PARIS — Weeks after re-electing President Emmanuel Macron, voters in France return to the polls on Sunday to choose their parliamentary representatives, elections that will determine whether Mr. Macron’s bills sail or stumble through the legislature during his second term.
All 577 seats are up for grabs in the National Assembly, France’s lower and more powerful house of Parliament, which Mr. Macron’s party and its allies currently control. Most polls predict that will remain the case — to a degree.
France’s modern presidential and parliamentary elections are held only months apart, on the same five-year cycle. Over the past two decades, voters have always given their newly elected president strong parliamentary backing, and polls and experts suggest that would be a likely outcome for Mr. Macron this time, too.
surging inflation than by the campaign, and pollsters say they expect record-low turnout.
Here is a primer on the elections, which will be held in two rounds, on Sunday and on June 19.
most powerful political office, with broad abilities to govern by decree. But they need Parliament, and especially the National Assembly, to accomplish most of their bigger domestic policy goals, push through spending bills or change the Constitution.
Emmanuel Macron’s Second Term as President of France
With the reelection of Emmanuel Macron, French voters favored his promise of stability over the temptation of an extremist lurch.
Some of Mr. Macron’s prominent campaign promises, like his vow to raise the legal age of retirement, require legislation. His new government also wants to tackle the effects of inflation, requiring lawmakers to vote on measures like food subsidies.
a wave of political newcomers as candidates.
La Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, more commonly known by its acronym NUPES, a left-wing alliance brought together by Mr. Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party that includes the Socialist, Green and Communist parties.
A group of traditional right-wing parties, led by Les Républicains, the mainstream conservatives.
The far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen, who was defeated by Mr. Macron in the presidential runoff in April.
The latest polls suggest that Ensemble and NUPES are neck-and-neck, with about 25 to 28 percent each. The National Rally is predicted to receive around 20 to 21 percent of the vote, with Les Républicains roughly 10 to 11 percent. Smaller groups, including the party of Éric Zemmour, a far-right pundit who ran for president, are polling in the single digits.
Élisabeth Borne, the prime minister. Their races will be closely watched, as a loss by one or several of them would be seen as a rebuke of Mr. Macron, who has warned that those who are not elected will leave his cabinet.
Large Conservative Party rebellion deals blow to PM
Johnson says it is ‘decisive result’
COVID-19 ‘Partygate’ sours mood
LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a confidence vote on Monday but a large rebellion in his Conservative Party over the so-called “partygate” scandal dealt a blow to his authority and leaves him with a struggle to win back support.
Johnson, who scored a sweeping election victory in 2019, has been under increasing pressure after he and staff held alcohol-fuelled parties in his Downing Street office and residence when Britain was under lockdowns to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vote was a blow to Johnson, with 41% of his lawmakers casting ballots against his leadership after months of scandals and gaffes that has raised questions over his authority to govern Britain and knocked his standing among the public.
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But Johnson, a master of political comebacks, instead described the vote as a “decisive result” meaning that “as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people”.
“We can focus on what we’re doing to help people with the cost of living, what we’re doing to clear the COVID backlogs, what we’re doing to make streets and communities safer by putting more police out,” said Johnson, who for weeks has tried to move the national conversation away from “partygate”. read more
It is a change of fortune for Johnson and underlines the depth of anger against him. He was met with a chorus of jeers and boos, and some muted cheers, at events to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in recent days.
Several lawmakers said the vote, which saw 211 lawmakers cast ballots in favour of Johnson against 148, was worse than expected for a prime minister, once seemingly unassailable after winning the Conservatives’ largest majority in more than three decades.
“Boris Johnson will be relieved at this vote. But he will also understand that the next priority is to rebuild the cohesion of the party,” David Jones, a former minister, told Reuters. “I am sure he will be equal to the challenge.”
Others were less optimistic, with one Conservative lawmaker saying on condition of anonymity: “It is clearly much worse than most people were expecting. But it is too early to say what will happens now.”
Roger Gale, a long-time critic of Johnson, urged the prime minister “to go back to Downing Street tonight and consider very carefully where he goes from here”.
By winning the confidence vote, Johnson has secured a reprieve for 12 months when lawmakers cannot bring another challenge. But his predecessor Theresa May scored better in her 2018 confidence vote only to resign six months later. read more
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves from the back entrance of Downing Street in London, Britain June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Dozens of Conservative lawmakers have voiced concern over whether Johnson, 57, has lost his authority to govern Britain, which is facing the risk of recession, rising fuel and food prices and strike-inflicted travel chaos in the capital London.
But his Cabinet rallied around him and highlighted what they said were the successes of the government: a quick rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations and Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A majority of the Conservatives’ lawmakers – at least 180 – would have had to vote against Johnson for him to be removed.
