Why Cyntoia Brown is all over social media

This week, the case of a woman named Cyntoia Brown went viral on social media, even though she has already been in jail for more than ten years.

Brown is serving a life sentence for the murder of a Nashville man in 2004. According to Brown, after a childhood marked by abuse and drugs, she was raped and forced into prostitution by a pimp, and ended up killing one of her clients out of self defense when she was just 16 years old. Despite her youth, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.

The details of her crime and trial — including the fact that the man who had paid for sex with her was 43 years old, have started circulating again, catching the attention of A-list celebrities and spawning the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. However, even before the renewed interest, her trial inspired a documentary and was a factor in a major change in how the state of Tennessee deals with child prostitution cases.

How a years-old case ignited new interest

Though it’s unclear why, specifically, Brown’s story came back into the spotlight, a text post describing Brown’s history and trial appeared to pick up serious steam when it was shared by singer Rihanna on Instagram.

“Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named “cut-throat.” After days of being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men you were purchased by a 43 year old child predator who took you to his home to use you for sex. You end up finding enough courage to fight back and shoot and kill him,” the post reads.

“Your (sic) arrested as (sic) result tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison,” it continues. “This is the story of Cyntoia Brown. She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old.”

“Something his horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna wrote in her Instagram caption.

The same post was later shared by Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevigne, and other celebrities, journalists and activists, who questioned why an underage girl involved in prostitution was given such a harsh sentence.

The reemergence of her story has inspired several petitions asking for a retrial in the case.

The story behind the posts

According to years of local media reports, a 2011 documentary about her case and court documents detailing Brown’s own testimony and that of a juvenile psychiatrist, Brown suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, grew up in an abusive home and had run away from her adoptive parents’ house prior to becoming involved in prostitution in Nashville.

“She was staying with different people and using drugs and alcohol,” a 2014 petition for appeal reads. She then met a 24-year-old named “Cut Throat” who, according to the petition, eventually began physically and sexually abusing her and forced her into prostitution.

On August 7, 2004, Brown testified she was solicited for sex by 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allan, who picked her up near a Sonic parking lot and drove her back to his house. There, she testified, she saw a gun cabinet in Allan’s room. She said she resisted his advances until he appeared to reach under the bed. Brown said she thought he was “gonna get a gun or is gonna do something to me.” She then said she took a gun out of her purse and shot Allan.

During her trial, the prosecution argued that the motive for the killing was not self-defense, as Brown claimed, but rather robbery, since Brown took Allan’s wallet after she shot him. She was tried as an adult and convicted of first degree murder, first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. The convictions carried concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.

Brown’s life sentence caught criticism in Tennessee, and in 2012, a US Supreme Court ruling offered her advocates new hope. The Supreme Court decision banned life without parole for juveniles, stating it was unconstitutional. However, Brown’s conviction does carry the possibility of parole — when Brown is 69 years old. Still, her advocates are hoping the change, and continued interest in her story, will inspire a change in Tennessee law.

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DOJ’s AT&T suit could freeze media deals

At a time of rapid change and consolidation in the media industry, the Justice Department’s lawsuit over the AT&T-Time Warner combination is likely to put a pause on media deals and raise questions about this DOJ’s antitrust standards.

“This pauses everything,” Rich Greenfield, a media and technology analyst, told CNN. “Nobody knows the rules of the road.”

The DOJ filed suit Monday to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner on the grounds that AT&T’s control of both distribution (DirecTV) and content (channels like CNN, TNT and HBO) would create competitive harm and hurt consumers.

That argument is a departure from the DOJ’s handling of non-competitive mergers dating back decades and could cause other distributors like Comcast and Verizon to put a hold on potential content acquisitions.

“This should be a cause of concern to anyone who is considering a major transaction,” Kevin Arquit, a top antitrust lawyer who previously served at the FTC and DOJ and also advised DirecTV in its sale to AT&T, told CNN. “There has been a floodgate opened by bringing a lawsuit that has no defined boundaries.”

