Georgetown Official: Illegal Immigrants Are “Freedom Fighters”

Georgetown Official: Illegal Immigrants Are “Freedom Fighters”

Authored by Jessica Custodio via Campus Reform,

Georgetown University named a new Associate Director for Undocumented Students, who referred to illegal immigrants as “freedom fighters.”

While not a new position, the role does highlight ongoing efforts by universities across the country to aid illegal immigrants, provide additional benefits and resources, some of which are not even available to American citizens, and even offer free legal assistance to fight deportation.

The position at Georgetown, though, is part of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, which the university describes as “support[ing] students of color at Georgetown University in a variety of ways.” The center says it “can provide you with someone to talk to about personal issues or concerns,” “a chance to explore diversity issues,” and “affordable options for textbooks, printing, or summer housing.”

In an email to Georgetown’s newspaper, Jennifer Crewalk, the new Georgetown associate director for undocumented students, said,

“I’m looking forward to focusing on community healing, the present needs of our students, but also ask all of us to be visionaries for what is possible for the near future, our undocumented students are the freedom fighters of this moment and time, and they are helping to awaken people to how important it is for our communities to be conscious.”

According to the Georgetown Hoya, Charlene Brown-McKenze, director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access said, “Georgetown provides Undocumented Student Resources to ensure the dignity and care of all members of the university community, Jennifer comes to Georgetown with experience and passion that will serve her well as the new Director for Undocumented Students.”

Crewalk told the campus newspaper that “building a conscious community can educate and move people toward awareness of their own privilege when people acknowledge their own privileges, they can better advocate for others.”

Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told Campus Reform, “it’s bad enough that my alma mater is using tuition payments from American parents to serve the needs of illegal immigrants, but to refer to foreign citizens living here in defiance of American law as ‘freedom fighters’ is an obscenity.” 

“It is really consistent with the ‘Jesuit values’ Georgetown claims to espouse to claim that the lawfully enacted statutes of the United States are so illegitimate that those defying them are ‘freedom fighters’?” Krikorian added.

According to Georgetown University’s website, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access currently has a staff of 11 people, including three program coordinators, two associate directors, and two assistant directors for separate campus programs and initiatives.

Georgetown, a Jesuit Catholic institution, also has an LGBTQ Resource Center, which is promoted as the “first such Center of its kind at a Catholic/Jesuit institution in the country.” 

As Campus Reform has also reported, Gonzaga University, another Catholic Jesuit institution, recently opened a new “LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic.”

Crewalk and Georgetown University did not respond to Campus Reform in time for publication. 


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 18:25

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/32xzsvX Tyler Durden

Facial-Recognition Company That Worried Privacy Advocates Has Entire Client List Stolen

Facial-Recognition Company That Worried Privacy Advocates Has Entire Client List Stolen

A Manhattan-based facial recognition company that uses artificial intelligence to collect data from unsuspecting social media users has reported that its entire client list has been stolen.

The company, Clearview AI, has developed an app which allows anyone to snap a picture of someone which is then compared to a database of more than 3 billion photos that the company has scraped off Facebook, Venmo, YouTube and other sites, before serving up matches along with links to the sites where the database photos originally appeared.

Clearview AI has partnered with law enforcement agencies around the country, however it was unknown exactly how many or who they were. That may not be the case for much longer, after an intruder “gained unauthorized access” to its customer list – along with data on the number of searches its customers have conducted, as well as how many user accounts have been set up, according to the Daily Beast.

The company raised concerns among privacy advocates after a New York Times article described their work with law enforcement agencies, with over 40 organizations signing a letter calling for an independent watchdog to recommend a ban on government use of facial recognition technology.

The company claims that there was “no compromise of Clearview’s systems or network,” and that the vulnerability has been breached. Specific search histories were not obtained.

“Security is Clearview’s top priority,” said company attorney Tor Ekeland. “Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw, and continue to work to strengthen our security.”

The firm drew national attention when The New York Times ran a front-page story about its work with law-enforcement agencies. The Times reported that the company scraped 3 billion images from the internet, including from Facebook, YouTube, and Venmo. That process violated Facebook’s terms of service, according to the paper. It also created a resource that drew the attention of hundreds of law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, according to that report. In a follow-up story, the Times reported that law-enforcement officials have used the tools to identify children who are victims of sexual abuse. One anonymous Canadian law-enforcement official told the paper that Clearview was “the biggest breakthrough in the last decade” for investigations of those crimes. Daily Beast

David Forscey, managing director of the non-profit Aspen Cybersecurity Group said that the breach is concerning.

“If you’re a law-enforcement agency, it’s a big deal, because you depend on Clearview as a service provider to have good security, and it seems like they don’t.”


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 18:05

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3cj9ilg Tyler Durden

Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane

Marijuana possession and distribution is illegal under federal law.  Nonetheless, a majority of states have legalized medical marijuana to some degree, and several more states have legalized marijuana possession and use for even recreational purposes. As a practical matter, this means individuals are able to possess and use marijuana without significant fear of prosecution throughout much of the United States. Yet the federal prohibition still influences business decisions related to marijuana as the specter of federal action remains.

Next month, the Brookings Institution will publish my new book, Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane, an edited volume exploring the implications of the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, and suggesting how the proper reforms could harness federalism to produce better marijuana policy.

As I explain in the introduction,  even though the Justice Department has not sought to preempt or displace state-level reforms, the federal prohibition casts a long shadow across state-level legalization efforts. This federal-state conflict presents multiple important and challenging policy questions that often get overlooked in policy debates over whether to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Yet in a “compound republic” like the United States, this federal-state conflict is particularly important if one wishes to understand marijuana law and policy today.

The book’s introduction, “Our Federalism on Drugs,” is available on SSRN. The book itself may be ordered through Amazon.

