Northern Territory Police are investigating a spate of cattle and buffalo killings on properties along the Arnhem Highway, south-east of Darwin.
WARNING: This story contains details and images that readers may find distressing.
The NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) said three brahman cattle and two buffalo were targeted with a similar weapon in the past few weeks, prompting it to renew calls for a dedicated stock squad to be established within the NT Police.
Police confirmed two cattle were shot with arrows on Annaburroo Station, about 120 kilometres south-east of Darwin, on separate occasions this month.
Station manager Adrian Phillips said a bull, worth $6,000, was targeted on the roadside on January 2.
“All of my family know this bull very well — my daughter calls him ‘Dopey,'” he said.
“He can walk up to you and lick you in the paddock, he is that quiet.”
Mr Phillips said the bull seemed to have been shot in the lung and had probably died a slow and painful death.
He said one of the station’s heifers, worth about $1,200, was also shot with arrows on January 16.
The culprits beheaded and partially butchered the animal.
“I am pretty passionate about this job, I do it 365 days of the year,” Mr Phillips said.
NT Police Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage said the incidents at Annaburroo were under investigation.
Breeding herd buffalo shot
Two buffalo at the Beatrice Hill Research Station, 65km south-east of Darwin on Arnhem Highway, were shot with a similar weapon between Christmas and the end of last year, according to the NT Buffalo Industry Council.
Chief executive Louise Bilato said the buffalo were part of a valuable breeding program at the research facility.
“They’re 100 per cent riverine buffalo, so when they’re sold to dairy farms around Australia they can fetch [up to] $3,500,” she said.
“The purpose of that riverine herd at the research station is very much for future research, and their genetics have been developed for an extended period of time.
“So it is very distressing for us to hear about those animals being killed.”
NTCA acting chief executive Romy Carey said incidents such as these were callous and cruel but not uncommon.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” she said.
The NTCA receives up to 10 reports of stock theft or unlawful slaughter a week, according to Mrs Carey.
“The NTCA is continuing to call for an NT stock squad dedicated to dealing with crimes like these,” she said.
Mrs Carey said many crimes of this type were left unsolved because of the lengthy travel and lack of specialised skills required to investigate stock-related matters.
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So has Coca-Cola, Walmart, Hallmark, Amazon, Airbnb and Mastercard.
After last week’s violent insurrection on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, which left five people dead, dozens of the world’s biggest corporations are pulling their political donations from America’s Republicans.
The companies — many consistent Republican donors in the past — are targeting the 147 Republicans who still challenged the results of America’s presidential election after the Capitol building was stormed by Donald Trump’s supporters on January 6.
Some companies say those Republicans will receive no donations for the rest of their political lives.
“The insurrection at our nation’s Capital was a direct assault on one of our country’s most revered tenets: the peaceful transition of power,” a Disney spokesman told Politico this week.
“In the immediate aftermath of that appalling siege, Members of Congress had an opportunity to unite — an opportunity that some sadly refused to embrace.
“In light of these events, we have decided we will not make political contributions in 2021 to lawmakers who voted to reject the certification of the Electoral College votes.”
Donation drain comes at worst time for Republican Party
For the Republican Party, which has now lost control of the House and Senate, as well as the presidency, the loss of corporate donations to hundreds of members has hit especially hard at a time when it needs to rebuild.
The Party is not only witnessing donors flee its political action committees (PACs) — organisations that support particular political causes or parties — but major individual donors are walking away too.
Dissecting America’s opaque political donations system is difficult, because donations are spread across individual donors, lobby groups, PACs and corporations.
But the donation drain for Republicans is not immaterial.
End Citizens United, a group fighting to re-regulate American’s political donations system, estimates corporate PACs alone have donated nearly $US9 million ($12 million) to the eight US senators who refused to certify the results of the 2020 election.
Politico has reported the two senior House Republicans who objected to the certification of the Electoral College votes have received more than $US23 million ($30 million) in corporate donations over the length of their careers.
Household company names react with fury
But after last week’s Capitol insurrection, scores of America’s most well-known companies have been publicly distancing themselves from the Republicans who refused to accept the election result, with many saying they are reviewing their approach to political donations all together.
Hallmark, the oldest manufacturer of greeting cards in the US, has gone one step further than most companies and demanded refunds from two Republican senators who it said, “do not reflect our company’s values”.
