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Non-Corona News

A brief look at what else is unfolding in the world in a time when most major news is dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apr 4, 2020

On March 3, the Senate Judiciary Committee of the United States proposed the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act — so-called the EARN IT Act — a bill that hopes to remove various protections from websites that don’t follow a predetermined list of best practices. The sites in question will, therefore, be stripped of encryption measures in order to avoid being sued for bankruptcy. In effect, the bill aims to create an internet space where all messages sent through certain services will no longer be encrypted and will be mandatorily read by government-approved scanning software.
The supposed motivation behind the bill is to curb the online sexual exploitation of children. However, the act will also strip websites of their Section 230 protections from the Communications Decency Act, which shields online services such as apps and social media sites from being liable for potentially illegal content posted by a user. Under the EARN IT act, these protections will only be granted to outlets that ‘earned’ them.
The act puts into question the extent to which digital free speech will become limited for media companies who will not have these protections. Companies would be forced to either accept liability for contributions made by their users or to refrain from using end-to-end encryption completely, allowing companies as well as the government to access user data directly.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the act violates the First and Fourth Amendment by allowing for regulation of editorial activity and by giving government actors the power to search user content and accounts without a warrant based on probable cause. The EARN IT Act has 10 co-sponsors to date and has already been reviewed in a hearing on the draft of the legislation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggesting that the bill and its implications will continue to be at the forefront of discussions in the United States.
Nicolás Maduro Charged with Narco-Terrorism
On March 26, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations announced charges against now-disputed President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Moros and 14 other former government officials for narco-terrorism, corruption and drug trafficking. A 15 million USD reward is being offered by US Attorney General, William Barr, for information that would aid in Maduro’s arrest.
At a news conference for the announcement of the charges, Barr accused Maduro and other Venezuelan government officials of flooding the U.S. with narcotics and devastating the nation.
“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges. As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation. Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon,” said Barr.
The indictment marks an escalation of the pressure being placed on Maduro and his regime by U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration. Along with 60 other countries, the U.S. has denied Maduro as the rightful president of Venezuela after the illegitimate elections last year which saw his re-election. While opposition leader Juan Guaidó has mounted a protest movement and tried to declare himself as the rightful leader of the country, Maduro is still in power and Venezuela continues to suffer as a consequence.
Putin until 2036
President of Russia Vladimir Putin appeared on March 10 in parliament to show his support for a new amendment to the Russian constitution which would allow him to bypass the constitutional ban on him running for the position of president again in 2024. If the amendment is approved by both houses of parliament and the constitutional court of Russia, Putin would be able to run for two more presidential terms and rule until 2036.
A statement by the Kremlin has confirmed that both regional parliaments and both houses of the national parliament have already approved the change. The final ruling by the constitutional court on the legality of the amendment is being debated now, with a final nationwide vote on the issue being planned for April 22.
In his appearance in Parliament, Putin argued that Russia is prone to political infighting and vulnerable to containment attempts by the West, justifying the need for a singular power to lead the country in such times.
“There will come a time when the highest presidential power in Russia won't be so personalized, when it won't be associated with one person, but our history has developed a certain way, and I can't ignore my responsibility before the citizens of the country,” said Putin in his statement.
According to Politico, the approval of the amendment and the subsequent election of Putin as president until even just 2030 will make him the longest standing ruler in Russian history since Peter the Great. Recent polling in the country shows that this is not an unwelcome development by the public, with 27 percent of Russians stating they want Putin to remain president after 2024 and 33 percent want him to stay in a top decision-making post after that time, with only 27 percent stating they want him to leave politics entirely.
Tracy Vavrova is Senior News Editor. Email her at
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