When the Justice Department approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, in 2011, distributors believed there was a green light for vertical mergers with content companies. In addition to AT&T’s Time Warner deal, both Comcast and Verizon have approached 21st Century Fox in recent weeks about acquiring most of that company’s assets. Now, analysts believe those talks will be put on hold.

The DOJ’s lawsuit also comes at a time when new tech players like Amazon, Google and Facebook already control both distribution and at least some content, causing executives at legacy organizations to complain about what they see as a double standard.

At a press conference about the lawsuit on Monday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson noted that “massive, large scale internet companies” like Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Google are already creating original content and distributing it directly to the consumer.

“Netflix, they distribute their content to over 100 million customers. Amazon distributes its content to its Prime members… in excess of 60 million. Google and Facebook: They reach and distribute content to literally billions of customers,” Stephenson said. “And the government contends that AT&T, with 25 million TV customers, and Turner, with a single digit share of all TV watched, will have unlawful market power? This defies logic, and it is unprecedented.”

Of course, companies like Netflix and Amazon don’t own the actual pipes that transmit the content. Nevertheless, they are able to profit from charging consumers for the platform on which their content is delivered.

Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Pennsylvania, noted the discrepancy in the Justice Department’s longstanding rules for companies that want to acquire content versus those that create content: “If AT&T had created HBO internally, there would be no way to prevent that because we don’t have antitrust rules for that,” he said.

Even so, tech giants are likely to take note of the Justice Department’s stance on AT&T because of how it might affect their future acquisition plans.

There has long been a widespread belief that an Amazon or Apple will one day seek to acquire a legacy media company like 21st Century Fox or Time Warner. Now, it’s not clear whether that would be permissible under the current Justice Department.

Media companies may not have full clarity on the DOJ’s position until the AT&T-Time Warner case is decided in court next year. That means the potential freeze on mergers and acquisitions could last for several months.

“If you’re saying distributors can’t own content, could Facebook buy Fox, could Apple buy Fox? We just don’t know,” Greenfield said. “And if you’re Fox, why would you go up for sale if you don’t even know who the eligible bidders are?”

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Trump dismisses Papadopoulos as ‘low-level volunteer’ but once touted him

President Donald Trump on Tuesday sought to downplay the indictments of former top campaign aides even calling one of his campaign advisers, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, a “low-level volunteer.”But during his campaign, he …

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Trump dismisses Papadopoulos as ‘low-level volunteer’

President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to downplay the indictments of several of his former top campaign aides and called one of his campaign advisers, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, a “liar.””The Fake News is working o…

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Bill O’Reilly threatens to sue for $5M over Facebook post

Bill O’Reilly is threatening legal action against a former New Jersey lawmaker who penned a candid account of his ex-girlfriend’s alleged encounters with the former Fox News host.

In a summons filed Friday in a New York state court, O’Reilly’s attorneys accuse Michael Panter of “making defamatory and false statements in a publicly-available social media post.”

They said the former Fox News host is seeking no less than $5 million for “the public hatred, ridicule, disgrace, and permanent harm to his professional and personal reputations as a result” of a post that Panter published on Facebook earlier this week.

In the post, Panter recalled dating a woman who settled a lawsuit with O”Reilly.

“I read a blurb today that referenced her being bound by a non-disclosure agreement,” wrote Panter. “However, I hear O’Reilly spinning his falsehoods almost daily. This week he again said he did nothing wrong, while suggesting he’s been persecuted and had very few complaints “to Human Resources” during his decades at Fox. Bill should be aware that not everyone is bound by a non-disclosure … I am not.”

Panter went on the recount late night phone calls his ex-girlfriend received from O’Reilly, and said that O’Reilly frequently asked her out on dates.

“My ex’s career was largely dependent on staying in O’Reilly’s good graces,” Panter wrote. “For that reason, she was always hesitant to tell me some details — likely out of fear than I could jeopardize her career by becoming involved. Sometimes information would slip out.”

Panter also claimed that O’Reilly worked with other Fox News executives, including former co-president Bill Shine, to pressure his ex-girlfriend into providing incriminating information on a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.

Panter did not name either woman in the post. A lawyer for Shine did not respond to a request for comment.

O’Reilly has emphatically denied the myriad sexual harassment allegations levied against him. After the New York Times revealed last weekend that he agreed to a $32 million settlement earlier this year with a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, O’Reilly decried the report as a partisan hit job.

Panter told CNNMoney on Thursday that he was prompted to write it after seeing O’Reilly repeatedly tout his clean record in Fox News’ human resources department.

“When I read that, I picture Vladimir Putin defending his presidency by saying there have been no complaints to the KGB about him,” Panter said.

The post drew media attention on Thursday morning, prompting O’Reilly’s camp to respond forcefully. Mark Fabiani, who is serving as O’Reilly’s spokesperson, issued a statement that said, “Mr. O’Reilly will be commencing legal action against Mr. Panter, and the ex-partner he quotes, for all damages he and his family have suffered from this improper conduct.”

Fabiani called the post “completely contrived, false and defamatory, aimed at hurting Bill O’Reilly and his family.”

O’Reilly said Thursday on Twitter that he had commenced “legal action today against a man lying about me.”

“From now on, all defamation will be challenged in court,” O’Reilly said. “Enough.” Later in the day, on his web show, O’Reilly told viewers that he “had to file a lawsuit against one of the smear merchants who are lying about me.”

“I didn’t really want to do that. But at this point I have to stop the madness and I’m not going to bore you with it,” he said. “It’s the same old stuff. There is obviously a witch hunt going on now and a lot of people are getting hurt in the harassment situation.” O’Reilly didn’t mentioned Panter by name in his tweet or on his show.

Panter’s Facebook post remains up. In a statement to CNNMoney on Friday, he said he may have his own case against O’Reilly.

“I am speaking the truth, and expect my account to be fully corroborated,” Panter said. “His actions give me a small sense of what victims must feel when speaking up against powerful men, and why more men hesitate to do so. After discussing this matter with a leading firm, I believe there is a strong basis to bring defamation claims against Mr. O’Reilly.”

Panter added that he hopes to not take such action, saying he’d prefer the matter to be “amicably resolved.”

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Twitter pulls RT, Sputnik advertising

Twitter has pulled all advertising bought by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik on its platform after concluding that both news organizations attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Russia.

“This decision was based on the retrospective work we’ve been doing around the 2016 U.S. election and the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government,” Twitter said in a statement.

RT and Sputnik accounts will be allowed to continue producing content on Twitter, but can no longer advertise on the social network. Additionally, Twitter said it would donate the $1.9 million of ad revenue it has received from RT to external research into Twitter’s role in civic engagement and elections.

The announcement comes one week before a public hearing on Capitol Hill in which Twitter, Facebook and Google will address the roles they inadvertently played in Russia’s efforts to meddle in American politics.

RT and Sputnik are both Russian state-owned media organizations. In January, an intelligence community assessment said both networks had been used as part of a Russian influence campaign aimed at denigrating Hillary Clinton and undermining the integrity of the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter said it made its decision about RT and Sputnik based on its own internal research and those companies inclusion in the January 2017 intelligence report.

Responding to the announcement on Twitter, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said RT was “an exemplary @Twitter partner,” then took a shot at its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, who she said had encouraged RT to buy ads around the 2016 election.

“Hope @jack won’t forget to tell @congressdotgov how @Twitter pitched @RT_com to spend big $$s on US elex ad campaign.”

Simonyan included in her tweet a picture that appeared to show a proposal for RT advertising on Twitter.

An RT spokesperson also sent CNN a link to an RT article published Thursday headlined, “Revealed: How Twitter pushes RT to spend big on 2016 US election.”

In response, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN: “We do not have any comment on our private conversations with any advertiser, even a former advertiser.”

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