Majority of Americans think social media platforms censor political views: Pew survey

FILE PHOTO: A young couple look at their phone as they sit on a hillside after sun set in El Paso, Texas, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – About seven out of ten Americans think social media platforms intentionally censor political viewpoints, the Pew Research Center found in a study released on Thursday.

The study comes amid an ongoing debate over the power of digital technology companies and the way they do business. Social media companies in particular, including Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, have recently come under scrutiny for failing to promptly tackle the problem of fake news as more Americans consume news on their platforms.

In the study of 4,594 U.S. adults, conducted between May 29 and June 11, roughly 72 percent of the respondents believed that social media platforms actively censored political views those companies found objectionable.

The perception that technology companies were politically biased and suppressed political speech was especially widespread among Republicans, the study showed.

About 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the survey thought it was likely for social media sites to intentionally censor political viewpoints, with 54 percent saying it was “very” likely.

Sixty-four percent of Republicans also thought major technology companies as a whole supported the views of liberals over conservatives.

A majority of the respondents, or 51 percent, said technology companies should be regulated more than they are now, while only 9 percent said they should be regulated less.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Republicans’ push to roll back Obamacare faces crucial test

President Donald Trump (C) gathers with Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, May 4, 2017.

By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A seven-year Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare faces a major test this week in the U.S. Senate, where lawmakers will decide whether to move forward and vote on a bill whose details and prospects are uncertain.

The Senate will decide as early as Tuesday whether to begin debating a healthcare bill. But it remained unclear over the weekend which version of the bill the senators would ultimately vote on.

President Donald Trump, after initially suggesting last week that he was fine with letting Obamacare collapse, has urged Republican senators to hash out a deal.

“Republicans have a last chance to do the right thing on Repeal & Replace after years of talking & campaigning on it,” Trump tweeted on Monday.

Republicans view former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health law, known as Obamacare, as a government intrusion in the healthcare market. They face pressure to make good on campaign promises to dismantle it.

But the party is divided between moderates, concerned that the Senate bill would eliminate insurance for millions of low-income Americans, and conservatives who want to see even deeper cuts to Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The House in May passed its healthcare bill. Senate Republicans have considered two versions but have been unable to reach consensus after estimates showed they could lead to as many as 22 million fewer Americans being insured. A plan to repeal Obamacare without replacing it also ran aground.

If the Senate approves a motion to begin debating a healthcare bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will determine which proposal has the most Republican support and move forward to a vote, Republicans said.

Republicans hold 52 of 100 Senate seats. McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes as Democrats are united in opposition.

Senator John Barrasso, a member of the Republican leadership, acknowledged on Sunday that there remained a lack of consensus among Republicans.

“Lots of members have different ideas on how it should be best amended to replace what is really a failing Obama healthcare plan,” Barrasso said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The Republican effort has also been complicated by the absence of Senator John McCain, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer and is in his home state of Arizona weighing treatment options.


(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Caren Bohan and Nick Zieminski)


May Day rallies across U.S. to target Trump immigration policy

U.S. President Donald Trump appears on stage at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Labor unions and immigrant advocacy groups will lead May Day rallies in cities across the United States on Monday, with organizers expecting larger-than-usual turnouts to protest the immigration policies of President Donald Trump.

The demonstrations could be the largest by immigrants since Trump’s inauguration on January 20, activists say, and some immigrant-run businesses plan to shut down for some or all of the day to protest the administration’s crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally.

“To me, it’s offensive the policies this president is trying to implement,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of the Service Employees International Union’s 32BJ affiliate, which represents cleaners and other property service workers in 11 states.

“It’s a nation of immigrants, and separating immigrant families because of their immigration status, it goes against what we love about this wonderful country.”

May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, has typically been a quieter affair in the United States than in Europe, where it is a public holiday in many countries.

In New York City, immigrant-run convenience stores and taxi services in upper Manhattan will close during the morning rush hour between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., in a protest reminiscent of those staged on “A Day Without Immigrants.”

At lunchtime, fast-food workers will join elected officials at a rally outside a McDonald’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan, calling for more predictable work schedules.

