An election commission would differ from the Oversight Board in one key way, the people said. While the Oversight Board waits for Facebook to remove a post or an account and then reviews that action, the election commission would proactively provide guidance without the company having made an earlier call, they said.

Tatenda Musapatike, who previously worked on elections at Facebook and now runs a nonprofit voter registration organization, said that many have lost faith in the company’s abilities to work with political campaigns. But the election commission proposal was “a good step,” she said, because “they’re doing something and they’re not saying we alone can handle it.”

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The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online

Over the last decade, Dr. Mercola has built a vast operation to push natural health cures, disseminate anti-vaccination content and profit from all of it, said researchers who have studied his network. In 2017, he filed an affidavit claiming his net worth was “in excess of $100 million.”

And rather than directly stating online that vaccines don’t work, Dr. Mercola’s posts often ask pointed questions about their safety and discuss studies that other doctors have refuted. Facebook and Twitter have allowed some of his posts to remain up with caution labels, and the companies have struggled to create rules to pull down posts that have nuance.

“He has been given new life by social media, which he exploits skillfully and ruthlessly to bring people into his thrall,” said Imran Ahmed, director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which studies misinformation and hate speech. Its “Disinformation Dozen” report has been cited in congressional hearings and by the White House.

In an email, Dr. Mercola said it was “quite peculiar to me that I am named as the #1 superspreader of misinformation.” Some of his Facebook posts were only liked by hundreds of people, he said, so he didn’t understand “how the relatively small number of shares could possibly cause such calamity to Biden’s multibillion dollar vaccination campaign.”

The efforts against him are political, Dr. Mercola added, and he accused the White House of “illegal censorship by colluding with social media companies.”

He did not address whether his coronavirus claims were factual. “I am the lead author of a peer reviewed publication regarding vitamin D and the risk of Covid-19 and I have every right to inform the public by sharing my medical research,” he said. He did not identify the publication, and The Times was unable to verify his claim.

A native of Chicago, Dr. Mercola started a small private practice in 1985 in Schaumburg, Ill. In the 1990s, he began shifting to natural health medicine and opened his main website, Mercola.com, to share his treatments, cures and advice. The site urges people to “take control of your health.”

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Once Tech’s Favorite Economist, Now a Thorn in Its Side

Paul Romer was once Silicon Valley’s favorite economist. The theory that helped him win a Nobel prize — that ideas are the turbocharged fuel of the modern economy — resonated deeply in the global capital of wealth-generating ideas. In the 1990s, Wired magazine called him “an economist for the technological age.” The Wall Street Journal said the tech industry treated him “like a rock star.”

Not anymore.

Today, Mr. Romer, 65, remains a believer in science and technology as engines of progress. But he has also become a fierce critic of the tech industry’s largest companies, saying that they stifle the flow of new ideas. He has championed new state taxes on the digital ads sold by companies like Facebook and Google, an idea that Maryland adopted this year.

And he is hard on economists, including himself, for long supplying the intellectual cover for hands-off policies and court rulings that have led to what he calls the “collapse of competition” in tech and other industries.

“Economists taught, ‘It’s the market. There’s nothing we can do,’” Mr. Romer said. “That’s really just so wrong.”

free-market theory. Monopoly or oligopoly seems to be the order of the day.

The relentless rise of the digital giants, they say, requires new thinking and new rules. Some were members of the tech-friendly Obama administration. In congressional testimony and research reports, they are contributing ideas and credibility to policymakers who want to rein in the big tech companies.

Their policy recommendations vary. They include stronger enforcement, giving people more control over their data and new legislation. Many economists support the bill introduced this year by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, that would tighten curbs on mergers. The bill would effectively “overrule a number of faulty, pro-defendant Supreme Court cases,” Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, wrote in a recent presentation to the American Bar Association.

Some economists, notably Jason Furman, a Harvard professor, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration and adviser to the British government on digital markets, recommend a new regulatory authority to enforce a code of conduct on big tech companies that would include fair access to their platforms for rivals, open technical standards and data mobility.

his Nobel lecture in 2018 prompted him to think about the “progress gap” in America. Progress, he explained, is not just a matter of economic growth, but should also be seen in measures of individual and social well-being.

Mr. Romer pushed the idea that new cities of the developing world should be a blend of government design for basics like roads and sanitation, and mostly let markets take care of the rest. During a short stint as chief economist of the World Bank, he had hoped to persuade the bank to back a new city, without success.

