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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Social Media"

Virus Crisis Exposes Cracks in China’s Facade of Unity

Westlake Legal Group 28NEWWORLD-facebookJumbo Virus Crisis Exposes Cracks in China’s Facade of Unity Wuhan (China) Social Media Propaganda Politics and Government News and News Media Medicine and Health Hubei Province (China) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet China Censorship

From the outside, China’s Communist Party appears powerful and effective. It has tightened its control over Chinese politics, culture, the economy and everyday life, projecting the image of a gradually unifying society.

The coronavirus outbreak has blown up that facade.

Staffers at the prestigious Union Hospital in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, have joined others around China in begging online for medical supplies. Videos show patients in Wuhan beseeching medical staff for treatment. Residents of Wuhan and its province, Hubei, are being chased off planes and ousted from hotels and villages.

Online critics are comparing current leaders unfavorably to past ones, even though the older generation had its own tarnished record on responding to emergencies. Some people have urged local party officials to kill themselves.

As cracks show in China’s veneer of stability, even some with ties to the party leadership are calling for those in power to shine light on divisions rather than papering them over. The crisis has shown that China remains riddled with vulnerabilities that no amount of censorship or strong-arming can hide.

“The local government’s tolerance level of different online voices is way too low,” wrote Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times newspaper, a nationalist, party-controlled outlet that fiercely defends Beijing from its critics, in a social media post.

Government agencies have weakened the checks-and-balances function of the Chinese news media, Mr. Hu wrote, citing the example of eight early whistle-blowers who were summoned for talks by the Wuhan police.

The coronavirus outbreak has already killed over 100 people and infected more than 4,000 in China, mostly in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei. For online critics of the government’s responses, which at times have been slow or seemingly random, the crisis has prompted a rethink of the grand trade-off with the party, in which the people have surrendered individual rights for the promise of stability and prosperity.

“The current system looks so vibrant yet it’s shattered completely by a governance crisis,” wrote one user on the social media site Weibo.

“We gave up our rights in exchange for protection,” the user wrote. “But what kind of protection is it? Where will our long-lasting political apathy lead us?”

The post was retweeted over 7,000 times and liked 27,000 times before it was deleted by censors.

Westerners can be easily awed by how quickly and forcefully the Chinese government can mobilize resources and build infrastructure. Even some international public health experts have said they were impressed with the speed and scale of China’s lockdown on more than a dozen cities, which has affected 56 million people. The Chinese propaganda machine has highlighted such capabilities as two new Wuhan coronavirus hospitals are built from scratch, to be completed in days.

This single-minded pursuit of efficiency masks deep problems. Propaganda videos and flashy new buildings don’t show the toll this relentless drive can take on people, society or the environment.

Many Chinese people are willing to go along. Partially, the state has taught them to think that way. But many are satisfied with the status quo because they believe that the party has kept their interests in mind.

The epidemic now threatens to change some of that thinking.

Officials in Wuhan initially downplayed the threat and censored information as the disease spread throughout the country and even internationally. The city and the province then abruptly imposed a lockdown on travel, even though millions had already left for China’s Lunar New Year holiday.

Local residents complained that restrictions later imposed on traffic made it difficult for people to get to work and seek medical assistance, perhaps hindering prevention efforts rather than helping them.

Wuhan’s medical system was so overwhelmed that videos of overworked medical workers having breakdowns and desperate patients pleading for help circulated widely online.

The situation was so dire that Zhang Ouya, a senior reporter at the state-run Hubei Daily, wrote that “Hubei must immediately replace its commanders” on his verified Weibo account. The post was soon deleted, but a screenshot circulated widely. In an official document leaked online, the newspaper apologized to Wuhan officials and promised that its staff would post only positive content.

For many people in China, the most unexpected revelation came when local hospitals ran out of supplies and had to ask for donations on social media, going around the Chinese bureaucracy. As the crisis expanded, even hospitals in Beijing and other provinces resorted to public appeals for face masks and protective medical gowns.

“I’ve always thought we have the most refined state-run system, which can pool and deploy resources at a moment’s notice,” wrote a Weibo user called Meng Chang, a former journalist in Beijing. But the reality was disappointing, he wrote: “Where is the omnipotent system?”

National leaders, meanwhile, look out of touch. As the outbreak became a national crisis, the front page of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, last week extolled the leadership but didn’t mention Wuhan. “There’re no people in the People’s Daily,” one of my WeChat connections, an economist, messaged me.

China Central Television, the state broadcaster, featured a banquet held by the leadership to celebrate the country’s successes. On Friday night, the eve of the Lunar New Year, CCTV’s annual holiday broadcast worked in six minutes of praise for Wuhan’s medical workers between the skits and songs. Wuhan’s people went unmentioned.

“I was very sad when watching the Spring Festival gala last night,” a woman named Jiujiu told the podcast Gushi FM. “Wuhan has come to this, yet the whole nation still seemed full of great joy.”

Some within China’s institutions appear to be trying to fix the problems.

While Weibo has censored many posts about the epidemic, it appears to be leaving loopholes for its users to vent. Wang Gaofei, Weibo’s chief executive, posted research by scientists at the University of Washington that showed a correlation between greater news coverage and a reduction in infections.

But in a country where history is often rewritten to serve the party’s interests, the lessons of the past can be forgotten. Discussion of SARS, the outbreak that killed hundreds 17 years ago, has been muted. Even as many Chinese people quietly complain about current leaders, they wax nostalgic about the role that former President Hu Jintao played in the SARS epidemic, apparently forgetting that Beijing tried to cover up that outbreak for three months.

A video of a CCTV interview with Beijing’s then-mayor, Wang Qishan, who is now China’s vice president, was viewed over four million times in two hours before it was deleted. The comments were full of praises for his candid and confident answers and yearning for a strong leader like him.

“It’s not that this nation has a bad memory,” wrote one person who pointed out the irony. “It’s because those in power don’t like that you remember.”

The police in various parts of China have fined or detained over 40 people in the past few days for spreading “rumors,” many of which claimed that there were confirmed cases of the virus locally, according to a tally by a WeChat account based on media reports.

Wang Heyan, an investigative reporter for the magazine Caixin who has written about corruption cases involving top Chinese leaders, lamented on her WeChat timeline that she and her colleagues couldn’t get any medical workers to talk to them in Wuhan. Even after she promised them anonymity, Ms. Wang said, the workers feared reprisals.

“If all medical workers aren’t willing to take a little risk to speak the truth and the media can’t report the truth, in the end everyone, including the doctors, will be victims,” she wrote.

A reporter from Beijing News also complained on social media that even though he was in the epicenter of the epidemic, he couldn’t write a single word about what he had learned.

Many Chinese still have strong belief in the power of the central government. After Premier Li Keqiang visited Wuhan on Monday, a week after the epidemic became a full-blown crisis, a retiree told my colleague Chris Buckley, “In China, if a leader visits, that shows that all the resources of the government can be mobilized.”

Li Haipeng, a former journalist, predicted as early as last week that eventually the state would come to Wuhan’s rescue.

“The state will be interpreted, proved and trusted as the only savior,” he wrote on Weibo. “All our stories are the same: They start with the failure of the state and end with its victory.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media

Westlake Legal Group 27china-social01-facebookJumbo As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media Wuhan (China) Wang Huning (1955- ) Social Media Polls and Public Opinion Politics and Government Media Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet China Censorship

SHANGHAI — Recently, someone following the coronavirus crisis through China’s official news media would see lots of footage, often set to stirring music, praising the heroism and sacrifice of health workers marching off to stricken places.

But someone following the crisis through social media would see something else entirely: vitriolic comments and mocking memes about government officials, harrowing descriptions of untreated family members and images of hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.

The contrast is almost never so stark in China. The government usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it. But the sheer amount of criticism — and the often clever ways in which critics dodge censors, such as by referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as “Trump” or by comparing the outbreak to the Chernobyl catastrophe — have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message.

In recent days, critics have pounced when officials in the city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, wore their protective masks incorrectly. They have heaped scorn upon stumbling pronouncements. When Wuhan’s mayor spoke to official media on Monday, one commenter responded, “If the virus is fair, then please don’t spare this useless person.”

The condemnations stand as a rare direct challenge to the Communist Party, which brooks no dissent in the way it runs China. In some cases, Chinese leaders appear to be acknowledging people’s fear, anger and other all-too-human reactions to the crisis, showing how the party can move dramatically, if sometimes belatedly, to mollify the public.

Such criticism can go only so far, however. Some of China’s more commercially minded media outlets have covered the disease and the response thoroughly if not critically. But articles and comments about the virus continue to be deleted, and the government and internet platforms have issued fresh warnings against spreading what they call “rumors.”

“Chinese social media are full of anger, not because there was no censorship on this topic, but despite strong censorship,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times, a website that monitors Chinese internet controls. “It is still possible that the censorship will suddenly increase again, as part of an effort to control the narrative.”

When China’s leaders battled the SARS virus in the early 2000s, social media was only just beginning to blossom in the country. The government covered up the disease’s spread, and it was left to journalists and other critics to shame the authorities into acknowledging the scale of the problem.

Today, smartphones and social media make it harder for mass public health crises to stay buried. But internet platforms in China are just as easily polluted with false and fast-moving information as they are everywhere else. During outbreaks of disease, Beijing’s leaders have legitimate reason to be on alert for quack remedies and scaremongering fabrications, which can cause panic and do damage.