In the early evening, organizers expect thousands of demonstrators to gather at a rally in Manhattan’s Foley Square for musical performances and speeches by union leaders and immigrants living in the country illegally.

In Los Angeles, organizers expect tens of thousands of people to gather in the morning at MacArthur Park before marching downtown to a rally before City Hall.

Heightened precautions were also in place in Seattle, where officials were on the lookout for incendiary devices and gun-carrying protesters after a January shooting outside a political event and an incident during May Day 2016 when a protester threw an unlit Molotov cocktail at police.

Some Trump supporters said they would also turn out on May Day. Activist Joey Gibson said he and other conservatives will travel to Seattle to defend against what he described as communist and anti-fascist groups who have in the past faced off with police in the evening, after the conclusion of the usually peaceful daytime marches.

“We’re going to go down there to help build courage for other people, especially conservatives,” Gibson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Frank McGurty and Mary Milliken)

Eyeing re-election, Germany’s Merkel takes tougher tone on migrants

German Chancellor and leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party CDU Angela Merkel delivers her closing speech of the CDU party convention in Essen, Germany,

By Paul Carrel

ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives toughened their tone on integrating migrants on Wednesday, passing a resolution on tackling forced marriage and honor killings, and cracking down on dual citizenship.

A day after Merkel called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils “wherever legally possible”, her Christian Democrats (CDU) endorsed that message and stressed the values they want the 890,000 migrants who arrived in Germany last year to adopt.

Merkel, who implored the party on Tuesday to help her win a fourth term in office at federal elections next year, told N-TV at the end of a two-day CDU party conference that individual criminals among the migrants must be found and prosecuted.

But she was quick to say: “We must not draw conclusions about the whole group of people seeking protection.”

Neighboring Austria on Sunday rejected a candidate vying to become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two, halting – at least temporarily – the wave of populism sweeping Western democracies.

In a sign of how much Germany’s “Willkommenskultur”, or welcoming culture, has faded since the 2015 influx, Jens Spahn, a deputy finance minister and senior CDU member, said legal barriers for deportation must be lowered.

“Those who are not refugees, who are not fleeing from Iraq or Syria from war and persecution, must return to their homelands – and that needs to be done consistently,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio.


Ahead of next year’s election, the CDU is trying to mend fences with its Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is tougher on immigration, to try to claw back support lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

But Merkel is reluctant to move too far from the center.

In a sign the CDU base is moving to her right, party members adopted a motion to oblige young people who grow up in Germany to foreign parents to decide by the age of 23 whether they will take German nationality or that of their parents’ home country.

The CDU leadership had urged members to reject the motion, which went back on a compromise reached in 2014 with the Social Democrats (SPD), junior party in Merkel’s ruling coalition, allowing those concerned to take two passports at 23 years old.

“Such a step backward into the past will not take place with the SPD,” Katarina Barley, secretary general of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Funke media group. “The CDU has swung to the right at its party congress,” she said.

Reacting to the vote, Merkel showed she is not in lock step with her party base by insisting the 2014 double-passport agreement with the SPD would not be abandoned before next year’s election and that campaigning should not focus on the issue.

She was re-elected chairwoman of the CDU by 89.5 percent of the delegates present at the conference in the western city of Essen, where she was first elected party chairwoman in 2000.

Her score was down from 96.7 percent two years ago but above her lowest winning score of 88.4 percent in 2004, and daily newspaper Bild dubbed the winning margin “Merkel’s little victory”.

An Emnid poll on Sunday showed support for the CDU and CSU at a 10-month high of 37 percent, 15 points ahead of the SPD.

Seeking to claw back ground lost to the AfD, CDU members at the conference adopted a measure calling for forced marriage and honor killings to be “prevented and prosecuted rigorously”.

German police this week detained an Iraqi migrant for suspected rape only days after an Afghan refugee was held in a separate rape and murder case.

Germany has registered some 1,475 child marriages, according to interior ministry figures collected since last year’s influx of migrants. The Justice Ministry said its latest statistics showed there was a conviction for forced marriage in 2014, but that did not necessarily reflect the scale of such crimes.

(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Louise Ireland)