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Morning Update: The Grifters Are Evolving

Congress vs Trump, Facebook bans far-right figures, weekend longreads. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, May 3.

Posted on May 3, 2019, at 7:58 a.m. ET

The Trump administration’s fight with Democrats is unusual — and it’s escalating

Yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr pulled out of a hearing with the House Judiciary Committee. His withdrawal symbolizes a bigger showdown that’s been building since Democrats took the House.

It’s a feature of every administration that there is a fight between Congress and the executive branch over how much power the former has over the latter.

But even by that yardstick, the Trump administration is in different territory because of the sheer number of fights that have broken out across multiple fronts. And unlike when the tension would be between Congress executive branch officials and agencies, this time it’s between Congress and Trump individually.

Zoe Tillman explains why these factors signal “the beginning of a long political and legal slog that's only likely to get worse.” Happy Friday!

Facebook and Instagram are banning far-right influencers like Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and Milo Yiannopoulos

The company removed a host of far-right and/or anti-Semitic figures from its platforms — the list includes Laura Loomer and Louis Farrakhan as well. Also being banned are the pages for Alex Jones' Infowars site and Paul Nehlen, a white supremacist who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Paul Ryan's seat in Congress.

The ban will affect both Facebook and Instagram. Facebook reportedly cited its policies against "dangerous Individuals and Organizations" in banning the accounts. It's unclear what prompted the removals.

SNAPSHOTS

The Trump administration will allow health care workers to refuse abortion and sex reassignment services. The newly-released rule will allow workers to refuse to perform or assist medical procedures if it violates their “conscience” or religion. Opponents argue it will greatly limit access to care.

Pornhub is “extremely interested” in acquiring Tumblr. Two years after Verizon bought the blogging platform, the telecom giant is ready to sell. Pornhub, a giant in its field, told us it’s interested in buying Tumblr and restoring it as a “a safe haven for those who wanted to explore and express their sexuality.”

The Prince Of Egypt is going to be turned into a musical. The beloved animated film, based on the story of Moses, is headed to the stage for a theatrical run in London. The adaptation will feature “When You Believe,” the iconic duet made famous by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

Here’s what you need to know about the Beyoncé/Taylor Swift drama at the Billboard Music Awards. The two fan bases are in a tense fight. The issue stemmed from the beginning of Swift’s performance, which opened with a marching band before Taylor struck a pose. People noticed a similarity between that and how Beyonce’s Homecoming starts.

NBC

Taylor Swift has a marching band too.

The hot new grift on Facebook is taking over huge pages of celebrities and films using a clever technique

Where there is Facebook, there will always be scammers trying to make money off. But here’s the thing: scammers are evolving.

Facebook auto-generates pages that are called “interest pages,” based on what people list as their interests. The pages typically have no formal connection to the person or thing they’re about, and don't have humans managing them. Still, popular interests can attract millions of fans.

Enter the grifters. Unclaimed interest pages with large followings (like, say J.K. Rowling or Jessica Alba) are being hijacked by scammers, who are taking them over and using them to make money.

We found more than 100 stolen pages for celebrities, books, films, religions, and generic interests such as “love” that were taken over through this technique. These pages have more than 55 million likes. Facebook has removed 21 so far.

NBC

Spend your weekend with these essays

What Happened To Thor In Avengers: Endgame? Without delving into spoiler territory, Thor’s journey in the final Avengers film sees his body became a focus. But as Jenna Guillaume writes, it’s only as a cheap punchline: “I sat in a theater and felt my excitement turn to heartache...The laughter was never with Thor, but always at his expense.”

AirPods Are Dumb! Last week, Alex Kantrowitz wrote about the distance the wireless headphones put between us. This week, Tomi Obaro wrote about her unabashed hatred of the darn things. From the piece: “AirPods... transform everyday public interactions into a dadaist act, wherein service workers and colleagues alike have to figure out if said AirPods-wearer is talking to you or some person literally in their head.”

Charlie Kirk And Candace Owens’ Campus Tour Is All About The Owns. For the last two years, the pair have crisscrossed the country on a debating tour they’re calling “Campus Clash.” Except, as Anne Helen Petersen writes, the stars of the show aren’t there to debate, because the whole thing is theatre. A sample: “Kirk and Owens don’t engage in debate and win; they just cut to the winning. The resultant applause seems like victory, but it’s just the sound of one hand clapping.”

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