Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • Anonymous Message Boards Enable Illegal Activities And Politically Motivated Harassment Every Day

    Cases Of Online Harassment Against Celebrities And Members Of The Armed Forces Get Widely Reported, But They’re Just One Part Of Online Abuse

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Online message boards that allow anonymous posting -- including 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and AnonIB -- tend to make headlines mainly when users illegally share private photos of high-profile women. But such photo sharing is just part of the relentless abuse that these sites constantly allow and enable.

    On a daily basis, users of these message boards target women, people of color, activists, members of the media, and vulnerable communities like undocumented immigrants by orchestrating online harassment campaigns, which can involve illegal activities like hacking and publishing personal information and images. The sites are often also the origin of unsubstantiated speculation, which can make its way to fake news purveyors and hyperpartisan blogs that push misinformation, sometimes causing dangerous real-life consequences.

    The actor Emma Watson was one of the victims of a recent illegal photo-sharing scandal, in which alleged personal photos were widely circulated on Reddit and 4chan. Weeks before, reports had revealed that members of the armed forces were involved in sharing “nude photographs of women, including fellow Marines -- some taken without their knowledge” through the anonymous posting site AnonIB, which was also implicated in the publication of hacked personal photos of a number of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, in 2014.

    The cases involving celebrities and members of prominent military institutions are widely reported, but their treatment is just one part of the picture. These sites enable victimization of other individuals on a daily basis -- often as part of orchestrated and politically motivated harassment campaigns. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston was the victim of doxxing -- the publication of personal information like phone numbers and addresses with the intent of enabling intimidation and harassment -- on 8chan following his reporting on President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents. Anonymous users on 4chan organized an effort to target undocumented immigrants, encouraging others to trick Twitter users into outing themselves as undocumented so they could “report” them to the authorities for deportation. Muslim activist Linda Sarsour, who has been repeatedly defamed on these sites, was recently smeared on 4chan as an “Islamist using the flag of feminism to subvert western women and entice them into supporting sharia law.”

    The forums have also been at the epicenter of unsubstantiated speculation that has been weaponized by fake news purveyors, in some cases with dangerous real-life consequences and negative impact on real people.

    While women aren't the only victims, misogyny is perniciously at the center of many of the posts on these forums. As reported by Gawker, message boards like 4chan, 8chan -- which was launched as a response to perceived censorship on 4chan and became a similar, but more anarchic, platform -- and AnonIB serve as a sanctuary where “angry, anonymous young men can dance out their anger against women”:

    On 8chan, Gamergate supporters battle against raging feminists and "social justice warriors." Like horny, teenaged Rush Limbaughs, they lament the media's penchant for "blaming whites for all its problems" and adorn unrelated posts with images of balloon-chested anime babes.

    [...]

    "Are women humans?" reads one image macro, posted in defiant response to a user who confessed sympathy for the victims of pick-up artists. The answer, obviously, is no. Another, particularly disgusting post proposes that "the real reason women hate rape" is that it "ignores their princess status."

    [...]

    On 4chan and 8chan, one could theoretically log on and have a real dialogue about music, sports, or any number of other topics. AnonIB harbors no such pretenses. Users of the anonymous image-sharing board—whose name literally means "anonymous image board"—want just one thing: to jerk off to stolen pictures of naked women.

    [...]

    Like 8chan, AnonIB started life after a 4chan rebellion. Back in 2006, after an incomprehensible series of events (see the Encyclopedia Dramatica entry on "/b/-day" if you'd like to give it a shot), Christopher Poole announced that posting child porn, "jailbait," or personal information on 4chan would henceforth result in consequences for the users involved. The horror! Just as they did this year, users left the site in droves, and AnonIB was there to scoop them up. As Encyclopedia Dramatica puts it, it was "the final cesspool for all of the shit generated by 4chan and its rivals."

    Over the following years, the site underwent a number of changes before emerging in its current, nude-centric permutation. Now that the flow of stolen pictures of naked famous women has slowed to a trickle, users are back to doing what they did before Celebgate: posting stolen photos of naked non-famous women.