Here’s a listing of the other chapters:

1. Public Opinion and America’s Experimentation with Cannabis Reform – John Hudak and Christine Stenglein

2. The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: An Update – Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard, and Jeffrey Miron

3. The Smoke Next Time: Nullification, Commandeering, and the Future of Marijuana Regulation – Ernest A. Young

4. Murphy’s Mistake, and How to Fix It – Robert A. Mikos

5. Federal Nonenforcement: A Dubious Precedent – Zachary S. Price

6. Banks and the Marijuana Industry – Julie Andersen Hill

7. Legal Advice for Marijuana Business Entities – Cassandra Burke Robertson

8. The Contingent Federal Power to Regulate Marijuana – William Baude

 

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/3ae1Sxs
via IFTTT

Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane

Marijuana possession and distribution is illegal under federal law.  Nonetheless, a majority of states have legalized medical marijuana to some degree, and several more states have legalized marijuana possession and use for even recreational purposes. As a practical matter, this means individuals are able to possess and use marijuana without significant fear of prosecution throughout much of the United States. Yet the federal prohibition still influences business decisions related to marijuana as the specter of federal action remains.

Next month, the Brookings Institution will publish my new book, Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane, an edited volume exploring the implications of the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, and suggesting how the proper reforms could harness federalism to produce better marijuana policy.

As I explain in the introduction,  even though the Justice Department has not sought to preempt or displace state-level reforms, the federal prohibition casts a long shadow across state-level legalization efforts. This federal-state conflict presents multiple important and challenging policy questions that often get overlooked in policy debates over whether to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Yet in a “compound republic” like the United States, this federal-state conflict is particularly important if one wishes to understand marijuana law and policy today.

The book’s introduction, “Our Federalism on Drugs,” is available on SSRN. The book itself may be ordered through Amazon.

Here’s a listing of the other chapters:

1. Public Opinion and America’s Experimentation with Cannabis Reform – John Hudak and Christine Stenglein

2. The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: An Update – Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard, and Jeffrey Miron

3. The Smoke Next Time: Nullification, Commandeering, and the Future of Marijuana Regulation – Ernest A. Young

4. Murphy’s Mistake, and How to Fix It – Robert A. Mikos

5. Federal Nonenforcement: A Dubious Precedent – Zachary S. Price

6. Banks and the Marijuana Industry – Julie Andersen Hill

7. Legal Advice for Marijuana Business Entities – Cassandra Burke Robertson

8. The Contingent Federal Power to Regulate Marijuana – William Baude

 

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/3ae1Sxs
via IFTTT

Propaganda, Money-Printing, & Trump-Tweets Cannot Overcome A Global Pandemic

Propaganda, Money-Printing, & Trump-Tweets Cannot Overcome A Global Pandemic

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

Spirits In The Material World

There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

As I was driving home from work last week, an almost forty-year-old song began emanating from my radio. I’ve always appreciated the music of The Police, but was never a huge fan. Spirits in the Material World was a relatively minor hit from their 1981 Ghost in the Machine multi-platinum album. I’ve probably heard it hundreds of times over the last four decades, but the lyrics struck me as particularly apropos at the end of a week where lunatic left-wing politicians staged a battle royale of ineptitude, invective, and idiotic solutions, in front of a perplexed public in a Vegas casino. Sting wrote the lyrics to this song in 1981 at the outset of the Reagan presidency. It is less than 3 minutes in length, but says much about humanity and the world we inhabit.

The interpretation of Sting’s (Gordon Sumner) lyrics depends upon your position in the generational kaleidoscope of history. As a boomer, Sting came of age during the 1960s and 70s. He was thirty years old in 1981 as the Second Turning (Awakening) was winding down and Reagan’s Morning in America was about to launch the Third Turning (Unraveling) in 1984.

His passionate idealism and search for spiritual solutions to the problems of the day had not been extinguished. The raging inflation of the 1970s had led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Cold War was at its coldest. Politicians had been discredited as criminal (Nixon) or incompetent (Carter). Sting and many others of his generation had lost faith in the political system. His viewpoint fit perfectly into the Strauss and Howe assessment of our last Awakening period (1964 – 1984).

“Young activists and spiritualists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural poverty. America’s most recent Awakening was the “Consciousness Revolution,” which spanned from the campus and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early ‘80s. Coming of age during this Awakening was the Prophet archetype Boom Generation (born 1943 to 1960), whose passionate idealism and search for authentic self-expression epitomized the mood of the era.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Sting’s opening lyrics were accurate in 1981. The spiritual was about to give way to the material. Another turning was in progress. Individualism and self-actualization were about to come into vogue. The “Me” generation was taking control. Society was about to be transformed by a “greed is good” mentality. The term “material world” was about to transform our nation. For the next two decades stock markets boomed, taxes were slashed, crony capitalism flourished, deficit spending became the norm, consumers consumed on credit, globalism was preached by the ruling class, and we devolved into debt serfs.

As the Unraveling unraveled in the early 2000s, with the dot.com debacle, 9/11, Iraq War, Wall Street created housing collapse, and ultimately the financial system crash in 2008, a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders swept over the country.

The Fourth Turning had arrived.

The “no bloody revolution” lyric struck a nerve when I heard it. Sting was right in 1981. Bloody revolutions don’t happen during Awakenings or Unravelings. But they do happen during Fourth Turning Crisis periods. There is no possibility of political solutions. The nation has split into competing camps, with no possibility of compromise or negotiated settlements. Our culture has been degraded. After decades of gorging on iGadgets, luxury automobiles, McMansions, and keeping up with the Joneses, the cynicism and desperation of the masses is palatable.

Greed, swindles, delusion and avarice have created an unpayable mountain of debt, severely risking the future of our country, and producing social disorder which will lead to bloodshed. There is a simmering rage just below the surface of a superficial civility, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. The 2016 ascension of Trump against the wishes of the Republican establishment and Sanders’ current ascension against the wishes of the Democrat establishment is proof the existing social order is rapidly losing control and will be swept away in a torrent of violence once the debt dam ruptures. The mood darkens by the day.

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
They subjugate the meek
But it’s the rhetoric of failure

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

Sting’s inspiration for the song was the writings of Hungarian author and philosopher Arthur Koestler, whose book Ghost in the Machine was employed as the album name. Koestler’s life had many similarities to other authors of his time, like Orwell, Huxley, Steinbeck and Hemingway. In his youth he supported socialist causes, but like Orwell, became a staunch anti-communist. Koestler believed outside influences could destroy our spirit and restrict our thinking. The “spirits” and “ghosts” Koestler wrote about were the individual’s higher sense of life that gets lost in the “machine”, twisted by overbearing governments, mega-corporations, and a traitorous Deep State.

