The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.
Vaccine Passports Begin at Rangers Game in New York
A vaccine passport system in New York City was introduced to attendees at a New York Rangers game March 2, 2021, at Madison Square Garden. The same passport was tested at The Barclays Center in February 2021.
The “Excelsior Pass” system, which shows a QR barcode on a phone app or printed out on paper, was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said that it should be used for admission to all sports arenas, theaters and other businesses.
Only a short time earlier, Cuomo had given the OK for certain venues to open to just 10% capacity. With the introduction of the pass, which presumably would allow more spectators inside an arena, MSG Entertainment embraced the passport program, telling the New York Post, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership in reopening New York. The Excelsior Pass program, along with his decision to allow venues to begin welcoming fans, will play important roles in helping to get our City back on its feet.”
The Excelsior system was developed by IBM and is expected to be widely adopted by other cities and states.
California Doubles Down on Mask Mandates
Just after Texas and Mississippi declared their states are now free from mask mandates, California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded by doubling down on mandates in his state. And, by doubling down, he means business: Instead of just one mask, everyone in California must now wear two.
Newsom said he was doing this in light of what he called “bad information coming from at least four states” that have loosened or ended their mask mandates. “We will not be walking down their path; we’re mindful of your health and your future,” ZeroHedge reported Newsom as saying.
In response, the California health department updated its guidelines to coincide with the governor’s call for two masks, or a filtered mask if just one is used.
In Apparent New Aim at Web Freedoms, Putin Wants ‘Moral Laws’ for the Internet
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the Internet in Russia to be bound by “moral laws” that he says will stop society from “collapsing” — suggesting that Russian children are being exploited by his political opponents at anti-Kremlin demonstrations.
Putin’s televised remarks on March 4 come amid mounting efforts by Moscow to exert greater influence over U.S. social media giants and frustration from Russian authorities over what they say is the failure of U.S. social media firms to follow Russian laws.
As tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated across Russia to protest the jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Moscow accused U.S. social networks of failing to take down what it says are fake posts about anti-Kremlin demonstrations.
In December, the State Duma, the parliament’s lower house, backed substantial new fines on platforms that fail to delete banned content and a separate bill that would allow U.S. social media giants to be restricted if they “discriminate” against Russian media.
Health Ministry Revokes License of Doctor Who Warns Against Using COVID Vaccine
Israel’s Health Ministry revoked the medical license Tuesday of (now former) Dr. Aryeh Avni, an anti-vaccination doctor and current political candidate running as head of the Rapeh Party, according to Health Ministry statement.
The decision was made by retired judge Amnon Strashnov following a review of a report submitted to the medical community’s disciplinary committee, which listed complaints and gave the recommendation to revoke Avni’s license.
Explaining the decision to revoke Avni’s license, Strashnov said that his articles published on websites, YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere against the public immunization of the coronavirus pose a danger to public health.
YouTube Cancels Myanmar Military-Run Channels, Pulls Videos
YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its community guidelines and terms of service.
The company said Friday that it terminated channels of broadcasters Myawaddy Media, MRTV, WD Online Broadcasting, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar. The decision follows a Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the country’s elected government, provoking massive public protests.
“We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws,” YouTube said in an emailed statement.
The company said it was monitoring the situation for any content that might violate its rules.
YouTube said it had terminated around 20 channels and removed over 160 videos in the past couple months for violating its policies regarding hate speech and harassment, spam and deceptive practices, violent or graphic content policy and violations of its terms of service.
Read the full list here.