In recent days, though, Beijing seems to be reasserting its primacy over information in ways that go beyond mere rumor control. At a meeting this past weekend between Mr. Xi and other senior leaders, one of the measures they resolved to take against the virus was to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”

Wang Huning, the head of the Communist Party’s publicity department and an influential party ideologue, was also recently named deputy head of the team in charge of containing the epidemic, behind only China’s premier, Li Keqiang.

Chinese officials seem to recognize that social media can be a useful tool for feeling out public opinion in times of crisis. WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging platform, over the weekend said that it would crack down hard on rumors about the virus. But it also created a tool for users to report tips and information about the disease and the response.

Internet backlash may already have caused one local government in China to change course on its virus-fighting policies. The southern city of Shantou announced on Sunday that it was stopping cars, ships and people from entering the city, in a policy that echoed ones in Wuhan. But then word went around that the decision had led people to panic-buy food, and by the afternoon, the order had been rescinded.

Nowhere has the local government been the target of more internet vitriol than in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital.

After the Hubei governor, Wang Xiaodong, and other officials there gave a news briefing on Sunday, web users mocked Mr. Wang for misstating, twice, the number of face masks that the province could produce. They circulated a photo from the briefing of him and two other officials, pointing out that one of them did not cover his nose with his mask, another wore his mask upside down and Mr. Wang did not wear a mask at all.

On Monday, social media users were similarly unrelenting toward Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang.

During an interview Mr. Zhou gave to state television, commenters in live streams unloaded on him, with one writing: “Stop talking. We just want to know when you will resign.”

Top authorities may be deliberately directing public anger toward officials in Hubei and Wuhan as a prelude to their resigning and being replaced. Many other targets within the Chinese leadership seem to remain off limits.

This month, as news of the coronavirus emerged but Mr. Xi did not make public appearances to address it, people on the social platform Weibo began venting their frustration in veiled ways, asking “Where’s that person?”

But even those comments were deleted. So some users started replacing Mr. Xi’s name with “Trump.” As in, “I don’t want to go through another minute of this year, my heart is filled with pain, I hope Trump dies.”

Other people hungering to express frustration have taken to the Chinese social platform Douban, which has been flooded recently by user reviews for “Chernobyl,” the hit television series about the Soviet nuclear disaster.

“In any era, any country, it’s the same. Cover everything up,” one reviewer wrote on Monday.

“That’s socialism,” wrote another.

Some Chinese news outlets have been able to report incisively on the coronavirus. The influential newsmagazine Caixin has put out rigorous reporting and analysis. The Paper, a digital news outlet that is overseen by Shanghai’s Communist Party Committee, published a chilling video about a Wuhan resident who couldn’t find a hospital that would treat him and ended up wandering the streets.

Mr. Xiao, the Chinese internet expert, said the central authorities long gave such outlets special leeway to cover certain topics in ways that official media cannot. But the outlets should not be viewed as independent of the government, he said, calling their coverage “planned and controlled publicity” from the authorities.

Even outside the digital realm, it is not hard to find people in China who remain unsure of whether to trust what their government is telling them about the epidemic.

Chen Pulin, a 78-year-old retiree, was waiting outside a Shanghai hospital recently while his daughter was inside being tested for the virus. When word of the disease first began trickling out, he immediately had doubts about whether officials were being forthcoming about it.

“Even now, the government seems to be thinking about the economy and social stability,” Mr. Chen said. “Those things are important, but when it comes to these infectious diseases, stopping the disease should come first.”

Li Yuan contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu, Lin Qiqing and Wang Yiwei contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media

Westlake Legal Group 27china-social01-facebookJumbo As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media Wuhan (China) Wang Huning (1955- ) Social Media Polls and Public Opinion Politics and Government Media Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet China Censorship

SHANGHAI — Recently, someone following the coronavirus crisis through China’s official news media would see lots of footage, often set to stirring music, praising the heroism and sacrifice of health workers marching off to stricken places.

But someone following the crisis through social media would see something else entirely: vitriolic comments and mocking memes about government officials, harrowing descriptions of untreated family members and images of hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.

The contrast is almost never so stark in China. The government usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it. But the sheer amount of criticism — and the often clever ways in which critics dodge censors, such as by referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as “Trump” or by comparing the outbreak to the Chernobyl catastrophe — have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message.

In recent days, critics have pounced when officials in the city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, wore their protective masks incorrectly. They have heaped scorn upon stumbling pronouncements. When Wuhan’s mayor spoke to official media on Monday, one commenter responded, “If the virus is fair, then please don’t spare this useless person.”

The condemnations stand as a rare direct challenge to the Communist Party, which brooks no dissent in the way it runs China. In some cases, Chinese leaders appear to be acknowledging people’s fear, anger and other all-too-human reactions to the crisis, showing how the party can move dramatically, if sometimes belatedly, to mollify the public.

Such criticism can go only so far, however. Some of China’s more commercially minded media outlets have covered the disease and the response thoroughly if not critically. But articles and comments about the virus continue to be deleted, and the government and internet platforms have issued fresh warnings against spreading what they call “rumors.”

“Chinese social media are full of anger, not because there was no censorship on this topic, but despite strong censorship,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times, a website that monitors Chinese internet controls. “It is still possible that the censorship will suddenly increase again, as part of an effort to control the narrative.”

When China’s leaders battled the SARS virus in the early 2000s, social media was only just beginning to blossom in the country. The government covered up the disease’s spread, and it was left to journalists and other critics to shame the authorities into acknowledging the scale of the problem.

Today, smartphones and social media make it harder for mass public health crises to stay buried. But internet platforms in China are just as easily polluted with false and fast-moving information as they are everywhere else. During outbreaks of disease, Beijing’s leaders have legitimate reason to be on alert for quack remedies and scaremongering fabrications, which can cause panic and do damage.

In recent days, though, Beijing seems to be reasserting its primacy over information in ways that go beyond mere rumor control. At a meeting this past weekend between Mr. Xi and other senior leaders, one of the measures they resolved to take against the virus was to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”

Wang Huning, the head of the Communist Party’s publicity department and an influential party ideologue, was also recently named deputy head of the team in charge of containing the epidemic, behind only China’s premier, Li Keqiang.

Chinese officials seem to recognize that social media can be a useful tool for feeling out public opinion in times of crisis. WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging platform, over the weekend said that it would crack down hard on rumors about the virus. But it also created a tool for users to report tips and information about the disease and the response.

Internet backlash may already have caused one local government in China to change course on its virus-fighting policies. The southern city of Shantou announced on Sunday that it was stopping cars, ships and people from entering the city, in a policy that echoed ones in Wuhan. But then word went around that the decision had led people to panic-buy food, and by the afternoon, the order had been rescinded.

Nowhere has the local government been the target of more internet vitriol than in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital.

After the Hubei governor, Wang Xiaodong, and other officials there gave a news briefing on Sunday, web users mocked Mr. Wang for misstating, twice, the number of face masks that the province could produce. They circulated a photo from the briefing of him and two other officials, pointing out that one of them did not cover his nose with his mask, another wore his mask upside down and Mr. Wang did not wear a mask at all.

On Monday, social media users were similarly unrelenting toward Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang.

During an interview Mr. Zhou gave to state television, commenters in live streams unloaded on him, with one writing: “Stop talking. We just want to know when you will resign.”

Top authorities may be deliberately directing public anger toward officials in Hubei and Wuhan as a prelude to their resigning and being replaced. Many other targets within the Chinese leadership seem to remain off limits.

This month, as news of the coronavirus emerged but Mr. Xi did not make public appearances to address it, people on the social platform Weibo began venting their frustration in veiled ways, asking “Where’s that person?”

But even those comments were deleted. So some users started replacing Mr. Xi’s name with “Trump.” As in, “I don’t want to go through another minute of this year, my heart is filled with pain, I hope Trump dies.”

Other people hungering to express frustration have taken to the Chinese social platform Douban, which has been flooded recently by user reviews for “Chernobyl,” the hit television series about the Soviet nuclear disaster.

“In any era, any country, it’s the same. Cover everything up,” one reviewer wrote on Monday.

“That’s socialism,” wrote another.

Some Chinese news outlets have been able to report incisively on the coronavirus. The influential newsmagazine Caixin has put out rigorous reporting and analysis. The Paper, a digital news outlet that is overseen by Shanghai’s Communist Party Committee, published a chilling video about a Wuhan resident who couldn’t find a hospital that would treat him and ended up wandering the streets.

Mr. Xiao, the Chinese internet expert, said the central authorities long gave such outlets special leeway to cover certain topics in ways that official media cannot. But the outlets should not be viewed as independent of the government, he said, calling their coverage “planned and controlled publicity” from the authorities.

Even outside the digital realm, it is not hard to find people in China who remain unsure of whether to trust what their government is telling them about the epidemic.

Chen Pulin, a 78-year-old retiree, was waiting outside a Shanghai hospital recently while his daughter was inside being tested for the virus. When word of the disease first began trickling out, he immediately had doubts about whether officials were being forthcoming about it.

“Even now, the government seems to be thinking about the economy and social stability,” Mr. Chen said. “Those things are important, but when it comes to these infectious diseases, stopping the disease should come first.”

Li Yuan contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu, Lin Qiqing and Wang Yiwei contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army

The defense from Bernie Sanders was straightforward: It wasn’t me.

He had been milling about on the Senate floor one day in the summer of 2017 when a colleague, Kamala Harris, stepped toward him. “Do we have a problem?” Ms. Harris asked, according to Democrats familiar with the exchange.

