Tag Archives: John Thune

The congressional sham

The papers are ‘covering’ live the entire Facebook hearing, we see several papers covering it and I think that this is a good thing. Yet, most papers are not without flaws. The fact that I have been writing about the entire mess of data privacy since 2013 makes it to the best of my knowledge a Capitol sham at best (pun intended) . you see, these so called senators are all up in arms and we see the Washington Post (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/04/10/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-hearing-congress-testimony) give quotes like “from data privacy to Russian disinformation“, you see, it is a lot less about data privacy than it is about the Russians. The anti-communist gene in Americans is too strong; the yanks get too emotional and become utterly useless in the process. So is it about the 44 senators grilling Mark Zuckerberg, is it about their limelight and about their re-election visibility, or is it about global data privacy? I can guarantee you now that it will not be about the last part and as such we will see a lot more warped issues shine on the congressional dance floor.

In that regard, when you read “They demanded new detail about how Facebook collects and uses data and elicited assurances that it will implement major improvements in protecting personal privacy“, it might be about that, but it will be a lot more on oversight and how the US government wants to be able to ‘check’ all that data. They wanted access to all that data since Facebook became one year old. So when we see ‘Sen. Kennedy: “I don’t want to have to vote to regulate Facebook, but by god, I will. That depends on you.”‘ you better believe that the ‘depends on you‘ can be read as ‘as long as you give us access to all your data‘, which contains the shoe that fumbles.

So when we see “Several asked for detailed answers about how private, third-party companies, such as the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, gained access to personal data on 87 million Facebook users, including 71 million Americans“, we see the valid question, yet that did not require a congressional hearing, so that is merely the icing that hides the true base element of the cake. It is the honourable Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee that gives the first goods: “Many are incredibly inspired by what you’ve done. At the same time, you have an obligation, and it’s up to you, to ensure that dream doesn’t become a privacy nightmare for the scores of people who use Facebook”, you see, freedom of data and misuse of information as set by insurances. The statements like ‘Insurance companies warn that under certain circumstances, posting about your holidays on social media could result in your claim being declined if you are burgled‘. These senators were not really that interested in all this whilst the entire insurance issues have been playing as early as 2010; they were likely too busy looking somewhere else. The entire privacy mess is a lot larger. We see this at the Regis University site when we take a look at: “A new survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reveals nearly one in five Americans (19%) has been the victim of some form of cyber stalking, defined as any persistent and unwanted online contact with another individual. Through aggressive social media contact, repeated emails or other methods of online connectivity, cyber stalkers represent a serious and growing threat to men and women who otherwise wish to disengage from those who make them feel uncomfortable. Still, the NCSA report shows only 39% of those who believed they were being stalked online reported the incident to authorities“, so was there a senatorial hearing then? No, there was not. In addition, a situation where one in 5 Americans is subject to stalking, yet in all those years almost nothing was done. Why is that? Is that because the overwhelming numbers of these victims have tits and a vagina, or merely because they are less likely to be communist in nature?

Does this offend you?

Too bad, it is the direct consequence of inaction which makes todays issue almost a farce. I stated almost! So, is the issue that the data was downloaded, or that the data on millions of Americans is now in the hands of others and not in the hands of the US government? This loaded question is a lot more important than you might think.

The fact that this is a much larger farce is seen when the Democrat from Illinois decides to open his mouth. It is seen in “Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), asked Zuckerberg what hotel he stayed at Monday night and the names of anyone he messaged this week“, was it to break the ice? If all 44 senators do that, then we see evidence why the US government can’t get anything done. It is actually another Democrat that gives rise to issues. It is seen in Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “We’ve seen the apology tours before… I don’t see how you can change your business model unless there are different rules of the road.”, the man makes a good case, but I am not certain if he is correct. You see, unless the US government is ready to lash out massively in the abuse of data towards any corporation found using social media on exploiting the privacy of its members, and insurers are merely one part in all this. You see, the rules of the road have been negated for some time in different directions, unless you are willing to protect the users of social media by corporate exploitation, Richard Blumenthal should not really be talking about traffic rules, should he? This directly links to the fact that 90% of hedge funds were using social media in 2014. Were they properly looked at? I wonder where those 44 senators were when that all went down.

