Trump’s team considers moving White House press room

Donald Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus, left, and incoming press secretary Sean Spicer walk to their bus after a the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington on Jan. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Updated 17 January 2017

Trump’s team considers moving White House press room

WASHINGTON: President-elect Donald Trump’s team could move the White House press briefing room from the West Wing to another location that accommodates more media from around the country and the world, senior officials in the incoming administration said on Sunday.
Esquire magazine reported on Saturday that the Trump administration planned to relocate White House reporters from the press room to the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building next door.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday that Trump’s team discussed moving news conferences out of the small West Wing briefing room to the Old Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex.
Such a move would mark a potential change in access for reporters, as the current briefing room is only steps from the Oval Office.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Priebus both said no decision had been made.
Trump has had a contentious relationship with some prominent US news organization that he refers to derisively as the “mainstream media,” banning some news outlets during the presidential campaign and publicly criticizing individual reporters.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence did not respond directly when asked whether potentially moving reporters was a logistical move or a punitive one.
“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said.
Tensions with Trump escalated last week after some news organizations reported unsubstantiated allegations that suggested the president-elect could be blackmailed by Russia. At a raucous news conference last week in New York, Trump pointedly refused to take a question from a CNN reporter and called the news outlet “fake news.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association objected in a statement to “any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” and said it would fight to keep the briefing room and access to senior administration officials open.
‘Critical to transparency’
Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent who is president of the association, said in a statement on Sunday he met for nearly two hours with incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Mason said he made it clear the association “would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room” as Trump’s team considers a larger briefing room.
“Access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists’ ability to do their jobs,” Mason said.
Mason said Spicer “expressed concern that journalists adhere to a high level of decorum at press briefings and press conferences. I made clear that the WHCA would object, always, to a reporter being thrown out of a briefing or press conference.”
Priebus said: “I know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this, and I understand.” He said the only thing that had been discussed was whether or not the initial press conferences would be held in the existing press room that he said was “very, very tiny.”
The current press room has about 49 seats.
“So no one is moving out of the White House,” Priebus said.
The White House Conference Center had been used as a temporary press room during the George W. Bush administration
The briefing room was built in 1970 by President Richard Nixon over an old swimming pool installed by President Franklin Roosevelt that was used regularly by President John F. Kennedy but underutilized by later administrations. But the presence of reporters at the White House dates back even farther.
In addition to theater-style seats where the White House press secretary conducts daily briefings, the press area of the White House includes workspace for television, radio, print and online news organizations that cover the administration on a daily basis.


Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

Updated 23 August 2019

Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Google on Thursday said it disabled a series of YouTube channels that appeared to be part of a coordinated influence campaign against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The announcement by YouTube’s parent company came after Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of backing a social media campaign to discredit Hong Kong’s protest movement and sow political discord in the city.
Google disabled 210 YouTube channels that it found behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the Hong Kong protests, according to Shane Huntley of the company’s security threat analysis group.
“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” Huntley said in an online post.
Twitter and Facebook announced this week that they suspended nearly 1,000 active accounts linked to a coordinated influence campaign. Twitter said it had shut down about 200,000 more before they could inflict any damage.
“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said, referring to the active accounts it shut down.
Facebook said some of the posts from accounts it banned compared the protesters in Hong Kong with Daesh group militants, branded them “cockroaches” and alleged they planned to kill people using slingshots.
China has “taken a page from Russia’s playbook” as it uses social media platforms outside the country to wage a disinformation campaign against the protests, according to the non-profit Soufan Center for research, analysis, and strategic dialogue related to global security issues.
“Beijing has deployed a relentless disinformation campaign on Twitter and Facebook powered by unknown numbers of bots, trolls, and so-called ‘sock puppets,’” the center said on its website, referring to fake online identities created for deception.
“China’s behavior will likely grow more aggressive in both the physical and virtual realms, using on-the-ground actions to complement an intensifying cyber campaign characterized by disinformation, deflection, and obfuscation.”

Misused by autocratic regimes
While social media platforms have been tools for people to advocate for rights, justice or freedom in their countries, the services are being turned on them by oppressive governments, according to the Soufan Center.
“Autocratic governments are now using these same platforms to disparage demonstrators, divide protest movements, and confuse sympathetic onlookers,” the center said.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city and one of the world’s most important financial hubs, is in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis that has seen millions of people take to the streets demanding greater freedoms.
China’s government has publicly largely left the city’s leaders and police force to try and resolve the crisis, but behind the scenes online, Beijing is seeking to sway public opinion about Hong Kong, according to Twitter and Facebook.
“We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change,” Twitter said.
It said it had pulled 936 accounts originating in China that were spreading disinformation.
Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, part of the government’s so-called “Great Firewall” of censorship.
Because of the bans, many of the fake accounts were accessed using “virtual private networks” that give a deceptive picture of the user’s location, Twitter said.
Facebook said it had acted on a tip from Twitter, removing seven pages, three groups and five Facebook accounts that had about 15,500 followers.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government,” Facebook said.