Some prominent Sanders supporters had been flaming Ms. Harris publicly as the preferred choice of the corporate Democratic establishment against which Mr. Sanders had long railed, a view amplified among Sanders-boosting accounts across social media. “Pre-emptive strike,” one person wrote on the popular SandersForPresident Reddit group, where Sanders fans were sharing details of Ms. Harris’s recent fund-raising swing in the Hamptons with former Hillary Clinton donors. “Start the conversation now, end it before 2020.”

Mr. Sanders assured Ms. Harris that there was no issue, the Democrats familiar with their conversation said. He insisted that he could not control how his followers communicated.

But two years later, as both senators pursued the party’s 2020 presidential nomination and Ms. Harris returned to the Hamptons to collect campaign checks, Mr. Sanders broadcast an observation of his own after Ms. Harris raised doubts about his “Medicare for all” plan. “I don’t go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires,” he tweeted last August, elevating a message that supporters had already been pushing. Thousands of retweets followed.

Since the start of Mr. Sanders’s first presidential campaign in 2016, his colossal online support base has been by turns a source of peerless strength and perpetual aggravation — envied and caricatured by rivals who covet such loyalty, feared by Democrats who have faced harassment from his followers, and alternately cherished and gently scolded by the candidate himself.

The zeal of Mr. Sanders’s fans has helped establish him as one of the 2020 front-runners a week before the Iowa caucuses. No other Democrat attracts supporters more dedicated to forcefully defending their candidate and lashing his foes, more willing to repeatedly donate their time and money to sustain his bid. Through the end of 2019, Mr. Sanders had raised nearly $100 million from over five million individual donations, without ever holding traditional fund-raisers, leading the primary field.

Yet as Mr. Sanders moves to position himself as a standard-bearer for a party he has criticized from the left for decades, the power of his internet army has also alarmed Democrats who are familiar with its underside, experienced in ways large and small.

Some progressive activists who declined to back Mr. Sanders have begun traveling with private security after incurring online harassment. Several well-known feminist writers said they had received death threats. A state party chairwoman changed her phone number. A Portland lawyer saw her business rating tumble on an online review site after tussling with Sanders supporters on Twitter.

Other notable targets have included Ady Barkan, a prominent liberal activist with A.L.S. — whom some Sanders-cheering accounts accused of lacking decision-making faculties due to his illness as he prepared to endorse Senator Elizabeth Warren — and Fred Guttenberg, the father of a shooting victim from the 2018 Parkland massacre, who had criticized Mr. Sanders’s statements about gun violence.

“Politics is a contact sport,” said Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina State legislator who supported Ms. Harris in the Democratic primary. “But you have to be very cognizant when you say anything critical of Bernie online. You might have to put your phone down. There’s going to be a blowback, and it could be sexist, racist and vile.”

In recent days, he said, one man sent a profanity-filled private message on Instagram, calling Mr. Sellers, who is black, an “Uncle Tom” and wishing him brain cancer.

When Mr. Sanders’s supporters swarm someone online, they often find multiple access points to that person’s life, compiling what can amount to investigative dossiers. They will attack all public social media accounts, posting personal insults that might flow in by the hundreds. Some of the missives are direct threats of violence, which can be reported to Twitter or Facebook and taken down.

More commonly, there is a barrage of jabs and threats sometimes framed as jokes. If the target is a woman, and it often is, these insults can veer toward her physical appearance.

For some perceived Sanders critics, there has been mail sent to home addresses — or the home addresses of relatives. The contents were unremarkable: news articles about the political perils of centrism. The message seemed clear: We know where you live.

— Bernie Sanders, in a 2019 letter to supporters

Interviews with current and former staff members and major online supporters make clear that top advisers — and often, Mr. Sanders himself — are acutely aware of the bile spread in his name.

In February 2019, shortly after announcing his second presidential run, Mr. Sanders emailed a letter to surrogates. “I want to be clear,” he said, “that I condemn bullying and harassment of any kind and in any space.”

That he felt compelled to append this note to his national reintroduction was perhaps as telling as its contents.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163025088_86bbb9f9-f4fe-44bd-a623-581bf2a819b3-articleLarge Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army Warren, Elizabeth Social Media Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Cyberharassment Clinton, Hillary Rodham

Mr. Sanders at a campaign rally in Queens in October. Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

The Sanders campaign declined to discuss its 2020 digital operation and the extent to which it monitored social media discussions.

A spokesman, Mike Casca, flagged Mr. Sanders’s call for civility from last February. The campaign also released a statement from a spokeswoman, Sarah Ford, emphasizing the candidate’s previous remarks. “As the senator has said loudly and clearly,” she said, “there is no room in the political revolution for abuse and harassment online.”

Sanders aides routinely decide against commenting publicly about an online spat, reasoning that to do so would only elevate the conflict. The candidate’s defenders are quick to reject any suggestion that Mr. Sanders is responsible for the most egregious conduct of his followers, who are disproportionately young and overrepresented online, when the vast majority proceed with greater care.

His allies also argue that online combat is not unique to the Sanders side, with some high-profile women who support the senator saying they have been attacked, too.

“The same folks who want to complain that Sanders supporters are more vicious than anybody else never come out to chastise the supporters of other candidates,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chair.

But many political veterans outside the Sanders operation fault the campaign’s handling of the vitriol.

Jess Morales Rocketto, a progressive strategist who worked on campaigns for Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton, said Mr. Sanders had empowered aides and surrogates who “have a tendency to aggressively amplify things that a campaign would normally shut down amongst supporters.”

“There are always people who say things that are problematic. It’s not that that is unique to Bernie’s campaign,” she said. “What’s unique is it is a consistent problem in the universe of Bernie Sanders.”

— RoseAnn DeMoro, a Sanders supporter and former leader of National Nurses United

With more than 10 million followers on Twitter, Mr. Sanders has a larger audience on the platform than Ms. Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Amy Klobuchar combined. A sizable number could be automated bots or fictitious accounts. Federal prosecutors have detailed coordinated efforts by Russian nationals to interfere in the 2016 election, with an emphasis on two candidates — Donald J. Trump and Mr. Sanders — whom the Russians hoped to bolster while denigrating their opponents.

In a party gripped with anxiety about unifying to defeat Mr. Trump, the venom among Sanders backers and their counterparts supporting other candidates is of serious concern to Democrats.

Peggy Huppert, an Iowa activist who consulted for the 2016 Sanders campaign, said she had decided to support Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., in 2020 “in large part because of the way he conducts himself.” She praised Mr. Sanders’s letter to supporters after his announcement but said that this message had plainly failed to resonate.

“Obama set the tone for his campaign: ‘You are positive, you are respectful, you are civil,’” Ms. Huppert said. “I guess Bernie hasn’t.”

In recent days, Sanders supporters have filled the social media feeds of Ms. Warren and her allies with snakes — emojis, GIFs, doctored photographs — following the candidates’ quarrel over whether Mr. Sanders had told Ms. Warren privately in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. And last week, Mrs. Clinton resurfaced to revisit old wounds, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Mr. Sanders was to blame for permitting and “very much supporting” a toxic campaign culture.

For many of Mr. Sanders’s admirers, the interview only reinforced a conviction that traditional Democratic forces wish him political harm.

So why, they ask, should he be expected to stifle his most potent megaphone?

“You can’t control these folks,” RoseAnn DeMoro, a vocal Sanders supporter and former leader of National Nurses United, said of his online base. “I should say, ‘us folks.’”

There was a running joke inside the Clinton campaign’s 2016 Brooklyn headquarters: The cruelest surprise her digital team could pull on staff members was to retweet their personal account from the candidate’s handle, putting them on the radar of Mr. Sanders’s followers.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides mostly marveled at the scope and intensity of an ostensible long shot’s online base.

Mr. Sanders’s supporters, now often identified on Twitter by the rose emoji of the Democratic Socialists of America, loosely coordinated in private channels on Slack, a messaging service designed for the workplace, and congregated on Reddit, posting memes, news and jokes. (Today, there are 384,000 members in the SandersForPresident group on Reddit. The central group for Mr. Biden has about 3,100.)

— Michael Ceraso, a 2016 Sanders aide

Top Sanders aides initially worked to assemble traditional campaign infrastructure with staff on the ground in early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire. But much of the rest of the map was effectively the province of volunteers, who were responsible for helping to translate online enthusiasm into in-person support.

To Mr. Sanders, who had long bet his career on the power of mass movements, the online momentum did not necessarily register as unusual, even if he did not understand all the nuts and bolts.

Zack Exley, a senior adviser in 2016, said someone once asked Mr. Sanders how he had managed to draw so many people to his events.

“What do you mean?” the candidate replied, according to Mr. Exley. That was just how movements worked.

“If you’re in that position,” Mr. Exley said, “I don’t think you’re actually curious about how they got there.”

Others suggested that Mr. Sanders was highly attuned to what was happening online. His campaign aides tracked popular hashtags and, at times, encountered caustic posts. The candidate was particularly cognizant of, and grateful for, his online supporters’ capacity for small-dollar fund-raising.

“It would stun me that he wouldn’t know what was going on, positive or negative, online,” said Michael Ceraso, a Sanders aide in 2016 who worked for Mr. Buttigieg’s presidential campaign for part of last year.

While Mr. Sanders has said he does not have Twitter or any other apps on his phone, he is aware of the power of his online platform. “Given the fact that I have more social media followers than maybe all of my opponents combined, I guess we’re doing something right on that,” he told The New York Times editorial board. “What I have recognized is the importance of it.”