Our so- called leaders speak and offer nothing but lies, misinformation and propaganda. The ruling class has subjugated the meek by using government schooling to dumb down the masses, using Bernaysian propaganda techniques to control their wants and needs, and manipulating their ignorance by convincing them buying material goods with high interest debt leads to wealth. It’s the rhetoric of failure for average Americans, but the rhetoric of success for bankers, politicians, corporate executives, and the billionaire oligarch class. Sting explained his thought process regarding the song:

“I thought that while political progress is clearly important in resolving conflict around the world, there are spiritual (as opposed to religious) aspects of our recovery that also need to be addressed. I suppose by ‘spiritual’ I mean the ability to see the bigger picture, to be able to step outside the narrow box of our conditioning and access those higher modes of thinking that Koestler talked about. Without this, politics is just the rhetoric of failure.”

Sting perfectly captures a fundamental truth of our manipulated society. We have been conditioned through hidden mechanisms wielded by the Deep State, forming our habits, beliefs and opinions as they decree. The ruling class allows the plebs to believe they make their own choices at the voting booth, but they hand pick the politicians and tell you who to choose, at least until recently. Politics is nothing but a rigged game, just like our financial markets. It’s a failure for hard working honest people, but enriches the corrupt chieftains calling the shots.  Edward Bernays revealed the truth about how the world really works ninety-two years ago:

“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda – 1928

We are spirits in this material world. The physical world dominates the thought processes and actions of the majority and it most certainly is all that matters to the ruling class. Only the earthly success measurements matter to those controlling our society. Wealth, power and control over others drives the actions of these arrogant, despicable, evil men. They have no interest in the spiritual realm, the welfare of mankind, or doing what is moral and right. Money and materialism have become the golden calf worshipped by the heathen oligarchs and desired by the common people. We’ve traded the treasure of everlasting spiritual enlightenment for transient earthly mammon. Our culture of greed and celebrating aberrational behavior has sunk to a new low.

Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it’s something we can’t buy
There must be another way

We are spirits in the material world

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

There must be another way. We are halfway through this Fourth Turning and answers are few. The questions are many. Humanity’s tendency toward self-destruction is a spectacle which reaches its zenith during Fourth Turnings. Decades of bad choices, living for today, accumulating insane levels of debt, and being deluded by the powers that be, has created a culture of alienation, greed, violence and materialism. The coronavirus pandemic, rapidly spreading across the globe, has the potential to dramatically shift the stranglehold of big business, big government, globalism, and Deep State surveillance over our lives.

Are the ghosts about to conquer the machine? Will the spiritual side of humanity arise once again and defeat the powers of evil who currently control the levers of society? A struggle against dark forces awaits the good people who choose the truth over the lies plied by the corrupt establishment.

The winner-take-all battle between good and evil approaches swiftly. Those with a spiritual basis for their actions will be pitted against those driven by greed, authority and oppression. This coronavirus pandemic, whether biologically weaponized by government authorities to further their agenda of control through fear, or organically formed through genetic mutations in filthy third world countries, appears to be the catalyst which will propel us into the ether of death and devastation, pervasive during the climax of Fourth Turnings. I’ve never been less sure about the future than I am today.

Is the planet about to experience a worldwide contagion that kills millions and brings global economic activity to a standstill, triggering a collapse in outrageously overvalued markets and implosion of the mountain of global debt? Or will the Deep State and their pliable servants utilize standard fear mongering techniques to further enslave a populace insufficiently capable of distinguishing reality from make believe.

The establishment will continue to lie and cheat because they are anchored in the material world and its ephemeral riches. They hate those who do not fall into line and can’t be corrupted by earthly riches. Either scenario will ultimately result in a showdown between good and evil. We all have choices to make. Will we ascend into the light of the spiritual or descend into the darkness of demons?

A complete collapse in trust is on the horizon. The excesses of materialism and greed have reached their zenith. Propaganda, money printing and Trump tweets cannot overcome a global pandemic. The ineptitude of government agencies and cluelessness of government bureaucrats has been on display in China and will be laid bare in the U.S. when the coronavirus continues its rampage across the globe. It will also reveal the propensity of government to act in a totalitarian manner when they are given free rein to control our lives. This virus will expose the fascist nature of our surveillance state and their incompetent response to a life or death crisis on our doorstep.

A crisis where life or death hangs in the balance will force people to focus on the spiritual aspects of life and make choices about what kind of world they want to leave for future generations. As this coronavirus brings our interconnected global just in time economy to a halt and millions once again see their 401ks evaporate, materialism will lose the admiration of the masses and people will begin to realize humanity can only survive and thrive if we adjust our priorities towards liberty, reason, responsibility, and doing what’s right today in order to leave a viable future for our children. The dark clouds of a monster storm on the horizon beckons. We will be forced to make difficult choices. Hopefully, enough people will make the right choices.

Perceptive paleontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s quote captures the essence of our existence on this earth and our true purpose during our eighty year or so presence in this world:

*  *  *

The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:45

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2I45pmg Tyler Durden

Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Within hours of a meeting between Turkish and Russian diplomats in Ankara ending which saw the Turkish delegation urge its counterparts to immediately establish a cease-fire in Idlib, there are new reports of that dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed by a new wave of Russian airstrikes.

Reporters on the ground in Syria say that between 32 and 37 Turkish soldiers were killed. Turkish state sources have confirmed at least 22 dead with scores wounded.

Journalist Lindsey Snell has cited Turkish Free Syrian Army (TFSA) sources which confirm 32 Turkish national troop deaths so far in the strike.

Amid the breaking reports The Washington Post’s Liz Sly says Turkish President Erdogan has called an emergency security meeting of his military leaders over the alleged Russian attack. 

Despite widespread initial reports that it was a Russian airstrike, Turkish state media has thus far used the interesting wording of “Assad regime forces” conducting the strike and not Russia.

This after heavy clashes today in Idlib towns have been ongoing related to the Syrian Army’s major offensive in the south of the province. 

Regional reporter Emma Beals writes

Initial reports say a large number of Turkish soldiers killed today in Idlib. Lots of activity now at Reyhanli hospital in Turkey. Erdogan chairing an emergency meeting right now, with CHP party chairing their own tonight as well.

