New Year’s Eve 2019.
Hi friends. This is my final post on fb. 2.2 billion people, a third of humanity, log on across the planet every hour, I don’t think Zuck will miss me much. Nonetheless, 17 million Americans have left FB in the last two years because of disinformation and political manipulation. Mark Zuckerberg made an additional $27 billion last year alone; he won’t be changing his behaviors any time soon. He throws all that he does under the free speech/innovation bus. His modus operandi has always been to act first, apologize later. Literal early company motto: ‘Move fast and break things.’ Based on past behaviors and weak rhetoric, I don’t think he has the moral compass to steer a moral path. He doesn’t have the emotional or compassionate intelligence to consider the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence. Peter Thiel, a billionaire who sits on his board, is the guy who once wrote democracy was weakened when women received the right to vote. Good guy. Zuckerberg is now at the center of a full-fledged debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and the conscience of its leaders.
In their opinion piece for January 1st, 2020, Idaho Mountain Express offered their New Year’s resolution for fb and Zuckerberg: “To take legal responsibility for what his platform has wrought by making it a publisher instead of a filthy rich exploiter of unsuspecting Americans.” Right on.
In 1915, Louis Brandeis, the reformer and future Supreme Court Justice, testified before a congressional committee about the dangers of corporations large enough that they could achieve a level of near-sovereignty “so powerful that the ordinary social and industrial forces existing are insufficient to cope with it.” He called this the “curse of bigness.” Tim Wu, a Columbia law-school professor and the author of a forthcoming book inspired by Brandeis’s phrase, said “Today, no sector exemplifies more clearly the threat of bigness to democracy than Big Tech.” He added, “When a concentrated private power has such control over what we see and hear, it has a power that rivals or exceeds that of elected government.”
A healthy market should produce competitors to Facebook that position themselves as ethical alternatives, collecting less data and seeking a smaller share of user attention. Like it or not, Zuckerberg is a gatekeeper. The era when Facebook could learn by doing, and fix the mistakes later, is over. The costs are too high, and idealism is not a defense against negligence.
I’ll miss my connections on this platform, my ol’ radio buds, sorority sisters, our community…I even reconnected with a dear junior high school friend from San Diego. We were 14 years old when we met. I will miss the ease in posting and sharing information. I remain hopeful someone will create a new social media site that will allow us to have a nonaddictive, advertising-free space that guards against foreign influence and disinformation, honoring privacy and our personal data. From Free Press: ‘We must have control over how our personal information is used, and prohibit its use to build systems that oppress, discriminate, disenfranchise and exacerbate segregation.’
I don’t Instagram or engage on WhatsApp…all Zuckerberg. I stay with twitter, where I follow various news organizations and journalists, because owner Jack Dorsey has committed to eliminating political ads and just recently launched a research project called Bluesky, researching decentralized technical standards for social media platforms making it easier to enforce rules against hate speech and other abuses.
The early hope for internet democracy has evaporated into a dystopian space that has weakened our democracy with dangerous disinformation, false political ads and foreign algorithms. We haven’t even begun to deal with ‘deep fake’ video yet, given media in general, the press specifically, have not found a way to authenticate what’s real and what isn’t. This virtual mess is only going to get worse.
In India, the largest market for Facebook’s WhatsApp service, hoaxes have triggered riots, lynchings, and fatal beatings. Local officials resorted to shutting down the Internet sixty-five times last year. In Libya, people took to Facebook to trade weapons, and armed groups relayed the locations of targets for artillery strikes. In Sri Lanka, after a Buddhist mob attacked Muslims this spring over a false rumor, a Presidential adviser said, “The germs are ours, but Facebook is the wind.”
Nowhere has the damage been starker than in Myanmar, where the Rohingya Muslim minority has been subject to brutal killings, gang rapes, and torture. In 2012, around one per cent of the country’s population had access to the Internet. Three years later, that figure had reached twenty-five per cent. Phones often came preloaded with the Facebook app, and Buddhist extremists seeking to inflame ethnic tensions with the Rohingya mastered the art of misinformation.
