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FACEBOOK VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, PRIVACY AND FREE ELECTIONS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2022 at 12:15 am

As it now operates, Facebook poses a direct threat to the First Amendment, the privacy of its users and democratic elections.

Facebook is the world’s largest social media company. Its social and political influence on the United States is enormous. According to its profile on Wikipedia:

“The subject of numerous controversies, Facebook has often been criticized over issues such as user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections) and mass surveillance.

“Facebook has also been subject to criticism over psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and various controversies over content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content as well as exaggerating its number of users to appeal to advertisers.” 

To which can be added the following:

  • I was sentenced to “Facebook Jail” for two posts. The first of these stated: “Americans are historical illiterates.” This was labeled “hate speech and inferiority.” The fact that the distinguished historian David McCullough had said exactly the same meant nothing to Facebook.
  • A second post deleted showed a group of heavily-armed Proud Boys standing around a cross.  Above this I had posted the caption: “Proud Boys posing with their latest victim.” This was labeled as “hate speech.” 
  • Since this post was bluntly critical of the Proud Boys, the question emerges: Does criticizing the Proud Boys—Fascists who played a major role during the January 6 attempted coup against the Capitol Building—constitute “hate speech”?   

Proud Boys 

Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

  • I am currently banned from Facebook for posting the following: A Facebook member had posted this solution for achieving universal peace: All enlisted members of all the world’s militaries should refuse to serve. In 2002-3, I had watched President George W. Bush lie the country into a needless, bloody, budget-busting war in Iraq. Thus, I felt the poster’s “solution” required a serious dose of realism. 
  • So I posted a meme below that contained an image of Herman Goring—chief of the German Luftwaffe (air force) during World War II. As a convicted war criminal, he should, I felt, have insight into how easy it is to lead a nation into war.
  • And he did: “Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in every country.”  
  • No sooner had I posted this than I found myself once again accused of violating Facebook’s “Community Standards.” As in past cases, Facebook did not deign to state, specifically, what standards I had violated, or how the post endangered other Facebook members. I simply found myself blocked from Facebook.  

25+ Best Hermann Goering Memes | Goering Memes, His Memes, Are Memes

  • Facebook has made its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, worth $40.7 billion. Yet he refuses to provide Facebook users with an 800 number—or even an Instant Messaging service—so they can appeal directly to the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comments they did.   
  • And there’s absolutely no point in writing to Zuckerberg or any of his thralls at the corporate address of 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, California  94025. With the sheer arrogance only a true billionaire can exude, Zuckerberg refuses to answer (or even open) his mail.
  • Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal in 2021. She testified before Congress that Facebook promotes conflict to increase its readership and keep them reading—and buying. So the comment I made fell exactly into that category of exciting controversy. 

People who libel and/or harass others should be banned from social media. It’s precisely because Twitter refuses to do so that its reputation is fatally tainted.

But posting a comment that is based on accurate history should not qualify as hate speech. And none of the examples I have cited fits that definition.

Through its worldwide membership, Facebook exerts an influence that rivals—if not exceeds—that of most government institutions. Its greatest infamy: Allowing Russian trolls to play a lethal role in electing Donald Trump President in 2016. And no doubt they are preparing to do so again in 2024. 

In a highly polarized political environment, Mark Zuckerberg holds the unique distinction of having infuriated both Democrats and Republicans during his appearances before Congress. His secret: The overweening arrogance he routinely displays to those he considers lesser mortals. His motto is: ““Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”

It’s long past time for those at the legislative level to show him that some things—such as the First Amendment, the right to privacy and elections free of foreign influence—should not be broken.  And that there is a high price to pay for those who do.

FACEBOOK VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, PRIVACY AND FREE ELECTIONS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2022 at 12:14 am

There is an urgent need for states—and especially the Federal government—to impose serious regulatory controls on Facebook.

Facebook is the world’s largest social media company, with 2.934 billion users by July, 2022. Its social and political influence on the United States is enormous. According to its profile on Wikipedia:

“The subject of numerous controversies, Facebook has often been criticized over issues such as user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections) and mass surveillance.

“Posts originating from the Facebook page of Breitbart News, a media organization previously affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, are currently among the most widely shared political content on Facebook.

“Facebook has also been subject to criticism over psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and various controversies over content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content as well as exaggerating its number of users to appeal to advertisers.”