Facebook has banned Mr Trump and associated accounts from its platform, while also pausing all of its PAC donations for at least this financial quarter, while it reviews its donation policy.
The aircraft giant Boeing, which US website Popular Information reports donated nearly $30,000 to eight senators in the last year, said it would “carefully evaluate” its future contributions.
Finance giants including Amex, Morgan Stanley and Citibank, as well as well known hotel brands, such as Marriott International and Hilton, are also reviewing or pausing their political contributions, as have Ford, ExxonMobil and FedEx.
Across the board, dozens of corporations have said they will no longer donate to those 147 Republicans, or they’ll pause donations for now, or they’ll re-evaluate which candidates will receive future support.
Political pressure to shift to boardrooms of publicly-listed companies in the US
Brynn O’Brien, the executive director at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), said the social pressure that miscreant Republicans are experiencing, via the corporate donations situation, would soon hit the boardrooms of publicly-listed companies.
She said if board members of publicly-listed companies in the US have shown public support for Mr Trump’s anti-democratic behaviour in recent years, they will soon be facing pressure too.
“There are going to be Trump-supporting company directors on the chopping block in the next proxy season in the US,” Ms O’Brien told the ABC.
The US “proxy season” occurs between mid-April and mid-June. It’s when large publicly listed companies hold their annual general meetings.
“I got off a call last night with some American colleagues and they are looking at the Twitter feeds, even the Parler accounts, of prominent company directors,” she said.
“Individual supporters of insurrection and white supremacy will no longer be tolerated on company boards — that would be my prediction for the 2021 US proxy season.
“They’re pulling together briefs, sending them to institutional investors and saying to institutional investors, ‘what are you going to do with this information? We recommend that you go and have a conversation with that board and seek the voluntary resignation of these people, because these people are not fit to be leaders in corporate America.'”
Will political donations ban be permanent?
Ms O’Brien said she doubted the pause on political donations in the US over the last week would become permanent, but she did think, for at least some of the elected Republican representatives, the “stain” of recent events would “stick around” beyond the next term of government.
She said the same went for corporations and their boards that were not seen to be responding to political events in a way that met their customers’ expectations of social responsibility and accountability.
“Companies are very sensitive to their brand being associated with things that their customers and society at large reject,” Ms O’Brien said.
She said companies everywhere put “material value” on their social licence to operate in different countries, and Australia had its own recent examples.
“Companies are under increasing pressure to distance themselves from the worst acts,” she said.
“We’ve seen that across Australia with Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge.
“We’re seeing it increasingly in the fossil fuel sector, we’re even seeing campaigns popping up, calling on sporting events not accepting donations from fossil fuel companies.
“The bounds of social acceptability are changing, but we have had an example in the US of something that was totally outside what the reasonable consumer in a pretty non-partisan sense would consider acceptable — and that was a violent insurrectionist white supremacist coup.”
Social media de-platforming is a complicated area
Dr Jacqueline Boaks, who lectures in ethics and leadership at the Curtin University School of Management, said it would take time for America to heal from the events of January 6.
She said the US’s corporate leaders had a responsibility to help guide the nation, and that went beyond reviewing their political donations and de-platforming problematic personalities from social media.
Dr Boaks said from one perspective, social media companies had a responsibility to their shareholders, which included banning controversial personalities who were negatively affecting their share price, but from another perspective, businesses had a responsibility to do what was ethically required for society at large.
“That might mean if someone is inciting insurrection, or causing possible serious harm, then they are obliged to do something to prevent it,” she said.
“It seems like a really open question.”
When it comes to political donations, Dr Boaks said the public’s willingness to maintain pressure on companies over a long period of time would determine whether or not those companies would maintain their decisions not to donate to Republicans who refused to accept the results of the 2020 election.
“There is really no substitute for a really critically engaged populace to hold companies to account,” she said.
“To avoid [political] greenwashing, you still need a critical public to determine if companies are actually going far enough, doing enough to be ethical, or just doing the equivalent of putting a fancy logo on their product?”
(“Greenwashing” is when an organisation spends more time marketing itself as being environmentally friendly than it does on reducing its environmental impact).
Similar social pressure has been applied on companies in Australia
In recent years, Australian corporations and media companies have faced similar pressures from activists and consumers, demanding businesses hold themselves to a higher standard.
