Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center releases analysis of online media and social media coverage of 2016 presidential campaign

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (Aug. 16, 2017), documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

From the Executive Summary:

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter.

Recommended. — Joe

Does the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 apply to the removal of confederate monuments?

“There’s no issue of public interest that copyright law cannot make worse. So let me ruin your day by pointing out there’s a copyright angle to the monument controversy: the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), a 1990 addition to the copyright statute that allows certain artists to control what happens to their art long after they’ve created it and no longer own it,” wrote Techdirt’s Cathy Gellis in Because Of Course There Are Copyright Implications With Confederacy Monuments. On The Faculty Lounge, Brian Frye discusses the applicability of of VARA to the current controversy. From Moral Rights & Confederate Monuments:

[T]he question becomes whether removing and relocating such a monument would infringe the VARA right of integrity. Under the canonical interpretation, I doubt it. Confederate monuments are typically stand-alone works that can easily be removed in one piece without damaging the work. But what about “site-specificity”? Artists argue that the right of integrity should extend to the physical location of works, if the meaning of the work depends on its physical location. But many Confederate monuments were deliberately placed in civic spaces in order to communicate a particular message: endorsement of Jim Crow, segregation, and racism. If a Confederate monument is moved out of a place of civic honor, surely that affects its meaning.

— Joe

LexisNexis sells 150+ law enforcement titles to Blue360 Media

From the July 13, 2017 press release:

Blue360° Media has acquired over 150 law enforcement publications from LexisNexis® Group covering 40 U.S. states. Blue360° Media publishes Law Enforcement Manuals, Code Books, Field Guides, and an Officer Series focused on professional development.  With over 170,000 publications ordered each year, Blue360° Media helps new recruits learn the criminal and traffic laws for their jurisdiction, assists seasoned professionals in quickly finding legal changes, and helps department managers institute best practices with guidance on issues such as report writing and passing promotional exams.

“2017 has been a particularly active legislative year, and it is important that our officers remain up-to-date on the ever changing criminal code. At Blue360° we are passionate about serving our men and women in blue, and we seek to keep them safe and successful in protecting and serving in our communities,” said CEO Susan Slisz.

— Joe

House resolution invokes 25th Amendment to “Quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to exam the president… .”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-Calif.) has introduced a resolution Friday urging President Donald Trump to get a medical and psychiatric examination to determine if he should be removed from office. The resolution calls on Vice President Pence and the members of Trump’s cabinet to “quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals” to “assist in their deliberations” invoking the 25th Amendment, which outlines presidential removal procedures.

The resolution states:

Quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to exam the president to assist in their deliberations under the 25th Amendment to determine whether the president suffers from a mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his Constitutional duties.

— Joe

Using Congressional Research Service Reports in LR&W instruction

Most readers are probably aware of legislative research reports produced by the Congressional Research Service. Two come readily to mind:

But there are plenty more where those came from. Here’s just a sample of CRS reports that can provide useful background reading on the federal legislative process for the legal research component of “how a bill becomes a law.”

Bills and Resolutions: Examples of How Each Kind Is Used (Dec. 2, 2010 98-706)

The Senate’s Calendar of Business (Apr. 21, 2017 98-429)

Calendars of the House of Representatives (Mar. 2, 2017 98-437)

House Floor Activity: The Daily Flow of Business (April 16, 2008 RS20233)

Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution (Jan. 17, 2017 R44195)

Introducing a House Bill or Resolution (Jan. 12, 2017)

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills (Jan 12, 2017 RS22477)

Types of Committee Hearings (June 28, 2017 98-317)

Hearings in the U.S. Senate: A Guide for Preparation and Procedure (Mar. 18, 2010 RL30548)

Hearings in the House of Representatives: A Guide for Preparation and Procedure (June 13, 2006 RL30539)

“Holds” in the Senate (Jan. 17, 2017 R43563)