“If all confirmed, could signal major escalation,” she added of the breaking story.

“Updated reports indicate a two-story building used by Turkey’s military as a command headquarters was leveled in a targeted Russian airstrike,” Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister writes

“Requests by Ankara to fly in helicopters to evacuate casualties were rejected by Hmeymin Airbase; casualties were driven by land,” he added.

And immediately on the heels of today’s dramatic escalation, Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging Trump to impose a No Fly Zone over Idlib.

Turkey appears to have cut off Twitter access to the entire country.

developing…


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:25

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/396JI0J Tyler Durden

Steven Seagal Charged By SEC For Unlawfully Touting 2018 ICO

Steven Seagal Charged By SEC For Unlawfully Touting 2018 ICO

Authored by Andrey Shevchenko via CoinTelegraph.com,

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged actor Steven Seagal for promoting an initial coin offering (ICO) without disclosing that he was paid for it. He was ordered to pay back over $330,000 to the commission.

image courtesy of CoinTelegraph

In March 2018, Steven Seagal was contracted by ICO project “Bitcoiin2Gen” (B2G) to promote the sale on his social media channels, as well as appearing as a brand ambassador in the project’s marketing materials.

While he was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 in B2G tokens, the Feb. 27 disclosure by the SEC maintains that he only received $157,000 from his promotional deal.

The actor agreed on settled charges with the commission, promising to pay approximately $330,000 to the commission. The sum corresponds to double the amount he received from the project, plus $16,000 of prejudgement interest.

The SEC specifically targeted Seagal for failing to disclose that his endorsement of the project was paid for, which is a direct circumvention of its regulations.

“Celebrities are not allowed to use their social media influence to tout securities without appropriately disclosing their compensation,” noted Kristina Littman, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit.

Steven Seagal’s background

The actor is known for several high-profile action films released between the late 80s and the early 2000s, including “Under Siege,” “The Patriot” and “Above the Law.”

Seagal is a Buddhist, claiming in 1997 to have been given the title of tulku — the reincarnation of the Buddhist lama — by a Buddhist high priest. For this reason, he was announced by the B2G project as a “Zen master.”

Seagal currently lives in Moscow, Russia, and he acquired both Serbian and Russian citizenship. In 2018 he became a special envoy of the Russian government to “promote friendly relations” with the United States.

In 2013, he was a special guest of Ramzan Kadyrov, the governor of the Chechen Autonomous Republic. Kadyrov is known for his strongman attitude and alleged human rights violations.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:05

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Tjyu2h Tyler Durden

A New Book Reveals Facebook’s Problems Started Way Before the 2016 Election

“It remains uncertain whether anything that happened on Facebook made a significant difference in the 2016 election,” Steven Levy writes in his introduction to Facebook: The Inside Story. This is a sentence the reader has to keep in mind throughout Levy’s new book, which documents how the seeds of what has gone wrong for the company were planted years before 2016 in a series of heedless or needlessly aggressive decisions that are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the company itself. 

When it comes to what we actually can prove about the 2016 votes in the United Kingdom (which resulted in Brexit) and in the United States (which gave us President Donald Trump), it’s never been demonstrated that Facebook and its ad policies made any difference. Even so, it’s now indisputable that various political actors (including Russia) have tried to use Facebook that way, and that the company made it easy for them to try. 

Levy’s introductory chapter is designed to show both the reputational heights Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his company briefly reached and the depths to which they’ve both now fallen. The author draws a brisk line between Zuckerberg’s triumphant surprise visit to Lagos, Nigeria, in August 2016—where he meets a range of programmers and would-be startup entrepreneurs as well as top government officials—and the unexpected outcome of the American election in November that year. The latter inspired a gathering storm of critics to point directly at Facebook as the source of that outcome’s unexpectedness. 

This juxtaposition works to draw readers into the thematic heart of the book but also suggests, a bit misleadingly, that Facebook’s massive loss of public regard starting in 2016 was an abrupt, unexpected one. But what the author documents in his introductory chapter and throughout the book is that Facebook’s unforced errors have amounted to a car crash more of the slow-motion variety; you can’t look away, but also it never seems to end.

Nothing in Levy’s narrative arc for Facebook and its principal founder will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the company’s fortunes over the 15 years. You could fill a specialty bookstore with nothing but Facebook-related books published in the last decade or so, starting with Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, later adapted by Aaron Sorkin for the David Fincher-directed movie The Social Network. Mezrich’s book, and almost all of the books published about Facebook since then, fall into two broad categories: (1) Look At The Great Things These Geniuses Have Done, or (2) Look At All The Pathological Things These Twisted Guys Have Done. With the exception of David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect (a book on the company’s early years that Levy credits by name in his acknowledgments), the authors of most of these other books typically have tried to distill the story of Facebook into lessons—either what not to do or what must be done—regarding social media and big tech-company successes. One way or another, they’ve almost all had axes to grind.

That was never going to be the kind of story Levy—whose 2011 book on Google, In The Plex, is the best journalistic account of that company’s history and its impact on the tech world—would write about Facebook. Levy’s books and his admirably accessible body of tech journalism for journals from Newsweek to MacWorld to Wired consistently demonstrate how he’s driven by the facts rather than by any philosophical or political agenda. And that’s exactly why, once Levy has layered on so many new facts about Facebook, its principals, and its various lapses and betrayals, piling on the details from hundreds of interviews, putting all the pieces of every part of Facebook’s story into one place, his most even-handed conclusions are still damning:

“The troubled post-election version of Facebook was by no means a different company from the one it was before, but instead very much a continuation of what started in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room 15 years earlier. It is a company that benefits from and struggles with the legacy of its origin, its hunger for growth, and its idealistic and terrifying mission. Its audaciousness—and that of its leader—led it to be so successful. And that same audaciousness came with a punishing price.”

And what was that price? Per Levy, “Facebook now admits that the damage [from the company’s decisions to promote rapid growth over everything else] turned out far more extensive than expected, and is not easily repaired. All the while Mark Zuckerberg and his team insist, despite the scandals, that Facebook is still overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.”