Sleeping Giants Oz, the Australian arm of an international network of online activists, has run consumer boycott campaigns against commercial media outlets, including News Corp and Sydney radio 2GB, for promoting far-right activists and broadcasting polarising opinions.
Former 2GB breakfast radio host Alan Jones was a regular target, and in 2019, Macquarie Radio lost hundreds of advertisers, after Mr Jones suggested Prime Minister Scott Morrison “shove a sock down [Jacinda Ardern’s] throat.”
In 2018, following a Sleeping Giants Oz campaign, News Corp’s Sky News lost advertisers after airing an interview with far-right nationalist Blair Cottrell.
Sleeping Giants used social media to let the public know about the interview and in the aftermath, companies including Huggies, TerryWhite Chemmart, and the healthcare company GSK Australia, disassociated themselves from the network.
The public outcry following Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge led to a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s natural heritage and how it was being treated, as well as put pressure on the West Australian government to legislate protections for sacred Indigenous sites.
It saw Rio’s chief executive lose his job, in one of the biggest Australian reckonings for a major mining company for breaking the social contract.
During the banking royal commission, senior executives at some of Australia’s biggest banks were forced out the door after appalling customer treatment was made public through the hearings.
But when it comes to systemic change, the difference between a PR stunt and genuine cultural repair depends on whether or not the change becomes permanent.
‘Line in the sand’
Former Republican National Committee executive director, Mike DuHaime, told Politico he believed the decision by scores of Republicans to refuse to accept the election results served as a “line in the sand” and felt “like a breaking point” for many corporate and individual donors.
“But this only matters if it holds for the entirety of the cycle,” he said.
“If it’s only a pause, it won’t matter.”
Ms O’Brien said the political shift in power in the United States, which saw the Democrats win control of both US houses of congress and the presidency, along with the de-platforming of powerful voices like Mr Trump’s, had created space for companies to review their donations without fear of political retribution.
“It wouldn’t have been the decisive factor, the companies were probably already thinking about it, but it created the political space,” Ms O’Brien said.
“And that’s how a trickle became a tide of companies saying we are not going to spend money in this way.”
Some of the major companies in the United States that are either pausing, reviewing or cancelling their political donations:
(Source: US news website Popular Information)
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Holland & Hart
International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
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Brad Hill experienced an up-and-down first AFL season at St Kilda but teammate Jack Billings has backed the winger to kick on in 2021.
Hill joined the Saints from Fremantle on a lucrative long-term contract at the end of 2019 but struggled to find his best form in 2020, averaging just 15.4 disposals.
Billings expected the return to longer quarters to suit the hard-running Hill and help him get back to his best.
“Obviously he came in last year with a lot of expectations on him but I guess you can only speak about what’s happening now and he’s in really good shape and out there today he was moving well,” Billings said on Wednesday.
“I think quarters going back to normal length this year is something that’s gonna help him.
“Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for new players to sort of fit in – just get used to how guys around them play and how we play as a team. Sometimes that takes longer for other guys.
“He’s comfortable now, he’s 12 months in – so I’m looking forward to what he can do for us this year.”
The Saints snared Hill along with Dan Butler, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard in a bumper 2019 trade period, with all five best 22 players in a team that reached a semi-final.
Billings expected all five players to continue to improve – especially off the back of the team’s bonding in their Queensland hub.
“Because we had all these new players come in, it takes time to create relationships and get to know each other and it was fast-tracked just because we were up in Queensland for all that time,” he said.
“We look at that as a real positive and benefit for our footy club.
“We’ve already noticed coming back here – the first few days back – everyone knows each other a lot better than, say, if we didn’t (go in the hub).”
Billings was impressed by new recruits Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins, while he noted Dan Hannebery – plagued by soft-tissue injuries in his first two seasons at St Kilda – was “flying”.
Meanwhile former Kangaroo Mason Wood is training with the Saints in the hope of securing an AFL lifeline and Billings said the athletic forward had made a good initial impression.
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New Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett got his first taste of the back-room politics in play at Canterbury-Bankstown when CEO Andrew Hill parted ways at Belmore on Tuesday.
After three years of hard yakka, three boards, three different chair people and three coaches, Hill and the Bulldogs decided to go their separate ways.
In other words, Hill got told his number was up.
Welcome to the family club, 2021.