In the big-tech debate, Mr. Romer notes the influence of progressives like Lina Khan, an antitrust scholar at Columbia Law School and a Democratic nominee to the Federal Trade Commission, who see market power itself as a danger and look at its impact on workers, suppliers and communities.

That social welfare perspective is a wider lens that appeals to Mr. Romer and others.

“I’m totally on board with Paul on this,” said Rebecca Henderson, an economist and professor at the Harvard Business School. “We have a much broader problem than one that falls within the confines of current antitrust law.”

Mr. Romer’s specific contribution is a proposal for a progressive tax on digital ads that would apply mainly to the largest internet companies supported by advertising. Its premise is that social networks like Facebook and Google’s YouTube rely on keeping people on their sites as long as possible by targeting them with attention-grabbing ads and content — a business model that inherently amplifies disinformation, hate speech and polarizing political messages.

So that digital ad revenue, Mr. Romer insists, is fair game for taxation. He would like to see the tax nudge the companies away from targeted ads toward a subscription model. But at the least, he said, it would give governments needed tax revenue.

In February, Maryland became the first state to pass legislation that embodies Mr. Romer’s digital ad tax concept. Other states including Connecticut and Indiana are considering similar proposals. Industry groups have filed a court challenge to the Maryland law asserting it is an illegal overreach by the state.

Mr. Romer says the tax is an economic tool with a political goal.

“I really do think the much bigger issue we’re facing is the preservation of democracy,” he said. “This goes way beyond efficiency.”

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Mob Violence Against Palestinians in Israel Is Fueled by Groups on WhatsApp

Last Wednesday, a message appeared in a new WhatsApp channel called “Death to the Arabs.” The message urged Israelis to join a mass street brawl against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Within hours, dozens of other new WhatsApp groups popped up with variations of the same name and message. The groups soon organized a 6 p.m. start time for a clash in Bat Yam, a town on Israel’s coast.

“Together we organize and together we act,” read a message in one of the WhatsApp groups. “Tell your friends to join the group, because here we know how to defend Jewish honor.”

That evening, live scenes aired of black-clad Israelis smashing car windows and roaming the streets of Bat Yam. The mob pulled one man they presumed to be Arab from his car and beat him unconscious. He was hospitalized in serious condition.

violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated last week, at least 100 new WhatsApp groups have been formed for the express purpose of committing violence against Palestinians, according to an analysis by The New York Times and FakeReporter, an Israeli watchdog group that studies misinformation.

The WhatsApp groups, with names like “The Jewish Guard” and “The Revenge Troops,” have added hundreds of new members a day over the past week, according to The Times’s analysis. The groups, which are in Hebrew, have also been featured on email lists and online message boards used by far-right extremists in Israel.

While social media and messaging apps have been used in the past to spread hate speech and inspire violence, these WhatsApp groups go further, researchers said. That’s because the groups are explicitly planning and executing violent acts against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population and live largely integrated lives with Jewish neighbors.

That is far more specific than past WhatsApp-fueled mob attacks in India, where calls for violence were vague and generally not targeted at individuals or businesses, the researchers said. Even the Stop the Steal groups in the United States that organized the Jan. 6 protests in Washington did not openly direct attacks using social media or messaging apps, they said.

The proliferation of these WhatsApp groups has alarmed Israeli security officials and disinformation researchers. In the groups, attacks have been carefully documented, with members often gloating about taking part in the violence, according to The Times’s review. Some said they were taking revenge for rockets being fired onto Israel from militants in the Gaza Strip, while others cited different grievances. Many solicited names of Arab-owned businesses they could target next.

do not plan attacks on the services for fear of being discovered.

A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the messaging service was concerned by the activity from Israeli extremists. She said the company had removed some accounts of people who participated in the groups. WhatsApp cannot read the encrypted messages on its service, she added, but it has acted when accounts were reported to it for violating its terms of service.

“We take action to ban accounts we believe may be involved in causing imminent harm,” she said.

In Israel, WhatsApp has long been used to form groups so people can communicate and share interests or plan school activities. As violence soared between Israel’s military and Palestinian militants in Gaza over the past week, WhatsApp was also one of the platforms where false information about the conflict has spread.