Even now—even after reading Levy’s increasingly unhappy account of Facebook’s growth in size and profitability on the one hand and its growth in scandalously negligent or callous treatment of users and their data on the other—I’m still inclined to agree that Facebook is a force for good. I’m biased: Were it not for our ability to stay in touch on Facebook while half a world apart, the woman who became my wife in 2017 and I would not be married today. But, just as important, I’ve seen so many instances in which individual users and communities have found constructive uses for Facebook’s many features, ranging from the broadly political to the deeply personal. I’ve been a defender of some of Facebook’s approaches to real problems, such as its Internet.org project (later known as Free Basics) and its (apparent) commitment to end-to-end encryption.

But again and again in Levy’s book I stumble across things like Facebook’s deployment of a mobile app called Onavo Protect, which purported to provide VPN (virtual private network) services for one’s phone, but whose real purpose was to gather user data about how they used other apps. For a year or two I had that Onavo app on my own damned phone! As Levy writes, “it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to present people with a privacy tool whose purpose was to gain their data.”

Far more common in the Facebook story than perverse examples like Onavo Protect are the occasions in which the company failed to anticipate problems that would arise from the markets it pushed itself into with little awareness of how its services might be misused—especially in the absence of Facebook personnel who spoke the dominant languages in those markets and who might at least theoretically identify content that violated Facebook’s content policies or other problematic uses. Take Myanmar, for example. Levy shows that Facebook learned in 2014 about how its services were being used maliciously in Myanmar, a country where large-scale mobile-phone internet access was just taking off. 

I learned about Facebook’s impact in Myanmar at roughly the same time through my contacts in Burmese civil society, and my first reaction was just as brain-dead as Facebook’s turned out to be. When I was told that incidents of civil violence were being reported on Facebook, my first thought was that this was positive—that the increasing ubiquity of smartphones with cameras was making rogue government officials and factions more accountable. What I didn’t immediately grasp (my Burmese friends politely schooled me), and what Facebook took far longer to grasp, was that false reports of crime and sexual assaults were being used to stir up violence against innocents, with a growing genocidal focus on the country’s oppressed and persecuted Rohingya minority. Levy then outlines how Facebook’s property WhatsApp, with its end-to-end encryption features and its built-in ability to amplify messages, including pro-violence messages, exacerbated the civil-discord problem in Myanmar (just as it eventually was shown to have done in the Philippines and in Brazil):

“Facebook contracted with a firm called BSR to investigate its activity in Myanmar. It found that Facebook rushed into a country where digital illiteracy was rampant: most Internet users did not know how to open a browser or set up an email account or assess online content. Yet their phones were preinstalled with Facebook. The report said that the hate speech and misinformation on Facebook suppressed the expression of Myanmar’s most vulnerable users. And worse: ‘Facebook has become a useful platform for those seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm.’ A UN report had reached a similar conclusion.” 

It’s fair to note, as Facebook’s defenders (who sometimes have included me) have noted, that all new communications technologies are destined to be misused by somebody. But Facebook’s reckless stress on its grow-first-fix-problems-later strategy more or less guaranteed that the most harmful aspects of the misuses of these new media would be exacerbated rather than mitigated. By 2018, the company began to realize it was at the bottom of a reputational hole and needed to stop digging; when Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate in 2018, he responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D–Vt.) question about Myanmar by saying “what’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more.”

That last line is a theme that appears again and again in the final third of the book, uttered by different top executives at Facebook. “We know we have more work to do,” an exec responded when reporters revealed that Facebook’s AI-fueled self-service ad product created the targeted category “Jew haters.”

Writes Levy: “Investigative reporters at ProPublica found 2,274 potential users identified by Facebook as fitting that category, one of more than 26,000 provided by Facebook, which apparently never vetted the [category] list itself.” When Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a Google veteran, met with the Congressional Black Caucus, she didn’t have a particularly strong defense for Facebook’s having (in Levy’s words) “hosted Russian propaganda that fueled white prejudice against black people” or violating civil-rights laws “because it allowed advertisers to discriminate against African-Americans.” Sandberg was reduced to “repeating, almost like a mantra, ‘We will do better.'” Sandberg later told Levy that “I walked out of there saying we, and I, have a lot of work to do.” This has become the paradigmatic Facebook response when any new scandal emerges from the company’s shortsighted strategic choices to privilege growth over due diligence. 

If there is one major exception to the company’s institutional willingness to plunge ahead into new markets and new opportunities to reap revenue, it is its cautiousness in dealing with American conservatives, primarily driven by Facebook’s head of global policy, Joel Kaplan. Levy writes that

“for years right-wing conservatives had been complaining that Facebook—run by those liberals in Silicon Valley—discriminated against them by down-ranking their posts. The claim was unsupported by data, and by many measures conservative content was overrepresented on Facebook. Fox News routinely headed the list of most-shared posts on the service, and even smaller right-wing sites like the Daily Wire were punching above their weight.” 

Facebook’s intense desire to be perceived as lacking political bias seems to have led to policies and outreach efforts—including a big powwow in Menlo Park where Zuckerberg and Sandberg personally attempted to mollify prominent conspiracy theorists like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck–that added up to white-glove treatment for American conservatives. Beck, at least, told Levy he was impressed with Zuckerberg’s sincerity: “I sat across the table from him to try to gauge him [and he] was a little enigmatic, but I thought he was trying to do the right thing.” Even so, Levy writes, “after leaving Menlo Park the conservatives returned to complaining about Facebook’s treatment of them—while piling up millions of views because of their skill in exploiting Facebook’s algorithms.”

The attempts to accommodate conservative critics, occurring simultaneously with Facebook’s promises to “do better” on other content moderation issues, illustrate the bind in which the company now finds itself. It’s voicing its commitment to be more proactive in moderating malicious content and disinformation while simultaneously reassuring the squeakiest political wheels that, no, their content and policies won’t be subjected to any Facebook-imposed test of factuality or truth. In other words, it’s promising both to police more content and to police content less. Facebook’s laboring now to create a “content oversight board,” a kind of “Supreme Court” where Facebook content decisions can be appealed.