Ro Khanna, a California congressman who is now Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chair, said that the same internet that helped usher in the presidencies of Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama had made Mr. Sanders an unlikely juggernaut.

“If it weren’t for social media, if it weren’t for the use of email, Bernie Sanders would never have been a major contender,” he said. “It’s a glimpse, I think, into what the future of what campaigns may be.”

— a message received by Maya Contreras, co-founder of a feminist think tank who has been critical of Mr. Sanders

That is precisely what some Democrats fear. As the 2016 primary grew increasingly fractious, Mr. Sanders’s campaign found a drawback to such fervor: the online bullying among some supporters.

Sady Doyle, a progressive feminist author and Sanders critic who has been the subject of his followers’ ire, recalled one message she received from a stranger: “If you ever have a child, I’m going to dash it on the walls of Troy.” She said her husband asked her not to attend protests alone while pregnant.

Maya Contreras, a graduate student and co-founder of a feminist think tank who has criticized Mr. Sanders on Twitter, recalled a deluge in the lead-up to the 2016 election. “I got messages saying ‘go back to where you came from’ — which is Denver, Colorado, where I was born,” she said.

“Someone tweeted and said ‘You better watch where you’re going or something’s going to happen to you,’” Ms. Contreras added. “I also got ‘die bitch.’”

In person, serious violence has been avoided, it seems, though there have been occasional low-grade clashes. A May 2016 fight over delegates in Nevada included reports of thrown chairs, which some Sanders supporters dispute, and threats against the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, who changed her phone number after receiving a torrent of menacing messages about her, her grandchild and other relatives.

Former Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a Clinton supporter who had been at the Nevada convention, said she worried for her safety after being booed offstage.

“After the incident, Bernie and I talked on the phone, and he said, ‘I can’t believe that, my supporters would never do that,’” Ms. Boxer recalled. “I said, ‘Well, you ought to get to the bottom of it, Bernie.’”

She said Mr. Sanders responded, “Those cannot be my people.”

By early 2016, the behavior of Mr. Sanders’s online supporters, short-handed in the media as “Bernie Bros,” had become a stubborn trope, diagnosed as a political problem at the highest levels of the senator’s campaign, even as aides largely blamed Mrs. Clinton’s operation for overblowing it.

At times in public, Mr. Sanders tried to disclaim unseemly conduct. “We don’t want that crap,” he said in February 2016.

But he and his senior team also nursed a sharp sense of grievance. Jeff Weaver, a top Sanders strategist, played down the gravity of the Nevada unrest, telling CNN afterward that “no one had a right to feel threatened.”

“What happens,” he said, “is that when you rig the process and you get an angry crowd, you know, they’re not used to that.”

When the story broke this month detailing the private conversation between Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren about female electability, Sanders surrogates received a message from the campaign, advising them against going out of their way to engage with it publicly.

But later that day, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told CNN that whoever had pushed the Warren story was lying. Shaun King, a civil rights activist and prominent Sanders supporter with more than one million Twitter followers, said he saw an opportunity.

Among other widely circulated tweets, Mr. King wrote that he had spoken to Warren campaign staff members who reported that she “routinely embellishes stories.” He alleged that the Warren campaign and its allies “leaked this attack against Bernie to the press for political gain.”

Eventually, Ms. Turner, the campaign co-chair, got in touch. “She called me and said, ‘Shaun, just let up on it,’” he said. He did, to an extent. But by then, much of the Sanders-aligned internet was about to begin tweeting snakes at Ms. Warren and her supporters en masse.

In that instance and more than a handful of others over the past year, the campaign has publicly distanced itself from the rancor. Mr. Sanders’s wife, Jane, called for unity as the Warren squabble persisted. Mr. Sanders weighed in when some followers scorched Mr. Barkan, the activist with A.L.S., after his endorsement of Ms. Warren. “Bernie and all of his staff and surrogates were incredibly gracious and kind when I made the difficult decision to endorse one of my heroes over the other,” Mr. Barkan said in a statement.

The campaign recognizes the possible political downsides in any extreme behavior, but aides are perhaps most wary of the “bro” portion of the “Bernie Bro” descriptor, as Mr. Sanders prepares to make his case to a diverse Democratic electorate later in the primary calendar. Ms. Ford, the Sanders spokeswoman, said opponents were perpetuating “a false myth to discount the diversity of our supporters.”

While Mr. Sanders’s poll numbers with nonwhite voters are stronger than many rivals’, female and nonwhite Sanders critics say they continue to face disproportionate harassment from ostensibly progressive forces. “People talk about white dudes getting radicalized on the right,” said Imani Gandy, a senior legal analyst for Rewire.News behind a popular Twitter account, @AngryBlackLady. “I feel like white dudes in Brooklyn are being radicalized too.”

Candice Aiston, a lawyer who supported Ms. Harris before she left the primary, sparred with Sanders supporters last year and found herself targeted beyond Twitter: Some condemned her in Google reviews of her law practice and reported her to the Oregon state bar association, which dismissed the complaints.

(“She’s O.K. at her job, but her right wing ideology screams too loud,” one online review read. “Would not recommend.”)

For the campaign, the balance is delicate — tut-tutting at times without diluting the force of online support. Mr. Khanna, the congressman and campaign co-chair, called Mr. Sanders “the one person on our side who can counter what Trump’s formidable presence is going to be online.”

This view is shared among some online supporters who have turned Sanders fandom into something approaching a full-time job. Rodney Latstetter, a 62-year-old retiree in Illinois who posted repeatedly in 2017 about Ms. Harris’s Hamptons fund-raising, said he and a partner spent about seven hours a day running dozens of pro-Sanders social media groups. His Twitter page boosts Mr. Sanders and raises doubts about his rivals to more than 17,000 followers.

“Some of my followers — there are a few of them that have a little bit of an issue with their mouth or something like that,” Mr. Latstetter said, adding that he was unsure if he would support any of the other Democratic candidates if they won the nomination. “I also have my moments, too, where I have my limits, and I come out fighting.”

Such digital combat has seeped perceptibly into popular culture. The singer John Legend, endorsing Ms. Warren in a tweet this month, added a note of caution for Sanders supporters: “Try not to drive people away with your nastiness. I will happily vote for him if he wins the primary. Chill.”

This did not necessarily land with its intended audience.

“Some of you millionaires need to realize that many of us actually *need* Bernie Sanders to win the Presidency,” one account replied. “We can’t just ‘chill.’”

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.

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People Are Calling SWAT Teams to Tech Executives’ Homes

Westlake Legal Group 01swatting-facebookJumbo People Are Calling SWAT Teams to Tech Executives’ Homes Social Media police Nine-One-One (911) (Emergency Phone Number) Mosseri, Adam Hoaxes and Pranks Facebook Inc Cyberharassment Computers and the Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the first week of November, the police in San Francisco and New York responded to a series of telephone calls claiming that hostages were being held in the homes of Adam Mosseri, a senior Facebook executive.

The calls appeared to be coming from inside the homes. Officers arrived in force and barricaded the streets outside. Twice. But after tense, hourslong standoffs, they realized the calls were hoaxes. There were no hostages, and no one in the homes had called the police.

Mr. Mosseri was one of a number of tech executives who have been targeted recently in so-called swatting incidents. Swatting is online lingo used to describe when people call the police with false reports of a violent crime of some sort inside a home, hoping to persuade them to send a well-armed SWAT team.

These incidents have become more common in communities rich with tech companies and their billionaire executives, like the Bay Area and Seattle, according to six police departments contacted by The New York Times.

Exact numbers are unclear, the police say, because there is no central repository of information for these sorts of attacks. But as online discourse has become more combative and more personal, some in the industry aren’t surprised that tech executives — the people who decide what is posted on and who is barred from social media — have become regular targets.

Swattings have spiked at Facebook in particular, according to local police departments and security officials at the company, which in recent years has cracked down on false accounts, threatening language and other types of content that violates its rules. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the attacks.

Mr. Mosseri declined to comment, and a Facebook spokesman, Anthony Harrison, said in a statement that “because these things deal with security matters and our employees, we are unable to comment.”

“Like any other type of crime, when the cost is zero and the deterrent is very low, you’ve created a perfect opportunity for people to pour time and resources into that crime,” said Brian Krebs, a swatting victim who writes a widely read blog, Krebs on Security.

The attacks have been aided by forums that have sprung up both on the public internet and on the camouflaged sites of the so-called dark web. These forums name thousands of people, from high-ranking executives to their extended families, who could be targets, providing cellphone numbers, home addresses and other information. Some even discuss techniques that can be used — like cheap, online technology that can spoof a phone number and make the police believe a 911 call is coming from a target’s home.

In the eight months since one online forum was started, nearly 3,000 people have joined.

“Who should we do next?” read one message on the forum last month. The responses included gun emojis — the symbol, in swatting forums, for an attack in which the police were successfully called to the target’s home. Many of the responses were laced with profanity, as well as suggestions for ex-girlfriends who should be swatted.

One forum names at least two dozen Facebook employees as potential targets. They range from executives to product engineers. Some forum participants said that they had been barred from Facebook or Instagram, and that Facebook employees were fair game because they “think they are god.”

On another forum, new names of potential swatting victims are added daily. With each new entry, there is — at a minimum — a home address. Some entries contain more details, including the best time of day to catch the person at home or information about the children’s school.

“Lol, sick,” read many of the replies.

Swatting started in the combative world of online gaming. It was a way to terrorize someone more famous, get even with a rival or retaliate against someone with different political views.