The one part that will actually become a larger case comes from Massachusetts. “Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) plans to introduce a new bill Tuesday called the CONSENT Act that would require social giants like Facebook and other major web platforms to obtain explicit consent before they share or sell personal data“, it will change the business model where data is no longer shared, or sold, but another model where all this is set up by Facebook and he advertiser can get the results of visibility in top line results. That is the path Facebook would likely push for, a more Google approach in their setting of AdWords and Google analytics. Facebook is ready to a much larger extent on this and it is a likely path to follow for Facebook after all this. Yet in all this the theatre of congress will go on a little longer, we will know soon enough. In the end 44 senators will push regarding “The Federal Trade Commission is investigating violations of a 2011 consent decree over privacy policy at Facebook that could lead to record fines against the company“, in the end it will be about money and as it is more likely that the data on Americans made it to Russia, the fine will be as astronomically high as they could possibly make it. They will state in some way that the debt of 21 trillion will have nothing to do with that, or so they will claim. In the end Mark Zuckerberg partially did this too himself, he will get fined and so he should, but the entire theatre and the likelihood that the fine is going to be way overboard, whilst in equal measure these senators will not chase the other transgressors is a much larger case and calls for even more concern. You see, there is a much larger congressional sham in play. It was exposed by Clay Johnson, formerly of the Sunlight Foundation, (more at http://www.congressfoundation.org/news/blog/912). The issue is not merely “On the Hill, congressional staff do not have the tools that they need to quickly distill meaning from the overwhelming volume of communications that they receive on any given day“, it is that Facebook has been able to add well over 400% pressure to that inability. That given is what also drives the entire matter of division in American voters. I myself did not think that ‘fake’ news on events did any serious damage to Democrat Hillary Clinton, from my point of view; she did that all to herself during her inaction of the Benghazi events.

In the end I believe that the bulk will go after Mark Zuckerberg for whatever reason they think they have, whilst all hiding behind the indignation of ‘transplanted data‘. The fact that doing this directly hit the value that the rest of his data has is largely ignored by nearly all players. In addition, the fact that the BBC gave us ‘More than 600 apps had access to my iPhone data‘ less than 12 hours ago is further evidence still. So when will these 44 senators summon Tim Cook? The fact that the BBC gives us “Data harvesting is a multibillion dollar industry and the sobering truth is that you many never know just how much data companies hold about you, or how to delete it” and the fact that this is a given truth and has been for a few years, because you the consumer signed over your rights, is one of those ignored traffic rules, so the statement that Richard Blumenthal gave is a lot larger than even he might have considered. It is still a good point of view to have, yet this shown him to be either less correct on the whole, or it could be used as evidence that too many senators have been sitting on their hands for many years and in that matter the least stated on the usefulness of the European Commission the better. So when we read “The really big data brokers – firms such as Acxiom, Experian, Quantium, Corelogic, eBureau, ID Analytics – can hold as many as 3,000 data points on every consumer, says the US Federal Trade Commission“, we see that Equifax is missing from that list is also a matter for concern, especially when we consider the events that Palantir uncovered, whilst at the same time we ignore what Palantir Gotham is capable of. I wonder how many US senators are skating around that subject. We see part of that evidence in Fortune, were (at http://fortune.com/2017/10/10/equifax-attack-avoiding-hacks/) we see “Lauren Penneys, who heads up business development at Palantir, advised companies to get their own data and IT assets in order—both to better understand what risks do exist and to improve readiness to respond when a breach does happen“, she is right and she (validly) does not mention what Palantir Gotham is truly capable of when we combine the raw data from more than one corporate source. With the upcoming near exponential growth of debt collection, and they all rely on data and skip tracing of social media data, we see a second issue, which these senators should have been aware of for well over two years. So how protective have they been of citizens against the invasion of privacy on such matters from the Wall Street Golden Child? Even in London, places like Burford Capital Ltd are more and more reliant on a range of social media data and as such it will not be about traffic rules as the superrich are hunted down. We might not care about that, mainly because they are superrich. Yet as this goes on, how long until the well dries up and they set their nets in a much wider setting?