    For many men, this misogyny has become a “gateway drug” into the so-called “alt-right,” a self-designated name for a faction of the white nationalist movement. As New York magazine’s Claire Landsbaum wrote, the ideology of men’s rights activists is “leaking into the teachings of … the alt-right.” Milo Yiannopoulos, who was until recently an editor for Breitbart.com, a "platform for the alt-right,” was behind Gamergate in 2014, which The New Yorker characterized as “a vicious campaign against feminists in the video-game industry.” In 2016, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after he led a harassment campaign against black actor Leslie Jones for her role in the female-led reboot of the movie GhostbustersMembers of the “alt-right” have used these anonymous forums to hijack a number of cultural conversations with the purpose of marginalizing women, and the “alt-right” has infused the message boards with white supremacy, promoting a white- and male-centric cultural identity.

    The reality is, with their lax oversight for illegal content, these boards are enabling and promoting abuse, often politically motivated, defended as “free speech” by its perpetrators, on a daily basis -- whether or not it's on the front page of the news.

    Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh

  • Trump Rewards O'Reilly Minion Who Previously Aired Racist And Misogynist Reports

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News host Jesse Watters will interview President Donald Trump for his show Watters World. Watters, who originally appeared on Fox as a correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, has a track record of disparaging segments about immigrants, women, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. He has also produced reports in which he shamed homeless Americans, mocked members of the LGBTQ community, and “followed, harassed, and ambushed” a journalist.

  • Meet Lauren Southern, The Latest “Alt-Right” Media Troll To Gain Access To The White House Press Briefing

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Lauren Southern, a Canadian “alt-right” media figure, is the latest troll to gain access to the White House press briefing. Southern has a record of making incendiary remarks, denying the existence of rape culture, and demonizing racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Southern is just the latest of the fringe, sycophantic “alt-right” media personalities that the White House is letting into its press briefings.

  • Study Finds Right-Wing Media Routinely Criminalize Immigrants In Coverage

    Skewed Portrayals Have Dangerous Effects In Politics

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) surveyed coverage of immigration detention -- or stories about immigrants detained by the U.S. government -- in “a variety of media outlets” from 2009 to 2016 and found evidence that right-wing outlets routinely criminalize immigrants in their coverage. The study also found that the nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is cited more than other data sources.

    CIVIC’s report demonstrates that while issues surrounding immigration detention are increasingly visible in the media, coverage in right-wing media outlets like Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, and FoxNews.com is more likely than reports in mainstream media to focus on immigrant criminality.

    The survey also found that Breitbart.com reports on immigration detentions at a higher rate than other “new media” outlets do.

    While it’s positive that immigration stories are now more visible in the press, the routine criminalization of immigrants in right-wing media narratives has long been a problem and has dangerous consequences. As a paper from Harvard University’s Kennedy School demonstrated, conservative media portrayals of immigrants have had a profound impact on Republican politics, leaving no room for "compassionate conservatism" and creating a space in which anti-immigrant sentiment can be exploited for political gain.

    Additionally, the study showed that the nativist group CIS outpaces other immigration data sources in terms of press citations, which is problematic given its perspective. CIS, which has been categorized a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was founded by John Tanton, whose record includes advocating for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” CIS has pushed white-nationalist literature, and, according to the SPLC, in 2016 “the group hit a new low” by commissioning Jason Richwine, whose doctoral dissertation “endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races,” to write reports and blog pieces. The reliance on CIS shows that media are helping to sanitize the group by elevating its voice and providing its leaders with platforms to spew anti-immigrant narratives based on shoddy research

    The study’s authors also pointed out to a “lack of first-hand migrant accounts in media narratives,” an issue Media Matters has documented in the past.

    Find a press release with the CIVIC survey results here, and the full report here.

