Lara Trump Joins Fox News as a Paid Contributor

Fox News just hired a Trump. But not Donald.

Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Donald J. Trump, is joining the cable channel as a paid on-air contributor, the network announced on Monday. The move was not exactly a surprise, as Ms. Trump acknowledged during a morning appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

“I sort of feel like I’ve been an unofficial member of the team for so long,” Ms. Trump told the show’s co-hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade. “Over the past five years, I would come there so often that the security guards were like, ‘Maybe we should just give you a key.’”

Mr. Doocy, Mr. Earhardt and Mr. Kilmeade welcomed their new colleague with an on-air round of applause.

Ms. Trump, who is married to the former president’s younger son Eric, was a frequent guest on Fox News during the 2020 campaign, when she served as a surrogate for her father-in-law. Recently, Ms. Trump floated the possibility of running for a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, her home state. On Monday, she told “Fox & Friends” that she had not “officially made a decision, but hopefully sometime soon.”

She is the second member of Donald Trump’s inner circle to join the Fox News payroll in recent weeks. Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, signed on earlier this month as a contributor.

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Dominion Sues Fox News, Claiming Defamation in Election Coverage

Fox News and its powerful owner, Rupert Murdoch, are facing a second major defamation suit over the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election, a new front in the growing legal battle over media disinformation and its consequences.

In the latest aftershock of Donald J. Trump’s attempt to undermine President Biden’s victory, Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy about rigged voting machines, sued Fox News on Friday for advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business.

Dominion, which has requested a jury trial, is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit comes less than two months after Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and named the Fox anchors Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro as defendants.

In a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that the company had altered vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Mr. Biden in the election.

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell for defamation. The company also sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a Trump ally who was also a frequent guest on Fox and other conservative media outlets. Each of those suits seeks damages of more than $1 billion.

“The truth matters,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s complaint against Fox. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”

In a statement on Friday, Fox said that its 2020 election coverage “stands in the highest tradition of American journalism” and pledged to “vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”

Dominion’s filing on Friday represented what its lawyers called a new phase in its battle against its detractors, and Thomas A. Clare, part of the company’s legal team, said it was unlikely to be the last lawsuit filed. His firm, Clare Locke, has in recent weeks joined with the firm Susman Godfrey, which is known for taking cases to trial.

filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that the false claims of electoral fraud made on its channels were part of covering a fast-breaking story of significant public interest. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox wrote in the motion.

The narrative that Mr. Trump and his allies spun about Dominion was among the more baroque creations of a monthslong effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results and convince Americans that Mr. Biden’s victory was not legitimate.

Dominion, founded in 2002, is one of the largest manufacturers of voting machine equipment in the United States; its equipment was used by election authorities in more than two dozen states last year, including several states carried by Mr. Trump.

Allies of Mr. Trump falsely portrayed Dominion as biased toward Mr. Biden and argued, without evidence, that it was tied to Hugo Chávez, the long-dead Venezuelan dictator. John Poulos, Dominion’s founder, and other employees received harassing and threatening messages from people convinced that the company had undermined the election results, according to the complaint.

Fox News and Fox Business programs were among the mass-media venues where Mr. Trump’s supporters denounced Dominion. The lawsuit also cites examples of Fox hosts, including Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, uncritically repeating or vouching for false claims made by Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell.

“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit. “As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.”

faced a reckoning of sorts from the threat of defamation litigation, a relatively novel tactic in a battle against disinformation that had previously been limited to ad boycotts and liberal public pressure campaigns.

In February, two days after Smartmatic filed its suit, Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” its highest-rated program. Newsmax, a pro-Trump cable channel also facing potential legal action, cut off Mr. Lindell when he repeated falsehoods about rigged voting machines.

Taken together, Dominion and Smartmatic are demanding at least $4.3 billion in damages from Fox. Controlled by Mr. Murdoch, 90, and his elder son, Lachlan, the Fox Corporation reported that it had made $3 billion in pretax profit from September 2019 to September 2020, on revenue of $12.3 billion.

the network’s early projection that Mr. Biden would carry Arizona.

Dominion also makes the case that Fox and its hosts benefited from uncritically repeating these baseless claims. The suit cites a postelection rise in ratings for anchors like Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, and notes that the ex-husband of Ms. Pirro, who spoke on-air of a stolen election, later secured a pardon from Mr. Trump.

“Fox has had a problem because a lot of its pundits have said the very things that have led Dominion to bring this lawsuit,” the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an interview.

In its response to the Smartmatic suit, Fox argued that its reporting on the election should be viewed in its totality — pointing out that at least one host, Tucker Carlson, voiced skepticism about Ms. Powell’s statements — and that claims by the president’s lawyers in an election dispute were inherently newsworthy. “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern,” Fox wrote in that motion.

Mr. Zick, the First Amendment lawyer, said that Dominion had included an implicit response to that argument: “This isn’t neutral reportage. It’s disinformation for profit.”

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Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Pichai testify about disinformation.

The chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter are testifying at the House on Thursday about how disinformation spreads across their platforms, an issue that the tech companies were scrutinized for during the presidential election and after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is the first time that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai of Google are appearing before Congress during the Biden administration. President Biden has indicated that he is likely to be tough on the tech industry. That position, coupled with Democratic control of Congress, has raised liberal hopes that Washington will take steps to rein in Big Tech’s power and reach over the next few years.

