A pro–Donald Trump website that says it raised and distributed roughly $40,000 to send people to the deadly Jan. 6 riot in Washington, DC, funded at least one rioter who claims to have carried a firearm to the US capital.
In December, Joy in Liberty, which claims to “help Patriots work together,” began raising funds to send people to the “Stop the Steal” rally in DC. “Need Help Getting to DC on Jan 6? $27k+ Raised to Offset Travel Costs for Patriots,” the site’s owner said in a Jan. 3 post on TheDonald.win, a pro-Trump message board for Trump supporters created after Reddit banned the r/TheDonald subreddit.
By the day of the rally, the site’s owner, who goes by Thad Williams, claimed to have received and distributed roughly $40,000 via PayPal, bitcoin, and Stripe payments. “I have been able to fund two full buses of people at least,” he boasted.
At least one person who said they received the money bragged about carrying a firearm.
Joy in Liberty’s website said it provided an unknown amount of money to the TDanonDJTJR2024 account on TheDonald.win. The day after the mob attacked the Capitol, that person posted that the only reason they hadn’t started shooting was that Trump didn’t issue a “weapons hot” order.
“We are so excellently tempered of a militia we all stayed concealed carry even when the explosions were heard,” they wrote.
In another post, they said: “There were constitutional carriers all in the crowd. I carried. Both my friends did. I could see plenty less-than-subtle concealed pistols. Now imagine the damage we could have done to the fuckers. AND THAT’S WHY NO MEMBER OF THE DEEP STATE SHALL SLEEP TONIGHT.”
Other people whom Joy in Liberty listed as recipients of its funding recently deleted their Twitter accounts or were banned by the site. Many of them follow the QAnon mass delusion, which claims that a secret cabal of powerful people sexually abuse children and control the world, and that Trump is the only hope for defeating them. Williams shares those beliefs, and has a history of posts that detail years spent “researching” QAnon.
“What’s happening right now is the fulfillment of so much of what Q has long described as ‘the plan’ – namely, to allow the 2020 election to be stolen, before using the military intelligence apparatus to bring justice,” Williams wrote on TheDonald.win on Tuesday.
“Thad Williams,” who did not reply to requests for comment, is a pseudonym. Domain registration and hosting records, as well as other information online, suggest that the owner of Joy in Liberty is Easton Nelson Ellsworth, a web developer and marketing consultant who recently relocated from Florida to Washington state.
Ellsworth runs a company called Keyrise LLC and used to offer a service called Visionary Blogging that helped companies and executives use blogging to build their business. The company received a $13,875 Paycheck Protection Program loan in May 2020, according to public records.
The web domain for Visionary Blogging is hosted on the same server as Joy in Liberty as well as other domains that Ellsworth owns. The biographical details of Ellsworth and those revealed by Williams on Joy in Liberty and social media appear to line up: Both recently moved from Florida to Washington state, grew up in Utah, and make a living building websites.
In response to the attempted coup, PayPal and Stripe banned Joy in Liberty’s accounts, and the website deleted information from its homepage about funding rally attendees. It also removed links from its homepage to sites dedicated to the QAnon mass delusion.
“Joy In Liberty supports President Trump in denouncing all forms of violence and condemning the senseless acts of violence committed yesterday in Washington DC,” read a statement posted to its homepage Jan. 7. “True joy in liberty comes by living peacefully.”
On TheDonald.win, however, Joy in Liberty struck a different tone, asking, “Any pedes know a good lawyer? I’ve had over $2000 seized by PayPal and Stripe.”
Birdwatch: Twitter pilot will allow users to flag misinformation | Twitter
Twitter will allow users to flag and annotate misleading or inaccurate tweets in ongoing efforts to address misinformation on the platform.
The pilot program, called Birdwatch, is being tested in the United States, the social media firm said in a blogpost. It comes as calls to better combat misinformation on social media have grown substantially in recent years, particularly surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
Twitter in the past year started adding labels and warnings about misinformation on the site, including about the Covid-19 pandemic and the US election. It permanently banned Donald Trump in the days leading up to the inauguration of his successor after the former president’s use of Twitter was seen to praise or enable the storming of the Capitol on 6 January.
Executives of the platform, along with those of other big tech firms, have been called to testify in front of Congress multiple times in the past year to answer for issues that include misinformation as well as the reach of big tech’s influence and power.
Following its launch, Birdwatch can be found on a separate section of Twitter – twitter.com/i/birdwatch, and pilot participants who apply to the program can write posts identifying and rebutting misinformation. Their notes will initially not be visible on Twitter for users outside the pilot group but will be visible on the Birdwatch site.