I’m skeptical of that whole oversight-board project—not least because it seems largely to sidestep the other big bucket of problems for Facebook, which is its handling of user data. I’m also skeptical about broad claims that Facebook’s content algorithms and ads truly manipulate us—in the sense of robbing us of ordinary human independence and agency—but that skepticism has no bearing on the ethical question of whether Facebook should allow malign actors to exploit user data in efforts to manipulate us (e.g., by suppressing voter turnout). Whether those efforts are effective or not isn’t relevant to the ethical questions, just as when a drunk in a bar misses when he swings at you has no bearing on whether he can be charged with attempted assault. 

Finally, I’m most skeptical as to whether anything Facebook tries to do on its own is going to either restore Facebook’s public reputation or blunt the impulse of government policymakers, both in the United States and elsewhere, to impose hobbling and even punitive regulation on the entire social-media industry (and on the tech industry generally). 

It’s clear that one reason Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been scrambling to find an accommodation that works—first and foremost with the U.S. government but also with the European Union (E.U.) and with non-E.U. nations—is that they know they need to get out of the crosshairs, especially as more of their company’s story continues to come to light. Their problem now is that Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story has instantly become the indispensable single-volume resource for all policymakers everywhere when it comes to Facebook—not because it sets out to take the company down, but because the facts it reports leave readers with no choice but to recognize how the company’s indisputable successes have been undermined by its indisputable systemic deficiencies. 

My takeaway is that Facebook could still manage a win out of all this—if it seizes this moment as an opportunity to embrace an ethical framework that’s designed for something bigger than just solving Facebook problems. I don’t believe the company’s bad behavior (or negligence—there’s plenty of both) can tell us what to think of this whole sector of the internet economy and what industry-level regulation or law should look like. As I’ve argued in my own book, I believe a new ethical framework has to be built and shared, industry-wide (affecting more companies than just Facebook). It needs to be informed by all stakeholders, including users, governments, and civil society as well as the companies themselves—and it needs to privilege fiduciary obligations to users and the general public even over any commitment to growth and profitability. Part of these obligations will entail, yes, a commitment to fighting disinformation, treating it as a cybersecurity problem—even when political stakeholders complain. 

That’s just my view—other critics will argue for different approaches, some of which will center on more regulation or laws or other government interventions, while others will argue for fewer but better-crafted ones. But what all Facebook’s critics, and the tech industry’s critics, will have in common is this: going forward, we all will be citing stuff we learned from Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story.

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/2T3f5DM
via IFTTT

Is Trump Deliberately Sandbagging New York’s Landmark Transportation Policy?

New York’s plan to impose a congestion toll on drivers entering the lower parts of Manhattan has hit a bump in the road, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) repeatedly claiming that federal officials are slow-walking needed approval of the policy.

“The federal approval, frankly, we just assumed it was going to be almost pro forma. They’re now using that opportunity to stop congestion pricing,” Cuomo told reporters on Monday, according to The New York Times.

The governor made the same claim last week according to the New York Post, saying in another press conference “Will [the Trump administration] hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes. That’s how they do business.”

New York’s congestion pricing plan was passed in April 2019 as part of the state’s budget. It would impose a toll on all drivers entering Manhattan streets below 60th Street, save for motorists who drive only on the island’s West Side Highway or FDR Drive.

The plan requires that some 80 percent of the revenue from these congestion tolls be spent on the city’s subway, with another 10 percent being dedicated to regional rail services.

The plan calls for having the tolls in place by January 2021, but there are still a number of details to be worked out, including how high congestion tolls should be, and who should get credits or exemptions.

That requires difficult political wrangling with powerful constituencies, from cops to truckers, who all have argued they deserve a carve-out. It also requires New York to get permission from the federal government.

Currently, there exists a general prohibition on states and localities adding tolls to roads that were funded in part by the federal government. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) does administer a couple of programs that make exceptions to this ban. That includes the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP), through which the federal government can approve pilot congestion pricing programs to reduce congestion on existing roads.

Receiving authorization through VPPP also requires proposals to go through environmental reviews mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). How long that will take all depends on what level of NEPA review federal officials deem appropriate.

If New York were lucky, it would receive a categorical exemption from NEPA. More likely it will have to prepare an Environmental Assessment (an intermediate level of review) or worse, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Those run an average of 670 pages and can take years to complete.

Right now, the FHWA is in the middle of determining which level of NEPA New York’s congestion pricing scheme requires. That determination will tell New York officials what information they’ll have to prepare for the feds.

Officials with the New York City government and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—the state agency that runs buses and trains in New York City—say they’ve been trying to get an answer from the feds about what kind of report they need to prepare since April 2019.

An FHWA spokesperson told Reason that the agency didn’t receive the supplemental information it needed to make a NEPA determination until January 2020, and it’s that delay, not Cuomo’s claimed political interference, that’s dictating the pace of federal review.

As recently as February 8, Cuomo told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t concerned about the potential for the Trump administration to hold things up for political reasons.

The governor could be doing a lot more to speed things along in the face of federal delays, argues Manhattan Institute transportation scholar Nicole Gelinas, who wrote in the New York Post:

[Cuomo could] have directed the MTA to take a more aggressive posture. The MTA could have prepared a short “environmental assessment,” hiring consultants to say the scheme will help the environment by discouraging people from driving. The MTA could start preparing the longer document, just in case. It requires public hearings, which are a pain, but the city completed its environmental-impact statement for its four-borough jails from start to finish in 14 months, meaning the MTA would be almost done now.

The fact that Cuomo hasn’t done those things, says Gelinas, suggests that he’s already gotten all the political mileage out of congestion pricing he can, and sees only liabilities in actually implementing the policy.

Cuomo risks pissing off motorists who will now have to pay for something they used to enjoy for free. This dynamic isn’t made better by the specific design of New York’s congestion pricing scheme, says Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.

“I think the concern is that very little of the money from the congestion price is going to improve roadways,” he said, adding that the proposed toll levels seem to have more to do with hitting revenue targets for funding transit than with easing congestion.

Feigenbaum notes that Trump isn’t above petty retribution when it comes to New York, noting his administration’s brazenly political decision to bar residents from that state from participating in Trusted Traveller programs that allow quicker passage through airport security.

Still, Feigenbaum says he hasn’t seen any evidence that this is the case with congestion pricing. Indeed, Trump has proposed reforms that would speed up NEPA reviews of projects, and limit the use of EIS.