Earlier, a spokesperson for Johnson’s Downing Street office said the vote would “allow the government to draw a line and move on” and that the prime minister welcomed the opportunity to make his case to lawmakers. read more
Johnson, a former London mayor, rose to power at Westminster as the face of the Brexit campaign in a 2016 referendum, and won the 2019 election with the slogan to “get Brexit done”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, told Sky News that completing Britain’s departure from the European Union would be “significantly at risk without his drive and energy”.
Johnson has locked horns with Brussels over Northern Ireland, raising the prospect of more barriers for British trade and alarming leaders in Ireland, Europe and the United States about risks to the province’s 1998 peace deal.
But it was the months of stories of what went on in Downing Street, including fights and alcohol-induced vomiting, when many people were prevented from saying goodbye to loved ones at funerals, that did the real damage.
The move led to lawmakers from different wings of the party revealing that they had turned against their leader. One former ally accused the prime minister of insulting both the electorate and the party by staying in power.
“You have presided over a culture of casual law-breaking at 10 Downing Street in relation to COVID,” Jesse Norman, a former junior minister, said before the vote.
Johnson’s anti-corruption chief John Penrose also quit.
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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Andrew MacAskill; Additional reporting by David Milliken, William James, Alistair Smout, Farouq Suleiman and Helena Williams; Editing by William Schomberg and Grant McCool
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Prime Minister’s party only just approves him in confidence vote
Conservative Party rebellion means he has much work to do
Johnson looking vulnerable to further threats
LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) – For a man who long set his sights on becoming Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson came dangerously close on Monday to being ousted by lawmakers tired of defending him and faces a battle to win back the confidence of his party and country.
He survives, just, for now. But he is deeply wounded and even loyal lawmakers who backed him in a confidence vote say he must now change – return to the traditional ideals of the governing Conservative Party, foster unity and lead.
His inbox is daunting. British households face the biggest cost-of-living squeeze since the 1950s, with food and fuel prices rising while wages lag, and travellers are experiencing transport chaos at airports caused by staffing shortages.
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The master of political comebacks might struggle this time.
Ed Costelloe, chair of the group Conservative Grassroots who backed Johnson in 2019, said he had got many things right, but had been brought down by the so-called “partygate” scandal over his breaches of COVID-19 lockdown rules. read more
“Once you face a vote of confidence somehow you are doomed. After that, the vultures start gathering. I think he is in real, real trouble,” he told Reuters.
Johnson won the vote 211 to 148, a worse showing than when lawmakers tried to oust his predecessor Theresa May, who won her vote but then resigned six months later. read more
The confidence vote was a brutal wake up call for a leader whose mandate once seemed unassailable after his promise to “get Brexit done” in 2019 won over voters in parts of the country the Conservatives had never been able to capture and the party’s biggest majority in over three decades.
Since then, the list of reasons lawmakers gave for wanting Johnson gone were as varied as they are many, cutting across usual factional lines and making the rebels somewhat uneasy bedfellows.
As reasons why the 57-year-old leader should resign, lawmakers cite anything from “partygate”, threats to breaking international law, the defence of rule-breakers at the heart of power, multiple policy U-turns, an initial slow response to COVID-19 to a general lack of respect for his office.
It was perhaps the lack of cohesion in Monday’s rebellion that helped save him. But it has left him weakened.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits St Mary Cray Primary Academy School to see how they are delivering tutoring to help children catch up following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Orpington, Britain May 23, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS
Political survival is something Johnson, known widely as Boris, has made a career of, with former prime minister David Cameron likening him to a “greased piglet” who is hard to catch.
“My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters,” Johnson wrote in a newspaper column in 2004.
In a speech to the party lawmakers just hours before the vote, Johnson remained adamant he could win again.
“If you don’t believe that we can come back from our current position and win again then you haven’t looked at my own record or the record of this party,” he said, according to a senior party source in the meeting.
Some have warned of underestimating Johnson, or Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, saying his ruffled appearance and distinctive mop of blond hair masks the discipline and ruthlessness he needed to get to this point.
But after years of weathering sex scandals, gaffes and missteps as London mayor, foreign secretary and now prime minister, Johnson, a relative loner in the Conservative party, might be running out of road.
For some in the party the rot set in when he defended his former adviser Dominic Cummings when he broke COVID-19 rules early in the pandemic, enraging the country.
The following year he initially defended a Conservative lawmaker who had been found guilty of breaching lobbying rules and a U-turn on extending free school meals to children from low-income families did little to improve the picture.
The final straw was months of a steady drip of stories about lockdown-breaking parties in Johnson’s Downing Street culminating in a report last month detailing fights and alcohol-induced vomit in the early house at times when the rest of the country was obeying strict COVID-19 rules.
One former Conservative lawmaker was so incensed even before the report, they “crossed the floor” or went to join the main opposition Labour Party.
“Prior to leaving … it was just embarrassing being asked to defend the indefensible for a PM who clearly has no morals,” Christian Wakeford, who joined Labour in January, told Reuters.