Twitter said it expects to have between 1,000 and 100,000 Birdwatchers who are being admitted on a rolling basis and who will not be paid. In the blogpost, the Twitter vice-president of product, Keith Coleman, said the notes will ultimately be visible to the global Twitter audience.
“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this – from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors,” said Coleman in the blogpost.
Pilot participants can rate the helpfulness of notes from other contributors.
“We believe this is a model worth trying,” he said.
Some have criticized Twitter for delegating the important task of moderating questionable content to unpaid users. But others say it could be a step in the right direction. Evan Greer, the director of online activist group Fight for the Future said the effectiveness of the program will depend largely on how, exactly, it is carried out.
“There is definitely a need for creative thinking when it comes to addressing disinformation beyond just ‘let’s censor more things’. And it makes sense to explore more decentralized models rather than giving more power to big tech companies,” she said.
“That said, as always the devil is in the details. Twitter and other companies should consult with experts and members of impacted communities as they craft their policies and experiment with possible solutions to complex problems.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
Tencent shares fall over 5% after closing in on $1 trillion valuation
WeChat mascots are displayed inside Tencent office at TIT Creativity Industry Zone in Guangzhou, China, May 9, 2017.
Bobby Yip | Reuters
GUANGZHOU, China — Tencent shares dropped more than 5% on Tuesday — one day after a huge rally pushed its valuation to nearly $1 trillion for the first time.
The Chinese internet giant saw its shares hit as high as 767.5 Hong Kong dollars on Monday, rallying 11% at one point. That pushed the company’s market capitalization to 7.35 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($949 billion) on Monday.
Monday’s rally appeared to be propelled by bullish calls by two investment banks. In a research note, Citi raised its target price to 876 Hong Kong dollars from 734 Hong Kong dollars, a 14% rise from Monday’s close.
UBS also upped its price target on Tencent from 700 Hong Kong dollars to 830 Hong Kong dollars — that’s a more than 8% rise from Monday’s close.
But investors took profit on Tuesday, driving Tencent shares lower by around 5.48% to 724.50 Hong Kong dollars at 2.45 p.m. local time. The stock was down over 6% earlier in the day but pared some losses.
Investors are waiting for Tencent’s 2020 results for the fourth quarter and full year, which will be released in March.
Analysts are expecting revenue to come in at 131.83 billion yuan (about $20.36 billion) for the December quarter, a 24.6% year-on-year rise, according to Refinitiv estimates. Net income is expected to grow nearly 29% to 32.85 billion yuan.
Tencent is known for its huge gaming business which analysts expect to have performed well in the fourth quarter. Revenue from smartphone games in particular are expected to grow 46% year-on-year to 38 billion yuan, helped by new title releases, according to a recent note from Jefferies.
Other analysts have also backed that up.
“We expect solid results in upcoming 4Q20, with strength in the game business overall,” Macquarie analyst Han Joon Kim said in a note published Jan. 19.
But Tencent has also been growing other areas of its business including advertising, cloud computing and financial technology via its WeChat Pay mobile payment system.
WeChat, in particular, has been a focus of investors.
Last week, Tencent announced that transactions on its WeChat Mini Programs rose more than 100% in 2020 from 800 billion yuan in 2019. The company did not reveal the 2020 figure. But it highlights the way that Tencent is trying to monetize and increase the stickiness of its messaging app WeChat, which is used by over a billion people.
Mini Programs are apps people can use within WeChat without having to leave the messaging app. They have been a key part of the growth of WeChat.
Though the monetization efforts of WeChat are still in the early stages, analysts see this as a long-term effort.
“We continue to find stronger emphasis on improving accessibility and functionality than monetization. We think lack of monetization of mini programs in 2021 is fine, as there is limited expectation of such embedded in earnings expectation anyways,” Macquarie’s Kim said.
“Rather, Tencent’s growing influence in on-line commerce activity will strengthen the stock’s long-term narrative and support its valuation multiple.”
Google says PAC won’t fund Congress members against election results
Google’s political action committee won’t fund members of Congress who voted against the presidential election results this cycle, the company confirmed to CNBC on Monday evening.
“After the disturbing events at the Capitol, NetPAC paused all contributions while undertaking a review,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CNBC. “Following that review, the NetPAC board has decided that it will not be making any contributions this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certification of the election results.”
Axios first reported the funding pause.
Last week, tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft announced they would pause contributions from their political action committees in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Insurgents planned to forcibly turn over election results after high-profile Congress members and former President Donald Trump falsely alleged a “stolen” election.
Google’s PAC donated to Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign in 2017 and 2018.
The company up until Jan. 7 — after the insurgence — allowed the same lawmakers and Trump to recite voter fraud falsehoods on YouTube. Trump’s YouTube home page still automatically plays a 46-minute video rife with false allegations of voter fraud. It has been up for a month and had nearly 6 million views.
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