social media snafus

Russians tied to three Twitter accounts that falsely implied links to TNGOP

Federal lawmakers and Twitter acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that three social media accounts masquerading as the Tennessee Republican Party’s were tied to Russia’s effort to undermine last year’s election, reports The Tennessean.

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Russians behind Twitter account targeting TN?

A Twitter account that the Tennessee Republican Party tried to get suspended was created by a Russian “troll” farm that was trying to influence American political views, according to the Russian magazine RBC.

The Tennessee-targeted account was labeled @TEN_GOP; the real Tennessee Republican Party account is @TN_GOP. Twitter suspended it in August, 2017, about a year after the first request by TNGOP.

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Blackburn turns Twitter rebuff into fundraising effort

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn has been barred from advertising her campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination on Twitter because a line about her efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood was deemed “inflammatory,” reports Politico. Blackburn is using the Twitter rebuff as a theme in her fundraising efforts.

Blackburn, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, launched her campaign last week with a video proclaiming herself “a hard core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” In her announcement video, she boasts: “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”

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On Mae Beavers tweets, blocked Democrats, ‘hateful trolls’ and reactionary busy-bodies

The chairman of the Davidson County Democratic Party says in a press release that state Sen. Mae Beavers may be violating federal law by blocking “almost everyone who isn’t a reactionary busy-body” from her Twitter account. Beavers, a Republican candidate for governor, responded with her own press release declaring she was only “blocking hateful trolls who tweet profanity and obscene images.”

Here are the press releases:

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Thousands try to pay mistakenly-discounted Memphis electric bills

Thousands of people have been trying to take advantage of what they mistakenly thought were sharply discounted electric bills because of a Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division glitch combined with a social media rumor, reports the Commercial Appeal. The utility in response suspended the ability to pay electric bills at 187 “self-service kiosks.”

MLGW’s kiosk vendor, Canada-based TIO Networks Corp., has ruled out hacking as the cause of the glitch in TIO’s system, said MLGW President Jerry Collins. A wayward decimal point is thought to have been responsible for the kiosk billing errors.

“They are working on the software problem now to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Collins said.

… Word of the glitch and a false rumor that basketball star Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph had paid off bills with a $1 million donation quickly circulated Saturday morning, creating long lines at kiosks before the last one was unplugged around noon. Instead of its usual 800 or so Saturday customers, MLGW reported roughly 23,000 customers.

Although the rumor was false, Randolph has donated $20,000 a year to pay off utility bills. Even though he recently signed with the Sacramento Kings, he said he will still donate $20,000 this year. Memphians spurred by news of the glitch and rumor are raising funds to supplement Randolph’s donation.

Harwell’s run for governor announced — by fellow former GOP chair on Facebook

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who has for month acknowledged interest in running for governor next year without making a public decision, has told former Tennessee Republican Chair Susan Richardson Williams that she is getting into the race, reports the Times-Free Press.

Williams, who now runs a public relations firm in Knoxville, used her Facebook page to announce Harwell’s decision. Harwell is also a former state GOP chair.

“Just got a call from Speaker Beth Harwell to let me know she is running for Governor next year too!” wrote Williams. “Let the games begin! Wow!”

Asked to elaborate, Williams said in an email she had “nothing more than [Harwell’s] call to let me know she was running” to share. “I congratulated her and said I was happy that we may have at least two women in the race. I have too many friends in this race!!!”

A Harwell spokesman did not respond to a Times Free Press email about Williams’ Facebook post Saturday.

Harwell has more than $1 million in a campaign account she can draw on to run for governor. She has openly stated she’s looking at a race, and many expect her to run.

Note: Actually, the most recent disclosures show the speaker has a bit less than $1 million in her state House reelection campaign account, which can be used directly in a race for governor. But she has another $826,298 in her PAC, which can’t all go directly into a campaign for governor – but can be helpful for such an effort.

The Harwell funds combined, however, won’t come close to matching self-spending by potential mulit-millionaire candidates for the GOP nomination – Randy Boyd, who has begun his campaign; Franklin businessman Bill Lee, who says he’s very interested; and U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who – as with Harwell – has been indicating an interest but not announcing as she serves as House Budget Committee chair.

 

 

 

TN Student Freedom of Expression Act is no longer ‘informally, the Milo bill’

State Rep. Martin Daniel has dropped use of Milo Yiannopoulos’ name in promoting passage of a college campus “free speech” bill since the Breitbart News columnist  condoned sex between grown men and underage boys, according to The Nashville Scene and The Tennessean.

After a video of Yiannopoulos’ remarks became public, the Conservative Political Action Conference canceled his scheduled speech before the group and his publisher canceled plans to print a book he has written.

When contacted initially on Monday about the controversy Scene reporter Cari Wade Gervin says Daniel, R-Knoxville, told her had “seen some headlines” but hadn’t “really read anything” about the controversy and generally downplayed the past prominent references to Yiannopoulos.

During a press conference (Feb. 9) that featured a number of random speakers, including Fox talking head Scottie Nell Hughes, Daniel proclaimed his legislation is needed in Tennessee after protests over a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California in Berkeley turned partially violent.

“This bill, entitled the ‘Tennessee Student Freedom of Expression Act,’ or, informally, the Milo Bill, will, one, create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression as a fundamental right,” Daniel said at the press conference, shortly before a statement from Yiannopoulos himself was read by another woman in attendance.

