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Twitter bans all political ads, in sharp contrast to Facebook

Twitter Inc. founder and Chief Executive Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday his social media company — in pointed contrast to Facebook Inc. — would stop running political advertising worldwide.

In a long thread of Twitter messages, he wrote that online political ads presented “entirely new challenges to civic discourse,” including “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

The announcement comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces scrutiny over his company’s stated position of allowing political advertising on its platform without any form of fact-checking, as well as allowing political candidates impunity from the normal mechanisms of content moderation on ads on the social media platform.

Twitter, a favorite platform of President Donald Trump, updated its policies in June to say it would label — but not remove — tweets from government officials that broke its bullying and harassment rules. Twitter’s rule applies to what it calls verified leaders, representatives and candidates with more than 100,000 followers on the platform, though it says there are cases, such as “direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual,” in which it might take down an official’s tweet.

Dorsey said Wednesday that the language of the official Twitter policy reflecting the ban on political ads would be made public by Nov. 15 and would be enforced starting Nov. 22.

In an indirect response to Zuckerberg, whose arguments in favor of allowing political advertising on Facebook have emphasized the importance of free speech and expression in the political discourse, Dorsey ended his thread by saying: “This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”

The new policy is unlikely to have much effect on Twitter’s bottom line. The company said last week that political ads brought in less than $3 million during the 2018 midterm election cycle, an amount that represents less than 0.2% of its 2018 U.S. revenue.

On Facebook’s earnings call Wednesday afternoon, about an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Zuckerberg said he expected ads from politicians to constitute less than 0.5% of Facebook’s revenue next year. According to the company’s Ad Library Report, a transparency tool that tracks political spending on the platform, customers have spent more than $857 million on Facebook ads about social issues, elections or politics in the United States and Canada since May 2018, representing nearly 2% of the company’s ad revenue in the region.

Zuckerberg reiterated Wednesday that Facebook’s policies on political advertising were not motivated by financial incentives. He added that allowing political candidates to buy ads regardless of whether the ads are truthful follows in the spirit of Federal Communications Commission regulations on political advertising.

In broad strokes, those regulations require radio and television stations licensed by the FCC — but not online platforms such as Facebook or Twitter — to run advertisements directly paid for by political candidates regardless of their content.

The issue gained prominence in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from Trump’s campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.

In response, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran an ad on Facebook taking aim at Zuckerberg. The ad falsely claimed that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for reelection, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point.

Critics have called on Facebook to ban all political ads. This includes CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who recently called the policy of allowing lies ludicrous and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it could figure out something better.


Imperial Mall auction results uncertain

The fate of the Imperial Mall is uncertain following the closure of an auction for its sale.

A final bid of $300,000 for the mall property was made during an online auction that closed just after noon Oct. 30. However, the reserve set for by Namdar Realty Group, the property owner, was $500,000.

“This property is in escrow. Once escrow has been closed, the auction details will be made available upon request,” says the webpage for the Imperial Mall auction.

Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte said city officials also are trying to figure out the status of the property following the close of the auction.

“We don’t know a whole lot, unfortunately,” Stutte said. “We’re trying to understand where the project might be and see what happens.”

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

The Imperial Mall, movie theater and outparcel building, which houses Pizza Hut, will be sold in an online auction open from Oct. 28 through Oct. 30.

Steven Silverman, realty broker for the property, declined to comment.

Ten-X Commercial and 5W Public Relations Agency, the public relations firm for Ten-X Commercial, didn’t respond to inquiries about the identity of the possible purchaser or purchase price.

Bidding went up quickly a couple hours before the auction ended. The auction opened Monday with a starting bid of $100,000. According to the auction website, the highest bid remained at $100,000 early Wednesday morning.

Just before the auction ended, bidding increments were cut in half from $50,000 to $25,000.

The property was being offered for sale through Ten-X Commercial’s website.

The Imperial Mall was purchased for just over $1 million by Igal Namdar, president of Namdar Reality Group, a company headquartered in New York state, in June 2015.

The property stretching west and south from the corner of 12th Street and Marian Road includes the main building, the adjacent theater known as Imperial 3, and an outparcel building that includes a Pizza Hut carryout and delivery location — the only tenant still occupying any part of the property.

The Imperial Mall was closed by order of the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office May 31 after Namdar Realty Group failed to fix code deficiencies in the main building.


People surrounding defendant testify as prosecution finishes evidence

Katherine Creigh teared up a few times as she testified against her former friend on Wednesday during the murder trial of Daniel Harden in Adams County District Court.

“Does it hurt you to be here to testify in this case?” prosecuting attorney Corey O’Brien asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

Creigh told the jury that she has known Harden since the two attended middle school together. She said they would contact each other and hang out regularly. He even lived at her apartment on one occasion.

“I basically considered him family,” she said, later adding, “He drove me to rehab once. We were close.”

Creigh said Harden was also good friends with Deante Mullen, who was her boyfriend when 19-year-old Jose “Joey” Hansen was shot and killed. She said they often hung out and consumed drugs together, which is what happened on Sept. 10, 2017, the day before Hansen died during a robbery attempt allegedly committed by Mullen and Harden.

She testified she and Mullen went to Harden’s house to pick him up. They also went to get Mullen’s friend, Deonte Hayes, Hayes’ girlfriend Serenity Crossfield, and the couple’s baby.

The group went to Creigh’s house, where most of the group started consuming various drugs and alcohol. During the evening, she said Mullen pulled out a Draco firearm and showed it off.

