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TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of U.S. midterms

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – TikTok will work to prevent content creators from posting paid political messages on the short-form video app, as part of its preparation for the U.S. midterm election in November, the company said on Wednesday.

Critics and lawmakers accuse TikTok and rival social media companies including Meta Platforms and Twitter of doing too little to stop political misinformation and divisive content from spreading on their apps.

While TikTok has banned paid political ads since 2019, campaign strategists have skirted the ban by paying influencers to promote political issues. [nL1N2HH1NQ

The company seeks to close the loophole by hosting briefings with creators and talent agencies to remind them that posting paid political content is against TikTok’s policies, said Eric Han, TikTok’s head of U.S. safety, during a briefing with reporters.

He added that internal teams, including those that work on trust and safety, will monitor for signs that creators are being paid to post political content, and the company will also rely on media reports and outside partners to find violating posts.

“We saw this as an issue in 2020,” Han said. “Once we find out about it … we will remove it from our platform.”

TikTok broadcast its plan following similar updates from Meta and Twitter.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it will restrict political advertisers from running new ads a week before the election, an action it also took in 2020.

Last week, Twitter said it planned to revive previous strategies for the midterm election, including placing labels in front of some misleading tweets and inserting reliable information into timelines to debunk false claims before they spread further online. Civil and voting rights experts said the plan was not adequate to prepare for the election.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Stephen Coates)


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Trump critic Liz Cheney falls in U.S. primary, Murkowski survives

By Liliana Salgado and Nathan Layne

JACKSON, Wyo. (Reuters) -U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, a fierce Republican critic of Donald Trump who has played a prominent role in the congressional probe of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger in Wyoming on Tuesday.

But Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican who has defied the former president, cleared a hurdle in Alaska. She was set to face Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in the Nov. 8 congressional election, as the two candidates advanced in that state’s nonpartisan primary.

Cheney’s defeat, by Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, marks a significant victory for the former president in his campaign to oust Republicans who backed impeaching him after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last year.

In conceding the race, Cheney said she was not willing “go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election” to win a primary.

“It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take,” she told supporters.

With 99% of expected ballots counted in Wyoming, Hageman led the Republican field with 66.3% of the vote, followed by Cheney with 28.9%, according to Edison Research, an election monitoring firm.

The results were less clear cut in Alaska.

With 72% of expected ballots tallied, Murkowski narrowly led with 42.7% of the vote, followed by Tshibaka at 41.4% and Democrat Patricia Chesbro at 6.2%, according to Edison. The nonpartisan primary format in that state weeds out all but the top four vote-getters.

Murkowski, a moderate who is one of the more independent voices in the Senate, has held the seat since 2003.

Also in Alaska, Edison predicted that no candidate would emerge as a clear winner in the three-way contest to complete the term of Representative Don Young, who died in March.

That race pits Sarah Palin, a former governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee who has been endorsed by Trump, against fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The winner will be announced on August 31.

Both Wyoming and Alaska are reliably Republican, making it unlikely that the results will influence whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats lose their razor-thin majorities in Congress. Republicans are expected to retake the House and also have a chance of winning control of the Senate.

WEEDING OUT TRUMP CRITICS

The ousting of Cheney is the latest sign of Trump’s enduring sway over the Republican Party.

Trump, who has hinted that he will run for president in 2024, made ending Cheney’s congressional career a priority among the 10 House Republicans he targeted for supporting his impeachment in 2021.

Cheney, the daughter of Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney, has used her position on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol riot to keep attention on Trump’s actions that day and his false claims that he won the 2020 election.

Republican leaders are expected to dissolve the Jan. 6 investigation if they win control of the House in November. The representatives in the new Congress take their seats in January.

Hageman, a natural resources lawyer who has embraced Trump’s election lies, criticized Cheney’s concession speech, saying it showed she cared little about the issues facing her state.

“She’s still focusing on an obsession about President Trump and the citizens of Wyoming, the voters of Wyoming sent a very loud message tonight,” Hageman said on Fox News.

Cheney, in the House, voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot, while Murkowski, in the Senate, voted to convict him on that charge. Trump was ultimately acquitted.

Of the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment, it is possible that only one – Dan Newhouse of Washington – will be in Congress after November’s election.

(Reporting by Liliana Salgado in Jackson, Wyoming, and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Eric Beech and Moira Warburton; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and John Stonestreet)


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Plaintiff in first Zantac lawsuit set for trial drops case

By Brendan Pierson and Natalie Grover

(Reuters) -The plaintiff in the first lawsuit over the heartburn drug Zantac scheduled to go to trial has agreed to drop his case, according to his attorney and drugmakers named as defendants.

Tuesday’s news came days after shares of GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Sanofi SA, Pfizer Inc and Haleon Plc were hit by mounting investor concern about thousands of lawsuits claiming the drug, which U.S. regulators pulled from the market in 2020, causes cancer.

The first trial in one of those lawsuits had been scheduled to begin on Monday in Illinois state court. The plaintiff, Joseph Bayer, alleged that he developed esophageal cancer from taking over-the-counter Zantac.

Alexandra Walsh, an attorney for Bayer, said her client could not proceed for “personal health reasons” but had the right to refile his case within a year.

Zantac, originally marketed by a forerunner of GSK, has been sold by several companies at different times, including Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi as well as a plethora of generic drugmakers.

Haleon, spun out as an independent company last month, comprises consumer health assets once owned by GSK and Pfizer.

In a statement on Tuesday, GSK said it had not paid anything in exchange for the voluntary dismissal of the Bayer case.

Seperately on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that a handful of generic companies including Teva, Perrigo, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories agreed to settle with Bayer for a total of more than $500,000 before the case was set to go to trial, citing people familiar with the deal.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Concerns around Zantac – known chemically as ranitidine – containing potential cancer-causing impurities started to emerge in 2018, well after generic versions of the medicine had been launched.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

More than 2,000 lawsuits are consolidated in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, where a hearing on what expert evidence will be allowed in future trials is scheduled for Sept. 20.

The first federal court trials are expected some time next year, though a highly favorable ruling for the companies on evidence could effectively end the litigation before then.

There is considerable uncertainty surrounding the potential total financial impact of the Zantac litigation, Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note on Monday.

“There is also a scenario of zero liability if the defendants win the early cases,” they wrote.

At the heart of the claims is an impurity, called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is considered a probable carcinogen.

U.S. regulators in 2020 determined that the presence of the impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time and when stored at higher than room temperatures – and could therefore result in exposure to unacceptable levels of NDMA.

Meanwhile, Zantac makers strongly contest the once widely used drug’s causal link to cancer, suggesting that NDMA levels in the medicine are close to what was found in common foods like grilled and smoked meats.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru, Brendan Pierson in New York and Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Edmund Blair)


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