AOC Calls For Investigation Into Robinhood After They Restrict GME & Other Trades

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others are calling for an investigation into Robinhood and other trading apps over market manipulation after stopping users from trading GameStop, AMC, and others following r/WallStreetBets big success in damaging billionaire hedge funds.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Fights for the Right to Block Some Critics on Twitter

New York congresswoman is the latest politician to face lawsuit over First Amendment issues on social media

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is set to testify in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday in support of a cause of growing importance to politicians in the internet age:  .

One of Congress’s most influential voices on the progressive left, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has amassed a huge and ardent audience of fans and detractors on Twitter, with more than 5.7 million followers. Like President Trump, the freshman Democrat representing Queens and the Bronx has banned a few followers from her personal Twitter account—@AOC—and faces a First Amendment lawsuit as a result.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s case is the latest in a burgeoning number of lawsuits challenging the right of elected leaders to curate their social-media audience and censor their toughest critics. Already Mr. Trump, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, at least two governors and other local government figures face similar First Amendment lawsuits.

The Constitution restricts government regulation of private speech, protecting against the exclusion of voices in public spaces on the basis of viewpoint. Like other politicians, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez argues in court papers that her @AOC handle is essentially a private soapbox outside the control of government and fundamentally different from her official accounts, @repAOC.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is being sued by Dov Hikind, a former Democratic state assemblyman from New York City.

Mr. Hikind had repeatedly assailed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for likening southern border detention centers to concentration camps. On July 5, replying to one of her tweets, he said: “You’re actually a liar. It’s been proven.”

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Three days later, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez blocked Mr. Hikind, who represented Brooklyn’s Borough Park before founding a nonprofit group that advocates against anti-Semitism. He sued her the next day.

“In an effort to suppress contrary views, [Ms. Ocasio-Cortez] has excluded Twitter users who have criticized AOC and her positions as a Congresswoman via ‘blocking,’” his lawsuit stated, using Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s nickname based on her initials. “This practice is unconstitutional and must end.”

Getting blocked

  • limited his ability to view her account,
  • reply to her posts and
  • engage in discussions with other users about her tweets.

On the internet, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez defended her social-media policy as justified self-protection.

Without referring to Mr. Hikind, she tweeted in August that she has blocked under 20 accounts “for ongoing harassment” and never censored one of her own constituents. Those users, she wrote, “do not have the right to force others to endure their harassment and abuse.”

Mr. Hikind says none of his tweets could be considered harassment.

Before making any ruling, U.S. District Judge Frederic Block scheduled a hearing Tuesday to hear directly from Ms. Ocasio-Cortez about her reasons for blocking Mr. Hikind.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s office declined to comment.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s court appearance plunges Twitter into another content controversy, on the heels of Twitter’s announcement last week that it will ban political ads.

Twitter rules point to the frequent difficulty of distinguishing between harassment and what it calls “consensual conversation.” Its user policies forbid harassment and other behavior that is intended to artificially amplify information or that “manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter.”

Twitter declined to comment. It is a member of the Internet Association, Silicon Valley’s policy and lobbying umbrella, which in a related case urged the courts against making any far-reaching ruling that could interfere with its control over customer accounts. The association didn’t take a position on the main question: whether a government official blocking Twitter users violates the First Amendment.

Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, a nonprofit that promotes free speech, disagrees with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, arguing that her @AOC account is an extension of her office, used to explain policy proposals, solicit public comment on government issues and advocate for legislation.

The most high-profile ruling came in July, when the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that Mr. Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked Twitter users who criticized the president and his policies.

“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker in the 3-0 ruling.

The Justice Department, which represented Mr. Trump, had argued that @realdonaldtrump was a private platform for his own personal speech.

The First Amendment law is the same whether the defendant is Mr. Trump or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, said constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

“There may be an argument here that it was a private account and not used for government business,” he said. “But that is a factual question and not a First Amendment issue.”

Not all plaintiffs in these cases have prevailed. A federal judge last year refused to grant an injunction against Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin who blocked hundreds of people from his Twitter and Facebook sites.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Understands Democracy Better Than Republicans Do

The idea that proponents of greater electoral equity have to quiet down because we live in a ‘republic’ is absurd.

It’s worth asking where this quip — “we’re a republic, not a democracy” — even came from. Nicole Hemmer, a historian of American politics and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” traces it to the 1930s and 40s. “When Franklin Roosevelt made defending democracy a core component of his argument for preparing for, and then intervening in, the war in Europe, opponents of U.S. intervention began to push back by arguing that the U.S. was not, in fact, a democracy,” she wrote in an email.