Congestion pricing as a concept has a lot to offer a place like New York City, says Feigenbaum. There’s a lot of demand for driving on the roads, but very little space for adding new road capacity. As with most major reforms, it’s the politics of implementation that are slowing things down.

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/3af3ZRZ
via IFTTT

A New Book Reveals Facebook’s Problems Started Way Before the 2016 Election

“It remains uncertain whether anything that happened on Facebook made a significant difference in the 2016 election,” Steven Levy writes in his introduction to Facebook: The Inside Story. This is a sentence the reader has to keep in mind throughout Levy’s new book, which documents how the seeds of what has gone wrong for the company were planted years before 2016 in a series of heedless or needlessly aggressive decisions that are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the company itself. 

When it comes to what we actually can prove about the 2016 votes in the United Kingdom (which resulted in Brexit) and in the United States (which gave us President Donald Trump), it’s never been demonstrated that Facebook and its ad policies made any difference. Even so, it’s now indisputable that various political actors (including Russia) have tried to use Facebook that way, and that the company made it easy for them to try. 

Levy’s introductory chapter is designed to show both the reputational heights Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his company briefly reached and the depths to which they’ve both now fallen. The author draws a brisk line between Zuckerberg’s triumphant surprise visit to Lagos, Nigeria, in August 2016—where he meets a range of programmers and would-be startup entrepreneurs as well as top government officials—and the unexpected outcome of the American election in November that year. The latter inspired a gathering storm of critics to point directly at Facebook as the source of that outcome’s unexpectedness. 

This juxtaposition works to draw readers into the thematic heart of the book but also suggests, a bit misleadingly, that Facebook’s massive loss of public regard starting in 2016 was an abrupt, unexpected one. But what the author documents in his introductory chapter and throughout the book is that Facebook’s unforced errors have amounted to a car crash more of the slow-motion variety; you can’t look away, but also it never seems to end.

Nothing in Levy’s narrative arc for Facebook and its principal founder will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the company’s fortunes over the 15 years. You could fill a specialty bookstore with nothing but Facebook-related books published in the last decade or so, starting with Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, later adapted by Aaron Sorkin for the David Fincher-directed movie The Social Network. Mezrich’s book, and almost all of the books published about Facebook since then, fall into two broad categories: (1) Look At The Great Things These Geniuses Have Done, or (2) Look At All The Pathological Things These Twisted Guys Have Done. With the exception of David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect (a book on the company’s early years that Levy credits by name in his acknowledgments), the authors of most of these other books typically have tried to distill the story of Facebook into lessons—either what not to do or what must be done—regarding social media and big tech-company successes. One way or another, they’ve almost all had axes to grind.

That was never going to be the kind of story Levy—whose 2011 book on Google, In The Plex, is the best journalistic account of that company’s history and its impact on the tech world—would write about Facebook. Levy’s books and his admirably accessible body of tech journalism for journals from Newsweek to MacWorld to Wired consistently demonstrate how he’s driven by the facts rather than by any philosophical or political agenda. And that’s exactly why, once Levy has layered on so many new facts about Facebook, its principals, and its various lapses and betrayals, piling on the details from hundreds of interviews, putting all the pieces of every part of Facebook’s story into one place, his most even-handed conclusions are still damning:

“The troubled post-election version of Facebook was by no means a different company from the one it was before, but instead very much a continuation of what started in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room 15 years earlier. It is a company that benefits from and struggles with the legacy of its origin, its hunger for growth, and its idealistic and terrifying mission. Its audaciousness—and that of its leader—led it to be so successful. And that same audaciousness came with a punishing price.”

And what was that price? Per Levy, “Facebook now admits that the damage [from the company’s decisions to promote rapid growth over everything else] turned out far more extensive than expected, and is not easily repaired. All the while Mark Zuckerberg and his team insist, despite the scandals, that Facebook is still overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.”

Even now—even after reading Levy’s increasingly unhappy account of Facebook’s growth in size and profitability on the one hand and its growth in scandalously negligent or callous treatment of users and their data on the other—I’m still inclined to agree that Facebook is a force for good. I’m biased: Were it not for our ability to stay in touch on Facebook while half a world apart, the woman who became my wife in 2017 and I would not be married today. But, just as important, I’ve seen so many instances in which individual users and communities have found constructive uses for Facebook’s many features, ranging from the broadly political to the deeply personal. I’ve been a defender of some of Facebook’s approaches to real problems, such as its Internet.org project (later known as Free Basics) and its (apparent) commitment to end-to-end encryption.

But again and again in Levy’s book I stumble across things like Facebook’s deployment of a mobile app called Onavo Protect, which purported to provide VPN (virtual private network) services for one’s phone, but whose real purpose was to gather user data about how they used other apps. For a year or two I had that Onavo app on my own damned phone! As Levy writes, “it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to present people with a privacy tool whose purpose was to gain their data.”

Far more common in the Facebook story than perverse examples like Onavo Protect are the occasions in which the company failed to anticipate problems that would arise from the markets it pushed itself into with little awareness of how its services might be misused—especially in the absence of Facebook personnel who spoke the dominant languages in those markets and who might at least theoretically identify content that violated Facebook’s content policies or other problematic uses. Take Myanmar, for example. Levy shows that Facebook learned in 2014 about how its services were being used maliciously in Myanmar, a country where large-scale mobile-phone internet access was just taking off. 

I learned about Facebook’s impact in Myanmar at roughly the same time through my contacts in Burmese civil society, and my first reaction was just as brain-dead as Facebook’s turned out to be. When I was told that incidents of civil violence were being reported on Facebook, my first thought was that this was positive—that the increasing ubiquity of smartphones with cameras was making rogue government officials and factions more accountable. What I didn’t immediately grasp (my Burmese friends politely schooled me), and what Facebook took far longer to grasp, was that false reports of crime and sexual assaults were being used to stir up violence against innocents, with a growing genocidal focus on the country’s oppressed and persecuted Rohingya minority. Levy then outlines how Facebook’s property WhatsApp, with its end-to-end encryption features and its built-in ability to amplify messages, including pro-violence messages, exacerbated the civil-discord problem in Myanmar (just as it eventually was shown to have done in the Philippines and in Brazil):

“Facebook contracted with a firm called BSR to investigate its activity in Myanmar. It found that Facebook rushed into a country where digital illiteracy was rampant: most Internet users did not know how to open a browser or set up an email account or assess online content. Yet their phones were preinstalled with Facebook. The report said that the hate speech and misinformation on Facebook suppressed the expression of Myanmar’s most vulnerable users. And worse: ‘Facebook has become a useful platform for those seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm.’ A UN report had reached a similar conclusion.” 