Conservative Grassroots chair Costelloe said the decision could be fatal in the long-term: “I am firmly of the view if he is still there in two years then we will lose the next election.”
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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Grant McCool
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When it comes to the economy, more is usually better.
Bigger job gains, faster wage growth and more consumer spending are all, in normal times, signs of a healthy economy. Growth might not be sufficient to ensure widespread prosperity, but it is necessary — making any loss of momentum a worrying sign that the economy could be losing steam or, worse, headed into a recession.
But these are not normal times. With nearly twice as many open jobs as available workers and companies struggling to meet record demand, many economists and policymakers argue that what the economy needs right now is not more, but less — less hiring, less wage growth and above all less inflation, which is running at its fastest pace in four decades.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has called the labor market “unsustainably hot,” and the central bank is raising interest rates to try to cool it. President Biden, who met with Mr. Powell on Tuesday, wrote in an opinion article this week in The Wall Street Journal that a slowdown in job creation “won’t be a cause for concern” but would rather be “a sign that we are successfully moving into the next phase of recovery.”
“We want a full and sustainable recovery,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Fed economist who has studied the government’s economic policy response to the pandemic. “The reason that we can’t take the victory lap right now on the recovery — the reason it is incomplete — is because inflation is too high.”
undo much of that progress.
“That’s the needle we’re trying to thread right now,” said Harry J. Holzer, a Georgetown University economist. “We want to give up as few of the gains that we’ve made as possible.”
Economists disagree about the best way to strike that balance. Mr. Powell, after playing down inflation last year, now says reining it in is his top priority — and argues that the central bank can do so without cutting the recovery short. Some economists, particularly on the right, want the Fed to be more aggressive, even at the risk of causing a recession. Others, especially on the left, argue that inflation, while a problem, is a lesser evil than unemployment, and that the Fed should therefore pursue a more cautious approach.
But where progressives and conservatives largely agree is that evaluating the economy will be particularly difficult over the next several months. Distinguishing a healthy cool-down from a worrying stall will require looking beyond the indicators that typically make headlines.
“It’s a very difficult time to interpret economic data and to even understand what’s happening with the economy,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute. “We’re entering a period where there’s going to be tons of debate over whether we are in a recession right now.”
11.4 million job openings at the end of April, close to a record. But there are roughly half a million fewer people either working or actively looking for work than when the pandemic began, leaving employers scrambling to fill available jobs.
The labor force has grown significantly this year, and forecasters expect more workers to return as the pandemic and the disruptions it caused continue to recede. But the pandemic may also have driven longer-lasting shifts in Americans’ work habits, and economists aren’t sure when or under what circumstances the labor force will make a complete rebound. Even then, there might not be enough workers to meet the extraordinarily high level of employer demand.
Persistently weak pay increases were a bleak hallmark of the long, slow recovery that followed the last recession. But even some economists who bemoaned those sluggish gains at the time say the current rate of wage growth is unsustainable.
“That’s something that we’re used to saying pretty unequivocally is good, but in this case it just raises the risk that the economy is overheating further,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington research organization. As long as wages are rising 5 or 6 percent per year, he said, it will be all but impossible to bring inflation down to the Fed’s 2 percent target.
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What is inflation? Inflation is a loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.
What causes inflation? It can be the result of rising consumer demand. But inflation can also rise and fall based on developments that have little to do with economic conditions, such as limited oil production and supply chain problems.
Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can lead to higher wages and job growth.
Can inflation affect the stock market? Rapid inflation typically spells trouble for stocks. Financial assets in general have historically fared badly during inflation booms, while tangible assets like houses have held their value better.
Fed officials are watching closely for signs of a “wage-price spiral,” a self-reinforcing pattern in which workers expect inflation and therefore demand raises, leading employers to increase prices to compensate. Once such a cycle takes hold, it can be difficult to break — a prospect Mr. Powell has cited in explaining why the central bank has become more aggressive in fighting inflation.
“It’s a risk that we simply can’t run,” he said at a news conference last month. “We can’t allow a wage-price spiral to happen. And we can’t allow inflation expectations to become unanchored. It’s just something that we can’t allow to happen, and so we’ll look at it that way.”
speech in Germany this week, Christopher J. Waller, a Fed governor, argued that as demand slows, employers are likely to start posting fewer jobs before they turn to layoffs. That could result in slower wage growth — since with fewer employers trying to hire, there will be less competition for workers — without a big increase in unemployment.
“I think there’s room right now for inflation to come down a significant amount without unemployment coming up,” said Mike Konczal, an economist at the Roosevelt Institute.
The Fed’s efforts to cool off the economy are already bearing fruit, Mr. Konczal said. Mortgage rates have risen sharply, and there are signs that the housing market is slowing as a result. The stock market has lost almost 15 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. That loss of wealth is likely to lead at least some consumers to pull back on their spending, which will lead to a pullback in hiring. Job openings fell in April, though they remained high, and wage growth has eased.