Enrollment of Legislation: Relevant Congressional Procedures (May 18, 2017 RL34480)

Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate (Feb. 2015 RS22654)

How Bills Amend Statutes (June 24, 2008 RS20617)

— Joe

ABA Forms New Commission To Rethink Legal Education

The 10-member Commission on the Future of Legal Education will take a leadership role in anticipating, articulating and influencing what will be dramatic changes in the legal profession in the next decade and beyond. The Commission will explore possible changes to methods of training and testing the future generations of law students. It will seek to bring the perspectives of various constituencies to the table including judges, deans, professors and practitioners. Various subcommittees of the Commission will focus specifically on key issues including the bar exam, alternative teaching methods, length of law school and other issues identified by the group. Here’s the press release. — Joe

79 Democratic Members of Congress cosponsor resolution to censure President Trump

From the press release:

Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced a censure resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives against President Donald Trump for his comments blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and excusing the behavior of participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally.

The censure resolution condemns the President for failing to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist, Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazi groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville over the weekend, and for doubling-down on his comments by attempting to create a moral equivalency between white supremacists and those counter-protesting the ‘Unite the Right’ rally. The resolution, which was cosponsored by 79 Members of Congress, offers an official censure by Congress of President Trump for his remarks, and calls for the President to fire any and all advisors who have urged him to cater to white supremacist.

Is your Member of Congress among the 79 cosponsor. [List of Cosponsors] As of now, the resolution is not online at Congress.gov. — Joe

Congressional censure and post-Charlottesville calls for Congress to censure President Trump

“Censure is not impeachment,” wrote USA Today’s Editorial Board. “Whether that’s appropriate will likely depend on the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. But censure would constitute a forceful way of rebuking the White House and condemning the vile views of a bigoted fringe, even as those people’s right to free speech and peaceful protest is protected under the First Amendment.” After Charlottesville, time to censure President Trump, USA Today, Aug. 16, 2017.

On Congressional censure, see Congressional Censure and “No Confidence” Votes Regarding Public Officials, (June 23, 2016). From the introduction:

The House and the Senate have, from time to time in the past, proposed and—on some occasions—adopted a resolution which has expressed the body’s disapproval, condemnation, censure, or lack of confidence regarding a particular official in the executive branch of the federal government.

Such actions have not been considered as part of the express impeachment authority of the House within the Constitution (nor the authority to try such impeachments in the Senate), nor have they generally been considered as either part of the inherent contempt authority of either house of Congress or the express constitutional authority of each house of Congress to discipline its own Members. Rather, such actions seem to be in the nature of a “sense of the House” or a “sense of the Senate” resolution, whereby a simple resolution is proposed and adopted by one house of Congress, without the concurrence of the other house of Congress, and without a requirement for a “presentment” to the President (as would be required of a “bill”). Such simple resolutions adopted by one house (or concurrent resolutions adopted by both houses) have come to be recognized by parliamentarians as a vehicle to express the opinion and sense of Congress on a nonlegislative matter; and “sense of” the House, Senate, or Congress resolutions concerning a wide range of subjects have been used frequently in the past by the House and Senate.

The adoption of a simple or concurrent resolution expressing the House’s or Senate’s “censure,” “condemnation,” or “no confidence” in a particular officer of the federal government does not have any immediate or binding legal import, but does express a particular moral judgment and may have both symbolic as well as political implications.

— Joe

When the cookie meets the blockchain: Privacy risks of web payments via cryptocurrencies

Here’s the abstract for Steven Goldfeder, Harry Kalodner, Dillon Reismany & Arvind Narayanan’s When the cookie meets the blockchain: Privacy risks of web payments via cryptocurrencies:

We show how third-party web trackers can deanonymize users of cryptocurrencies. We present two distinct but complementary attacks. On most shopping websites, third party trackers receive information about user purchases for purposes of advertising and analytics. We show that, if the user pays using a cryptocurrency, trackers typically possess enough information about the purchase to uniquely identify the transaction on the blockchain, link it to the user’s cookie, and further to the user’s real identity. Our second attack shows that if the tracker is able to link two purchases of the same user to the blockchain in this manner, it can identify the user’s entire cluster of addresses and transactions on the blockchain, even if the user employs blockchain anonymity techniques such as CoinJoin. The attacks are passive and hence can be retroactively applied to past purchases. We discuss several mitigations, but none are perfect.