We claim that we are humane and that we set the foundation for morally just actions, but are we? The BBC actually partially addresses this with: “Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester Research in New York, who covers data brokers, says a common belief in the industry is that only “50% of this data is accurate” So why does any of this matter? Because this “ridiculous marketing data”, as Ms Dixon calls it, is now determining life chances” and that is where the shoe truly hurts, at some point in the near future we will be denied chances and useless special rebates, because the data did not match, we will be seen as a party person instead of a sport person, at which point out premiums would have been ‘accidently’ 7% too high and in that same person we will be targeted for social events and not sport events, we will miss out twice and soon thereafter 4 fold, with each iteration of wrong data the amount of misconceptions will optionally double with each iteration. All based on data we never signed up for or signed off on, so how screwed is all this and how can this congressional hearing be seen as nothing more than a sham. Yes, some questions needs to be answered and they should, yet that could have been done in a very different setting, so as we see the Texan republican as the joke he is in my personal view, we see “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Zuckerberg about 2016 reports that the company had removed conservative political news from its trending stories box, and followed up with questions about its moderators’ political views. When Zuckerberg said he didn’t ask employees for their political views, Cruz followed up with “Why was Palmer Luckey fired?”“, we wonder if he had anything substantial to work with at all. So when you wonder why Zuckerberg is being grilled, ask yourself, what was this about? Was it merely about abuse of data by a third party? If that is so, why is Tim Cook not sitting next to Zuckerberg? More important, as I have shown some of these issues for close to 5 years, why was action not taken sooner? Is that not the more pressing question to see answered?

 

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The Zuckergate Censorberg Act

Yesterday an interesting issue got to the FrontPage of the Norwegian Aftenposten (at http://www.aftenposten.no/kultur/Aftenposten-redaktor-om-snuoperasjonen–En-fornuftig-avgjorelse-av-Facebook-604237b.html) and for those who are slightly Norwegian linguistically challenged, there is an English version at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/08/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-napalm-girl-photo-vietnam-war.

aftenposten
It is something we have seen before. Although from a technical point of view, the editing (read: initial flag) is likely to have been done electronically, the added blame we see when we get to the quote “Egeland was subsequently suspended from Facebook. When Aftenposten reported on the suspension – using the same photograph in its article, which was then shared on the publication’s Facebook page – the newspaper received a message from Facebook asking it to “either remove or pixelize” the photograph” shows that this is an entirely different matter. This is now a censoring engine that is out of control. The specification ‘either remove or pixelize’ does not cut it, especially when it concerns a historical photo that was given a Pulitzer.