“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the economy has already slowed down,” Mr. Konczal said. He said he was optimistic that the United States was on a path toward “normalizing to a regular good economy” instead of the boomlike one it has experienced over the past year.
But the thing about such a “soft landing,” as Fed officials call it, is that it is still a landing. Wage growth will be slower. Job opportunities will be fewer. Workers will have less leverage to demand flexible schedules or other perks. For the Fed, achieving that outcome without causing a recession would be a victory — but it might not feel like one to workers.
Ahead of the 2020 elections, Connecticut confronted a bevy of falsehoods about voting that swirled around online. One, widely viewed on Facebook, wrongly said absentee ballots had been sent to dead people. On Twitter, users spread a false post that a tractor-trailer carrying ballots had crashed on Interstate 95, sending thousands of voter slips into the air and across the highway.
Concerned about a similar deluge of unfounded rumors and lies around this year’s midterm elections, the state plans to spend nearly $2 million on marketing to share factual information about voting, and to create its first-ever position for an expert in combating misinformation. With a salary of $150,000, the person is expected to comb fringe sites like 4chan, far-right social networks like Gettr and Rumble, and mainstream social media sites to root out early misinformation narratives about voting before they go viral, and then urge the companies to remove or flag the posts that contain false information.
“We have to have situational awareness by looking into all the incoming threats to the integrity of elections,” said Scott Bates, Connecticut’s deputy secretary of the state. “Misinformation can erode people’s confidence in elections, and we view that as a critical threat to the democratic process.”
Connecticut joins a handful of states preparing to fight an onslaught of rumors and lies about this year’s elections.
ABC/Ipsos poll from January, only 20 percent of respondents said they were “very confident” in the integrity of the election system and 39 percent said they felt “somewhat confident.” Numerous Republican candidates have embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election, campaigning — often successfully — on the untrue claim that it was stolen from him.
Some conservatives and civil rights groups are almost certain to complain that the efforts to limit misinformation could restrict free speech. Florida, led by Republicans, has enacted legislation limiting the kind of social media moderation that sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can do, with supporters saying the sites constrict conservative voices. (A U.S. appeals court recently blocked most aspects of the law.) On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security recently paused the work of an advisory board on disinformation after a barrage of criticism from conservative lawmakers and free speech advocates that the group could suppress speech.
“State and local governments are well situated to reduce harms from dis- and misinformation by providing timely, accurate and trustworthy information,” said Rachel Goodman, a lawyer at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan advocacy group. “But in order to maintain that trust, they must make clear that they are not engaging in any kind of censorship or surveillance that would raise constitutional concerns.”
Connecticut and Colorado officials said that the problem of misinformation had only worsened since 2020 and that without a more concerted push to counteract it, even more voters could lose faith in the integrity of elections. They also said they feared for the safety of some election workers.
“We are seeing a threat atmosphere unlike anything this country has seen before,” said Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado. Ms. Griswold, a Democrat who is up for re-election this fall, has received threats for upholding 2020 election results and refuting Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraudulent voting in the state.
Other secretaries of state, who head the office typically charged with overseeing elections, have received similar pushback. In Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who certified President Biden’s win in the state, has faced fierce criticism laced with false claims about the 2020 election.
In his primary race this year, Mr. Raffensperger batted down misinformation that there were 66,000 underage voters, 2,400 unregistered voters and more than 10,350 dead people who cast ballots in the presidential election. None of the claims are true. He won his primary last week.
Colorado is redeploying a misinformation team that the state created for the 2020 election. The team is composed of three election security experts who monitor the internet for misinformation and then report it to federal law enforcement.
Ms. Griswold will oversee the team, called the Rapid Response Election Security Cyber Unit. It looks only for election-related misinformation on issues like absentee voting, polling locations and eligibility, she said.
“Facts still exist, and lies are being used to chip away at our fundamental freedoms,” Ms. Griswold said.
Connecticut officials said the state’s goal was to patrol the internet for election falsehoods. On May 7, the Connecticut Legislature approved $2 million for internet, TV, mail and radio education campaigns on the election process, and to hire an election information security officer.
Officials said they would prefer candidates fluent in both English and Spanish, to address the spread of misinformation in both languages. The officer would track down viral misinformation posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and look for emerging narratives and memes, especially on fringe social media platforms and the dark web.
“We know we can’t boil the ocean, but we have to figure out where the threat is coming from, and before it metastasizes,” Mr. Bates said.
Concerns center around Twitter’s ability to moderate content
Fear Musk’s views on moderation may allow trolling to flourish
Twitter management, employees make daily decisions -spokesperson
April 7 (Reuters) – News of Tesla (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk taking a board seat at Twitter (TWTR.N) has some Twitter employees panicking over the future of the social media firm’s ability to moderate content, company insiders told Reuters.
