More than 300 refugees were attacked in Germany last year. It's almost certainly Facebook's fault.


August 21, 2018

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In the tiny liberal town of Altena, Germany, an extra allotment of refugees appeared to be welcomed with open arms. But local Facebook pages tell a different story.

Racist content permeates the town's online ecosystem in ways residents just don't see in real life — until it breaks out into anti-refugee violence. And a new study suggests Facebook is to blame, The New York Times reports.

Two researchers at the University of Warwick examined every incident of anti-refugee violence in Germany over a two-year period, breaking down the 3,335 attacks by wealth, far-right political support, and other relevant demographics. But the strongest correlation to violence appeared when towns had above-average Facebook use, per the Times. When a town's Facebook usage was a standard deviation above Germany's national average, anti-refugee attacks went up 50 percent. Across Germany, Facebook accounted for an estimated one-tenth of anti-refugee violence — or more than 300 attacks.

Altena locals could've told you about the Facebook factor without a study. When asked why seemingly harmless firefighter Dirk Denkhaus tried to burn down a refugee group house, residents mentioned a surge of racist Facebook posts on Altena pages to the Times. Nazi memes permeated event pages for food drives benefiting refugees and Denkhaus' own page, even though refugees wouldn't sense racism walking through the town square.

But in Germany and far beyond, the vitriol spewed on Facebook keeps bubbling over into the real world, the study suggests. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

  • 11:36 a.m. ET

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    Another woman has joined the legal fight against Harvey Weinstein.

    German actress Emma Loman has sued the disgraced Hollywood executive, saying he raped her at the 2006 Cannes film festival, The Guardian reports. Loman's suit piles on top of a joint case six women levied against Weinstein in December, as well as an April suit from actress Ashley Judd. Weinstein is also facing six sexual crime charges, including two felonies that could land him in prison for life.

    In Loman's suit, filed Monday, the actress says she met Weinstein at a film festival in 2004, per The Guardian. He later invited Loman to Cannes, and she only agreed because Weinstein's assistant persistently called her up to 30 times each day. Like in many other allegations, Loman says Weinstein lured her to his hotel room under the guise of a discussing acting opportunities, raped her, and threatened to end her career if she spoke out. She is suing Weinstein for assault and breaking human trafficking laws, among other charges.

    Weinstein is currently facing six criminal counts for sexual misconduct against three women. He has maintained his innocence after a wave of allegations first surfaced last October, and he has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His agent did not respond to The Guardian when asked for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

  • 11:20 a.m. ET

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    Paul Manafort's closely-watched trial included testimony from his former deputy, Rick Gates, his former accountant, and his former bookkeeper. But perhaps no other witness drew as much attention as Maximilian Katzman, who told the world about Manafort's $15,000 ostrich jacket.

    Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, apparently has a passion for fashion, and Katzman was the suit dealer who provided the goods. Despite Manafort's lavish spending and ultimate downfall, Katzman doesn't count his role in his former client's affairs among his most notable life experiences.

    In an interview with GQ, Katzman said he really doesn't "think much of this" — with "this" being his discovery that Manafort used shady money to buy his $18,000 python jacket, and his testimony in a case that ultimately found the president's former associate guilty on eight felony counts. "I've had more interesting things happen to me," Katzman said.

    When GQ pointed out that, for most people, this would be a big deal, Katzman allowed that it was "definitely in the top 10," but said it was "just one in many times in my life where I've just had to laugh and say 'Well, yeah, okay, this is what's going on and let's roll with it.'" He declined to name other top-10 moments in his life, but insisted Manafort's spending of nearly a million dollars on high-end merchandise was truly just another day, regardless of the ultimate criminal conviction. "Really, it's normal," he said. Read more at GQ. Summer Meza

  • 10:20 a.m. ET

    Amid guilty verdicts for Paul Manafort and guilty pleas from Michael Cohen, it was easy to miss another one of President Trump's affiliates going down Tuesday.

    Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife Margaret Hunter were indicted on a number of charges, including some notable campaign finance violations. Hunter was the second congressmember to endorse Trump — Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was the first, and he also took on some financial crime charges earlier this month. And much like former Trump campaign chair Manafort's ostrich jacket revelation, Hunter's indictment painted a vivid picture of his gilded lifestyle. Here are five of the most incredible pieces of the indictment:

    1. The Hunter family loves to read, allegedly spending $2,500 of campaign funds at Barnes & Noble. Another $2,200 went to fund a voracious crafting habit at Michaels.

    2. About four days after Mother's Day in 2016, Hunter treated his mom to a $560 steak dinner.

    3. Just like your average college student, Hunter once whittled his personal bank account down to a balance of $15.02. That same day, the Hunter family's account had a negative balance and accrued $198 in insufficient funds fees. Meanwhile, the congressman was on a Lake Tahoe vacation — funded with more than $1,000 in campaign money.

    4. Hunter really, really likes Hawaiian shorts, so Margaret convinced him to use campaign funds to buy some at a golf pro shop. This way, they could later say the purchase was "some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors," Margaret apparently said.

    5. This one is summed up best with the indictment itself.

    Beyond losing a good deal of money, Hunter has now lost a lot of ground for the midterms this fall. Cook Political Report shifted Hunter's "solid" Republican district to simply "lean" Republican, bypassing the "likely" stage that usually comes in between. Kathryn Krawczyk

  • 10:06 a.m. ET

    President Trump's longtime personal attorney pleaded guilty to an assortment of crimes Tuesday, but some of them were apparently only crimes of the "fake news" variety.

    Trump on Wednesday insisted that Michael Cohen's guilty plea regarding campaign finance violations is unfair, because those actions are "not a crime." Ignoring the fact that breaking campaign finance laws is indeed a crime, Trump also breezed past Cohen's other counts of tax evasion.

    The tweet was Trump's first substantial comment on his former fixer's legal peril; he remained silent on the issue in the hours after the news, and has mainly focused on the "witch hunt" facing his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Trump pointed to former President Barack Obama, whose campaign was fined $375,000 back in 2008 for failing to report all donors. Trump complained that Obama's case was "easily settled," while Cohen faces possible jail time. Trump dispensed his legal advice for both Cohen and Manafort on Twitter, perhaps because Trump thinks Cohen is a terrible lawyer who can't figure it out for himself. Summer Meza

  • 9:33 a.m. ET

    The traditional reward for acts of unimaginable bravery is a Purple Heart — but apparently eight felony convictions works in a pinch.

    President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of felony financial crimes Tuesday. The president has consistently defended Manafort both in person and on Twitter. He added to his online flattery of the convicted felon Wednesday morning, declaring that he feels "very badly" for Manafort and lauding Manafort for not taking a plea deal, unlike someone else he knows. He concluded: "Such respect for a brave man!"

    Manafort actually faced 18 counts of financial crimes, but the Virginia jury hearing his case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the other 10. It's unclear how much more "respect" the president would have for someone convicted of 18 crimes rather than a measly eight. Kimberly Alters

  • 9:29 a.m. ET

    After Tuesday's one-two punch of a guilty verdict for President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a guilty plea for his former attorney Michael Cohen, New York tabloids had some fun with the drama that inched uncomfortably close to the president.

    "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S HENCHMEN," trumpeted Wednesday's New York Daily News cover, sarcastically calling the two men Trump's promised "best people." The New York Post, meanwhile, ominously underlined the fact that "DON'S CONS" both now face jail time.

    The tabloids didn't let Trump wriggle out of his association with Manafort and Cohen, as the president tried to do when he distanced himself from his former campaign chairman shortly after his conviction. Recalling All The President's Men and Watergate, the two publications placed Trump right in the middle of the two scandals. Read more about Trump's worst day ever here at The Week. Summer Meza

  • 9:21 a.m. ET

    The Law Offices of Michael Cohen have earned a one-star review from President Trump.

    On Tuesday, Trump's ex-lawyer pleaded guilty to eight tax and campaign finance crimes. But beyond vaguely reminding West Virginia rallygoers that this wasn't Russian collusion, Trump stayed relatively silent on the Cohen situation — until Wednesday morning, when he fired out this harsh assessment of his former right-hand man:

    Cohen will spend the next few years in prison, though, so you probably couldn't hire him anyway. Kathryn Krawczyk

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