Hayes also brought up the idea of “doing a lick,” which is robbing someone of drugs or money. Creigh said Mullen started looking for a person to set up for a robbery.

She testified Harden didn’t participate in the conversation too much.

“Just that he’s down and he needed money,” she said. “It was mostly Deante doing all the talking and setting it up.”

Hayes and Crossfield testified in the case on Tuesday.

Crossfield said that Mullen did most of the work on setting up the deal, but Harden took part in the conversation about potential targets. She said she went to bed about midnight.

Creigh said Hayes seemed to be out of it shortly after arriving. Eventually, he threw up on himself and went to lay down in the back bedroom where the child and Crossfield were sleeping.

Hayes said he didn’t remember too much and most things he knows about that night have been based on stories from other people.

“Everything is blurry so I can’t remember,” he said.

While he couldn’t recall specifics about the night, Hayes said he didn’t have anything to do with Hansen’s death.

Creigh testified she saw Mullen and Harden leave the house after Mullen grabbed the keys to her white Chevy Tahoe. She said they were gone about 15-20 minutes before they returned.

She testified that Mullen came into the house first and appeared to be shaken up with tears in his eyes.

“He raised his hands up and said, ‘He shot him. He shot him,’ ” she said.

She said Harden came inside moments later, changed clothes in her bedroom and left without saying a word.

Creigh described Harden’s expression at the time as “vacant.”

Crossfield testified that she woke up at one point and heard Mullen and Creigh sounding scared in the other room. She said she didn’t hear Harden’s voice or any doors opening or shutting before going back to sleep.

Creigh said she and Mullen realized he didn’t have his cellphone. She said Mullen checked the Tahoe and couldn’t find it so she drove back to the scene of the incident with Mullen directing her.

She said they saw the phone sitting in the street, describing it as laying in gravel, but didn’t see Hansen’s body until defense attorney Clarence Mock showed her a photo of Hansen’s body as it was found. Creigh turned away from the photo and wept.

Mock suggested she would have had to have seen Hansen’s body because it was laying in the alley, the only graveled area nearby.

Creigh said she didn’t really look around. She just grabbed the cellphone and a package of cigarettes also on the ground and hopped back into the vehicle.

The following day, she said they learned that Hansen had died and Mullen wanted to get out of town. They packed up to go to stay with Mullen’s mother in Lincoln. Hayes, Crossfield and Harden went with them.

In Lincoln, Mullen was arrested on an outstanding warrant and Creigh was detained for questioning by the Hastings Police Department.

Creigh said she lied to police, telling them that she and Mullen had been at the house all evening because they were sick.

“If I said anything, I feared my life would be in danger,” she said.

It wasn’t until her arrest that she and her attorney decided to offer information for a lighter charge. Creigh accepted a plea agreement that would drop her felony accessory charge to a misdemeanor of obstruction.

She said she kept the information from Mullen, even though they broke up shortly after being arrested. She maintained contact with Mullen’s mother, but didn’t tell her about the deal.

“I did not want her or Deante to know that I was saying anything to the police,” she said.

Prosecutors also offered physical evidence in the case.

Dr. David Jaskierny, a pathologist in Omaha, conducted an autopsy of Hansen and concluded that he died of a gunshot wound. He said the bullet passed straight through Hansen’s body, traveling from right to left, and from back to front. He said there is no way to determine what position Hansen would have been in when he was shot.

Brandy Porter, a biologist previously with the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab, testified to DNA tests conducted on various items including blood found in the street and items collected from the Tahoe. None of the DNA samples she testified to matched Harden.

The state rested its case Wednesday and the defense began presenting evidence. The defense’s case will continue Thursday.

Harden is on trial for first-degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit robbery.

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by five to 50 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit robbery is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.


State tattoo convention returns to Hastings for second year

Some of the best tattoo artists from across Nebraska will gather in Hastings Friday and Saturday to do live tattooing as well as compete in a variety of categories.

The Good Life Tattoo Convention is returning to the C3 Hotel and Convention Center, 2205 Osborne Drive East, and runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. both days. This is the second year for the event.

Convention organizer Robert Gilster, who owns Inkzhibit tattoo studio in Grand Island, said about 40 tattoo artists and two dozen booths will be present, representing a variety of styles.

“It’s a good venue to come and get a tattoo at simply because you get to partake in the venue’s events and see multiple tattoo artists there in one room where you can judge and compare,” Gilster said. “You can definitely find artists that specialize in different styles of artwork and are more prestigious in those styles of artwork than others.”

Members of the public will be charged an entrance fee at the door.

Competitions include 20 categories including best realism, best black and gray, neo style and traditional.

Gilster said the artists present at the convention are very talented.

Convention organizers reviewed portfolios, licensing and credentialing to ensure the artists present are at the highest level possible.

He selected Hastings for the state convention because he wanted a venue in central Nebraska and was put in touch with the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It was something they said they were most definitely interested in seeing come to their community,” he said.

The convention received an incentive grant from the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Anjanette Bonham, executive director of the Adams County CVB, attended the convention in 2018 and said it was fun to see the different styles and techniques.

“We’re excited to have it here in Hastings because it’s never been in Nebraska before,” she said. “So for having it come back this second year I think speaks a lot for our community support. It’s such a unique niche and drawing interest with people.”

Bonham said it was a neat opportunity for people who wanted to get a tattoo.

“Every one of (the booths) was filled with somebody getting a tattoo,” she said. “I think that’s really cool that the people who go there actually get them from these artists and support them.”