  • STUDY: Fox News Ignored Transgender Voices While Discussing Rollback Of Protections For Transgender Students

    MSNBC Hosted Four Transgender Guests, And CNN Brought On One

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    From the time it happened through the day that followed President Donald Trump’s rollback of federal trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, Fox News failed to include transgender guests who could provide insights about the policy. Of the major cable news networks (MSNBC, Fox, and CNN), MSNBC led the count by hosting four transgender guests, while CNN hosted only one.

    On February 22, the Trump administration revoked the federal protections for trans students implemented by President Barack Obama, which outlined the right of trans students to use the public facilities that match their gender identity. Conservative commentators reacted by pushing the long-debunked myth that sexual predators exploit these types of nondiscrimination protections to sneak into women’s facilities by pretending to be transgender.

    Media Matters analyzed the guests invited on cable news networks to discuss the rollback of the federal trans-inclusive nondiscrimination guidelines from 8 p.m. February 22 until midnight on February 23. We found that Fox News failed to bring on a single transgender guest, perpetuating the network’s long history of trans exclusion. In comparison, MSNBC set the standard by including four transgender guests: Cub Scout Joe Maldonado, actress and activist Laverne Cox, transgender rights advocate Mara Keisling, and Gavin Grimm, whose case against his school over restroom access will go before the Supreme Court. CNN hosted only one trans person, teenager Juliet Evancho, who appeared during the February 23 edition of CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, but on February 22, New Day featured Katharine Prescott, the mother of a trans student who committed suicide. Prescott’s subsequent activism was influential in the implementation of protections during the Obama administration. It is worth noting that CNN also hosted Grimm on the February 24 edition of New Day, but the morning shows of February 24 fell outside of the time frame analyzed by Media Matters.

    While CNN’s and MSNBC’s inclusion of trans voices provided a welcome respite from a trend of underrepresentation, news networks must still work for progress in terms of improving trans visibility. That’s because stories of violence against the transgender community are often ignored, and when news shows do discuss issues that directly affect transgender people, they often fail to include any trans people as guests.

    Because Trump is an avid TV consumer, cable news shows have an increased in influence as platforms for policy discussion, giving the guests included a unique opportunity to send impactful messages. This platform could also be used to boost the voices of those usually underrepresented in the media. And transgender people -- who are often mocked, misgendered, and negatively portrayed on TV news -- deserve a space to directly address misperceptions audiences might have about their lives. Their lived experiences not only add value to segments about legislation that directly affects their lives, it also can enrich the political discussion more broadly. Networks owe it to the transgender community to talk to them, instead of just about them.

    Jared Holt contributed research to this report.

  • Nativists And White Supremacists Love Trump’s New Immigration Executive Orders

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Department of Homeland Security on February 21 rolled out a pair of memos meant to set internal guidelines for the implementation of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders. The flagship policies of those executive orders are unpopular with a majority of Americans, but they have been a cause for celebration among nativists and white supremacists. 

  • Do’s And Don'ts Of Covering Immigration Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    President Donald Trump is turning his anti-immigrant campaign promises into policies by signing an executive order advancing his plans to build a wall across the southern border and expanding the definition of individuals who constitute deportation priorities. Journalists covering immigration policy should keep in mind that a significant segment of the U.S. population views immigration coverage as indispensable in planning their future.

    There are 42.4 million immigrants in the United States, with various immigration statuses. Many depend on news to navigate the uncertainty of the current environment on immigration, which makes accurate coverage of immigration policy crucial. Inaccurate coverage, and reports that focus on the politics of the issue or fail to highlight the human cost of these policies, do audiences a disservice.

    Following are some elements that media covering the enforcement of Trump’s deportation-focused executive order need to take into account to be accurate and provide clear information to audiences that need it most.

