Craig Newmark Philanthropies Awards PEN America $250,000 To Combat Disinformation and Harassment Online


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Graphic showing differences between (deliberate) disinformation, unintentional misinformation, and hoax according to Wikimedia Research courtesy of Srijankedia under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

This gift will also allow PEN America to expand its continued efforts to fight against disinformation by engaging with digital platforms to identify ways to counter the spread of disinformation while preserving free expression.



This week PEN America announced a $250,000 gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies for its work to combat disinformation and harassment online over the next year. This significant investment will allow the literary and free expression organization to re-energize its work ahead of the 2020 US presidential election cycle.

Through this gift, PEN America will expand its online harassment self-defense trainings for newsrooms, journalism schools, and writers’ associations. The organization will also work closely with major news organizations, including the San Diego Union Tribune and Dallas Morning News, to develop best practices for protecting journalists from online abuse.

How Disinformation Can Be Spread, explanation by U.S. Defense Department (2001) / United States Department of Defense / Public Domain

“During a fraught political moment, we’re especially honored that Craig is doubling down on his contributions to our vital work in promoting truth and transparency and defending journalists and writers from online abuse,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “As social platforms and digital spaces explode with vitriol, combating online harassment – and the chill on free expression that it represents – has never been more crucial. We are grateful to Craig Newmark Philanthropies for supporting our efforts to push back against disinformation and help ensure that the American people have the information they need during the upcoming campaign.”

This gift will also allow PEN America to expand its continued efforts to fight against disinformation by:

  • Engaging with digital platforms to identify ways to counter the spread of disinformation while preserving free expression;

  • Organizing an expert convening to spotlight and respond to online disinformation campaigns throughout the 2020 election cycle;

  • Encouraging 2020 Democratic and Republican party platforms to include language on addressing the fight against disinformation;

  • Mobilizing PEN America Members in all 50 states to press candidates and elected officials to reject the use of disinformation; and

  • Advocating for federal legislation that promotes information integrity and digital freedom.

“We face a set of complex challenges ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, especially when it comes to combatting the spread of disinformation and the harassment of journalists online.” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “PEN America’s holistic efforts will help prepare journalists and elected officials to preserve our democracy and elections in this information war.”

In 2017, PEN America surveyed writers and journalists to assess the impact of online abuse. The survey found that, of those who had experienced online harassment, two-thirds reported reacting severely, including refraining from publishing their work, permanently deleting their social media accounts, and/or fearing for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. These findings contributed to the creation of the organization’s Online Harassment Field Manual and online harassment self-defense trainings, which equip writers and journalists with the best available methods and means to protect themselves and their freedom to write. Thanks to this gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, PEN America will be able to continue this work.

This post is compiled courtesy of Wikipedia, PEN America, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and the United States Defense Department.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. It works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism & the information ecosystem, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans & military families.



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Six New Regional Chapters of PEN America to further mobilize activism and organizing within the greater writing community

American bison (Bison bison bison) in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States. Only a week after this photo was taken, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, officially making the American bison the national mammal of the United States. Please also notice the moose photobombing the bison on the left / photo courtesy © Frank Schulenburg under CC BY-SA 4.0

“I’m proud and thrilled that PEN America is working actively to foster and support literary culture in six critical regions and create a home for writers, readers, and advocates. I look forward to joining with our members to insist upon the cultural and civic value of literary expression, and protect the freedoms that make it possible—locally, nationally, and internationally.” Jennifer Egan, President of PEN America



PEN America, the organization of writers and readers advancing free expression and celebrating the power of literature, announced today the launch of six regional chapters across the United States. These new chapters – in Austin, Birmingham, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, and Tulsa – are led by PEN America members and extend the reach of PEN America’s New York headquarters and offices in Washington and Los Angeles.

“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level. We are exceptionally proud of the local leaders who are driving forward this effort,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “With 7,500 members across the country and tens of thousands of allies, our movement – called PEN Across America – is pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom, driving forward PEN America’s mission at a time when it has never been more essential.’’