Within hours of the surprise disclosure this week that Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” acquired enough shares to become the top Twitter shareholder, political conservatives began flooding social media with calls for the return of Donald Trump. The former U.S. president was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan 6. Capitol riot over concerns around incitement of violence.
“Now that @ElonMusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, it’s time to lift the political censorship. Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!,” tweeted Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on Monday.
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Despite Twitter’s reiteration this week that the board does not make policy decisions, four Twitter employees who spoke with Reuters said they were concerned about Musk’s ability to influence the company’s policies on abusive users and harmful content.
With Musk on the board, the employees said his views on moderation could weaken years-long efforts to make Twitter a place of healthy discourse, and might allow trolling and mob attacks to flourish.
In the wake of Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, the billionaire tweeted that many people would be unhappy with U.S. tech companies acting “as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
Musk has not articulated what he wants to do as a new board member but he has telegraphed his intentions with his Twitter activity. A week before Musk disclosed a 9.1% stake in Twitter, he polled his 80 million followers on whether the site adhered to the principle of free speech, and the majority voted ‘no.’
The employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, point to Musk’s history of using Twitter to attack critics. In 2018, Musk came under fire for accusing a British diver who had helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand of being a pedophile.
Musk won a defamation case brought by the diver in 2019.
When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson repeated a statement from Tuesday that the board “plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service,” but daily operations and decisions are made by Twitter’s management and employees.
“Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,” the spokesperson said.
Some employees that Reuters spoke to were not so sure about the company’s commitment to this.
“I find it hard to believe (the board) doesn’t have influence,” said one employee. “If that’s the case, why would Elon want a board seat?”
But other employees Reuters spoke to said that Musk’s involvement could help quicken the pace of new feature and product launches, and provide a fresh perspective as an active user of Twitter.
Neither Tesla nor Musk responded to requests for comment.
Twitter’s board figures prominently in discussions within Twitter, more so than at other tech companies, one employee said. That is because unlike Meta Platforms Inc, where founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the company through a dual class share structure, Twitter only has a single class of shares, making it more vulnerable to activists like Musk. Teams within Twitter often consider how to communicate a strategy or decision to the board, for instance, the employee said.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted an image from 2018 of him smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast on Spotify, with the text: “Twitter’s next board meeting is going to be lit.”
One employee familiar with the company’s operations said there were no current plans to reinstate Trump. A Twitter spokesperson said there were no plans to reverse any policy decisions.
But a veteran auto analyst who covers Musk’s operating style at Tesla said such a decision may only be a matter of time.
“If Donald Trump was actually rich, he would have liked to have done the same thing but he couldn’t afford it. So Elon is doing what Trump would have liked to have done,” said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.
“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Twitter restores Trump’s account now that Elon owns nearly 10% of the company,” he said.
Longer term, employees said Musk’s involvement may change Twitter’s corporate culture, which they say currently values inclusivity. Musk has faced widespread criticism for posting memes that mocked transgender people and efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, and for comparing some world leaders to Hitler.
Several employees were alarmed by the warm welcome Musk received from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and cofounder Jack Dorsey, which prompted them to hit the job market this week.
“Some people are dusting off their resumes,” one person said. “I don’t want to work for somebody (like Musk).”
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Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li, Aurora Ellis and Bernadette Baum
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When Victoria Nuland, an under secretary of state, was questioned in the Senate this month over whether Ukraine had biological weapons, she said laboratories in the country had materials that could be dangerous if they fell into Russian hands. Jack Posobiec, a far-right commentator, insinuated on his March 9 podcast that Ms. Nuland’s answer bolstered the conspiracy theory.
“Everybody needs to come clean about what was going on in those labs, because I guarantee you the Russians are about to put all of it onto the world stage,” said Mr. Posobiec, who did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Russian officials also latched on to Ms. Nuland’s comments. “The nervous reaction confirms that Russia’s allegations are grounded,” the country’s official account for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter.
Beyond the bioweapons conspiracy theory, Joseph Jordan, a white nationalist podcaster who goes by the pseudonym Eric Striker, repeated Russia’s claim that a pregnant woman who was injured in the bombing of a Ukrainian maternity hospital had faked her injuries. In his Telegram channel, Mr. Jordan told his 15,000 followers that the hospital photos had been “staged.” He did not respond to a request for comment.
Some Russians have publicly commented on what appears to be common ground with far-right Americans. Last week on the Russian state-backed news program “60 Minutes,” which is not connected to the CBS show of the same name, the host, Olga Skabeeva, addressed the country’s strengthening ties with Mr. Carlson.
“Our acquaintance, the host of Fox News Tucker Carlson, obviously has his own interests,” she said, airing several clips of Mr. Carlson’s show where he suggested the United States had pushed for conflict in Ukraine. “But lately, more and more often, they’re in tune with our own.”
For months, former President Donald J. Trump has promoted Truth Social, the soon-to-be-released flagship app of his fledging social media company, as a platform where free speech can thrive without the constraints imposed by Big Tech.