    Do: Explain How Trump's Executive Order On Immigration Changes Deportation Priorities

    In an executive order signed on January 25, Trump significantly changed deportation priorities to include “convicted criminals, immigrants who had been arrested for any criminal offense, those who committed fraud, and anyone who may have committed a crime.” As The New York Times pointed out, the order “expands the definition of ‘criminal,’” to include anyone who has crossed the border without authorization -- a criminal misdemeanor -- in the priority category for deportation.  According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, under the Obama administration, 87 percent “of unauthorized immigrants now residing in the United States” were not a priority for deportation, as they had not committed serious crimes. Journalists need to emphasize that the new enforcement priorities enacted by Trump “vastly expanded the group of immigrants considered priorities for deportation, including those without criminal records,” if they are to accurately represent the plight of many undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes and who are being targeted by the administration.

    Don’t: Uncritically Parrot Administration’s Statements On Detentions

    The administration’s statement -- and Donald Trump’s tweets -- regarding recent raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seek to paint all undocumented immigrants with a wide brush by characterizing them as dangerous criminals:

    However, according to The Washington Post, “about a quarter” of the immigrants rounded up during recent ICE raids “had no prior convictions,” and immigrant rights groups are pointing out that the recent raids have been “out of the ordinary” and that “most of those swept up were not dangerous.” An immigrant without a criminal record who had benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was among those arrested, which calls into question the administration’s characterization of those targeted. Given the mischaracterizations by the Trump administration, it’s important that journalists pay attention to evidence that shows foreign-born residents are less likely than native-born residents to commit crimes, as demonstrated by the American Immigration Council:

    For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.

    [...]

    In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime. Unfortunately, immigration policy is frequently shaped more by fear and stereotype than by empirical evidence. As a result, immigrants have the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to them by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration enforcement mechanisms.

    Do: Provide A Platform For Immigration Experts

    It’s easy for journalists to overlook the complicated nuances and crucial distinctions of immigration policy and to unintentionally misrepresent the situations of many immigrants and thus misinform the general public. Because immigration law is complicated and difficult to navigate, audiences are better served by hearing the insights of experts -- rather than political pundits -- who can thread the needle through the most nuanced aspects of immigration policy. Spanish-language networks do admirable work in providing a platform for individuals familiar with immigration policy, including immigrant rights advocates and immigration attorneys who can answer common questions.

    Media Matters spoke to Maria Fernanda Durand, communications manager at the Latino and immigration advocacy/assistance organization Casa de Maryland, who said there are “very few voices, especially in cable news, that actually represent the people that this [policy] is harming.”

    Durand remarked on the importance of turning to  experts, rather than pundits, to discuss immigration issues, noting that “a lot of people really don’t understand the process -- of how people come over, and the fact that there are very few benefits you’re allowed as an undocumented immigrant -- basically food for your children if you qualify.” Durand added that audiences in general don’t necessarily know that when it comes to fixing the irregularities of their status, “there is no line” for undocumented immigrants to get in -- “there is no path to citizenship.”

    Cable news outlets, specifically, still have to make a priority of including Latino and other immigrant voices in the stories they cover. Regarding the representation of Latinos specifically, Durand said: “They're talking about us, not with us. These are issues that affect us all, but we are at the center of it.”

    Don't: Lend Your Platform To Nativist Groups

    Media appearances by members of nativist groups that promote the work of white nationalists are an ongoing problem. Groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as part of the “nativist lobby” -- the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an SPLC-designated hate group, NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- do not deserve to have their images sanitized, but that’s just what happens when media outlets repeatedly reference them and cite their work without accurately describing their focus.

    Characterizing these groups as “conservative” organizations that call “for added immigration restrictions” or that favor “stricter control on immigration” without disclosing that their founder, John Tanton, advocates for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” is inaccurate. Doing so omits the full picture of their intentions and helps them access a seat at the immigration policy discussion table, where bigotry should not have a place.

    Do: Mention The Real-Life Consequences Of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies

    Journalists should keep in mind that the subjects of their stories are people whose real lives are deeply affected by immigration policy. They owe it to these residents -- and their children, parents, and other relatives -- to present their stories in a substantive way, capturing their unique experiences and putting them in context.

    Don't: Perpetuate The Use Of Politically Charged Anti-Immigrant Slurs

    While multiple institutions and journalistic style guides recommend avoiding the use of the word “illegal” to describe people because it is “grammatically incorrect” and simply dehumanizing, many networks continue perpetuating the anti-immigrant slur. The words media use when they discuss a significant segment of the U.S. population have consequences in molding audience images of these communities. By referring to immigrants in a dehumanizing way, media help reduce them to statistics and deportation targets, instead of presenting them as human beings.

  • The White House Put Stephen Miller On Four Sunday Shows To Dodge, Lie, And Attack The Media

    Meanwhile, The White House Freeze-Out Of CNN Continues

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Trump administration offered White House senior adviser Stephen Miller -- and reportedly no one else -- to appear on the Sunday morning political talk shows of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox Broadcasting Co. In his appearances on the four shows, Miller repeatedly dodged questions, made blatantly false claims, and attacked the media. Recent profiles of Miller have highlighted his extreme ideological views, his close relationship with Stephen Bannon, and the “enthusiasm” of white nationalists like Richard Spencer over his role in the administration.

  • Media Must Label Anti-Immigrant Nativists Properly

    Now That Nativists Are In The Trump Administration, Media Need To Correct Course

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In covering President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals and new hires, some mainstream media outlets have been misleadingly identifying groups in favor of more restricted immigration as "conservative" or merely supportive of "stricter" rules, when the groups are actually nativist with members that promote the work of white nationalists.

    The “nativist lobby” is made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated a hate group -- NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), among several other smaller affiliated groups. While these three groups’ ties to white supremacists and their reputation for producing shoddy research to advocate for limiting all forms of immigration are well-documented, media outlets have sanitized their image by repeatedly referencing them and citing their work without mentioning their associations with nativism and white nationalism.

    In the past week alone, several mainstream outlets continued to help normalize these organizations -- specifically the Center for Immigration Studies -- by allowing them to pass as mainstream conservative organizations with a valid seat at the table in the immigration policy conversation. The Washington Post referred to CIS as “a conservative group that calls for added immigration restrictions,” USA Today identified CIS as an institution that “favors stricter control on immigration,” The Tampa Bay Times called it a “Washington D.C., think tank that favors stricter immigration policies,” while the Financial Times took the group’s word, calling it a “self-described ‘low-immigration, pro-immigrant,’” center.

    These characterizations fail to provide not only a full picture of the groups’ nativist, white nationalist ties but also their true intentions, which their "racist architect" John Tanton describes as a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Even some conservatives are hesitant to attach to these organizations, rejecting their extremism and saying they “loathe the Tanton network.” For example, Neil Stevens of the conservative outlet Red State, recently condemned CIS for pushing white-nationalist literature and called on conservatives to “stop pretending CIS and FAIR are groups we can work with, since the last thing we need is to poison our movement.” It might be too late for that, judging from the number of figures linked to these groups currently joining the conservative-backed Republican administration.

    As Trump taps members and supporters of these organizations for his administration or lets them influence its policies, media have a greater responsibility to properly identify these groups and their members, specifically:

    • Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach -- who works as legal counsel to the legal arm of FAIR, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) -- influenced Trump’s first two anti-immigration executive orders. 

    • The former executive director of FAIR, Julie Kirchner, is set to become chief of staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    • Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was the keynote speaker at FAIR’s advisory board meeting and has credited the organization for helping sink bipartisan plans for immigration reform.

    • Jon Feere, reportedly a potential Department of Homeland Security hire, has a record that includes promoting the work of a white nationalist website and was a legal policy analyst for CIS.

    Given Trump’s recent executive orders and indications that he will be adopting these groups’ ideas it has become imperative for the press to correct course and provide an accurate, full picture of their affiliations and motivations.

  • Will Megyn Kelly Bring The Hate Group Leaders And Extremists Who Frequented Her Fox Show To NBC?

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In her past role at Fox News, new NBC News hire Megyn Kelly has invited onto her show a number of extremists and hate group leaders who spread and espouse anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant views, statements, and lies. Will she continue her practice of hosting bigotry in her upcoming daytime news and Sunday evening programs?