From The Tennessean:

On Monday, the East Tennessee lawmaker backtracked on his endorsement of Milo, sending out a series of tweets saying his bill would be known as “the Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, & the MLK JR. bill.”

In an interview, he said he was not familiar with the full extent of the video controversy.

“It seemed appropriate at that time to name it after someone who has been persecuted for freedom of speech,” Daniel said.

As for the apparent name change, Daniel said the bill is bigger than just one person or incident.

“What we want to do is make it clear that this bill is about freedom of speech, not just one person,” he said. “We are going to reference people who have been free speech advocates in the past.”

The bill (HB739) is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.”

Note: Gervin’s report includes a partial transcript of Yiannopoulos’ comments, commentary and a recounting of abusive and obscene tweets sent to her after an earlier posting on the Feb. 9 news conference. A previous post is HERE and a copy of the news release announcing the press conference is below.

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On twittering debate over ‘paid protesters’ at Haslam speech

Cari Wade Gervin reviews – and makes a stab at debunking – widely-reported contentions that some of the protesters at the state Capitol last week were paid to protest. Excerpt from her Nashville Scene post:

Last Monday, close to a thousand people peacefully protested at the state Capitol during Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address…. After the event, state Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) tweeted, “Despite what the media may report several of the protesters admitted that they had been paid to be at the TN Capitol.

(For earlier reports, see The Tennessean and WZTV-TV for examples. Bailey told WKRN-TV that he learned of the protester payments from a “reliable source” that he was unwilling to reveal for “security reasons.” He also noted there were cars with out-of-state license plates in the state Capitol area and said “one would assume” those might indicate presumed paid protesters.)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, Bailey shared a video to his official Facebook page, seemingly as justification for his laughable claims… (that includes the comment) “And here we have tonight the protesters who came out tonight on private buses. I wonder who paid for those, George Soros.”

… (T)he “paid buses” are actually Nashville Downtown Partnership parking shuttles. And the reason those shuttles were parked at the Capitol last Monday night was not to ferry protesters to and from their cars, but to ferry legislators to and from the Ryman, where Metro lobbyists hosted a reception featuring members of the cast of Nashville. Which means the buses were “paid” — and that money came from the tax dollars of Nashvillians, not billionaire Democratic donor Soros — but it also means that neither (video producer Johnnie Lee) Maynard nor Bailey bothered to read the signage on the buses.

Protests are planned again for Monday afternoon at the Capitol — Tennessee seems to be getting its own Moral Mondays going — and given that the president himself has now been tweeting about “paid protesters,” it seems likely Bailey will soon be joined by a number of other legislators who would rather cling to a fiction that anyone who disagrees with them has to be paid to do so.

Justin Timberlake had “no idea” TN law bans voting selfies

Excerpt from a Rolling Stone report on Justin Timberlake’s appearance Wednesday night on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:

While chatting with the host, Fallon asked the pop star what he’d been up to lately, to which Timberlake replied a bit bashfully, “I recently voted. Super quiet, under the radar.” Earlier this week, Timberlake cast an early ballot in Tennessee and posted of a photo of himself at the booth to Instagram with a caption encouraging people to vote – only to find out later that Tennessee passed a law in 2015 prohibiting photos inside polling locations (the Shelby County district attorney was not interested in investigating the matter).

On Fallon, Timberlake reiterated his plea that people get out and vote, and then joked: “But don’t take a picture of yourself. I had no idea! I was like, ‘This is gonna be great! And inspire people to get out and vote!'”

Note: Previous post HERE.

Justin Timberlake broke state law with voting booth ‘selfie’?

Singer Justin Timberlake may have run afoul of Tennessee law taking a picture of himself while voting in Shelby County, reports the Commercial Appeal. A state statue enacted by the Legislature in 2015 prohibits photos in polling places.

A spokesman for the District Attorney’s office initially told the newspaper the matter was “under review,” but later provided this comment instead: “While we are aware of an allegation that someone may have violated a Tennessee state election law, we have not been presented anything by an investigative authority.”

Timberlake, who lives in California and recently bought a spread near Nashville, posted a selfie on Instagram on Monday that showed him casting his ballot at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown.

… “We’re thrilled Justin can’t stop the feeling when it comes to voting so much that he voted early in person and is promoting voting to his millions of fans,” said (Tennessee Secretary of State) spokesman Adam Ghassemi. “In Tennessee, using electronic devices inside polling locations to take pictures, videos or make calls is not allowed. We hope this encourages more people than ever to vote, but Tennesseans should only use their phones inside polling locations for informational purposes to assist while voting, like our free GoVoteTN mobile app. If polling officials discover someone violating this law they will ask the voter to put their phone away.”

An AP report on the matter includes this statement on voting selfies in other states: Federal courts have struck down bans in New Hampshire and Indiana, and on Monday, a judge in Michigan blocked enforcement of a ban on ballot selfies, saying it violates free speech.

Note: The Instanagram post is HERE – with commenters criticizing both him and the state law.

Memory Lane Note: Back in 2007, Timberlake was a Tennessee news topic when state legislators balked at adopting a resolution honoring his work (basically it was deemed too sexually oriented), which had been introduced by a Memphis senator. A Google search shows the resulting AP story is still online, HERE, for example.