Provoking a heavily armed police response presents obvious risks. Last year, a 26-year-old California man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for calling in dozens of fake emergency calls, including one that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas resident, Andrew Finch.

Because few people carrying out swattings are ever caught, the police and tech companies can only guess at their motivations. They have seen, however, a correlation between removals of large numbers of accounts for threatening behavior or hate speech and what they believe to be retaliatory attacks against the executives responsible.

While more police departments are recognizing the threat, some have already found practical solutions. In Seattle, people who believe they are at risk of being swatted can include their information and that of their families on a police registry. When an emergency call about a potential threat comes in, the police check to make sure the home isn’t in the registry. If it is, they call the home first to see if they can reach someone inside, and check with neighbors to see if there are any corroborating reports of shots fired or other disturbances.

“The registry is a voluntary thing we created, and it is a small but effective step for people who know they are at risk of being targeted,” said Carmen Best, the police chief of Seattle. “Swatting is not a new thing. It’s been around for a long time, and it weaponizes our 911 system. It’s a lot more than a hoax or a prank.”

In addition to the registry, the Police Department has trained 911 operators to pick up cues to potential swatting in calls, Chief Best said. It has also begun educating officers on the importance of responding to questionable calls with a limited amount of force.

Seattle’s approach is unusual. None of the other police departments contacted by The Times had a similar registry, or had even heard of the idea, despite the recent swattings against tech executives in their jurisdictions.

Because swattings are largely organized online, the people behind them can live anywhere in the world. And despite numerous attempts to create federal legislation banning the practice, there is no specific statute that allows swatting to be investigated and prosecuted as a federal crime.

Facebook, Google and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on measures they have taken to protect their employees from swatting. In recent months, all three companies have held discussions with employees who they believe are at risk.

They have asked those employees to take added precautions, such as not publicly giving their whereabouts or listing information about their family. The tech companies have also privately let the local police know when certain high-profile executives are at risk, according to police departments in the Silicon Valley area.

The home of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was permanently flagged as high risk, said one Facebook security expert, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Facebook, Google and Twitter informally share information about potential swattings, giving warnings to one another if they spot a threat on their platforms, the expert said.

In an attack on another Facebook executive last year, police officers encircled the man’s home in Palo Alto, Calif., after being told that he was at risk of harming himself and his family. The incident was resolved without anyone getting hurt.

Facebook had flagged the executive as a likely target for swatting, and had taken precautions to protect him and his family. The police still sent a SWAT team.

“Anyone can be at risk of being swatted, but people who work in tech are at a particular risk,” Chief Best said. “We have to get a foothold on this, before more people get hurt.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

When the Tech Backlash Turns Dangerous: Fake Calls for a SWAT Team

Westlake Legal Group 01swatting-facebookJumbo When the Tech Backlash Turns Dangerous: Fake Calls for a SWAT Team Social Media police Mosseri, Adam Krebs on Security Hoaxes and Pranks Facebook Inc Cyberharassment Computers and the Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the first week of November, the police in San Francisco and New York responded to a series of telephone calls claiming that hostages were being held in the homes of Adam Mosseri, a senior Facebook executive.

The calls appeared to be coming from inside the homes. Officers arrived in force and barricaded the streets outside. Twice. But after tense, hourslong standoffs, they realized the calls were hoaxes. There were no hostages, and no one in the homes had called the police.

Mr. Mosseri was one of a number of tech executives who have been targeted recently in so-called swatting incidents. Swatting is online lingo used to describe when people call the police with false reports of a violent crime of some sort inside a home, hoping to persuade them to send a well-armed SWAT team.

These incidents have become more common in communities rich with tech companies and their billionaire executives, like the Bay Area and Seattle, according to six police departments contacted by The New York Times.

Exact numbers are unclear, the police say, because there is no central repository of information for these sorts of attacks. But as online discourse has become more combative and more personal, some in the industry aren’t surprised that tech executives — the people who decide what is posted on and who is barred from social media — have become regular targets.

Swattings have spiked at Facebook in particular, according to local police departments and security officials at the company, which in recent years has cracked down on false accounts, threatening language and other types of content that violates its rules. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the attacks.

Mr. Mosseri declined to comment, and a Facebook spokesman, Anthony Harrison, said in a statement that “because these things deal with security matters and our employees, we are unable to comment.”

“Like any other type of crime, when the cost is zero and the deterrent is very low, you’ve created a perfect opportunity for people to pour time and resources into that crime,” said Brian Krebs, a swatting victim who writes a widely read blog, Krebs on Security.

The attacks have been aided by forums that have sprung up both on the public internet and on the camouflaged sites of the so-called dark web. These forums name thousands of people, from high-ranking executives to their extended families, who could be targets, providing cellphone numbers, home addresses and other information. Some even discuss techniques that can be used — like cheap, online technology that can spoof a phone number and make the police believe a 911 call is coming from a target’s home.

In the eight months since one online forum was started, nearly 3,000 people have joined.

“Who should we do next?” read one message on the forum last month. The responses included gun emojis — the symbol, in swatting forums, for an attack in which the police were successfully called to the target’s home. Many of the responses were laced with profanity, as well as suggestions for ex-girlfriends who should be swatted.

One forum names at least two dozen Facebook employees as potential targets. They range from executives to product engineers. Some forum participants said that they had been barred from Facebook or Instagram, and that Facebook employees were fair game because they “think they are god.”

On another forum, new names of potential swatting victims are added daily. With each new entry, there is — at a minimum — a home address. Some entries contain more details, including the best time of day to catch the person at home or information about the children’s school.

“Lol, sick,” read many of the replies.

Swatting started in the combative world of online gaming. It was a way to terrorize someone more famous, get even with a rival or retaliate against someone with different political views.

Provoking a heavily armed police response presents obvious risks. Last year, a 26-year-old California man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for calling in dozens of fake emergency calls, including one that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas resident, Andrew Finch.

Because few people carrying out swattings are ever caught, the police and tech companies can only guess at their motivations. They have seen, however, a correlation between removals of large numbers of accounts for threatening behavior or hate speech and what they believe to be retaliatory attacks against the executives responsible.

While more police departments are recognizing the threat, some have already found practical solutions. In Seattle, people who believe they are at risk of being swatted can include their information and that of their families on a police registry. When an emergency call about a potential threat comes in, the police check to make sure the home isn’t in the registry. If it is, they call the home first to see if they can reach someone inside, and check with neighbors to see if there are any corroborating reports of shots fired or other disturbances.

“The registry is a voluntary thing we created, and it is a small but effective step for people who know they are at risk of being targeted,” said Carmen Best, the police chief of Seattle. “Swatting is not a new thing. It’s been around for a long time, and it weaponizes our 911 system. It’s a lot more than a hoax or a prank.”

In addition to the registry, the Police Department has trained 911 operators to pick up cues to potential swatting in calls, Chief Best said. It has also begun educating officers on the importance of responding to questionable calls with a limited amount of force.

Seattle’s approach is unusual. None of the other police departments contacted by The Times had a similar registry, or had even heard of the idea, despite the recent swattings against tech executives in their jurisdictions.

Because swattings are largely organized online, the people behind them can live anywhere in the world. And despite numerous attempts to create federal legislation banning the practice, there is no specific statute that allows swatting to be investigated and prosecuted as a federal crime.

Facebook, Google and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on measures they have taken to protect their employees from swatting. In recent months, all three companies have held discussions with employees who they believe are at risk.

They have asked those employees to take added precautions, such as not publicly giving their whereabouts or listing information about their family. The tech companies have also privately let the local police know when certain high-profile executives are at risk, according to police departments in the Silicon Valley area.

The home of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was permanently flagged as high risk, said one Facebook security expert, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Facebook, Google and Twitter informally share information about potential swattings, giving warnings to one another if they spot a threat on their platforms, the expert said.

In an attack on another Facebook executive last year, police officers encircled the man’s home in Palo Alto, Calif., after being told that he was at risk of harming himself and his family. The incident was resolved without anyone getting hurt.

Facebook had flagged the executive as a likely target for swatting, and had taken precautions to protect him and his family. The police still sent a SWAT team.

“Anyone can be at risk of being swatted, but people who work in tech are at a particular risk,” Chief Best said. “We have to get a foothold on this, before more people get hurt.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China Silences Critics Over Coronavirus Outbreak

The SARS disaster was supposed to drag China into a new era of openness and responsibility. The deadly disease rippled across the world 17 years ago, abetted by a Chinese government that covered up its spread. As the scope of it became clear, China’s journalists, intellectuals and other critics helped shame Beijing into opening up about the problem.

“SARS has been our country’s 9/11,” said Xu Zhiyuan, then a young newspaper columnist and a fierce critic of the government’s handling of SARS, in a 2003 interview with The New York Times. “It has forced us to pay attention to the real meaning of globalization.”

Today, China faces the spread of another mysterious disease, a coronavirus, which so far has killed 17 people and infected more than 540. And while Beijing’s response has improved in some ways, it has regressed in others. It is censoring criticism. It is detaining people for spreading what it calls “rumors.” It is suppressing information it deems alarming.

Though China’s censors are busily scrubbing the Chinese internet, the country’s online community is registering its disappointment and alarm over Beijing’s handling of the new virus that has spread since December from the city of Wuhan to other countries, even the United States.

“I thought SARS would force China to rethink its governance model,” Mr. Xu, now a video talk show host, wrote on social media on Tuesday, also posting a screenshot of his 2003 quote in The Times. “I was too naïve.”