For nearly 100 years, PEN America has worked as an association of novelists, non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, others from the literary community, and readers to protect and celebrate free expression. PEN America campaigns to free writers imprisoned around the world, monitors press freedom, elevates emerging writers and honors prominent authors, and addresses contested speech on campuses, fraudulent news, hate speech, online harassment, and the other complexities of expression in our digital age. The launch of these new chapters brings members together to stage writers in conversations, advocacy campaigns, public debates, and more, drawing on PEN America’s national resources and the creative energy and priorities of the local literary community.

The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. / Illustration courtesy of Peter K Burian under CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

“Readers are my people, and one of the chief delights of going on a book tour is connecting with communities of readers and writers across America,” said PEN America President Jennifer Egan. “I’m proud and thrilled that PEN America is working actively to foster and support literary culture in six critical regions and create a home for writers, readers, and advocates. I look forward to joining with our members to insist upon the cultural and civic value of literary expression, and protect the freedoms that make it possible—locally, nationally, and internationally.”

After the 2016 presidential election, PEN America became convinced that the organization’s mission to both celebrate and defend free expression demanded reaching beyond the coasts. The groundwork for these new chapters has been laid through convenings, partnerships, and dozens of events PEN America has supported in 20-plus cities during the last two years — from advocacy-themed open mics and local author conversations at independent bookstores to meet-your-newsmaker gatherings and interactive media literacy workshops.

The new chapters will be helmed by literary leaders who emerged during this preparatory phase of PEN Across America, and already have a rich network of writers, academics, librarians, booksellers, activists, and other allies in their communities. The Austin chapter will be headed by Chaitali Sen, author of the novel The Pathless Sky, and Tim Staley, who leads the Austin Public Library Foundation. Poets Ashley M. Jones and Alina Stefanescu will lead the Birmingham branch. In Dallas/Fort Worth, novelist and scholar Sanderia Faye will take the reins of that region’s chapter, alongside Deep Vellum publisher, translator, and bookstore owner Will Evans. In Detroit, writer and social worker Amber Ogden takes on the chapter alongside PEN America Literary Award Winner, Jonah Mixon-Webster. In North Carolina, writer and performer Deonna Kelli Sayed will lead the PEN America Piedmont Region. And the Tulsa group will be led by author and editor Jeff Martin, founder and executive director of the Tulsa Literary Coalition and Magic City Books.

“Since our founding in 1922, our greatest strength has been our Membership – a community of writers and readers committed to celebrating literary excellence, defending free expression, and protecting persecuted writers,” said PEN America’s Director of Membership Rebecca Werner. “Rather than pre-ordaining a select list of geographies, to build these chapters we have worked hand-in-hand with local leaders, focusing on the communities that have been most energized and organized as the leading edge in our drive to become a more fully national organization.”

This post is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

ACLU Sues ICE and PEN America Files Legal Brief Calling for Release of Student Detained for Reading Poem

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.” E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly



Two days after he read this poem at a TRUTH Act forum in Bakersfield, California, ICE arrested Jose Bello. The ACLU sued. ICE cannot intimidate us into silence. Visit facebook.com/FreeJoseBello for updates.

PEN America filed an amicus curiae brief urging a federal appeals court in California to immediately release a student arrested and detained by ICE for publicly reciting a poem. The brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is in support of student Jose Omar Bello Reyes, arrested in May of this year.

“No one should go to jail for reading a poem. Yet, it appears that ICE agents targeted Bello as a result of his poetry reading. When government officials wield their power to silence their critics and suppress lawful, protected speech, they undermine the core protection established by the First Amendment,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs. “In our filing today, we are calling on the Ninth Circuit to affirm Jose Bello’s political and artistic speech by fortifying his right to be free from government retaliation. Protest poetry has a long and proud tradition in the United States that must be vigorously defended in our courts of law.” 

In its supporting brief (accessible here), PEN America urges the Ninth Circuit to grant his motion for release and affirm the constitutional guarantees afforded by the First Amendment. PEN America argues that “Mr. Bello enjoys a constitutional right to speak freely, to be free from retaliation for that speech, and to be free from efforts to restrain his ongoing speech on matters of public concern. Moreover, listeners and participants in the ongoing immigration debate have a concomitant right to receive his expressed viewpoints, without government officials deliberately interfering with the flow of that information with a censorial and retaliatory motive and effect. Despite these protections, ICE acted in retaliation for protected speech that was critical of them, striking at the very heart of the First Amendment.”