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

To which should be added the following:

  • Facebook operates as virtually a law unto itself, arbitrarily deciding which posts violate its “Community Standards” and deleting them (and their posters) without warning and right to appeal.
  • No details are ever given as to what about the post, specifically, posed a threat to other Facebook members.
  • Facebook claims that its users have the right to appeal: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.”
  • But then Facebook declares: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got the decision wrong. We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to priorities reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 
  • Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” there is a moral obligation—if not a legal one—to give them a chance to share their side of the story.
  • Facebook revenues have made its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, worth $71.5 billion. But Facebook refuses to provide its users with an 800 number so they can appeal directly to the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comments they did.   

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg 

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Nor does Facebook provide even an Instant Messaging capability, so members can do so. 
  • Facebook’s refusal to provide a contact number for its members exposes them to potential fraud. National Public Radio published a January 31, 2017 article on “Searching for ‘Facebook Customer Service’ Can Lead To a Scam.”
  • “According to Google data: “‘Facebook customer service’ gets searched, on average, about 27,000 times a month in the U.S.” Yet on its own “Help Community” page, Facebook admits: “Facebook doesn’t offer a phone number for support.” 
  • Nor do Facebook’s executives deign to respond to letters sent to them. I have sent letters to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and to Sheryl Sandberg, a member of its board of directors. Neither had the courtesy to reply.
  • Many of those I know on Facebook have been censored for posts that criticize Donald Trump. Apparently, “freedom of expression” exists only for those who support a man who staged an illegal coup to overturn a totally legitimate election.
  • Members can be banned from Facebook for posting entirely legitimate news stories. One such story described how Texas Congressman Joe Burton had sent a series of smarmy emails to numerous women—while posing as a paragon of “family values.”
  • The post was removed and its poster was sent the following message: “We removed content you posted. We removed this content because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.” Then the member who posted it found himself blocked from Facebook.

facebook -community-standards-thou-shalt-not-have-personal-opinions-thou-50500808-1.png

  • One Facebook member posted an innocuous anti-Trump cartoon: A group of children are lined up at a house on Halloween. A woman at the door says: “Oh, look. We have a pirate, a witch and a Trump supporter [a boy wearing a white sheet as a ghost].” The post was removed and the poster blocked from Facebook:
  • Many Facebook users have found themselves punished after Facebook’s star chamber censors found a post they didn’t like from four years earlier.
  • Facebook’s arbitrary and punitive actions are so notorious they have become grist for countless memes—some of which are hilarious: “Warning: You have violated a rule we haven’t  made up yet. Because you’re a known troublemaker you’ve been banned for 30 days. Thank you for using Facebook, have a nice day.”

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

  • I was sentenced to “Facebook Jail” for two posts. The first of these stated: “Americans are historical illiterates.” This was labeled “hate speech and inferiority.” The fact that the distinguished historian David McCullough had said exactly the same meant nothing to Facebook.
  • Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

WELCOME TO THE TWITTER SMEAR-A-THON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 1, 2022 at 12:13 am

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Donald Trump fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Donald Trump

During his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and institutions on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, Trump falsely accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey—for pursuing an investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump threatened him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Trump had no such tapes.

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat?  Silence.

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

On February 17, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack the Constitutionally-protected free press:

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNNis not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

“Enemy of the people” was a popular charge during the 30-year reign of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service stated:

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017. [Italics added.]

Even foreign leaders were unnerved by Trump’s obsession with Twitter. As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3, 2017 article:

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

On September 25, 2017, Twitter’s top executives justified allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules,” tweeting:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Only after Trump incited a mob of his Right-wing followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, did Twitter ban him from its website. 

But Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledged Trump’s tweets.

Trump’s apologists fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allowed him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.”

One of those apologists was former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

Image result for Images of Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarter-over-quarter jump in two years.

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer.

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company have refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it.

Cyber-bullying, racist comments, violent threats and reputation-smashing phony celebrity accounts have repeatedly brought Twitter harsh criticism. 

And now its new owner, Tessla CEO Elon Musk, clearly intends to restore Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

Not content with that, Musk has engaged in a Twitter-smear of his own.

On October 28, David DePape, a Right-wing QAnon fanatic, assaulted Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in his San Francisco house.

Hours later, Musk tweeted a Right-wing slander: That DePape is a male sex worker who was hired by Paul Pelosi. 

Musk later deleted the tweet. 

Anyone who wanted to know what the “new” Twitter will be like just found out. 

WELCOME TO THE TWITTER SMEAR-A-THON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 31, 2022 at 12:22 am

Behind the racism
And the tweet
Behind the venom
And the act
Lies the Hatred.

In less than 12 hours, Roseanne Barr demolished her hit show, Roseanne, and threw the lives of dozens of men and women into unemployed chaos.

A short timeline is instructive:

May 28, 2018  – 1:45 a.m.