H/T Freedom to Tinker post. — Joe

Drastic cuts proposed for workers aged 49 and under by H.R. 6489, the Social Security Reform Act

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-TX, the chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee of Ways and Means, has introduced H.R. 6489, the Social Security Reform Act of 2016. See Johnson’s justification. If passed, the legislation would negatively affect retirement plans for American workers aged 49 and under. The bill would lower Social Security benefits by one-third to retirees and those drawing Social Security Disability Retirement and raise their retirement from 67 to 69 years old. The bill would also cut seniors’ cost of living adjustments. On the current retirement age requirements see this CRS report. — Joe

Presidential Advisers’ Testimony Before Congressional Committees

From the introduction to the CRS report, Presidential Advisers’ Testimony Before Congressional Committees: An Overview (December 15, 2014, RL31351):

Since the beginning of the federal government, Presidents have called upon executive branch officials to provide them with advice regarding matters of policy and administration. While Cabinet members were among the first to play such a role, the creation of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) in 1939 and the various agencies located within that structure resulted in a large increase in the number and variety of presidential advisers. All senior staff members of the White House Office and the leaders of the various EOP agencies and instrumentalities could be said to serve as advisers to the President.

Occasionally, these executive branch officials playing a presidential advisory role have been called upon to testify before congressional committees and subcommittees. Sometimes, such invited appearances have been prompted by allegations of personal misconduct on the part of the official, but they have also included instances when accountability for policymaking and administrative or managerial actions have instigated the request for testimony. Because such appearances before congressional committees or subcommittees seemingly could result in demands for advice proffered to the President, or the disclosure—inadvertent or otherwise—of such advice, there has been resistance, from time to time, by the Chief Executive to allowing such testimony.

Congress has a constitutionally rooted right of access to the information it needs to perform its Article I legislative and oversight functions. Generally, a congressional committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter, which is conducting an authorized investigation for legislative or oversight purposes, has a right to information held by the executive branch in the absence of either a valid claim of constitutional privilege by the executive or a statutory provision whereby Congress has limited its constitutional right to information.

A congressional committee may request (informally or by a letter from the committee chair, perhaps co-signed by the ranking Member) or demand (pursuant to subpoena) the testimony of a presidential adviser. However, Congress may encounter legal and political problems in attempting to enforce a subpoena to a presidential adviser. Conflicts concerning congressional requests or demands for executive branch testimony or documents often involve extensive negotiations and may be resolved by some form of compromise as to, inter alia, the scope of the testimony or information to be provided to Congress.

— Joe

A glossary of extremist language

H/T to beSpacific for the tip to the NYT’s Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language. — Joe

Options for independent executive branch criminal investigations

Following on the heels of this May 2017 CRS report, Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Options for Independent Executive Investigations (R44857) was published in June. The report notes “because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself (e.g., the Watergate investigation), there have been calls for an independently led inquiry to determine whether officials have violated criminal law. In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have used both statutory and regulatory mechanisms to establish a process for such inquiries. These responses have attempted, in different ways, to balance the competing goals of independence and accountability with respect to inquiries of executive branch officials.”

The report also provides a glossary of terms.

Independent Counsel: Now-expired provisions of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-521, as amended) authorized the Attorney General to request that a three-judge panel within the federal judiciary appoint an independent counsel. Independent counsels had more independence than regular DOJ officials and employees, though the breadth of their investigations led to debate and ultimately to the expiration of the statutory authorization.