I am actually considering that there is more in play, you see, the Atlantic (at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/05/facebook-isnt-fair/482610/) said it in May when it published “Facebook Doesn’t Have to Be Fair. The company has no legal obligation to be balanced—and lawmakers know it“, which is the title and subtitle and as such, the story is told and politicians like John Thune experienced how a social network can drown out whatever it wants (within reason). So when you see something is trending on Facebook, you must comprehend that it is not an algorithm, but contracted people guide its creation and as quotes in the Atlantic “routinely suppressed conservative news“. Yet this goes further than just censorship and news. As the Editor of Aftenposten raises (and others with him), Mark Zuckerberg has now become the most powerful editor in the world. He now has nothing less than a sworn duty to uphold the freedom of speech to a certain degree, especially when relying on algorithms that are unlikely to cut the mustard on its current track. It now also opposes the part the Atlantic gave us with the subtitle “The company has no legal obligation to be balanced—and lawmakers know it” showing Sheryl Sandberg in a ‘who gives a fuck‘ pose. You see, at present Facebook has over 1.7 billion active users. What is interesting is that the acts that he has been found guilty of acts that negatively impacts well over 50% of his active user base. Norway might be small, but he is learning that it packs a punch, and when we add India to the mix, the percentage of alienated people by the censoring act of Facebook goes up by a lot. So even as there is the use of blanket rules, the application is now showing to be more and more offensive to too many users and as such this level of censorship could hurt the bottom dollar that every social media site has, which are the number of users. So as Mark Zuckerberg is trying to get appeal in Asia, he needs to realise that catering to one more nation could have drastic consequences to those he think he has. Now we understand that there needs to be some level of censorship, yet the correct application of it seems to go the wrong way. Of course this could still all go south and we would have get used to log in to 顔のブック, or 脸书. Even चेहरे की किताब is not out of the question. So is that what Zuckerberg needs? I know the US is scared shitless in many ways when that happens, so perhaps overseeing a massive change into the world of censoring is now an important issue. Espen Egil Hansen said it nearly all when he stated “a troubling inability to “distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs”, as well as an unwillingness to “allow space for good judgement”” is at the heart of the matter. In that regard, the issue of “routinely suppressing conservative news” remains the issue. When you censor 50% of your second largest user base, it is no longer just a case of free speech or freedom of expression. It becomes an optional case of discrimination, which could have even further extending consequences. Even as we sit now, there are lawsuits in play, the one from Pamela Geller, a person that only seems to be taken serious by Breitbart News is perhaps the most striking of all. Pamela (At http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/07/13/pamela-geller-suing-facebook/) with the quote “My page “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s In the Quran” was taken down from Facebook because it was “hate speech.” Hate speech? Really? The page ran the actual Quranic texts and teachings that called for hatred and incitement of violence against the Jews.” is a dangerous one. It is dangerous because it is in the same place as the Vietnam photo. The fact that this is a published religious book makes it important and the fact that the book is quoted makes it accurate. The blaze (at http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/01/05/an-israeli-group-created-fake-anti-israel-and-anti-palestinian-facebook-pages-guess-which-one-got-taken-down/) goes one step further and conducted an experiment. The resulting quote is “The day the complaint was filed, the page inciting against Arabs was shut down. The group received a Hebrew language message from Facebook that read, according to a translation via Shurat HaDin, “We reviewed the page you reported for containing credible threat of violence and found it violates our community standards”, the page inciting against Jews was left active.” This indicates that Facebook has a series of issues. One cannot help but wonder whether this issue is merely bias or the economic print the Muslim world has when measured against a group of 8 million Israeli’s or perhaps just the population of 16 million Jews globally. With the Aftenposten event, Facebook seems to have painted itself into a corner, and if correct several lawsuits that could soon force Facebook to have a rigorous evaluation and reorganisation of several of its internal and external departments.

Because if Content is the cornerstone of Social media, the need to keep a clear view of freedom of expression and freedom of speech becomes even more important. In a product that seeks the need for growth that should have been obviously clear.

There is however a side that is not addressed by any. You might get the idea when you see the Guardian quote “News organizations are uncomfortably reliant on Facebook to reach an online audience. According to a 2016 study by Pew Research Center, 44% of US adults get their news on Facebook. Facebook’s popularity means that its algorithms can exert enormous power over public opinion“, the fact that Facebook might soon be hiding behind the ‘algorithms‘ as we see Facebook go forward on a defence relying on their version of the DEFAMATION ACT. In this example I will use the DEFAMATION ACT 2005 (Australian Law), where we see in Article 32

32 Defence of innocent dissemination
(1) It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that:
(a) the defendant published the matter merely in the capacity, or as an employee or agent, of a subordinate distributor, and
(b) the defendant neither knew, nor ought reasonably to have known, that the matter was defamatory, and
(c) the defendant’s lack of knowledge was not due to any negligence on the part of the defendant.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person is a “subordinate distributor” of defamatory matter if the person:

(a) was not the first or primary distributor of the matter, and
(b) was not the author or originator of the matter, and
(c) did not have any capacity to exercise editorial control over the content of the matter (or over the publication of the matter) before it was first published.