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They can spin it whichever way they want but the reality is Hill has done an admirable job in an extremely tough environment at a club which has run 12th, 12th and 15th over the last three seasons.
In proof nice guys don’t always finish last in rugby league, Hill will get a start at a rival NRL club and be better for the savage playground experience of life in the hot seat at Canterbury-Bankstown.
This week of all weeks should be a celebration of everything good at Belmore.
They’ve got a new young gun coach, some fresh faces on the roster and there’s reason for optimism at the club made famous in the 1980s by the late, great Peter “Bullfrog” Moore.
Yet less than 24 hours after new recruit Corey Allan’s first full training session at Belmore, the Bulldogs decide it’s time to tap the CEO on the shoulder.
Even by their standards of doing business, it’s a strange play.
Emotional Pearce relinquishes captaincy
Sure Hill had political ties to previous chairman Ray Dib and his board given they were the ones who hired him – but he’d also ridden out some serious storms.
From last year’s pre-season schoolgirl scandal to the Mad Monday shenanigans of 2018, Hill was forced to be the front man during some proper s*** sandwiches.
Then there was the departure of last year’s head coach, Dean Pay, and dealing with the previous powerbrokers at the club, the Anderson family.
When well-known hotel family the Laundy’s – patriarch Arthur and sons Stu and Craig – came on board as major sponsor towards the back of last year the Bulldogs were celebrating like it was the 1984 grand final.
But clearly some elements within and on the fringes of the club remain unhappy with how business is being done and so Hill has become the latest casualty.
It’s a sharp reminder for Barrett about how volatile the Bulldogs can be.
If dealing with Manly Immortal Bob Fulton had its challenges, the politics at Canterbury-Bankstown is next level.
Warriors ready to face adversity in 2021
The best thing Trent can do is front-load all his energy into the football side and continue building a better roster.
Because if you get caught in the crossfire at Canterbury-Bankstown, there’s only one place you’ll end up.
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Canterbury have confirmed the sudden and surprise departure of chief executive Andrew Hill, who took a lead role in the NRL club’s rebuild.
Hill helped lure new coach Trent Barrett to the Bulldogs and was involved in the signing of star Melbourne speedster Josh Addo-Carr for the 2022 season.
He was also instrumental in securing the services of former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as a high-performance consultant.
The Bulldogs also recruited Corey Allan this week, joining Kyle Flanagan, Nick Cotric and Jack Hetherington as new faces at the club.
In his three years in the position after moving across from the NRL, Hill oversaw the transition through two coaches with Des Hasler and Dean Pay both leaving during his tenure.
Hill spoke last month of his passion for reviving the once powerhouse club , which finished a disappointing 15th last season, but said he was ready to take on another challenge.
“I have enjoyed my time at the Bulldogs and after three years of service in the role the time is now right to look at my next challenge,” Hill said in a brief statement.
“I wish the club and team every success for the future.”
Bulldogs chairman John Khoury also didn’t give away reasons for Hill’s abrupt departure in his statement.
“Andrew Hill has made a significant contribution to the Bulldogs over the past three years,” Khoury said.
“He has strengthened all areas of the club and will leave us in a strong position for a new CEO to take over.
“We are appreciative of his professionalism in signalling this early enough for us to find a replacement in time for the start of the season.”
Current Chief Financial Officer John White will fill the role of interim CEO,.
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We are joined by the writer and historian, Anne Applebaum, and the Washington Post columnist, Henry Olsen.
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Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill has reportedly parted ways with the club despite overseeing an impressive rebuild over the last six months.
The Daily Telegraph reports Hill, who joined the club in 2017, has left his role, however a reason why remains to be seen.
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Under Hill’s watch, Trent Barrett was appointed head coach and the club has made a number of key signings including Nick Cotric, Kyle Flanagan and most recently Corey Allan, as well as Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton for the 2022 season.
Hill also played a major role in locking in All Blacks legend Steve Hansen as high performance consultant as well as securing a major sponsor, Laundy Hotels.
The Bulldogs are expected to release a statement confirming the news later this afternoon.
Emotional Pearce relinquishes captaincy
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Canterbury have parted ways with their chief executive Andrew Hill.
Hill was informed by the Bulldogs board on Monday night his services were no longer needed and he will finish up at the close of business Tuesday.
One of the sharpest operators in the game, Hill – who watched the club churn through three different boards in as many years – was said to be stunned by the news.