The hearing is also be the first opportunity since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot for lawmakers to question the three men about the role their companies played in the event. The attack has made the issue of disinformation intensely personal for the lawmakers since those who participated in the riot have been linked to online conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Before the hearing, Democrats signaled in a memo that they were interested in questioning the executives about the Jan. 6 attacks, efforts by the right to undermine the results of the 2020 election and misinformation related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

October article in The New York Post about President Biden’s son Hunter.

Lawmakers have debated whether social media platforms’ business models encourage the spread of hate and disinformation by prioritizing content that will elicit user engagement, often by emphasizing salacious or divisive posts.

Some lawmakers will push for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that shields the platforms from lawsuits over their users’ posts. Lawmakers are trying to strip the protections in cases where the companies’ algorithms amplified certain illegal content. Others believe that the spread of disinformation could be stemmed with stronger antitrust laws, since the platforms are by far the major outlets for communicating publicly online.

“By now it’s painfully clear that neither the market nor public pressure will stop social media companies from elevating disinformation and extremism, so we have no choice but to legislate, and now it’s a question of how best to do it,” said Representative Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the committee.

The tech executives are expected to play up their efforts to limit misinformation and redirect users to more reliable sources of information. They may also entertain the possibility of more regulation, in an effort to shape increasingly likely legislative changes rather than resist them outright.

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How Anti-Asian Activity Online Set the Stage for Real-World Violence

Negative Asian-American tropes have long existed online but began increasing last March as parts of the United States went into lockdown over the coronavirus. That month, politicians including Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Republican of California, used the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese coronavirus” to refer to Covid-19 in their tweets.

Those terms then began trending online, according to a study from the University of California, Berkeley. On the day Mr. Gosar posted his tweet, usage of the term “Chinese virus” jumped 650 percent on Twitter; a day later there was an 800 percent increase in their usage in conservative news articles, the study found.

Mr. Trump also posted eight times on Twitter last March about the “Chinese virus,” causing vitriolic reactions. In the replies section of one of his posts, a Trump supporter responded, “U caused the virus,” directing the comment to an Asian Twitter user who had cited U.S. death statistics for Covid-19. The Trump fan added a slur about Asian people.

In a study this week from the University of California, San Francisco, researchers who examined 700,000 tweets before and after Mr. Trump’s March 2020 posts found that people who posted the hashtag #chinesevirus were more likely to use racist hashtags, including #bateatingchinese.

“There’s been a lot of discussion that ‘Chinese virus’ isn’t racist and that it can be used,” said Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the research. But the term, she said, has turned into “a rallying cry to be able to gather and galvanize people who have these feelings, as well as normalize racist beliefs.”

Representatives for Mr. Trump, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Gosar did not respond to requests for comment.

Misinformation linking the coronavirus to anti-Asian beliefs also rose last year. Since last March, there have been nearly eight million mentions of anti-Asian speech online, much of it falsehoods, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights firm.

In one example, a Fox News article from April that went viral baselessly said that the coronavirus was created in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan and intentionally released. The article was liked and shared more than one million times on Facebook and retweeted 78,800 times on Twitter, according to data from Zignal and CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool for analyzing social media.

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Epoch Media Casts Wider Net to Spread Its Message Online

Right on Times does not disclose any partnership with Epoch, nor do the two websites share a unique digital identifier. But when it launched in October, its articles were posted on social media by Epoch employees. Right on Times also had a prominent ad campaign on Epoch properties, and it included many articles from Epoch properties on its service. Those actions led disinformation researchers, including those at the Global Disinformation Index, to conclude there was coordination.

Epoch Times said that Right on Times was one of its advertisers, and that Youmaker was an “independent business partner.” Sagebook, the company said, was being phased out. (The Sagebook site was no longer accessible as of last week.)

“The premise of your article is incorrect,” the company said in an email. “The Epoch Times does not deal in conspiracy theories. We pride ourselves on rigorous, fact-based reporting, which has attracted a large and rapidly growing audience.”

The largest media brand run by the Epoch Media Group remains The Epoch Times, which regularly publishes pro-Trump misinformation. In the past year, articles from The Epoch Times garnered 123.7 million likes and shares on social media, according to the social media analysis tool Buzzsumo. It has tens of millions of social media followers and has become a true rival of successful conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart News. It now has dozens of international versions.

In 2019 and 2020, Facebook alleged links between The Epoch Times and brands including “The BL” and “Truth Media,” saying they were all part of the Falun Gong orbit. The brands operated hundreds of accounts that automatically published posts on Facebook at a rapid clip about conservative ideology and the 2020 election, as well as misinformation about the coronavirus. Eventually, Facebook ruled that many of those accounts violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies. The company removed them in two separate takedowns.

“We have clarified repeatedly that The Epoch Times has no relationship with The BL and Truth Media,” Epoch Media said.

Epoch began to make use of the alternative social media platforms, like Sagebook and Youmaker, in late 2020. Youmaker draws about 1.5 million unique visitors per month, according to data from the website analytics company SimilarWeb. Sagebook attracted 38,000 monthly visitors and Right on Times sees 15,000, according to SimilarWeb data.

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