Special Counsel: The DOJ’s general administrative hiring authority (28 C.F.R. Part 600) authorizes the Attorney General to appoint special counsels. Special counsels exercise more independence than regular DOJ officials and employees, but because the Attorney General generally appoints, supervises, and may remove special counsels, they are considered to be less independent than independent counsels were. (The term “special counsel,” when used in the context of independent criminal investigations of executive officials, is entirely distinct from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, which investigates certain federal personnel practices.)

Special Prosecutor: The Attorney General historically has appointed special prosecutors to investigate scandals involving public officials. The term “special prosecutor” was also initially used to describe independent investigations authorized by the Ethics in Government Act, though the term was later changed under that statute to “independent counsel.” Historically, these appointments were used to provide for the investigation of any related allegations without political interference.

–Joe

Applying digital text history techniques to the adoption of the Field Code

From the conclusion of Kellen Funk and Lincoln Mullen’s The Spine of American Law: Digital Text Analysis and U.S. Legal Practice (July 12, 2017), American Historical Review (February 2018):

[W]e have shown how digital history can also operate by starting with specific historical questions rather than particular sources. We have shown how a collection of methods from computer science, including minhash/locality-sensitive hashing, affinity propagation clustering, and network analysis, along with the concept of text deformance from literary studies, can be used to good effect in tracking the changes in the law, as well as any other discursive field whose texts can be readily divided into sections. Finally we have shown how it is possible to work on different scales, using network analysis, visualization, and algorithmic close reading, and thus to gain both a broad overview of the law’s migration, as well as a highly detailed view of the changes in the law.

Here’s the abstract:

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the majority of U.S. states adopted a novel code of legal practice for their civil courts. Legal scholars have long recognized the influence of the New York lawyer David Dudley Field on American legal codification, but tracing the influence of Field’s code of civil procedure with precision across some 30,000 pages of statutes is a daunting task. By adapting methods of digital text analysis to observe text reuse in legal sources, this article provides a methodological guide to show how the evolution of law can be studied at a macro level—across many codes and jurisdictions—and at a micro level—regulation by regulation. Applying these techniques to the Field Code and its emulators, we show that by a combination of creditors’ remedies the code exchanged the rhythms of agriculture for those of merchant capitalism. Archival research confirmed that the spread of the Field Code united the American South and American West in one Greater Reconstruction. Instead of just a national political development centered in Washington, we show that Reconstruction was also a state-level legal development centered on a procedure code from the Empire State of finance capitalism.

A very interesting contribution to an emerging field of digital text history of law. H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

A psychological profile of the alt-right

Here’s the abstract for A Psychological Profile of the Alt-Right by Patrick S. Forscher and Nour S. Kteily (Aug. 10, 2017):

The 2016 U.S. presidential election coincided with the rise the “alternative right” or “alt-right”. Although alt-right associates wield considerable influence on the current administration, the movement’s loose organizational structure has led to disparate portrayals of its members’ psychology. We surveyed 447 alt-right adherents on a battery of psychological measures, comparing their responses to those of 382 non-adherents. Alt-right adherents were much more distrustful of the mainstream media and government; expressed higher Dark Triad traits, social dominance orientation, and authoritarianism; reported high levels of aggression; and exhibited extreme levels of overt intergroup bias, including blatant dehumanization of racial minorities. Cluster analyses suggest that alt-right supporters may separate into two subgroups: one more populist and anti-establishment and the other more supremacist and motivated by maintaining social hierarchy. We argue for the need to give overt bias greater empirical and theoretical consideration in contemporary intergroup research.

— Joe

SPLC: “Tell President Trump to take responsibility for the hate he’s unleashed”

SPLC Map of Hate Groups in the US

If interested, sign the Southern Poverty Law Center’s petition which reads in part:

President Trump’s campaign and presidency have energized the white supremacist movement in unprecedented ways. We saw it in the support he received from the likes of David Duke during his campaign. We saw it in the surge in hate crimes committed in his name after his election. And we saw it in the deadly gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend.

At this point, it’s not enough for Trump simply to condemn bigotry. He must take responsibility for the surge in white supremacy and hate that he has unleashed. He must:

• Apologize for energizing the radical right by running a racist and xenophobic campaign;

• Demonstrate that he is changing directions by firing his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the person who turned Breitbart News into a platform for white supremacists; and

• Take concrete action to undo the harm he has caused, starting with a directive to federal agencies to take the danger of white supremacy seriously.

The events in Charlottesville demand nothing less.

— Joe

On modernizing the FDLP’s statutory authority: Comments due by the end of the month

A push to revise Title 44 is in the works led by the Government Publishing Office and the Committee on House Administration.  It started on June 27, 2017 when GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks charged the Depository Library Council (DLC) with making recommendations to her for changes in Title 44 of the U.S. Code. The scope for change is focused on Chapter 19 only, and she is looking for revisions that provide depository libraries more flexibility. The timetable calls for the DLC to submit draft recommendations for the fall 2017 Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference, October 16 – 18. The depository community will have an opportunity to comment before the final version is submitted to the GPO Director. [Press Release] For background, see James Jacobs’ Here we go again: GPO wants to change Title 44.

For Free Government Information, Jacobs has written a series of posts on this matter:

Strengthening Title 44 part 1: Modernize definition of “publications.”

Strengthening Title 44 part 2: Free Access

Strengthening Title 44 part 3: Privacy

Strengthening Title 44, part 4: Preservation

All are highly recommended.

August 31st deadline for contributions to the modernization discussion. AALL has issued a call for members to make their voice heard by contacting the AALL Director of Government Relations, Emily Feltren and submitting comments to the DLC [DLC Contact Form]. From the August 2017 Washington E-Bulletin issue:

There are many questions to consider when thinking about possible updates, including:

• What parts of Chapter 19 must remain in order to ensure the future success of the FDLP? What should change?

• What updates could be made to strengthen permanent public access to government information?

• What changes to Title 44 as a whole would benefit law libraries?

James Jacobs is promoting this Change.org petition: Protect the public right to govt information: help preserve and expand Title 44. Signatures will go directly to staffers on the House Committee on Administration and Joint Committee on Printing, as well as to GPO and ALA Washington Office. — Joe

RIP Charlotte School of Law

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office ordered the Charlotte School of Law to close effective immediately. The students were informed yesterday. Reasons for the closure include the ABA’s denial of the school’s Teach-Out Plan and the North Carolina Board of Governors decision not to grant an extension of the law school’s license to operate. — Joe

New edition of Zotero: A Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Educators published by ACRL

Serving as a thorough introduction to Zotero — from setting up to saving, organizing, and citing items, and ending with more advanced topics — as well as a guide to teaching Zotero,  Zotero: A Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Educators, Second Edition by Jason Pucket is both a user’s guide to the tool and a handbook for understanding how different groups use it.

From the blurb:

This second edition, in full color, includes many more figures, screenshots, and illustrations, revised bibliographies, substantial changes to the chapter on online tools, and the addition of a completely new chapter on add-ons and mobile applications. “Zotero” is a comprehensive guide for researchers who just need a how-to to help them make bibliographies; instruction librarians and teachers using Zotero in conjunction with classes doing research assignments; and reference librarians and tech support staff who are helping users with Zotero questions and problems.

— Joe

Welcome back law students: Current awareness services reach out to incoming law students by way of two academic law library blogs

Yesterday the law blogoshere saw the publication of two brief but to the point current awareness posts on two timely topics. Duke Law Library’s The Goodson Blogson published a post on the 25th Amendment titled Pleading the Twenty-Fifth and UWashington Gallagher Law Library blog published The History and Law of Special Counsel. Both provide succinct summaries of their topics with links to relevant sources. Nice way to start off the academic year with these library outreach activities. — Joe