Wednesday, 20 November 2019

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I Islamophobia

Laura Loomer’s suit over Twitter ban suffers setback; CAIR-Florida calls it publicity stunt

By Abraham Mahshie (w/ reporting from Christine Stapleton), For Palm Beach Post, On 23 October 2019, Read Original
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Amid a wave of attacks on social media companies by far-right and conservative activists, a federal judge found Monday that firebrand and congressional hopeful Laura Loomer does not have grounds to sue a local Islamic advocacy group for her banishment from Twitter.

“Not only is it unsubstantiated, but the evidence publicly speaks for itself: you have a number of social media outlets and companies banning her use,” said Omar Saleh, lawyer for the Florida chapter of the Council On American-Islamic Relations.

The ruling comes as far-right and conservative media have been vocally critical of Big Tech for, they say, singling them out for their views.

At this month’s American Priorities summit at President Trump’s Doral resort, speakers from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Pensacola, to Donald Trump, Jr., lambasted “Big Tech” for silencing conservative voices. On Tuesday, another far-right advocate, Larry Klayman, filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County alleging Joe Biden, his son Hunter and Biden’s presidential campaign in banning Klayman’s JudicialWatch channel from the popular site. The lawsuit did not provide evidence to substantiate the claim.

In Loomer’s case, U.S. District Judge Rodolfo Ruiz said Loomer offered no evidence to support her claim that CAIR-Florida conspired with CAIR’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Twitter to have Loomer’s account removed.

The decision drops the local chapter from the ongoing lawsuit. With Twitter having already been dropped from the suit, that leaves only CAIR’s national office defending an accusation that it conspired to remove Loomer’s Twitter account.

“Her comments and the purpose of why she even makes money on all these platforms really just fuels the fear and hatred toward a specific religious group and incites them,” added Saleh, CAIR-Florida’s attorney. “She is all about publicity. This could possibly have been done to gain more publicity or gain more supporters.”

Having determined that Loomer’s comments about Muslims violated their policies against hate speech, a number of social media companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft, have barred her from using their platforms.

Saleh hypothesized that Loomer’s suit was in part a retaliation against Twitter for kicking her off the platform and relegating her to lesser-known, conservative social media groups such as Parler, where her followers number 84,000, a far cry from the “millions” she claimed to have once had on Twitter.

Loomer still maintains her YouTube page with its 87,000 followers.

The 26-year-old resident of South Palm Beach had previously dropped Twitter from the suit filed May 3 in Palm Beach County court, despite her claim that Twitter was the source of more than 90 percent of her income.

The Florida chapter of the civil rights advocacy group named in her complaint operates independently from the national office, and while it had internally deliberated about Loomer’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, no efforts were made by its employees to contact Twitter or the national office, said Saleh.

“We vetted all of our employees,” he said of the group’s five offices and 23 employees across the state, noting none had reached out to Twitter or CAIR national about Loomer.

The complaint also alleged that CAIR has links with terrorist organizations, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel groups.

“It’s the only thing they have to hang on,” said Saleh, denying the allegations and explaining the group’s mission to educate society about Islam and advocate for the civil rights of Muslims.

Saleh explained that the social progress made by the group is rejected by people with anti-Muslim or Islamophobe attitudes.

“That there are people out there attacking CAIR means that we’re doing something right, and that is fighting against Islamaphobia and Islamophobes don’t like that,” he said.

The law firm representing Loomer, Mandelbaum Salsburg, issued a statement calling CAIR Florida’s characterization of the federal court decision a “hyperbolic distortion.”

“At this preliminary stage, the Court found that there is insufficient evidence to support [Loomer’s] claim that CAIR Florida was part of CAIR National’s scheme to silence Laura Loomer by having her permanently banned from Twitter,” the statement said.

The statement added that once CAIR is ordered by a court to produce evidence, its “tortious interference” will be exposed.

CAIR Florida communications director Wilfredo Ruiz said the nonprofit group was forced to spend thousands of dollars in litigation to defend itself in the suit.

“It’s something that’s gotta stop,” said Saleh after expressing gratitude for the court’s decision. “The negative and hateful rhetoric, it doesn’t serve this country. It certainly doesn’t serve the state and people who make money off of it, it’s really shameful.”

Ruiz lamented that Loomer’s third-quarter fundraising tally of $154,000 is evidence that her strategy is working.

The amount raised since Loomer’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. House District 21 kicked off August 2 was $50,000 more than what Democratic incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel raised in a full quarter.