One Roosevelt opponent, for example — Boake Carter, a newspaper columnist who supported the America First Committee (which opposed American entry into World War II) — wrote a column in October 1940 called “A Republic Not a Democracy,” in which he strongly rebuked the president for using the word “democracy” to describe the country. “The United States was never a democracy, isn’t a democracy, and I hope it will never be a democracy,” Carter wrote.

The term went from conservative complaint to right-wing slogan in the 1960s, when Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, used it in a September 1961 speech, “Republics and Democracies.” In a democracy, Welch protested, “there is a centralization of governmental power in a simple majority. And that, visibly, is the system of government which the enemies of our republic are seeking to impose on us today.”

“This is a Republic, not a Democracy,” Welch said in conclusion, “Let’s keep it that way!”

These origins are important. If there’s substance behind “We’re a republic, not a democracy,” it’s not as a description of American government. There’s really no difference, in the present, between a “republic” and a “democracy”: Both connote systems of representation in which sovereignty and authority derive from the public at large.

The point of the slogan isn’t to describe who we are, but to claim and co-opt the founding for right-wing politics — to naturalize political inequality and make it the proper order of things. What lies behind that quip, in other words, is an impulse against democratic representation. It is part and parcel of the drive to make American government a closed domain for a select, privileged few.

‘Go Back’ Message Deepens Immigration-Debate Wounds

The country is being riven by an issue unresolved by successive administrations and Congresses000

At Mass on Sunday, Catholics around the world heard the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan: It is the story Jesus told of a Samaritan encountering on the road a Jewish man—a foreigner to him—who had been beaten and left for dead. While others walked by and let the man suffer, the Samaritan stopped, dressed his wounds and took him to safety despite their deep cultural differences.

At about the time that gospel was being proclaimed, President Trump tweeted out his already-famous, incendiary declaration that young Democratic congresswomen criticizing America should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The contrast in those Sunday messages was striking. So too was the evolution in Republican rhetoric from the days of Ronald Reagan, an earlier GOP president who, in his farewell address, talked of America as a “shining city” that was “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace” and whose “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Mr. Trump’s tweet came at a time when the country already was pained by television images of illegal immigrants packed into chain-link pens at the border, and while the immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was beginning a wave of raids to round up undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) PHOTO: NICK WAGNER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

There is a root cause for all this: The country is being riven by a seething immigration debate, left unresolved by successive administrations and Congresses. Put bluntly, the immigration system is broken and needs fixing, yet the emotions now being stirred probably are making it less likely, not more likely, that it will be fixed any time soon.

In his message, Mr. Trump was referring to a group of young congresswomen known as “the squad”—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are minorities and, despite the implication of the president’s tweet, three of the four were born in the U.S.

Ironically, the four outspoken progressives had been a far bigger problem for fellow Democrats, and specifically for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, than for Mr. Trump. They have incensed fellow Democrats by charging them with racist behavior, encouraged progressives to challenge incumbent Democratic lawmakers, and undercut the party’s attempts to modulate its message to win back moderate and working-class voters who drifted toward Mr. Trump in 2016.

In fact, comments by Trump allies suggest they would like to make those controversial congresswomen the new face of the Democratic party in the eyes of middle-of-the-road Americans.

The president’s attack on the congresswomen had significant racial overtones, because all four are women of color. But the policy debate running beneath the charged rhetoric is over immigration.

The nuts and bolts of the immigration problem now riveting the country are relatively simple. Rampant social violence and economic dislocation are compelling working men and women in Central America to seek a way out. Current immigration law and court rulings have created a muddle over when and how such people might seek asylum in the U.S., and what should be done with them when they do so.

The asylum option is drawing northward thousands of immigrants. A sensible U.S. policy solution would be to

  • clarify the law’s provisions about asylum,
  • establish a more sensible system for handling asylum seekers and their families, and
  • provide more help to Central American nations to reduce the problems that compel people to leave in the first place.

As U.S. officials and lawmakers have concluded at various times in the past, the price of helping Central American nations solve their problems there is probably lower in the long run than is paying the financial and social prices of having the problems land here.

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Nearly lost in the process is a recognition of the considerable contribution immigrants make to American society. The New American Economy is an organization, funded by business leaders, that has set out to document the contributions immigrants make to U.S. economic growth. On its website, it estimates the impact of immigrants by state, and even by city.

Example: The Kansas City metropolitan area has 140,442 immigrant residents, who pay $1 billion in taxes, have $3.1 billion in spending power, and include 9,625 immigrant entrepreneurs.

Mr. Trump’s supporters often point out that his administration supports legal immigration, and is fighting illegal immigration, which is true. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has overseen the drafting of an immigration proposal that would boost border security while also setting up a merit-based immigration system that would keep the number of legal immigrants at current levels while shifting the mix more to those with needed job and technical skills.

But the congresswomen Mr. Trump targeted also are here legally, a sign of how fast rhetoric can slide downhill.