After the messy departure of coach Des Hasler in 2017, followed by the axing of coach Dean Pay last year and the early exit of several high-profile players on big-money contracts, things were finally starting to look up at the Bulldogs.
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US officials have opened 25 domestic terrorism investigations following last week’s violent scenes in which thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill.
Two men who were pictured with plastic restraints as they broke into the Capitol have been arrested
US Capitol Police did not bolster staffing on the day of the raid and did not prepare for a possible escalation in violence
Nancy Pelosi, her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans say Donald Trump should not serve out his term
The riot scattered politicians who were certifying Democratic president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, in a harrowing assault on the centre of American democracy that left five dead.
Dozens of people who attacked police officers, stole computers and smashed windows at the Capitol have been arrested for their role in the violence.
As the full extent of the insurrection becomes clear, the FBI is also investigating whether some of the rioters had plans to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage.
Investigators are particularly focused on why some of them were seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and had apparently accessed areas of the Capitol generally difficult for the public to locate, according to an official.
The official was among four officials briefed on Wednesday’s incident who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly.
Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas, and Eric Gavelek Munchel, of Tennessee, who both were photographed with plastic restraints as they broke into the Capitol, were arrested by the FBI on Sunday.
Prosecutors said Mr Brock also donned a green helmet, tactical vest and camouflage jacket.
Capital Police made no preparations for possibility protests could escalate
Others briefed on law enforcement’s response who spoke to the Associated Press said US Capitol Police did not bolster staffing on the day of the raid and made no preparations for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into massive violent riots, despite ample warnings about demonstrations in Washington DC.
The revelations shed new light on why Capitol Police were so quickly overrun by rioters.
The department had the same number of officers in place as on a routine day.
While some of those officers were outfitted with equipment for a protest, they were not staffed or equipped for a riot.
Once the mob began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in.
Officers are sometimes ordered against escalating a situation by drawing their weapons if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.
In this instance, it also left officers with little ability to resist the mob.
In one video from the scene, an officer puts up his fists to try to push back a crowd pinning him and his colleagues against a door.
The crowd jeers, “You are not American!” and one man tries to prod him with the tip of an American flag.
“They were left naked,” Democratic representative Maxine Waters said of the police.
Ms Waters had raised security concerns in a December 28 meeting of House Democrats and grilled Steven Sund, the Capitol Police chief, during an hour-long private call on New Year’s Eve.
The Capitol Police’s response to the riots, poor planning and failure to anticipate the seriousness of the threat have drawn condemnation from politicians and prompted the ouster of the department’s chief and the sergeants at arms of both the House and Senate.
Trump an ‘imminent threat’ to constitution and democracy, Pelosi says
The violence came after Mr Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol at a rally where he repeated false claims that his resounding election defeat was illegitimate.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, many of her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans say Mr Trump should not be trusted to serve out his term, which ends on January 20.
“In protecting our constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Ms Pelosi wrote to fellow House Democrats on Sunday.
Mr Trump acknowledged a new administration would take office on January 20 in a video statement after the attack but has not appeared in public.
When the House convenes on Monday (local time), politicians will bring up a resolution asking Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the never-used 25th Amendment of the US constitution, which allows a vice-president and cabinet to remove a president deemed unfit to do the job. A recorded vote is expected on Tuesday.
Mr Pence was in the Capitol along with his family when Mr Trump’s supporters attacked. He and Mr Trump are currently not on speaking terms.
But Republicans have shown little interest in invoking the 25th Amendment. Mr Pence’s office did not respond to questions about the issue.
Possible insurrection charge
If Mr Pence does not act, Ms Pelosi says the House could vote to impeach Mr Trump on a single charge of insurrection.
That vote could come by the end of the week.
Aides to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted against recognising Mr Biden’s victory, did not respond to a request for comment.
House Democrats impeached Mr Trump in December 2019 for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden, but the Republican-controlled Senate voted not to convict him.
Democrats’ latest effort to force Mr Trump out also faces long odds of success without bipartisan support.
Only four Republican politicians have so far said publicly Mr Trump should not serve out the remaining days in his term.
The politicians who drafted the impeachment charge say they have locked in the support of at least 200 of the chamber’s 222 Democrats, indicating strong odds of passage.
Mr Biden has so far not weighed in on impeachment, saying it is a matter for Congress.