Tensions in the area ran so high that new groups calling for revenge against Palestinians began emerging on WhatsApp and on other messaging services like Telegram. The first WhatsApp groups appeared last Tuesday, Mr. Schatz said. By last Wednesday, his organization had found dozens of the groups.

People can join the groups through a link, many of which are shared within existing WhatsApp groups. Once they have joined one group, other groups are advertised to them.

The groups have since grown steadily in size, Mr. Schatz said. Some have become so big that they have branched off into local chapters that are dedicated to certain cities and towns. To evade detection by WhatsApp, organizers of the groups are urging people to vet new members, he said.

On Telegram, Israelis have formed roughly 20 channels to commit and plan violence against Palestinians, according to FakeReporter. Much of the content and messaging in those groups imitates what is in the WhatsApp channels.

On one new WhatsApp group that The Times reviewed, “The Revenge Troops,” people recently shared instructions for how to build Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosives. The group asked its 400 members to also provide addresses of Arab-owned businesses that could be targeted.

In another group with just under 100 members, people shared photos of guns, knives and other weapons as they discussed engaging in street combat in mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Another new WhatsApp group was named “The unapologetic right-wing group.”

After participating in attacks, members of the groups posted photos of their exploits and encouraged others to mimic them.

“We destroyed them, we left them in pieces,” said one person in “The Revenge Troops” WhatsApp group, alongside a photo showing smashed car windows. In a different group, a video was uploaded of black-clad Jewish youths stopping cars on an unnamed street and asking drivers if they were Jewish or Arab.

We beat “the enemy car-by-car,” said a comment posted underneath the video, using an expletive.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel that has been the scene of recent clashes.

“There is no greater threat now than these riots, and it is essential to bring back law and order,” said Mr. Netanyahu.

Within some of the WhatsApp groups, Mr. Netanyahu’s calls for peace were ridiculed.

“Our government is too weak to do what is necessary, so we take it into our own hands,” wrote one person in a WhatsApp group dedicated to city of Ramle in central Israel. “Now that we have organized, they can’t stop us.”

Ben Decker contributed research.

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Facebook Oversight Board Tells Zuckerberg He’s the Decider on Trump

When Mr. Zuckerberg first pitched the idea of a “Facebook Supreme Court” several years ago, he promoted it as a way to make the company’s governance more democratic, by forming an independent body of subject matter experts and giving them the power to hear appeals from users.

“I think in any kind of good-functioning democratic system, there needs to be a way to appeal,” Mr. Zuckerberg told Ezra Klein in a 2018 Vox podcast.

The oversight board also served another purpose. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg had been called in as Facebook’s policy judge of last resort. (In 2018, for example, he got personally involved in the decision to bar Alex Jones, the Infowars conspiracy theorist.) But high-profile moderation decisions were often unpopular, and the blowback was often fierce. If it worked, the oversight board would take responsibility for making the platform’s most contentious content decisions, while shielding Mr. Zuckerberg and his policy team from criticism.

It’s hard to imagine a dispute Mr. Zuckerberg would be more eager to avoid than the one about Mr. Trump. The former president rode Facebook to the White House in 2016, then tormented the company by repeatedly skirting its rules and daring executives to punish him for it. When they finally did, Republicans raged at Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants, accusing them of politically motivated censorship.

Facebook faced plenty of pressure in the other direction, too — both from Democrats and civil rights groups and from employees, many of whom saw Mr. Trump’s presence on Facebook as fundamentally incompatible with their goal of reducing harmful misinformation and hate speech. No matter what Mr. Zuckerberg and his team decided, they were sure to inflame the online speech wars and make more enemies.

Before the decision on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives did everything they could to convince a skeptical public that the oversight board would have real teeth. They funded the group through a legally independent trust, filled it with hyper-credentialed experts and pledged to abide by its rulings.

But for all its claims of legitimacy, the oversight board has always had a Potemkin quality to it. Its leaders were selected by Facebook, and its members are (handsomely) paid out of the company’s pockets. Its mandate is limited, and none of its rulings are binding, in any meaningful sense of that word. If Mr. Zuckerberg decided tomorrow to ignore the board’s advice and reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, nothing — no act of Congress, no judicial writ, no angry letter from Facebook shareholders — could stop him.

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Facebook’s Ban of Trump Upheld by Oversight Board

SAN FRANCISCO — A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers ruled on Wednesday to uphold the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court to deliberate the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the suspension.

