port police they believed he would be in the preserve. At the time, they said he left the home on Tuesday, Sept. 14 , sparking the search. 

Then, according to the family attorney, in early October they said they believed he left one day earlier than they previously thought.

With the community still having questions about what happened to Gabby and what, if anything, Brian’s parents knew about what happened to their son, some have decided to protest outside the Laundries’ North Port home in their quest for answers.

The Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, says his clients have done nothing wrong.

“This protesting. This witch hunt. This mob-style crucifixion of Chris and Roberta is just wrong. Enough is enough,” Bertolino said. “If they haven’t gone home already, they should go home.” 

Bertolino says Chris Laundrie regrets letting his son go on that hike. He says the couple has done nothing wrong and they deserve privacy.