Westlake Legal Group china-wuhan-coronavirus-promo-1579641872730-articleLarge-v10 China Silences Critics Over Coronavirus Outbreak Social Media SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Politics and Government News and News Media Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Censorship

Maps: Where the Wuhan Coronavirus Has Spread

The virus has sickened more than 540 people in Asia and one person in the United States.

In many ways, China has changed for the better since the SARS epidemic. Its economy has grown eightfold. It has built more skyscrapers, subways and high-speed rail lines than any other country. Its tech companies rival Silicon Valley’s giants. A more responsive bureaucracy provides more people with health care, social services and even quality-of-life improvements like parks.

When it comes to handling diseases, the public health system has greatly improved. Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is also home to one of the most advanced epidemic disease research laboratories in the world.

Those improvements have come at a price. The government has tightened its grip on the internet, the media and civil society. It has deeper pockets and a greater ability to control the flow of information across the country.

As a result, many of the media outlets, advocacy groups, activists and others who held the government accountable in 2003 have been silenced or sidelined.

“The system is successful in that it destroyed the people with integrity, the institutions with credibility and a society capable of narrating its own stories,” Mr. Xu said on social media. “What’s left is an arrogant power, a bunch of messy information and many fragile, isolated and angry individuals.”

Even as the new virus spread through Wuhan, the government took pains to keep up appearances.

The first case was reported Dec. 8. As the disease spread, Wuhan officials insisted that it was controlled and treatable. The police questioned eight people who posted on social media about the virus, saying they had spread “rumors.”

On Saturday, two days before Wuhan told the world about the severity of the outbreak, it hosted a potluck banquet attended by more than 40,000 families so the city could apply for a world record for most dishes served at an event. On the day it broke the news to the world, it also announced that it was distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festival activities during the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins this Saturday.

The central government backed Wuhan’s officials. Wang Guangfa, a prominent government respiratory expert, told the state broadcaster China Central Television on Jan. 10 that the Wuhan pneumonia was “under control” and mostly a “mild condition.” Eleven days later, he confirmed to Chinese media that he might have contracted the virus himself during an inspection in Wuhan.

Recognizing an outbreak can take time, and China is not the first government caught flat footed by a disease.

But the choices made by government officials had an impact on a major commercial and transportation hub. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, including nearly one million college students from across the country. By the time it disclosed the seriousness of the outbreak, the 40-day Lunar New Year travel season, when Chinese people take an estimated three billion trips combined, had already begun.

People might have made different decisions had websites and headlines described growing worries. Instead, they traveled. On Tuesday, all five confirmed cases in Beijing were people who had traveled to Wuhan in January for business, study or leisure.

Until a week ago, some people in China called it the “patriotic virus.” Cases appeared in Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. No other Chinese city but Wuhan reported infection cases. It was not until the Hong Kong news media reported over the weekend that the virus had been found in other cities did officials elsewhere come forward.

Some critics see parallels to SARS. In 2003, the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily first reported the SARS outbreak. A military doctor, Jiang Yanyong, came forward with what he knew. Only then did officials act.

“The way this virus came into the public view is the same as that of SARS 17 years ago,” said Rose Luqiu, an assistant journalism professor who covered SARS as a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television.

Many of those brave voices in 2003 are gone. Like almost all Chinese media outlets that were active in the 1990s and 2000s, the Southern Metropolis Daily has lost its freedom to pursue coverage that holds local governments, if not Beijing, accountable. Only a few mainland news media outlets are covering the current crisis critically, and then only with an analytical tone.

In 2003, Phoenix Television called Ms. Luqiu, then a star reporter, back from Iraq to report on SARS in Beijing. She shadowed the newly appointed Beijing mayor, Wang Qishan, for a week to cover how the government dealt with the crisis. Mr. Wang later became the vice president of China.

That kind of openness is unimaginable now. Last week, when a group of Hong Kong journalists went to the Wuhan hospital that took in most coronavirus patients, the police detained them for a few hours. They were asked to delete their TV footage and hand in their phones and cameras for inspection.

On Tuesday, Ms. Luqiu wrote an article for qq.com, the news site owned by the internet giant Tencent, about the measures the Hong Kong government has taken in dealing with the virus. The article was deleted 10 hours later.

Dr. Jiang, the military doctor who became a whistle-blower in 2003, has been put under periodic house arrest and forbidden to visit the United States to collect a human rights award. He is also portrayed as a bad role model. A multiple-choice question posed by a test-prep school in 2017 asked about Dr. Jiang’s decision. The correct answer was B: It was wrong because it harmed the interests of the nation, the society and the community and should be subject to legal punishment.

China’s disclosures have improved in many ways since SARS. The government admitted the problem faster. Beijing officials have shown determination to be more transparent. A top party committee said on Tuesday that it would not tolerate any efforts to hide infections.

“Whoever deliberately delays or conceals reporting for the sake of their own interests will be forever nailed to history’s pillar of shame,” the committee said in a post on WeChat. The post was later deleted.

But when the government is the only source of information, wise advice and valuable clues can be lost. A police bureau in eastern Shandong Province posted on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo on Wednesday that it had detained four residents who spread rumors that there was a suspected coronavirus patient in the district. In that environment, others dare not speak out.

“The authorities are sending a signal, which is that only the government agencies can talk about the epidemic,” Yu Ping, a former Southern Metropolis Daily reporter, wrote on his personal blog. “All other people should just shut up.”

“It’s not public disclosure,” Mr. Yu added. “It’s a naked information monopoly.”

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9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020

 

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Anyone up for a campfire?Westlake Legal Group 1f525 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   Westlake Legal Group 1f36b 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   Westlake Legal Group 1f3d5 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   #Smores . . . At @thewharfdc in SW DC there is a S’mores Store on the boardwalk! I like to go there with my #Pawrents and beg for s’mores even though I can’t have them.Westlake Legal Group 1f644 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   I also love camping and hanging out by the fire in nature – hopefully next year we can all head out in the woods!Westlake Legal Group 26f0 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   Westlake Legal Group 26fa 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   Do you like to camp? Tell me in the comments below!Westlake Legal Group 2935 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   . . . #scoutthedoodleboy #doodlesquad #doodlepuppy #dailydoseofdoodles #goldendoodles #goldendoodlelove #goldendoodlesofig #goldendoodlesofinsta #doodlesofinstagram #dogmom #doodletales #dailyfloof #doodleclub #doodlesofinstaworld #doglovers #bestwoof #fluffydogs #crazydogmom #doodleloversofig #dailybarker #dodo #doodlesofig #doodledaily #goldendoodlelife #dailyfluff #doodletales

A post shared by Scout | GoldendoodleWestlake Legal Group 1f429 9 local Instagram-famous pets worth a follow in 2020 Things to Do Social Media puppy pets pet local dogs Instagram Family dogs dog Animals animal   (@scoutthedoodleboy) on Oct 22, 2019 at 4:59pm PDT

@scoutthedoodleboy

Name: Scout
Breed: Goldendoodle
Followers: 31,457

@izzy_the_chow

Name: Izzy
Breed: Chow Chow
Followers: 13,430

 

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Who else can already taste a playoff run?? #capscanines

A post shared by Tucker (@tucker_goldendoodle) on Nov 18, 2019 at 6:17am PST

@tucker_goldendoole

Name: Tucker
Breed: Goldendoodle
Followers: 12,930

@lionel_thesheepadoodle

Name: Lionel
Breed: Sheepadoodle (a combination of an Old English sheepdog and poodle)
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The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It

Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Until now, technology that readily identifies everyone based on his or her face has been taboo because of its radical erosion of privacy. Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so; in 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.” Some large cities, including San Francisco, have barred police from using facial recognition technology.

But without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year, according to the company, which declined to provide a list. The computer code underlying its app, analyzed by The New York Times, includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew.

And it’s not just law enforcement: Clearview has also licensed the app to at least a handful of companies for security purposes.

“The weaponization possibilities of this are endless,” said Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “Imagine a rogue law enforcement officer who wants to stalk potential romantic partners, or a foreign government using this to dig up secrets about people to blackmail them or throw them in jail.”

Clearview has shrouded itself in secrecy, avoiding debate about its boundary-pushing technology. When I began looking into the company in November, its website was a bare page showing a nonexistent Manhattan address as its place of business. The company’s one employee listed on LinkedIn, a sales manager named “John Good,” turned out to be Mr. Ton-That, using a fake name. For a month, people affiliated with the company would not return my emails or phone calls.

While the company was dodging me, it was also monitoring me. At my request, a number of police officers had run my photo through the Clearview app. They soon received phone calls from company representatives asking if they were talking to the media — a sign that Clearview has the ability and, in this case, the appetite to monitor whom law enforcement is searching for.

Facial recognition technology has always been controversial. It makes people nervous about Big Brother. It has a tendency to deliver false matches for certain groups, like people of color. And some facial recognition products used by the police — including Clearview’s — haven’t been vetted by independent experts.

Clearview’s app carries extra risks because law enforcement agencies are uploading sensitive photos to the servers of a company whose ability to protect its data is untested.

The company eventually started answering my questions, saying that its earlier silence was typical of an early-stage start-up in stealth mode. Mr. Ton-That acknowledged designing a prototype for use with augmented-reality glasses but said the company had no plans to release it. And he said my photo had rung alarm bells because the app “flags possible anomalous search behavior” in order to prevent users from conducting what it deemed “inappropriate searches.”