At least seven other social media companies have promised to do the same.
Gettr, a right-wing alternative to Twitter founded last year by a former adviser to Mr. Trump, bills itself as a haven from censorship. That’s similar to Parler — essentially another Twitter clone backed by Rebekah Mercer, a big donor to the Republican Party. MeWe and CloutHub are similar to Facebook, but with the pitch that they promote speech without restraint.
Truth Social was supposed to go live on Presidents’ Day, but the start date was recently pushed to March, though a limited test version was unveiled recently. A full rollout could be hampered by a regulatory investigation into a proposed merger of its parent company, the Trump Media & Technology Group, with a publicly traded blank-check company.
If and when it does open its doors, Mr. Trump’s app will be the newest — and most conspicuous — entrant in the tightly packed universe of social media companies that have cropped up in recent years, promising to build a parallel internet after Twitter, Facebook, Google and other mainstream platforms began to crack down on hate speech.
211 million daily active users on Twitter who see ads.
Many people who claim to crave a social network that caters to their political cause often aren’t ready to abandon Twitter or Facebook, said Weiai Xu, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. So the big platforms remain important vehicles for “partisan users” to get their messages out, Mr. Xu said.
Gettr, Parler and Rumble have relied on Twitter to announce the signing of a new right-wing personality or influencer. Parler, for instance, used Twitter to post a link to an announcement that Melania Trump, the former first lady, was making its platform her “social media home.”
Alternative social media companies mainly thrive off politics, said Mark Weinstein, the founder of MeWe, a platform with 20 million registered users that has positioned itself as an option to Facebook.
certain subscription services. His start-up has raised $24 million from 100 investors.
But since political causes drive the most engagement for alternative social media, most other platforms are quick to embrace such opportunities. This month, CloutHub, which has just four million registered users, said its platform could be used to raise money for the protesting truckers of Ottawa.
Mr. Trump wasn’t far behind. “Facebook and Big Tech are seeking to destroy the Freedom Convoy of Truckers,” he said in a statement. (Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it removed several groups associated with the convoy for violating their rules.)
Trump Media, Mr. Trump added, would let the truckers “communicate freely on Truth Social when we launch — coming very soon!”
Of all the alt-tech sites, Mr. Trump’s venture may have the best chance of success if it launches, not just because of the former president’s star power but also because of its financial heft. In September, Trump Media agreed to merge with Digital World Acquisition, a blank-check or special purpose acquisition company that raised $300 million. The two entities have raised $1 billion from 36 investors in a private placement.
But none of that money can be tapped until regulators wrap up their inquiry into whether Digital World flouted securities regulations in planning its merger with Trump Media. In the meantime, Trump Media, currently valued at more than $10 billion based on Digital World’s stock price, is trying to hire people to build its platform.
Trump supporter, and the venture fund of Mr. Thiel’s protégé J.D. Vance, who is running for a Senate seat from Ohio.
Rumble is also planning to go public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company. SPACs are shell companies created solely for the purpose of merging with an operating entity. The deal, arranged by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, will give Rumble $400 million in cash and a $2.1 billion valuation.
The site said in January that it had 39 million monthly active users, up from two million two years ago. It has struck various content deals, including one to provide video and streaming services to Truth Social. Representatives for Rumble did not respond to requests for comment.
removed it from their app stores and Amazon cut off web services after the riot, according to SensorTower, a digital analytics company.
John Matze, one of its founders, from his position as chief executive. Mr. Matze has said he was dismissed after a dispute with Ms. Mercer — the daughter of a wealthy hedge fund executive who is Parler’s main backer — over how to deal with extreme content posted on the platform.
Christina Cravens, a spokeswoman for Parler,said the company had always “prohibited violent and inciting content” and had invested in “content moderation best practices.”
Moderating content will also be a challenge for Truth Social, whose main star, Mr. Trump, has not been able to post messages since early 2021, when Twitter and Facebook kicked him off their platforms for inciting violence tied to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
With Mr. Trump as its main poster, it was unclear if Truth Social would grow past subscribers who sign up simply to read the former president’s missives, Mr. Matze said.
“Trump is building a community that will fight for something or whatever he stands for that day,” he said. “This is not social media for friends and family to share pictures.”
Mr. Thiel has attracted the most attention for two $10 million donations to the Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Like Mr. Thiel, the men are tech investors with pedigrees from elite universities who cast themselves as antagonists to the establishment. They have also worked for the billionaire and been financially dependent on him. Mr. Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office, has promised to leave that job before Arizona’s August primary.
Mr. Thiel, who declined to comment for this article, announced last week that he would leave the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, which conservatives have accused of censorship. One reason for the change: He plans to focus more on politics.
A Moneyman’s Evolution
Born in West Germany and raised in South Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Thiel showed his provocative side at Stanford in the late 1980s. Classmates recalled Mr. Thiel, who studied philosophy and law, describing South Africa’s apartheid as a sound economic system. (A spokesman for Mr. Thiel has denied that he supported apartheid.)
