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Oct 6, 2020

How to spot and stop misinformation with John Breyault

How to spot and stop misinformation with John Breyault (Ep. 244)

How to spot and stop misinformation with John Breyault (Ep. 244) -- John and Joe Miller discuss how consumers themselves can correct misinformation, by weighing in when they see it, rather than relying on tech companies.


John Breyault is a nationally-recognized consumer advocate with more than 15 years of experience championing the rights of consumers and the underserved. At the National Consumers League, he advocates for stronger consumer protections before Congress and federal agencies on issues related to telecommunications, fraud, data security, privacy, aviation, live event ticketing, video gaming, and other consumer concerns. In addition, John manages NCL’s and #DataInsecurity project campaigns. John has testified multiple times before Congress and federal agencies and is a regular contributor to national press outlets including the Washington Post, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Prior to NCL, John was the director of research at Amplify Public Affairs, where hs supported clients in the telecommunications, energy, labor, and environmental sectors. Earlier in his career, John worked at Sprint and at the American Center for Polich Culture in Washington, DC. A lifelong Virginian, John is a graduate of George Mason University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a minor in French.


National Consumers League


Joe: Hey everybody. Congress can’t get anything done. Now the state Attorneys General are hamstrung by corruption and politics, as they try to execute a serious of actions against big tech. 

Real news outlets believe the Department of Justice and various state coalitions are planning to sue Google. The DOJ is expected to focus on Google’s search dominance. The state coalitions are working together with the DOJ, but then again, they’re no,t because many of them believe the DOJ’s moving too slowly. Congress has subpoenaed Facebook, Google, and Twitter. But, of course, Republicans and Democrats rarely see eye-to-eye.

But now we’ve got problems in Texas -- with their Attorney General, Ken Paxton, facing bribery charges -- accusations his own Deputies alleged in a whistleblower complaint. It’s a litany of allegations claiming that:

  • He received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts for his own legal defense fund. What did the people who gave those donations expect in exchange? They couldn’t have given them out of the goodness of their hearts. In that case, why not give it to poor people? Nevertheless, Paxton says these donors are family friends.
  • His own wife, a state senator, introduced a bill to expand his power to exempt individuals from state regulations, which would have set him up to return favors to people.
  • He unilaterally decided that Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s ban of elective procedures due to COVID-19 should apply to abortions. This went into effect immediately, forcing women to cancel their appointments, pending the outcome of litigation arising from this.

The list goes on and on

So Democratic Attorneys General are calling for Paxton to step down, saying it threatens their multistate investigation into Google’s market practices. Meanwhile, sources expect the DOJ to file a lawsuit in a few days. Why that’s public, I have no idea. You’d think it’d be attorney-privileged. But, frankly, following ethical guidelines doesn’t appear to be part of Bill Barr’s skill set.

To make matters worse, you have a dozen or so other Republican Attorneys General facing similar corruption problems. 

Eliot Spitzer must feel vindicated for his little prostitution situation back in 2008. But that was 12 years ago!  

Let’s move on, let’s move on. 

John McAfee, the namesake of the antivirus software, was arrested in Spain Monday. The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges McAfee took $23 million from people to invest in cryptocurrencies he was being paid to promote. But the officials note this is a personal lawsuit, not one against McAfee, the company.

So we’re in this place where politics are holding up anything meaningful when it comes to antitrust enforcement against big tech companies. We’ll see what the DOJ lawsuit says. But, without even looking at it, I anticipate a number of free speech problems that will have to be overcome, and much of the case law has been written by Conservatives.

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