Even if the House impeached Mr Trump for a second time, the Senate would not take up the charges until January 19 at the earliest, Mr Trump’s last full day in office.
An impeachment trial would tie up the Senate during Mr Biden’s first weeks in office, preventing the new president from installing Cabinet secretaries and acting on priorities such as coronavirus relief.
Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, suggested his chamber could avoid that problem by waiting several months to send the impeachment charge over to the Senate.
Mr Trump would be long gone by then, but a conviction would bar him from running for president again in 2024.
The votes also would force Mr Trump’s Republicans to again defend his behaviour.
Several prominent US corporations, including Marriott International Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co, have said they will suspend donations to the nearly 150 Republicans who voted against certifying Mr Biden’s victory, and more are considering that step.
Washington remains on high alert ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration.
The event traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, but has been scaled back dramatically because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who will become majority leader after Mr Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris are inaugurated and the two new Democratic senators from Georgia are seated, said on Sunday the threat from violent extremist groups remained high.
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Thierry Breton is European commissioner for the internal market.
We are all still shocked by the images of protesters storming the U.S. Congress to halt the certification of the next U.S. president. The attack on the U.S. Capitol — a symbol of democracy — feels like a direct assault on all of us.
Just as 9/11 marked a paradigm shift for global security, 20 years later we are witnessing a before-and-after in the role of digital platforms in our democracy.
Social media companies have blocked U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts on the grounds that his messages threatened democracy and incited hatred and violence. In doing so, they have recognized their responsibility, duty and means to prevent the spread of illegal viral content. They can no longer hide their responsibility toward society by arguing that they merely provide hosting services.
The dogma anchored in section 230 — the U.S. legislation that provides social media companies with immunity from civil liability for content posted by their users — has collapsed.
If there was anyone out there who still doubted that online platforms have become systemic actors in our societies and democracies, last week’s events on Capitol Hill is their answer. What happens online doesn’t just stay online: It has — and even exacerbates — consequences “in real life” too.
The unprecedented reactions of online platforms in response to the riots have left us wondering: Why did they fail to prevent the fake news and hate speech leading to the attack on Wednesday in the first place? Regardless of whether silencing a standing president was the right thing to do, should that decision be in the hands of a tech company with no democratic legitimacy or oversight? Can these platforms still argue that they have no say over what their users are posting?
Last week’s insurrection marked the culminating point of years of hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and destabilization strategies that were allowed to spread without restraint over well-known social networks. The unrest in Washington is proof that a powerful yet unregulated digital space — reminiscent of the Wild West — has a profound impact on the very foundations of our modern democracies.
The fact that a CEO can pull the plug on POTUS’s loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing. It is not only confirmation of the power of these platforms, but it also displays deep weaknesses in the way our society is organized in the digital space.
These last few days have made it more obvious than ever that we cannot just stand by idly and rely on these platforms’ good will or artful interpretation of the law. We need to set the rules of the game and organize the digital space with clear rights, obligations and safeguards. We need to restore trust in the digital space. It is a matter of survival for our democracies in the 21st century.
Europe is the first continent in the world to initiate a comprehensive reform of our digital space through the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act, both of which the European Commission tabled in December. They are both based on one simple yet powerful premise: What is illegal offline should also be illegal online.
Our European laws and courts will continue to define what is illegal, both offline and online — from child pornography to terrorist content, from hate speech to counterfeiting, from incitement to violence to defamation — through democratic processes and with appropriate checks and balances. But currently, online platforms lack legal clarity about how they should treat illegal content on their networks. This leaves our societies with too many questions about when content should or shouldn’t be blocked.
The DSA will change that by giving online platforms clear obligations and responsibilities to comply with these laws, granting public authorities more enforcement powers and ensuring that all users’ fundamental rights are safeguarded.
With the DSA, Europe has made its opening move. Our democratic institutions will work hard and fast to finalize this reform. But the challenges faced by our societies and democracies are global in nature.
That is why the EU and the new U.S. administration should join forces, as allies of the free world, to start a constructive dialogue leading to globally coherent principles. The DSA, which has been carefully designed to answer all of the above considerations at the level of our Continent, can help pave the way for a new global approach to online platforms — one that serves the general interest of our societies. By setting a standard and clarifying the rules, it has the potential to become a paramount democratic reform serving generations to come.
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