In addition to Mr. Ton-That, Clearview was founded by Richard Schwartz — who was an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York — and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.

Another early investor is a small firm called Kirenaga Partners. Its founder, David Scalzo, dismissed concerns about Clearview making the internet searchable by face, saying it’s a valuable crime-solving tool.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that because information constantly increases, there’s never going to be privacy,” Mr. Scalzo said. “Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_166989150_339af8f6-72dc-4344-8bea-138e3b8ba466-articleLarge The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It Ton-That, Hoan Thiel, Peter A Social Media Schwartz, Richard Privacy police Identification Devices facial recognition software Clement, Paul D Clearview AI Artificial Intelligence

Hoan Ton-That, founder of Clearview AI, whose app matches faces to images it collects from across the internet.Credit…Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

Mr. Ton-That, 31, grew up a long way from Silicon Valley. In his native Australia, he was raised on tales of his royal ancestors in Vietnam. In 2007, he dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco. The iPhone had just arrived, and his goal was to get in early on what he expected would be a vibrant market for social media apps. But his early ventures never gained real traction.

In 2009, Mr. Ton-That created a site that let people share links to videos with all the contacts in their instant messengers. Mr. Ton-That shut it down after it was branded a “phishing scam.” In 2015, he spun up Trump Hair, which added Mr. Trump’s distinctive coif to people in a photo, and a photo-sharing program. Both fizzled.

Dispirited, Mr. Ton-That moved to New York in 2016. Tall and slender, with long black hair, he considered a modeling career, he said, but after one shoot he returned to trying to figure out the next big thing in tech. He started reading academic papers on artificial intelligence, image recognition and machine learning.

Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Ton-That met in 2016 at a book event at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Mr. Schwartz, now 61, had amassed an impressive Rolodex working for Mr. Giuliani in the 1990s and serving as the editorial page editor of The New York Daily News in the early 2000s. The two soon decided to go into the facial recognition business together: Mr. Ton-That would build the app, and Mr. Schwartz would use his contacts to drum up commercial interest.

Police departments have had access to facial recognition tools for almost 20 years, but they have historically been limited to searching government-provided images, such as mug shots and driver’s license photos. In recent years, facial recognition algorithms have improved in accuracy, and companies like Amazon offer products that can create a facial recognition program for any database of images.

Mr. Ton-That wanted to go way beyond that. He began in 2016 by recruiting a couple of engineers. One helped design a program that can automatically collect images of people’s faces from across the internet, such as employment sites, news sites, educational sites, and social networks including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and even Venmo. Representatives of those companies said their policies prohibit such scraping, and Twitter said it explicitly banned use of its data for facial recognition.

Another engineer was hired to perfect a facial recognition algorithm that was derived from academic papers. The result: a system that uses what Mr. Ton-That described as a “state-of-the-art neural net” to convert all the images into mathematical formulas, or vectors, based on facial geometry — like how far apart a person’s eyes are. Clearview created a vast directory that clustered all the photos with similar vectors into “neighborhoods.” When a user uploads a photo of a face into Clearview’s system, it converts the face into a vector and then shows all the scraped photos stored in that vector’s neighborhood — along with the links to the sites from which those images came.

Mr. Schwartz paid for server costs and basic expenses, but the operation was bare bones; everyone worked from home. “I was living on credit card debt,” Mr. Ton-That said. “Plus, I was a Bitcoin believer, so I had some of those.”

Mr. Ton-That showing the results of a search for a photo of himself.Credit…Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

By the end of 2017, the company had a formidable facial recognition tool, which it called Smartcheckr. But Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Ton-That weren’t sure whom they were going to sell it to.

Maybe it could be used to vet babysitters or as an add-on feature for surveillance cameras. What about a tool for security guards in the lobbies of buildings or to help hotels greet guests by name? “We thought of every idea,” Mr. Ton-That said.

One of the odder pitches, in late 2017, was to Paul Nehlen — an anti-Semite and self-described “pro-white” Republican running for Congress in Wisconsin — to use “unconventional databases” for “extreme opposition research,” according to a document provided to Mr. Nehlen and later posted online. Mr. Ton-That said the company never actually offered such services.

The company soon changed its name to Clearview AI and began marketing to law enforcement. That was when the company got its first round of funding from outside investors: Mr. Thiel and Kirenaga Partners. Among other things, Mr. Thiel was famous for secretly financing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit that bankrupted the popular website Gawker. Both Mr. Thiel and Mr. Ton-That had been the subject of negative articles by Gawker.

“In 2017, Peter gave a talented young founder $200,000, which two years later converted to equity in Clearview AI,” said Jeremiah Hall, Mr. Thiel’s spokesman. “That was Peter’s only contribution; he is not involved in the company.”

Even after a second funding round in 2019, Clearview remains tiny, having raised $7 million from investors, according to Pitchbook, a website that tracks investments in start-ups. The company declined to confirm the amount.

In February, the Indiana State Police started experimenting with Clearview. They solved a case within 20 minutes of using the app. Two men had gotten into a fight in a park, and it ended when one shot the other in the stomach. A bystander recorded the crime on a phone, so the police had a still of the gunman’s face to run through Clearview’s app.

They immediately got a match: The man appeared in a video that someone had posted on social media, and his name was included in a caption on the video. “He did not have a driver’s license and hadn’t been arrested as an adult, so he wasn’t in government databases,” said Chuck Cohen, an Indiana State Police captain at the time.

The man was arrested and charged; Mr. Cohen said he probably wouldn’t have been identified without the ability to search social media for his face. The Indiana State Police became Clearview’s first paying customer, according to the company. (The police declined to comment beyond saying that they tested Clearview’s app.)

Clearview deployed current and former Republican officials to approach police forces, offering free trials and annual licenses for as little as $2,000. Mr. Schwartz tapped his political connections to help make government officials aware of the tool, according to Mr. Ton-That. (Mr. Schwartz declined to comment beyond saying that he’d had to “significantly scale back” his involvement with Clearview because of his wife’s health.)

The company’s main contact for customers was Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Luther Strange’s Republican campaign for Alabama attorney general. Brandon Fricke, an N.F.L. agent engaged to the Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren, said in a financial disclosure report during a congressional campaign in California that he was a “growth consultant” for the company. (Clearview said that it was a brief, unpaid role, and that the company had enlisted Democrats to help market its product as well.)

The company’s most effective sales technique was offering 30-day free trials to officers, who then encouraged their acquisition departments to sign up and praised the tool to officers from other police departments at conferences and online, according to the company and documents provided by police departments in response to public-record requests. Mr. Ton-That finally had his viral hit.

In July, a detective in Clifton, N.J., urged his captain in an email to buy the software because it was “able to identify a suspect in a matter of seconds.” During the department’s free trial, Clearview had identified shoplifters, an Apple Store thief and a good Samaritan who had punched out a man threatening people with a knife.

Photos “could be covertly taken with telephoto lens and input into the software, without ‘burning’ the surveillance operation,” the detective wrote in the email, provided to The Times by two researchers, Beryl Lipton of MuckRock and Freddy Martinez of Open the Government. They discovered Clearview late last year while looking into how local police departments are using facial recognition.

According to a Clearview sales presentation reviewed by The Times, the app helped identify a range of individuals: a person who was accused of sexually abusing a child whose face appeared in the mirror of someone’s else gym photo; the person behind a string of mailbox thefts in Atlanta; a John Doe found dead on an Alabama sidewalk; and suspects in multiple identity-fraud cases at banks.

In Gainesville, Fla., Detective Sgt. Nick Ferrara heard about Clearview last summer when it advertised on CrimeDex, a list-serv for investigators who specialize in financial crimes. He said he had previously relied solely on a state-provided facial recognition tool, FACES, which draws from more than 30 million Florida mug shots and Department of Motor Vehicle photos.

Sergeant Ferrara found Clearview’s app superior, he said. Its nationwide database of images is much larger, and unlike FACES, Clearview’s algorithm doesn’t require photos of people looking straight at the camera.

“With Clearview, you can use photos that aren’t perfect,” Sergeant Ferrara said. “A person can be wearing a hat or glasses, or it can be a profile shot or partial view of their face.”

He uploaded his own photo to the system, and it brought up his Venmo page. He ran photos from old, dead-end cases and identified more than 30 suspects. In September, the Gainesville Police Department paid $10,000 for an annual Clearview license.

Federal law enforcement, including the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, are trying it, as are Canadian law enforcement authorities, according to the company and government officials.

Despite its growing popularity, Clearview avoided public mention until the end of 2019, when Florida prosecutors charged a woman with grand theft after two grills and a vacuum were stolen from an Ace Hardware store in Clermont. She was identified when the police ran a still from a surveillance video through Clearview, which led them to her Facebook page. A tattoo visible in the surveillance video and Facebook photos confirmed her identity, according to an affidavit in the case.

Mr. Ton-That said the tool does not always work. Most of the photos in Clearview’s database are taken at eye level. Much of the material that the police upload is from surveillance cameras mounted on ceilings or high on walls.

“They put surveillance cameras too high,” Mr. Ton-That lamented. “The angle is wrong for good face recognition.”

Despite that, the company said, its tool finds matches up to 75 percent of the time. But it is unclear how often the tool delivers false matches, because it has not been tested by an independent party such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency that rates the performance of facial recognition algorithms.

“We have no data to suggest this tool is accurate,” said Clare Garvie, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology, who has studied the government’s use of facial recognition. “The larger the database, the larger the risk of misidentification because of the doppelgänger effect. They’re talking about a massive database of random people they’ve found on the internet.”