ICE officers arrested Bakersfield College student Bello May 19 at his home in Bakersfield, California. Bello’s arrest occurred 36 hours after he appeared at a public forum held by the Kern County Board of Supervisors and recited his poem “Dear America,” which included criticisms of current federal immigration policy. After his arrest, the ACLU of Southern California filed a habeas petition on Bello’s behalf, arguing that his detention was retaliatory and violated his First Amendment rights. On July 16, a federal district court judge denied the petition but found the timing of the arrest to be “highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.” The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

PEN America has previously expressed its concern about the enforcement action taken against Mr. Bello, as well as the broader issues around the erosion of free speech through ICE’s targeted enforcement actions. Most recently, it joined amicus briefs on behalf of detained Tennessee journalist Manuel Duran Ortega, who was arrested in April 2018 while reporting on a protest, and immigrants’ rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained and targeted for deportation following his criticism of ICE at public rallies and on media outlets.

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This content is courtesy of PEN America, the ACLU, and Bakersfield.com.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”Officially nonpartisan, the organization has been supported and criticized by liberal and conservative organizations alike.[9] The ACLU works through litigation and lobbying and it has over 1,200,000 members and an annual budget of over $100 million. Local affiliates of the ACLU are active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk. Legal support from the ACLU can take the form of direct legal representation or preparation of amicus curiae briefs expressing legal arguments when another law firm is already providing representation.

UNESCO Conference on the safety of female journalists in the digital sphere; PEN.org Artists at Risk Connection

Emblem of the United Nations / Public Domain

“Attacks on women journalists represent a clear challenge to SDG 5 on gender equality, and to SDG 16.10 which calls for public access to information and fundamental freedoms (and has an indicator specifically on safety of journalists)” UNESCO



“The increase in attacks against female journalists and the specific threats faced by women journalists, including sexual harassment and violence, both online and offline, is a growing concern. With countless victims of violence and intimidation, there is a pressing need to explore new ways to reinforce the safety of women journalists on the ground.

“UNESCO has a leadership role in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The General Conference at its 39th session invited the Director-General to reinforce activities aimed at addressing the specific threats to the safety of women journalists, both online and offline. The event is a Member State-driven initiative, in close cooperation with the UNESCO Secretariat.”


A conference on the safety of female journalists in the digital sphere, Mobilizing against online harassment of women journalists — What solutions?, will take place at UNESCO Headquarters on 18 June (3-6 p.m.).

Female journalists are three time more likely than their male colleagues to be targets of attacks, humiliations or threats online. UNESCO is seeking ways to respond to the upsurge in violence that threatens the profession by bringing together journalists, political decision-makers, lawyers and media professionals to examine the issues involved at the conference.

Several women journalists from different parts of the world will share their experiences to illustrate how cyber attacks seek to undermine their work, the dangers harassment poses to freedom of expression, and envisage ways to tackle the problem.

The event is organized at the initiative of several Member States of the Group of Friends for the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO.

As the lead agency in the implementation of the United Nations Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists, UNESCO is combating the worrying rise in attacks on journalists, particularly women. These attacks do not only threaten the fundamental right of access to information but also the right of women to exercise their professional activities in a safe and decent environment.

Programme and more

People wishing to attend the event are invited to contact Saorla McCabe, Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, s.mccabe@unesco.org(link sends e-mail); +33 (0)145680962


PEN America nonprofit logo under fair use

ARTISTS AT RISK CONNECTION (ARC)

PEN.org’s ARC is a collaboration of artistic freedom organizations worldwide. It serves artists of all disciplines: visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, performance artists, writers, and other individuals who produce significant creative output in any medium. Assistance is quite diversified.  Details HERE.

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“ARC is a collaborative project led by PEN America, which has been committed to protecting open expression in the United States and worldwide since 1922. PEN America, a champion of the freedom to write, stands at the intersection of literature and human rights. It is the largest of more than 140 centers of PEN International.

“ARC serves as a hub for freedom of expression and artistic freedom organizations worldwide, networking together to support artists at risk. Visit Our Network page to see some of our key partners worldwide or go directly to our Find Help page to search our network database.”


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A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton