Morning Update: No, Your Honor, Anything But Bambi

A policy to discourage asylum applicants, Russia's ongoing propaganda war, fighting fake news in Nigeria. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, Dec. 18.

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The Trump administration is slowing the asylum process to discourage applicants, an official told Congress

According to a letter written by senior House Democrats, a high-ranking Customs and Border Protection official told Congress that border agents were limiting asylum applications because allowing too many people to apply would inspire more to come.

Here’s the thing: The statement from Jud Murdock, CBP’s acting assistant commissioner, contradicts official claims that “metering” — limiting the number of asylum claims on a given day — was due to resource constraints, including a lack of detention space and personnel.

Just last week at a Senate hearing, CBP’s commissioner said the practice was not meant as a deterrent. Advocates have long criticized metering, saying it is illegal.

Russia’s “propaganda war” on US social media is ongoing, according to new reports

We’ve been talking about Russia’s efforts to sow division in America and spread disinformation for a while. Two new reports say those efforts were far more pervasive on Instagram and other social media platforms than previously known.

The reports, prepared by outside researchers for the Senate Intelligence Committee, provide the most complete picture to date of the campaign by the Internet Research Agency — the Kremlin-connected troll farm — to influence US voters.

One report found that the propaganda war, designed to undermine US democratic institutions, focused on more than a dozen divisive themes, such as immigration, gun rights, and race.


Ex-CBS CEO Les Moonves won’t get his $120 million severance after the network said he interfered in its sexual misconduct investigation. As more women came forward, the executive tried to use his power and influence to thwart investigators, CBS determined.

Advertisers are ditching Tucker Carlson on Fox News after he said immigrants make the US “poorer and dirtier.” As of Monday, Pacific Life, Indeed, SmileDirectClub, Minted, and Nautilus, the parent company of the Bowflex, announced they would be suspending their ads during Carlson's show.

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, is under fire for recommending an anti-Semitic novel. In a New York Times interview, Walker appeared to endorse David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free. Icke is a well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.

A poacher who killed hundreds of deer must watch Disney’s Bambi once a month for a year in jail. David Berry Jr.’s lawyers had argued for a lenient sentence because their client recently had a baby. The judge responded by adding the Bambi obligation, suggesting Berry should think about his own child as he watches it.

A former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star is suing Fortnite for using his “Carlton Dance.” Alfonso Ribeiro is filed a suit against the maker of the video game for copyright infringement, saying it didn’t get his permission to use his signature dance move for an in-game character enhancement.

How to stop fake news in a country where the president has to repeatedly deny rumors that he’s dead

Earlier this month, a wild hoax claiming that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has been replaced by a Sudanese clone named Jubril began to spread across social media — and spread, and spread, gaining worldwide attention.

Eventually, Buhari himself denounced the rumor. But journalists were alarmed to see how far the hoax traveled, seeping into everyday conversation.

Now, a news verification platform has been set up as a collaboration between 45 journalists across 15 of Nigeria’s biggest newsrooms. CrossCheck Nigeria’s purpose is to counter fake news — it identifies, verifies, and debunks misinformation on its site.

In a country where hoaxes spread fast, those journalists are up against a big challenge. Read Tamerra Griffin’s report on the people fighting misinformation in Nigeria.

Teens surprised their professor after she told them the holidays are difficult for her

Professor Wharton shared with her students that she finds the holidays tough as all her immediate family has died.

This comment stuck out to the class, because Wharton had always been a private person. One of the teens decided to coordinate a holiday surprise for the prof.

I won’t spoil it, but the professor’s reaction has now gone mega-viral, and it’s so lovely.

Wharton says she hopes all those who see the viral video remember that “teenagers, many, many teenagers, are so much kinder and more compassionate than their public reputation.”



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.