Mr. Thiel also helped found The Stanford Review, a conservative campus paper that sought to provide “alternative views” to what he deemed left-wing orthodoxy.
In 1995, he co-wrote a book, “The Diversity Myth,” arguing that “the extreme focus on racism” had caused greater societal tension and acrimony. Rape, he and his co-author, David Sacks, wrote, sometimes included “seductions that are later regretted.” (Mr. Thiel has apologized for the book.)
In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped create what would become the digital payments company PayPal. He became Facebook’s first outside investor in 2004 and established the venture capital firm Founders Fund a year later. Forbes puts his fortune at $2.6 billion.
one 2009 piece, Mr. Thiel, who called himself a libertarian, wrote that he had come to “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” arguing that American politics would always be hostile to free-market ideals, and that politics was about interfering with other people’s lives without their consent. Since then, he has hosted and attended events with white nationalists and alt-right figures.
His political giving evolved with those views. He donated lavishly to Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns before turning to candidates who were more extreme than the Republican establishment.
In 2013, Curtis Yarvin, an entrepreneur who has voiced racist beliefs and said democracy was a destructive system of government, emailed Mr. Thiel. Mr. Yarvin wrote that Mr. Cruz, then a newly elected senator, “needs to purge every single traitor” from the Republican Party. In the email, which The Times obtained, Mr. Yarvin argued that it didn’t matter if those candidates lost general elections or cost the party control in Congress.
Mr. Thiel, who had donated to Mr. Cruz’s 2012 campaign, replied, “It’s relatively safe to support Cruz (for me) because he threatens the Republican establishment.”
Mr. Thiel used his money to fund other causes. In 2016, he was revealed as the secret funder of a lawsuit that targeted Gawker Media, which had reported he was gay. Gawker declared bankruptcy, partly from the costs of fighting the lawsuit.
proud to be a gay Republican supporting Mr. Trump. He later donated $1.25 million to the candidate.
After Mr. Trump won, Mr. Thiel was named to the president-elect’s executive transition team. At a meeting with tech leaders at Trump Tower in Manhattan in December 2016, Mr. Trump told Mr. Thiel, “You’re a very special guy.”
A month later, Mr. Thiel, a naturalized American, was revealed to have also obtained citizenship in New Zealand. That prompted a furor, especially after Mr. Trump had urged people to pledge “total allegiance to the United States.”
During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Thiel became frustrated with the administration. “There are all these ways that things have fallen short,” he told The Times in 2018.
In 2020, he stayed on the sidelines. His only notable federal election donation was to Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and former secretary of state of Kansas known for his hard-line views on immigration. (Mr. Kobach lost his primary bid for the Senate.)
Mr. Thiel’s personal priorities also changed. In 2016, he announced that he was moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next year, he married a longtime boyfriend, Matt Danzeisen; they have two children.
Mr. Thiel reduced his business commitments and started pondering leaving Meta’s board, which he had joined in 2005, two of the people with knowledge of his thinking said. At an October event held by a conservative tech group in Miami, he alluded to his frustration with Facebook, which was increasingly removing certain kinds of speech and had barred Mr. Trump.
a $13 million mansion in Washington from Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary. In October, he spoke at the event for the Federalist Society at Stanford and at the National Conservatism Conference.
He also rebuilt his relationship with Mr. Trump. Since the 2020 election, they have met at least three times in New York and at Mar-a-Lago, sometimes with Mr. Masters or Mr. Vance. And Mr. Thiel invested in Mr. McEntee’s company, which is building a dating app for conservatives called the RightStuff.
Mr. McEntee declined to answer questions about his app and said Mr. Thiel was “a great guy.” Mr. Trump’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Giving to Win
Mr. Thiel’s political giving ramped up last spring with his $10 million checks to PACs supporting Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters. The sums were his biggest and the largest ever one-time contributions to a PAC backing a single candidate, according to OpenSecrets.
Like Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters lack experience in politics. Mr. Vance, the venture capitalist who wrote the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” met Mr. Thiel a decade ago when the billionaire delivered a lecture at Yale Law School, where Mr. Vance was a student.
Zero to One.” In 2020, Mr. Masters reported more than $1.1 million in salary from Thiel Capital and book royalties.
Mr. Vance, Mr. Masters and their campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
Both candidates have repeated the Trumpian lie of election fraud, with Mr. Masters stating in a November campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020.” They have also made Mr. Thiel a selling point in their campaigns.
In November, Mr. Vance wrote on Twitter that anyone who donated $10,800 to his campaign could attend a small group dinner with him and Mr. Thiel. Mr. Masters offered the same opportunity for a meal with Mr. Thiel and raised $550,000 by selling nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, of “Zero to One”digital art that would give holders “access to parties with me and Peter.”
a 20-minute speech at the National Conservatism Conference in October, he said nationalism was “a corrective” to the “brain-dead, one-world state” of globalism. He also blasted the Biden administration.
“We have the zombie retreads just busy rearranging the deck chairs,” he said. “We need dissident voices more than ever.”
A couple of months ago, CNN’s forthcoming streaming channel was perceived as little more than a curiosity in the television news business: just another cable dinosaur trying to make the uneasy transition into the digital future.
In fact, the plan to start CNN+, which is expected to go live by late March, amounted to a late arrival to the subscription-based streaming party, more than three years after Fox News launched Fox Nation.
Then the hirings began.
In December, Chris Wallace, Fox News’s most decorated news anchor, said he was leaving his network home of 18 years for CNN+. Next came Audie Cornish, the popular co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR, who said in January that she was leaving public radio to host a weekly streaming show.
notably violent language in urging a gathering of conservatives to publicly confront Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Jan. 6 Texts: Three prominent Fox News hosts — Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade — texted Mark Meadows during the Jan. 6 riot urging him to tell Donald Trump to try to stop it.
Chris Wallace Departs: The anchor’s announcement that he was leaving Fox News for CNN came as right-wing hosts have increasingly set the channel’s agenda.
Contributors Quit: Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes quit the network in protest over Tucker Carlson’s “Patriot Purge” special.
He is gambling that CNN+ can entice new viewers — and bring back some old ones. CNN’s traditional broadcast viewership has dropped significantly from a year ago, thanks to a post-Trump slump and waning audience interest, and the network recently fired its top-rated anchor, Chris Cuomo, amid an ethics scandal.
Mr. Zucker is turning to a strategy honed during his days as the executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in the 1990s, mixing hard news with a heavy dose of lifestyle coverage and tips on how to bake a pear cobbler. In marketing materials, CNN+ has urged viewers to “grab a coffee” while flipping on shows promoted as “never finicky” and “the silver lining beyond today’s toughest headlines.”
struggled to find success with shows that riff on current events. One Netflix executive conceded in 2019 that topical programming was “a challenge” when it came to on-demand, watch-at-your-own-pace streamers.
Symone D. Sanders, a former adviser to President Biden. (NBC News also has separate digital offerings for hard news and lifestyle coverage.)
For news executives, finding a winning formula in the streaming game is now an urgent priority.
Streaming has supplanted cable as the main home delivery system for entertainment, often on the strength of addictive series like “Squid Game.” For a while, though, old-fashioned cable news clung on, with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News attracting record audiences in recent years. In case of emergency — a pandemic, civil unrest, a presidential election, a Capitol riot — viewers still tuned in en masse.
After former President Donald J. Trump left office, news ratings nose-dived and cable subscriptions continued to plummet — an estimated four million households dropped their paid TV subscriptions last year, according to the research firm MoffettNathanson.
Fox Nation and CNN+ both rely on a business model dependent on paid subscriptions, hence the efforts by both to generate a wide variety of programming.
“A subscriber every month only has to find one thing that they want,” Mr. Zucker said in the interview. “We don’t need the subscriber to be interested in everything we’re offering, but they need to be interested in something.”
Mr. Zucker said CNN+ was aiming at three buckets of potential subscribers. He is seeking to entice loyal CNN viewers into paying for streaming programs featuring hosts familiar from the cable channel: Anderson Cooper will have two, including one on parenting; Fareed Zakaria is helming a show examining historical events; and Jake Tapper will host “Jake Tapper’s Book Club,” in which he interviews authors.
The other would-be subscribers, Mr. Zucker said, are news and documentary fans who want more nonfiction television, as well as younger people who don’t pay for cable.
CNN, though, is not ignoring the needs of its flagship cable network, which ranked third last year behind Fox News and MSNBC in total audience.
Mr. Zucker recently reached out to representatives for Gayle King, the star CBS News anchor, about the prospect of her taking over the weekday 9 p.m. hour on CNN, said two people with knowledge of the approach. CNN has not named a permanent anchor for the prime-time slot since Mr. Cuomo was fired in December after revelations that he assisted with the efforts of his brother, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, to fend off sexual harassment allegations.
CNN+ is also expected to include the breaking news and political coverage that CNN viewers are accustomed to — a feature that could pose difficulties for the network down the road. CNN commands a high price from cable distributors, who may cry foul if CNN+ includes too much news programming that potentially competes with the cable offering. For instance, Wolf Blitzer, the host of “The Situation Room” on CNN at 6 p.m., will also appear on CNN+ to anchor a “traditional evening news show with a sleek, modern twist.”
CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, which is on the verge of a megamerger with Discovery Inc., appears willing to take the risk. The company is placing a significant financial bet on CNN+, budgeting for 500 additional employees, including producers, reporters, engineers and programmers, said Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer. The company is also renting an additional floor of its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to accommodate the hires.
“What we’re building at CNN+ is not a side hustle,” Mr. Morse said.