Beginning in 2013, a series of experts on Myanmar met with Facebook officials to warn them that it was fueling attacks on the genocide. David Madden, an entrepreneur based in Myanmar, delivered a presentation to officials at the Menlo Park headquarters, pointing out that the company was playing a role akin to that of the radio broadcasts that spread hatred during the
In 2011, the company asked the FEC [Federal Election Commission] for an exemption to rules requiring the source of funding for political ads to be disclosed. In filings, a Facebook lawyer argued that the agency “should not stand in the way of innovation.” Another default argument. It became a running joke among employees that Facebook could tilt an election just by choosing where to deploy its “I Voted” button.
The 2016 election was <supposed> to be good for Facebook. That January, fb COO and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg told investors that the election would be “a big deal in terms of ad spend,” comparable to the Super Bowl and the World Cup. According to Borrell Associates, a research and consulting firm, candidates and other political groups were on track to spend $1.4 billion online in the election, up ninefold from four years earlier.
During the campaign, Trump used Facebook to raise two hundred and eighty million dollars. Just days before the election, his team paid for a voter-suppression effort on the platform. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, it targeted three Democratic constituencies—“idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans”—sending them videos precisely tailored to discourage them from turning out for Clinton.
***Theresa Hong, the Trump campaign’s digital-content director, later told an interviewer, “Without Facebook we wouldn’t have won.”***
Facebook admits a pro-Trump media outlet used artificial intelligence to create fake people and push conspiracies.
In September of 2017, after Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant, Facebook agreed to give his office an inventory of ads linked to Russia and the details of who had paid for them. In October, Facebook disclosed that Russian operatives had published about eighty thousand posts, reaching a hundred and twenty-six million Americans.
Last year, Facebook spent $11.5 million on lobbying in Washington, ranking it between the American Bankers Association and General Dynamics among top spenders. Money…I mean, power and greed…along with behavior modification technology… pretty much defines how we landed here. FB is the epicenter of persuasive technology.
#2020 is going to be a ride. Buckle up. Stay vigilant. Be proactive consumers of news and information. Take the Pro-Truth pledge. And V O T E. It is imperative we remember our democracy is fragile and it fails without ‘we the people.’ Activist Greta Thunberg wrote today, “This coming decade humanity will decide it’s future. Let’s make it the best one we can. We have to do the impossible. So let’s get started.”
I’ll miss you, my fb friends. Happy New Year. Be safe. Only peace.
[In context of fb’s persuasive behavior modification techniques, my pages will stay active for about 30 days and then evaporate. If I log on anytime during those 30 days post depletion, the pages will re-activate, so I won’t be able to read any comments to my final fb post. Just email me, email@example.com, follow me on twitter, @DayleOhlau, or my website, daylescommunitycafe.com. ♡]
Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare.
My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. My meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .
No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .
In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .
My prayer has led me to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .
-Center for Action and Contemplation
As a platform for disinformation, it is a weapon. To be used intentionally as a platform for disinformation, it is an atomic bomb.
Ad targeting is how Facebook, Google and other online giants won the internet. It’s also key to understanding why these companies are being held responsible for warping elections and undermining democracy, managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes in the opening installment of our “What Matters 2020” series.
- Critics and tech companies are increasingly considering whether limiting targeting of political ads might be one way out of the misinformation maze.
- Giant platforms would still allow campaigns and candidates to purchase political ads — but the companies would stop (either voluntarily or by law) selling messages aimed only at narrow segments of the electorate.
How ad targeting works: Facebook and Google have somewhat different systems for targeting ads, but both allow advertisers to bid on narrowly defined demographic groups or keywords.
- For instance, you can tell Facebook to show your message only to Southern men who don’t have a college degree and earn less than $75,000 — or ask for married suburban moms in three ZIP Codes outside Indianapolis who own SUVs and play tennis.
- In the political ad world, these tools allow candidates and groups to exploit those populations’ anxieties and resentments, efficiently.
The link between ad targeting and misinformation … Tech platforms stand accused of multiple sins, including:
- Improperly collecting users’ data to build massive databases of profiles.