By relying on Algorithms, Facebook could now possible skate the issue, yet this can only happen if certain elements fall away, in addition, the algorithm will now become part of the case and debate muddying the waters further still.

Hanson does hit the nail on the head when it comes to the issues he raises like “geographically differentiated guidelines and rules for publication”, “distinguish[ing] between editors and other Facebook users,” and a “comprehensive review of the way you operate”. He is not wrong, yet I have to raise the following

In the first, when you decide to rely on “geographically differentiated guidelines and rules for publication”, you also include the rules of who you publish to. This is the first danger for Facebook, their granularity could fall away to some extent and Facebook advertising is all about global granularity. It is a path he would be very unwilling to skate. Open and global are his ticket to some of the largest companies. When this comes into play, smaller players like Coca Cola and Mars could soon find the beauty of moving some of their advertisements funds away from Facebook and towards Google AdWords. I am decently certain that Google will not be opposing that view any day soon.

In the second “distinguish[ing] between editors and other Facebook users” is only part of the path, you see when we start classifying the user, Facebook could start having to classify a little too much, making any distinguishing of such kind additional worries in regards to discrimination. Twitter faced that mess recently when a certain picture from one Newspaper was allowed and another one was not. That and the fact that a woman named Molly Wood (her actual name) was not allowed to use her name as her Facebook name, which is a matter for another day.

In the third the issue “comprehensive review of the way you operate” which is very much in play. The cases that Facebook has faced regarding content and privacy are merely the tip of the iceberg. We can all agree that when it is about sex crimes people tend to notice it, I am speculating for the most because of the word ‘sex’. So when I saw that there is a June reference (at http://www.mrctv.org/blog/facebook-censuring-international-stories-about-rapes-muslim-refugees), when Facebook removed a video from Ingrid Carlqvist for the Gatestone Institute, where she reports that there has been a 1,500% increase in rapes in Sweden, I was wondering why this had not found the front page of EVERY newspaper in every nations where there is free speech. The Gatestone Institute is a not-for-profit international policy think tank run by former UN Ambassador John Bolton, so not some kind of radicalised front.

In that regard is any kind of censoring even acceptable?

This case is more apt than you think when you consider the quote we see, even as I cannot give weight to the publishing site. We see “Facebook may have been incited to censor this story by a new European Union push in cooperation with Facebook, Twitter, and Google to report incidents of racism or xenophobia to the authorities for criminal prosecution” with the by-line “In order to prevent the spread of illegal hate speech, it is essential to ensure that relevant national laws transposing the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia are fully enforced by Member States in the online as well as the in the offline environment. While the effective application of provisions criminalising hate speech is dependent on a robust system of enforcement of criminal law sanctions against the individual perpetrators of hate speech, this work must be complemented with actions geared at ensuring that illegal hate speech online is expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms, upon receipt of a valid notification, in an appropriate time-frame. To be considered valid in this respect, a notification should not be insufficiently precise or inadequately substantiated“, which was followed by “No matter why Facebook decided to remove Ingrid Carlqvist’s personal page, it doesn’t lessen the fact that this is another example of their political censorship, and their desire to place political correctness over freedom of the press and freedom of expression

Now this part has value and weight for the following reason: When we consider the earlier move by Facebook to relay on algorithms, the European Commission (at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1937_en.htm) gives us: ‘is expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms, upon receipt of a valid notification, in an appropriate time-frame‘, which could imply that an algorithm will not be regarded as one of the online intermediaries, which means that the human element remains and that Facebook cannot rely on the innocent dissemination part of the Defamation Act, meaning that they could end up being in hot water in several countries soon enough.

As parting words, let Facebook take heed of the words of Steven Spielberg: “There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility“.

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