“There are candidates associated with the GOP betting on that the more Islamophobic I can project myself, the better I will do in my fundraisers,” he said. “This is what we’re talking about, people making a living and a political career on their Islamophic position.”

Reporting by Christine Stapleton was used in this story.Amid a wave of attacks on social media companies by far-right and conservative activists, a federal judge found Monday that firebrand and congressional hopeful Laura Loomer does not have grounds to sue a local Islamic advocacy group for her banishment from Twitter.

“Not only is it unsubstantiated, but the evidence publicly speaks for itself: you have a number of social media outlets and companies banning her use,” said Omar Saleh, lawyer for the defendant, the Florida chapter of the Council On American-Islamic Relations.

The ruling comes as far-right and conservative media have been vocally critical of Big Tech for, they say, targeting them out for their views.

At this month’s American Priorities summit in President Trump’s Doral resort, speakers from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Pensacola, to Donald Trump, Jr., lambasted “Big Tech” for silencing conservative voices.

On Tuesday, another far-right advocate, Larry Klayman, filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County alleging Joe Biden, his son Hunter and presidential campaign were behind the banning of Klayman’s JudicialWatch channel from YouTube. The lawsuit did not provide evidence to substantiate the claim.

In Loomer’s case, U.S. District Judge Rodolfo Ruiz said Loomer offered no evidence to support her claim that CAIR-Florida conspired with CAIR’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Twitter to have Loomer’s account removed.

The decision drops the local chapter from the ongoing lawsuit. NEED TO NOTE WHO SHE IS STILL SUING.

“Her comments and the purpose of why she even makes money on all these platforms really just fuels the fear and hatred toward a specific religious group and incites them,” added Saleh, CAIR-Florida’s attorney. “She is all about publicity. This could possibly have been done to gain more publicity or gain more supporters.”

Having determined that Loomer’s comments about Muslims violated their policies against hate speech, a number of social media companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft, have barred her from using their platforms.

Saleh theorized that Loomer’s suit was in part a retaliation against Twitter for kicking her off the platform and relegating her to lesser-known, conservative social media groups such as Parler, where her followers number 84,000, a far cry from the “millions” she claimed to have once had on Twitter.

Loomer still maintains her YouTube page with its 87,000 followers.

The 26-year-old resident of South Palm Beach had already dropped Twitter from the suit filed May 3 in Palm Beach County court, despite her claim that Twitter was the source of more than 90 percent of her income.

The Florida chapter of the civil rights advocacy group for Muslims named in her complaint operates independently from the national office, and while it had internally deliberated about Loomer’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, no efforts were made by its employees to contact Twitter or the national office, said Saleh.

“We vetted all of our employees,” he said of the group’s five offices and 23 employees across the state, noting none had reached out to Twitter or CAIR national about Loomer.

The complaint also alleged that CAIR has links with terrorist organizations, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel groups.

“It’s the only thing they have to hang on,” said Saleh, denying the allegations and explaining the group’s mission to educate society about Islam and advocate for the civil rights of Muslims.

Saleh explained that the social progress made by the group is rejected by people with anti-Muslim or Islamophobe attitudes.

“That there are people out there attacking CAIR means that we’re doing something right, and that is fighting against Islamaphobia and Islamophobes don’t like that,” he said.

The law firm representing Loomer, Mandelbaum Salsburg, issued a statement calling CAIR Florida’s characterization of the federal court decision a “hyperbolic distortion.”

“At this preliminary stage, the Court found that there is insufficient evidence to support [Loomer’s] claim that CAIR Florida was part of CAIR National’s scheme to silence Laura Loomer by having her permanently banned from Twitter,” the statement said.

The statement added that once CAIR is ordered by a court to produce evidence, its “tortious interference” will be exposed.

CAIR Florida communications director Wilfredo Ruiz said the nonprofit group was forced to spend thousands of dollars in litigation to defend itself in the suit.

“It’s something that’s gotta stop,” said Saleh after expressing gratitude for the court’s decision. “The negative and hateful rhetoric, it doesn’t serve this country. It certainly doesn’t serve the state and people who make money off of it, it’s really shameful.”

Ruiz lamented that Loomer’s third-quarter campaign fundraising tally of $154,000 is evidence that her strategy is working.

The amount raised since Loomer’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. House District 21 kicked off August 2 was $50,000 more than what Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel raised in a full quarter. Frankel, however, has raised more than $1 million in total.

“There are candidates associated with the GOP betting on that the more Islamophobic I can project myself, the better I will do in my fundraisers,” he said. “This is what we’re talking about, people making a living and a political career on their Islamophic position.”

Reporting by Christine Stapleton was used in this story.