- Allowing politicians and their campaigns to spread lies.
- Creating partisan “echo chambers” and “filter bubbles” that segment reality by ideology.
Facebook and Google didn’t invent these phenomena — they existed pre-internet. But by tying them together, ad targeting can kick misinformation into overdrive:
- Data collection and profile building is what makes ad targeting possible. It’s also what keeps getting tech platforms in trouble with users and governments.
- Campaigns have always shaded the truth and even lobbed false accusations. But in a broadcast world, it was easy for opponents and neutral third parties to witness and call out such behavior.
- In the world of micro-targeted ads, it’s almost impossible — despite transparency efforts like Facebook’s ad library.
- Misleading ads fuel frenzies in the closed-loop worlds of partisan echo chambers long before platforms can step in to bar them.
Banning all political ads vs. banning targeting: Many critics have urged social media platforms to bar political advertising altogether — a move both Google and Facebook have resisted, even as their smaller but politically high-profile competitor Twitter said it would embrace it.
- Facebook argues that such a ban would harm outsider candidates and causes.
- Twitter’s ban is significant, but its ad market share and targeting capabilities are minuscule compared to Facebook’s and Google’s.
The idea of a targeting ban has gained momentum recently, with figures like Bill Gates and FEC chair Ellen Weintraub endorsing it.
- Defenders of the status quo argue that online targeting isn’t fundamentally different from longtime campaign practices like ZIP Code targeting of postal flyers, and they maintain that it’s a free-speech issue.
‘DT, hosted the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for a private dinner at the White House last month.
NBC News revealed that the meeting, which had not previously been disclosed, took place when Zuckerberg was in Washington being grilled by Congress over topics including Facebook’s limited steps to ban to misinformation in political advertising.
NBC (also) reported the billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a conservative who donated to Trump’s 2016 campaign and sits on Facebook’s board, was also present at the meeting.’
Thiel, who is the chairman of private data technology company Palantir, donated $1.25m to DT’s 2016 presidential campaign. In August a report by Mijente, a Latinx organizing not-for-profit, found that Palantir has more than $1.5bn in federal government contracts.
[According to Forbes, Thiel has a net worth of $2.5 billion.]
“…an essay published in 2009, (Thiel) surprised many when he wrote that giving women the right to vote — by constitutional amendment in 1920 — was a blow to democracy.”
The note, titled “A Difficult Week,” came six days after stories in the New York Times and the Observer revealed how political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had obtained and exploited the data of millions of Facebook users for political advertising purposes. After those revelations, Stamos, who had reportedly previously clashed with other executives over Facebook’s handling of Russian state-sponsored misinformation and election interference on the platform, confirmed his plans to leave by August. According to the post, his departure had long been in the works following an internal reorganization that left him with fewer responsibilities, and it was not directly related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“We need to listen to people (including internally) when they tell us a feature is creepy or point out a negative impact we are having in the world,” the note continued. “We need to deprioritize short-term growth and revenue and to explain to Wall Street why that is ok. We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues. And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”
“I was the Chief Security Officer during the 2016 election season, and I deserve as much blame (or more) as any other exec at the company,” Stamos wrote, hoping to dispel the notion that he was some type of “hero” standing up to CEO Mark Zuckerberg or Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. In a story about his departure, the Times reported that Stamos had favored more disclosure around Russian disinformation campaigns and organizational changes to allow for heavier policing of the platform — ideas that were met with resistance from other Facebook executives. Stamos later disputed that narrative on Twitter. -Buzzfeed
Sitting on fb’s board of directors is Silicon Valley billionaire is Peter Thiel who wrote in 2009 that women getting the vote was bad for democracy. He sits next to fb CEO Sheryl Sandberg who encouraged young women to “Lean In”, and the ways women ‘hold ourselves back.’ Perhaps refraining from hiring misogynists would help women ‘achieve their goals.’ https://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/peter-thiel-women…
[photo: SV Allen & Co Conference]
Full list of fb administers and board: