Aug 14, 2019

House subpoenas 8chan owner to testify on extremist content

A man sitting at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images

The House Homeland Security Committee issued a subpoena on Wednesday to Jim Watkins, the owner and operator of 8chan, to discuss extremist rhetoric on social media.

Catch up quick: Bipartisan Committee leaders sent Watkins a letter Aug. 6 asking for him to testify on his efforts to "investigate and mitigate the proliferation of extremist content" on 8chan. The anonymous forum has been linked to at least 3 white supremacist attacks this year — most recently the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso in which Hispanics were targeted.

Of note: The site’s founder Fredrick Brennan has called for the site to be shut down, saying it offers a "receptive audience for domestic terrorists." He stepped away from working with the site’s owners in December.

What they're saying:

"In recent years, violent extremist content has proliferated on both large and small social media platforms. ... Receiving testimony from Mr. Watkins is critical to our oversight on this matter."
— per a statement from Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)

Go deeper: America's hate problem

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that Jim Watkins is the owner and operator of 8chan (not its founder).

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Private hate groups online prove difficult to police

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Recent high-profile hate crimes are forcing technology companies to reassess how hate speech and harmful content manifests in closed groups online.

Why it matters: As communications become more closed off and private, experts worry that private group forums online may be festering hateful activity that could manifest itself in dangerous offline behavior.

Go deeperArrowAug 15, 2019

In gun reform plan, Beto O'Rourke wants to hold social media liable

Beto O’Rourke speaks at a campaign re-launch on August 15 in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke wants to hold social media platforms liable for failing to ban "hateful activities" like harassment, white nationalism or defamation in his newly unveiled gun reform plan.

Be smart: Efforts to limit or amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which shields platforms like Google and Facebook from legal liability for users' posts — have historically failed because of free speech protections granted by the First Amendment.

Go deeperArrowAug 17, 2019

House Judiciary subpoenas Corey Lewandowski to testify in obstruction probe

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday to testify Sept. 17 about potential obstruction of justice by President Trump.

The big picture: The testimonies are part of the ongoing investigation by the committee — recently dubbed "formal impeachment proceedings" by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) — into "obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates." Unlike the other witnesses in the Mueller investigation who have been subpoenaed by the Judiciary committee, Lewandowski never worked in the Trump White House — a fact that Democrats hope will prevent the president from blocking his testimony.