But the board also said that Facebook’s penalty of an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

“Our sole job is to hold this extremely powerful organization, Facebook, to be held accountable,” Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, said on a call with reporters. The decision “did not meet these standards,” he said.

Twitter and YouTube had also cut off Mr. Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol building, saying the risk of harm and the potential for violence that he created was too great.

But while Mr. Trump’s Facebook account remains suspended for now, it does not mean that he will not be able to return to the social network at all once the company reviews its action. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump had unveiled a new site, “From the desk of Donald J. Trump,” to communicate with his supporters. It looked much like a Twitter feed, complete with posts written by Mr. Trump that could be shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Mr. Trump’s continuing suspension from Facebook gave conservatives, who have long accused the social media companies of suppressing right-wing voices, new fuel against the platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has testified in Congress several times in recent years about whether the social network has shown bias against conservative political views. He has denied it.

In a tweet, the Republican members of the House judiciary committee said of the board’s decision, “Pathetic.”

Mr. Zuckerberg has said that he does not wish his company to be “the arbiter of truth” in social discourse, Facebook has become increasingly active about the kinds of content it allows. To prevent the spread of misinformation, the company has cracked down on QAnon conspiracy theory groups, election falsehoods and anti-vaccination content in recent months, before culminating in the blocking of Mr. Trump in January.

“This case has dramatic implications for the future of speech online because the public and other platforms are looking at how the oversight board will handle what is a difficult controversy that will arise again around the world,” said Nate Persily, a professor at Stanford University’s law school.

He added, “President Trump has pushed the envelope about what is permissible speech on these platforms and he has set the outer limits such that if you are unwilling to go after him, you are allowing a large amount of incitement and hate speech and disinformation online that others are going to propagate.”

In a statement, Facebook said it was “pleased” that the board recognized that its barring of Mr. Trump in January was justified. The company added that it would consider the ruling and “determine an action that is clear and proportionate.”

Mr. Trump’s case is the most prominent that the Facebook Oversight Board, which was conceived in 2018, has handled. The board, which is made up of 20 journalists, activists and former politicians, reviews and adjudicates the company’s most contested content moderation decisions. Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly referred to it as the “Facebook Supreme Court.”

But while the panel is positioned as independent, it was founded and funded by Facebook and has no legal or enforcement authority. Critics have been skeptical of the board’s autonomy and have said it gives Facebook the ability to punt on difficult decisions.

revoke Section 230, a legal shield that protects companies like Facebook from liability for what users post.

privately with Mr. Trump.

The politeness ended on Jan. 6. Hours before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Trump used Facebook and other social media to try to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election, which he had lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump wrote on Facebook, “Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore!”

Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Trump was barred from the platform indefinitely. While his Facebook page has remained up, it has been dormant. His last Facebook post, on Jan. 6, read, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!”

Cecilia Kang contributed reporting from Washington.

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Far-Right French Leader Marine Le Pen Acquitted Over ISIS Tweets

PARIS — Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, was acquitted on Tuesday in a criminal case involving graphic photographs of acts of violence by the Islamic State that she posted on Twitter in 2015 after comparisons were drawn between the group and her party.

Ms. Le Pen, the head of the National Rally party, was acquitted by a court in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. The charge against her — the dissemination of violent messages — carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros, about $90,000, but prosecutors had only sought a fine of €5,000.

Rodolphe Bosselut, Ms. Le Pen’s lawyer in the case, said, “The court judged that by publishing the photos, she was exercising her freedom of expression.” He added that the ruling underlined that the posts clearly were not Islamic State propaganda and had an “informative value” instead.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in December 2015, shortly after Ms. Le Pen — furious over a televised interview in which a French journalist compared her party to the Islamic State — posted three pictures on Twitter that showed killings carried out by the group. One showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and later beheaded by the group.

deleted that post after criticism from Mr. Foley’s family, but the two other pictures, which showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank and a prisoner being burned alive in a cage, remained online.

“Daesh is THAT!” she wrote, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.

The pictures — posted just weeks after a string of deadly terrorist attacks in and around Paris — caused outrage in France.

Ms. Le Pen lost to President Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 election in France, and her party has a limited presence in Parliament. But she is still seen as Mr. Macron’s main opponent on the national political scene, and the verdict will most likely help her prospects in presidential elections next year, with early polls suggesting that she will again face Mr. Macron in a runoff.