It’s fair to note, as Facebook’s defenders (who sometimes have included me) have noted, that all new communications technologies are destined to be misused by somebody. But Facebook’s reckless stress on its grow-first-fix-problems-later strategy more or less guaranteed that the most harmful aspects of the misuses of these new media would be exacerbated rather than mitigated. By 2018, the company began to realize it was at the bottom of a reputational hole and needed to stop digging; when Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate in 2018, he responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D–Vt.) question about Myanmar by saying “what’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more.”

That last line is a theme that appears again and again in the final third of the book, uttered by different top executives at Facebook. “We know we have more work to do,” an exec responded when reporters revealed that Facebook’s AI-fueled self-service ad product created the targeted category “Jew haters.”

Writes Levy: “Investigative reporters at ProPublica found 2,274 potential users identified by Facebook as fitting that category, one of more than 26,000 provided by Facebook, which apparently never vetted the [category] list itself.” When Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a Google veteran, met with the Congressional Black Caucus, she didn’t have a particularly strong defense for Facebook’s having (in Levy’s words) “hosted Russian propaganda that fueled white prejudice against black people” or violating civil-rights laws “because it allowed advertisers to discriminate against African-Americans.” Sandberg was reduced to “repeating, almost like a mantra, ‘We will do better.'” Sandberg later told Levy that “I walked out of there saying we, and I, have a lot of work to do.” This has become the paradigmatic Facebook response when any new scandal emerges from the company’s shortsighted strategic choices to privilege growth over due diligence. 

If there is one major exception to the company’s institutional willingness to plunge ahead into new markets and new opportunities to reap revenue, it is its cautiousness in dealing with American conservatives, primarily driven by Facebook’s head of global policy, Joel Kaplan. Levy writes that

“for years right-wing conservatives had been complaining that Facebook—run by those liberals in Silicon Valley—discriminated against them by down-ranking their posts. The claim was unsupported by data, and by many measures conservative content was overrepresented on Facebook. Fox News routinely headed the list of most-shared posts on the service, and even smaller right-wing sites like the Daily Wire were punching above their weight.” 

Facebook’s intense desire to be perceived as lacking political bias seems to have led to policies and outreach efforts—including a big powwow in Menlo Park where Zuckerberg and Sandberg personally attempted to mollify prominent conspiracy theorists like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck–that added up to white-glove treatment for American conservatives. Beck, at least, told Levy he was impressed with Zuckerberg’s sincerity: “I sat across the table from him to try to gauge him [and he] was a little enigmatic, but I thought he was trying to do the right thing.” Even so, Levy writes, “after leaving Menlo Park the conservatives returned to complaining about Facebook’s treatment of them—while piling up millions of views because of their skill in exploiting Facebook’s algorithms.”

The attempts to accommodate conservative critics, occurring simultaneously with Facebook’s promises to “do better” on other content moderation issues, illustrate the bind in which the company now finds itself. It’s voicing its commitment to be more proactive in moderating malicious content and disinformation while simultaneously reassuring the squeakiest political wheels that, no, their content and policies won’t be subjected to any Facebook-imposed test of factuality or truth. In other words, it’s promising both to police more content and to police content less. Facebook’s laboring now to create a “content oversight board,” a kind of “Supreme Court” where Facebook content decisions can be appealed.

I’m skeptical of that whole oversight-board project—not least because it seems largely to sidestep the other big bucket of problems for Facebook, which is its handling of user data. I’m also skeptical about broad claims that Facebook’s content algorithms and ads truly manipulate us—in the sense of robbing us of ordinary human independence and agency—but that skepticism has no bearing on the ethical question of whether Facebook should allow malign actors to exploit user data in efforts to manipulate us (e.g., by suppressing voter turnout). Whether those efforts are effective or not isn’t relevant to the ethical questions, just as when a drunk in a bar misses when he swings at you has no bearing on whether he can be charged with attempted assault. 

Finally, I’m most skeptical as to whether anything Facebook tries to do on its own is going to either restore Facebook’s public reputation or blunt the impulse of government policymakers, both in the United States and elsewhere, to impose hobbling and even punitive regulation on the entire social-media industry (and on the tech industry generally). 

It’s clear that one reason Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been scrambling to find an accommodation that works—first and foremost with the U.S. government but also with the European Union (E.U.) and with non-E.U. nations—is that they know they need to get out of the crosshairs, especially as more of their company’s story continues to come to light. Their problem now is that Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story has instantly become the indispensable single-volume resource for all policymakers everywhere when it comes to Facebook—not because it sets out to take the company down, but because the facts it reports leave readers with no choice but to recognize how the company’s indisputable successes have been undermined by its indisputable systemic deficiencies. 

My takeaway is that Facebook could still manage a win out of all this—if it seizes this moment as an opportunity to embrace an ethical framework that’s designed for something bigger than just solving Facebook problems. I don’t believe the company’s bad behavior (or negligence—there’s plenty of both) can tell us what to think of this whole sector of the internet economy and what industry-level regulation or law should look like. As I’ve argued in my own book, I believe a new ethical framework has to be built and shared, industry-wide (affecting more companies than just Facebook). It needs to be informed by all stakeholders, including users, governments, and civil society as well as the companies themselves—and it needs to privilege fiduciary obligations to users and the general public even over any commitment to growth and profitability. Part of these obligations will entail, yes, a commitment to fighting disinformation, treating it as a cybersecurity problem—even when political stakeholders complain. 

That’s just my view—other critics will argue for different approaches, some of which will center on more regulation or laws or other government interventions, while others will argue for fewer but better-crafted ones. But what all Facebook’s critics, and the tech industry’s critics, will have in common is this: going forward, we all will be citing stuff we learned from Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story.

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/2T3f5DM
via IFTTT