But current and former law enforcement officials say the app is effective. “For us, the testing was whether it worked or not,” said Mr. Cohen, the former Indiana State Police captain.

One reason that Clearview is catching on is that its service is unique. That’s because Facebook and other social media sites prohibit people from scraping users’ images — Clearview is violating the sites’ terms of service.

“A lot of people are doing it,” Mr. Ton-That shrugged. “Facebook knows.”

Jay Nancarrow, a Facebook spokesman, said the company was reviewing the situation with Clearview and “will take appropriate action if we find they are violating our rules.”

Mr. Thiel, the Clearview investor, sits on Facebook’s board. Mr. Nancarrow declined to comment on Mr. Thiel’s personal investments.

Some law enforcement officials said they didn’t realize the photos they uploaded were being sent to and stored on Clearview’s servers. Clearview tries to pre-empt concerns with an F.A.Q. document given to would-be clients that says its customer-support employees won’t look at the photos that the police upload.

Clearview also hired Paul D. Clement, a United States solicitor general under President George W. Bush, to assuage concerns about the app’s legality.

In an August memo that Clearview provided to potential customers, including the Atlanta Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, Mr. Clement said law enforcement agencies “do not violate the federal Constitution or relevant existing state biometric and privacy laws when using Clearview for its intended purpose.”

Mr. Clement, now a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, wrote that the authorities don’t have to tell defendants that they were identified via Clearview, as long as it isn’t the sole basis for getting a warrant to arrest them. Mr. Clement did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The memo appeared to be effective; the Atlanta police and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office soon started using Clearview.

Because the police upload photos of people they’re trying to identify, Clearview possesses a growing database of individuals who have attracted attention from law enforcement. The company also has the ability to manipulate the results that the police see. After the company realized I was asking officers to run my photo through the app, my face was flagged by Clearview’s systems and for a while showed no matches. When asked about this, Mr. Ton-That laughed and called it a “software bug.”

“It’s creepy what they’re doing, but there will be many more of these companies. There is no monopoly on math,” said Al Gidari, a privacy professor at Stanford Law School. “Absent a very strong federal privacy law, we’re all screwed.”

Mr. Ton-That said his company used only publicly available images. If you change a privacy setting in Facebook so that search engines can’t link to your profile, your Facebook photos won’t be included in the database, he said.

But if your profile has already been scraped, it is too late. The company keeps all the images it has scraped even if they are later deleted or taken down, though Mr. Ton-That said the company was working on a tool that would let people request that images be removed if they had been taken down from the website of origin.

Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University in Boston, sees Clearview as the latest proof that facial recognition should be banned in the United States.

“We’ve relied on industry efforts to self-police and not embrace such a risky technology, but now those dams are breaking because there is so much money on the table,” Mr. Hartzog said. “I don’t see a future where we harness the benefits of face recognition technology without the crippling abuse of the surveillance that comes with it. The only way to stop it is to ban it.”

During a recent interview at Clearview’s offices in a WeWork location in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Mr. Ton-That demonstrated the app on himself. He took a selfie and uploaded it. The app pulled up 23 photos of him. In one, he is shirtless and lighting a cigarette while covered in what looks like blood.

Mr. Ton-That then took my photo with the app. The “software bug” had been fixed, and now my photo returned numerous results, dating back a decade, including photos of myself that I had never seen before. When I used my hand to cover my nose and the bottom of my face, the app still returned seven correct matches for me.

Police officers and Clearview’s investors predict that its app will eventually be available to the public.

Mr. Ton-That said he was reluctant. “There’s always going to be a community of bad people who will misuse it,” he said.

Even if Clearview doesn’t make its app publicly available, a copycat company might, now that the taboo is broken. Searching someone by face could become as easy as Googling a name. Strangers would be able to listen in on sensitive conversations, take photos of the participants and know personal secrets. Someone walking down the street would be immediately identifiable — and his or her home address would be only a few clicks away. It would herald the end of public anonymity.

Asked about the implications of bringing such a power into the world, Mr. Ton-That seemed taken aback.

“I have to think about that,” he said. “Our belief is that this is the best use of the technology.”

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Aaron Krolik contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t

Westlake Legal Group 17screentime1-facebookJumbo Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t Social Media Smartphones Research Mental Health and Disorders Children and Childhood

SAN FRANCISCO — It has become common wisdom that too much time spent on smartphones and social media is responsible for a recent spike in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, especially among teenagers.

But a growing number of academic researchers have produced studies that suggest the common wisdom is wrong.

The latest research, published on Friday by two psychology professors, combs through about 40 studies that have examined the link between social media use and both depression and anxiety among adolescents. That link, according to the professors, is small and inconsistent.

“There doesn’t seem to be an evidence base that would explain the level of panic and consternation around these issues,” said Candice L. Odgers, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the lead author of the paper, which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The debate over the harm we — and especially our children — are doing to ourselves by staring into phones is generally predicated on the assumption that the machines we carry in our pockets pose a significant risk to our mental health.

Worries about smartphones have led Congress to pass legislation to examine the impact of heavy smartphone use and pushed investors to pressure big tech companies to change the way they approach young customers.

The World Health Organization said last year that infants under a year old should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than an hour of “sedentary screen time” each day.

Even in Silicon Valley, technology executives have made a point of keeping the devices and the software they develop away from their own children.

But some researchers question whether those fears are justified. They are not arguing that intensive use of phones does not matter. Children who are on their phones too much can miss out on other valuable activities, like exercise. And research has shown that excessive phone use can exacerbate the problems of certain vulnerable groups, like children with mental health issues.

They are, however, challenging the widespread belief that screens are responsible for broad societal problems like the rising rates of anxiety and sleep deprivation among teenagers. In most cases, they say, the phone is just a mirror that reveals the problems a child would have even without the phone.

The researchers worry that the focus on keeping children away from screens is making it hard to have more productive conversations about topics like how to make phones more useful for low-income people, who tend to use them more, or how to protect the privacy of teenagers who share their lives online.

“Many of the people who are terrifying kids about screens, they have hit a vein of attention from society and they are going to ride that. But that is super bad for society,” said Andrew Przybylski, the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, who has published several studies on the topic.

The new article by Ms. Odgers and Michaeline R. Jensen of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro comes just a few weeks after the publication of an analysis by Amy Orben, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, and shortly before the planned publication of similar work from Jeff Hancock, the founder of the Stanford Social Media Lab. Both reached similar conclusions.

“The current dominant discourse around phones and well-being is a lot of hype and a lot of fear,” Mr. Hancock said. “But if you compare the effects of your phone to eating properly or sleeping or smoking, it’s not even close.”

Mr. Hancock’s analysis of about 226 studies on the well-being of phone users concluded that “when you look at all these different kinds of well-being, the net effect size is essentially zero.”

The debate about screen time and mental health goes back to the early days of the iPhone. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a widely cited paper that warned doctors about “Facebook depression.”

But by 2016, as more research came out, the academy revised that statement, deleting any mention of Facebook depression and emphasizing the conflicting evidence and the potential positive benefits of using social media.

Megan Moreno, one of the lead authors of the revised statement, said the original statement had been a problem “because it created panic without a strong basis of evidence.”

Dr. Moreno, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, said that in her own medical practice, she tends to be struck by the number of children with mental health problems who are helped by social media because of the resources and connections it provides.

Concern about the connection between smartphones and mental health has also been fed by high-profile works like a 2017 article in The Atlantic — and a related book — by the psychologist Jean Twenge, who argued that a recent rise in suicide and depression among teenagers was linked to the arrival of smartphones.

In her article, “Have Smartphones Ruined a Generation?,” Ms. Twenge attributed the sudden rise in reports of anxiety, depression and suicide from teens after 2012 to the spread of smartphones and social media.

Ms. Twenge’s critics argue that her work found a correlation between the appearance of smartphones and a real rise in reports of mental health issues, but that it did not establish that phones were the cause.

It could, researchers argue, just as easily be that the rise in depression led teenagers to excessive phone use at a time when there were many other potential explanations for depression and anxiety. What’s more, anxiety and suicide rates appear not to have risen in large parts of Europe, where phones have also become more prevalent.

“Why else might American kids be anxious other than telephones?” Mr. Hancock said. “How about climate change? How about income inequality? How about more student debt? There are so many big giant structural issues that have a huge impact on us but are invisible and that we aren’t looking at.”

Ms. Twenge remains committed to her position, and she points to several more recent studies by other academics who have found a specific link between social media use and poor mental health. One paper found that when a group of college students gave up social media for three weeks, their sense of loneliness and depression declined.

Ms. Odgers, Mr. Hancock and Mr. Przybylski said they had not taken any funding from the tech industry, and all have been outspoken critics of the industry on issues other than mental health, such as privacy and the companies’ lack of transparency.

Ms. Odgers added that she was not surprised that people had a hard time accepting her findings. Her own mother questioned her research after one of her grandsons stopped talking to her during the long drives she used to enjoy. But children tuning out their elders when they become teenagers is hardly a new trend, she said.

She also reminded her mother that their conversation was taking place during a video chat with Ms. Odgers’s son — the kind of intergenerational connection that was impossible before smartphones.

Ms. Odgers acknowledged that she was reluctant to give her two children more time on their iPads. But she recently tried playing the video game Fortnite with her son and found it an unexpectedly positive experience.

“It’s hard work because it’s not the environment we were raised in,” she said. “It can be a little scary at times. I have those moments, too.”

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