The killing of a police officer by a radicalized Tunisian man last month in a town southwest of Paris has fueled a resurgent debate about terrorism, security and immigration, all themes that have fed the rise of Ms. Le Pen’s far-right party, despite Mr. Macron’s attempts to court voters on those issues.

appeared increasingly fragile, and Ms. Le Pen has spent years trying to soften her image and pull her party from the extremist fringe into the mainstream.

Unlike other French politicians who have recently been convicted on serious charges like corruption or embezzlement, Ms. Le Pen was prosecuted under a more obscure article in the French penal code that prohibits disseminating messages that are “violent” or that could “seriously harm human dignity” and that could be seen by a minor.

While there is robust support for freedom of expression, laws regulating free speech in France are often considered more restrictive than in the United States, with laws against calls to violence or hate speech.

Ms. Le Pen has called the investigation a political witch hunt aimed at silencing her, arguing that she was being wrongly prosecuted for exercising her free speech, on charges normally meant to protect minors from violent propaganda or pornography.

“The crime is causing harm to human dignity, not its photographic reproduction,” she said during the trial, held in February.

Gilbert Collard, a lawyer and National Rally representative in the European Parliament who had also posted pictures of Islamic State violence on the same day as Ms. Le Pen did, was acquitted of the charges against him on Tuesday, too.

The court’s verdict on Ms. Le Pen comes amid an increasingly heated political climate in France, ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for next year but also regional elections this June.

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Extremists Find a Financial Lifeline on Twitch

Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, a podcaster who fought to overturn the 2020 presidential election, recently railed against mask mandates to her 4,000 fans in a live broadcast and encouraged them to enter stores maskless. On another day, she grew emotional while thanking them for sending her $84,000.

Millie Weaver, a former correspondent for the conspiracy theory website Infowars, speculated on her channel that coronavirus vaccines could be used to surveil people. Later, she plugged her merchandise store, where she sells $30 “Drain the Swamp” T-shirts and hats promoting conspiracies.

And a podcaster who goes by Zak Paine or Redpill78, who pushes the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, urged his viewers to donate to the congressional campaign of an Ohio man who has said he attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6.

Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms clamped down on misinformation and hate speech ahead of the 2020 election.

apps like Google Podcasts, where far-right influencers have scattered as their options for spreading falsehoods have dwindled.

Twitch became a multibillion-dollar business thanks to video gamers broadcasting their play of games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. Fans, many of whom are young men, pay the gamers by subscribing to their channels or donating money. Streamers earn even more by sending their fans to outside sites to either buy merchandise or donate money.

Now Twitch has also become a place where right-wing personalities spread election and vaccine conspiracy theories, often without playing any video games. It is part of a shift at the platform, where streamers have branched out from games into fitness, cooking, fishing and other lifestyle topics in recent years.

But unlike fringe livestreaming sites like Dlive and Trovo, which have also offered far-right personalities moneymaking opportunities, Twitch attracts far larger audiences. On average, 30 million people visit the site each day, the platform said.

stricter rules than other social media platforms for the kinds of views that users can express. It temporarily suspended Mr. Trump’s account for “hateful conduct” last summer, months before Facebook and Twitter made similar moves. Its community guidelines prohibit hateful conduct and harassment. Ms. Clemens said Twitch was developing a misinformation policy.

This month, Twitch announced a policy that would allow it to suspend the accounts of people who committed crimes or severe offenses in real life or on other social media platforms, including violent extremism or membership in a known hate group. Twitch said it did not consider QAnon to be a hate group.

Despite all this, a Twitch channel belonging to Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization, remained online until the middle of this month after The New York Times inquired about it. And the white nationalist Anthime Joseph Gionet, known as Baked Alaska, had a Twitch channel for months, even though he was arrested in January by the F.B.I. and accused of illegally storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Twitch initially said his activities had not violated the platform’s policies, then barred him this month for hateful conduct.

has said is dangerous. Last week, he referred to a QAnon belief that people are killing children to “harvest” a chemical compound from them, then talked about a “criminal cabal” controlling the government, saying people do not understand “what plane of existence they come from.”

Mr. Paine, who is barred from Twitter and YouTube, has also asked his Twitch audience to donate to the House campaign of J.R. Majewski, an Air Force veteran in Toledo, Ohio, who attracted attention last year for painting his lawn to look like a Trump campaign banner. Mr. Majewski has used QAnon hashtags but distanced himself from the movement in an interview with his local newspaper, The Toledo Blade.

Mr. Majewski has appeared on Mr. Paine’s streams, where they vape, chat about Mr. Majewski’s campaign goals and take calls from listeners.

“He is exactly the type of person that we need to get in Washington, D.C., so that we can supplant these evil cabal criminal actors and actually run our own country,” Mr. Paine said on one stream.

Neither Mr. Paine nor Mr. Majewski responded to a request for comment.

Joan Donovan, a Harvard University researcher who studies disinformation and online extremism, said streamers who rely on their audience’s generosity to fund themselves felt pressured to continue raising the stakes.

“The incentive to lie, cheat, steal, hoax and scam is very high when the cash is easy to acquire,” she said.

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In Poland, an L.G.B.T.Q. Migration As Homophobia Deepens

For months, government ministers spewed vicious rhetoric about gay people. Trucks blasted anti-gay hate messages from loudspeakers on the streets of Poland’s cities.

Finally fed up with an increasingly hostile environment for gay people in Poland under the governing Law and Justice party, Marta Malachowska, a 31-year-old who works in social media, decided to move to Berlin with her girlfriend in December.

“Last year the situation became too much for me,” Ms. Malachowska said, adding that she had suffered a nervous breakdown during the country’s presidential election last summer when anti-L.G.B.T.Q. rhetoric engaged in by the governing party became especially shrill in an effort to appeal to socially conservative voters. The final straw came when a close friend was assaulted because of her sexual orientation, she said.

Arriving in Berlin, she knew she had made the right choice.

“The first thing I saw was a giant rainbow flag hanging across the street from our flat,” she said. “I take my girlfriend’s hand when we walk in the street, without thinking.” She added: “Back in Poland, there was always this fear inside me. Here, literally no one cares.”

People have for decades left Poland looking for opportunities elsewhere in Europe — an exodus that grew after the country joined the European Union in 2004. But now their numbers are being added to by gay people fleeing an increasingly hostile environment in Poland.

According to a 2020 survey by ILGA-Europe, an international gay rights organization, Poland now ranks as the most homophobic country in the European Union. Activists say that violence against gay people in Poland surged last year, and included cases of physical violence, insults and the destruction of property.

Its hard to know how many gay people there are in Poland, or how many are leaving. There is no polling on their views or preferences. And since they are unable to form civil unions, gay couples are practically invisible in official terms. The law does not recognize sexual orientation or gender as motivations for hate crimes, either.

“This is not an accident,” said Jacek Dehnel, a writer who originally moved to Berlin for a literary scholarship with his husband, and decided to stay for good after watching what he called last summer’s “vicious” presidential campaign. “If there are no statistics, there is no problem.”

But anecdotally, especially within the country’s well-educated gay urban communities, there are many stories of young L.G.B.T.Q. professionals emigrating.

Piotr Grabarczyk, a 31-year-old journalist, left Poland for Barcelona with his boyfriend last July, attracted by Spain’s more liberal way of life.

Originally from a small town in northern Poland, he described his childhood as one of “complete loneliness and alienation — the internet was my only escape.”

“When I found out gay marriage in Spain had been legal since 2005, it knocked me off my feet,” he said. “I was 16 in 2005. My life would have been so different if I lived in such a country.”

As he was preparing to leave Poland, a cardboard box filled with rainbow T-shirts, leaflets and educational books that he left outside his home in an upscale gated community in Warsaw was defaced with the message “BURN LGBT!”

“I realized it must have been one of my neighbors,” he said. “We probably saw each other in the staircase, said hello.”

He said he received many messages from people across Poland, “who would like to leave for the same reasons as us, but cannot because of money, family, or their career choices.”

Homosexuality has long been taboo in Poland, where the Roman Catholic Church, which plays a prominent role in the country’s social and political life, has worked hand in hand with the government to promote a conservative way of life.

The church, which is particularly powerful in rural areas, has adopted an actively hostile attitude toward gay people. Mr. Dehnel, the writer who moved to Berlin last year, said it was “the driving force of hate” toward the gay community.

Responding to a request for comment, the Catholic Church pointed to an official document outlining its position, stating that homosexual “inclinations” did not constitute “moral guilt,” but homosexual acts did. It declined to comment on hate speech employed by priests, and the accusation that they were contributing to the general deterioration of the safety of gay people in Poland.

Marek Jedraszewski, Poland’s archbishop, has described L.G.B.T.Q. people as an “ideology,” calling it a “rainbow pest.”

The Law and Justice party, which has been in power since 2015, has whipped up its base by waging hate campaigns, first centering around migrants, and later the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Neither the government nor the president responded to requests for comment.

In April 2019 Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the Law and Justice party and Poland’s de facto leader, called homosexuality a “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence, and thus to the Polish state.”

Mr. Kaczynski’s message was amplified by the state-owned news media and other government figures, including local politicians.

“We should defend families from this type of corruption, depravation, absolutely immoral behavior,” Przemyslaw Czarnek, a Law and Justice deputy, who has been promoted to the position of education minister, said in an interview with the public broadcaster last year. “These people are not equal to normal people.”

Trucks funded by ultraconservative organizations have roamed the country, blaring slogans from speakers accusing gay people of pedophilia. There have been increasing cases of violence during pride marches, and against individuals.

In one incident in a village in southern Poland, a young gay man was harassed by neighbors hurling homophobic abuse at him, and one tried to poison his dog. In March 2021, another gay man was verbally attacked and then stabbed for holding hands with his partner in Warsaw.

As a gay person in Poland, Mr. Grabarczyk, the journalist who moved to Barcelona, said that psychological violence was “an everyday experience” for him.

“You are constantly reminded that you will never get the same rights as everyone else, that you are not an equal citizen,” he said.

Emboldened by the narrative coming from the country’s top officials, nearly 100 local governments declared themselves “free from L.G.B.T. ideology,” making gay Poles feel unwelcome in their own towns.

The legal status of L.G.B.T.Q. people in Poland has not changed under the rule of the Law and Justice party. They never had the right to enter civil partnerships or get married. But what changed was the viciousness of the rhetoric at the highest echelons of government and in the state-controlled news media, activists say.

And policy could yet change. In a bid to get re-elected last year, President Andrzej Duda signed a draft law that would amend the Constitution to ban adoptions by gay people.

Before Ms. Malachowska, the social media specialist, moved to Berlin, she was concerned about the practical implications of the legal limbo she and her girlfriend would be in if they stayed in Poland. There, they would not be considered next of kin in a medical emergency, or be able to inherit from each other.

In Poland, she also began to get emotionally attached to the idea of marrying her partner.

“We already checked how to do it in Berlin, and I started visualizing how it would look like — the first time in my life I dared to even imagine that,” she said.

While she is happy to be in Berlin, she is sad that her grandmother still doesn’t know about her sexual orientation. “I told her I am moving to Berlin with my flatmate,” she said. “It feels awful to lie to my closest family.”

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A Global Tipping Point for Reining In Tech Has Arrived

On Dec. 9, the Federal Trade Commission and nearly every state filed bipartisan lawsuits accusing Facebook of acting anticompetitively. Less than a week later, European policymakers introduced a competition law and new requirements for blocking online hate speech. On Dec. 24, Chinese regulators opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba after scuppering an initial public offering from Ant.

Antitrust and content moderation have been where tech companies are most vulnerable. Google, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba, Amazon and other companies clearly dominate online advertising, search, e-commerce and app marketplaces, and have faced questions about whether they have unduly used their clout to buy competitors, promote their own products ahead of others and block rivals.

The companies also face scrutiny about how hate speech and other noxious online material can spill into the offline world, leading to calls to better control content.

The antitrust push has especially sharpened in the United States, with landmark suits filed against Google and Facebook last year. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said they are drafting new antitrust, privacy and speech regulations targeting Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. They have also proposed trimming a law that shields sites like YouTube, which Google owns, from lawsuits over content posted by their users.

“This is a monopoly moment. Not just for the United States but for the entire world,” the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee, David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, said in a statement. “Countries need to work together in order to take on the monopoly power held by the largest tech platforms and restore competition and innovation to the digital economy.”

Mr. Biden has also picked tech critics for key administration roles. Tim Wu, a law professor who supports a breakup of Facebook, joined the White House last month, while Lina Khan, a law professor who has been influential on tech antitrust, was nominated to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission.

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