Roseanne Barr takes to Twitter and tweets: “muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj”

[“vj” stands for “Valerie Jarrett,” a former senior adviser and assistant for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs for then-President Barack Obama. The reference to “planet of the apes” is Barr’s way of comparing Jarrett—who is black—to an ape.]

PHOTO: Roseanne Barr posted a tweet on May 29, 2018 that read, muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.

May 29 – 6:29 a.m.

“It’s a joke.”

[Apparently, Barr has suddenly realized that posting such a racist, poisonous tweet just might not be a good career move. So she’s trying to defuse the bomb before it can explode on her.]

May 29 – 9:28 a.m.

“I apologize. I am now leaving Twitter.”

[Obviously, she’s really worried now.]

May 29 – 7:33 a.m.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans.  I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better.  Forgive me–my joke was in bad taste.”

[This looks like standard boiletplate, perhaps crafted by someone familiar with corporate-speak. It’s clear that Barr or someone close to her not only recognizes the public relations dangers of her tweet but made an “I was only joking” effort to deflect those dangers. Barr’s idol, President Donald Trump, has often hurled despicable insults at people—and then claimed: “I was only joking.”  Perhaps Barr believes—or at least hopes—the same tactic will work for her.]

Related image

Roseanne Barr (Pinterest)

May 29 – 9:15 a.m.

Channing Dungey, entertainment president of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), issues the following announcement: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns ABC) tweets:  “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

This was, of course, not the first time that Roseanne Barr had starred in her own series.  From 1988 to 1997, she had portrayed Roseanne Conner, wife and mother of an Illinois working-class American family.  John Goodman had played her husband.

Their three children (Becky, Darlene, and DJ) were played by, respectively, Lecy Goranson (and, later, Sarah Chalke); Sarah Gilbert; and Michael Fishman.

The series reached No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings, and became the most-watched television show in the United States from 1989 to 1990.

The show remained in the top four for six of its nine seasons, and in the top 20 for eight seasons.  In 2002, Roseanne was ranked No. 35 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

So when Roseanne pitched an updated version of her show to ABC in 2017, the network was naturally excited.

On May 16, 2017, ABC announced that it would revive Roseanne as a mid-season replacement in 2018, with the original cast returning. Eight episodes were ordered. In November, ABC ordered a ninth episode.

The rebooted version premiered on March 27, 2018, to an initial audience of 27.26 million viewers. On March 30, thrilled by the success of its premiere, ABC renewed Roseanne for another 13 episodes.

Thirteen new episodes of Roseanne represented steady work for dozens of men and women:

  • Actors portraying the Conner family.
  • Actors in minor roles.
  • Costume designers.
  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Makeup artists.
  • Caterers.
  • Sound techs.
  • Lighting techs.
  • Production assistants.

Then came Roseanne Barr’s tweet.

And, suddenly, all of these people found themselves unemployed—and uncertain about their futures in the fickle and often unforgiving entertainment industry.

Of course, the person most immediately—and rightly—blamed was Roseanne Barr herself. But she was by no means the only one worthy of condemnation.

A major portion of blame is owed the men who run Twitter.

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.

In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:

  • the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
  • the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
  • the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice….

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

All of which leads to the question: Why didn’t Twitter police—and purge—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

FACEBOOK VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, PRIVACY AND FREE ELECTIONS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

As it now operates, Facebook poses a direct threat to the First Amendment, the privacy of its users and democratic elections.

Facebook is the world’s largest social media company, with 2.936 billion users by April, 2022. Its social and political influence on the United States is enormous. According to its profile on Wikipedia:

“The subject of numerous controversies, Facebook has often been criticized over issues such as user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections) and mass surveillance.

“Posts originating from the Facebook page of Breitbart News, a media organization previously affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, are currently among the most widely shared political content on Facebook.

“Facebook has also been subject to criticism over psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and various controversies over content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content as well as exaggerating its number of users to appeal to advertisers.” 

To which can be added the following:

  • I was sentenced to “Facebook Jail” for two posts. The first of these stated: “Americans are historical illiterates.” This was labeled “hate speech and inferiority.” The fact that the distinguished historian David McCullough had said exactly the same meant nothing to Facebook.
  • Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy: When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he asked people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo.
  • A second post deleted showed a group of heavily-armed Proud Boys standing around a cross.  Above this I had posted the caption: “Proud Boys posing with their latest victim.” This was labeled as “hate speech.” 
  • Since this post was bluntly critical of the Proud Boys, the question emerges: Does criticizing the Proud Boys—Fascists who played a major role during the January 6 attempted coup against the Capitol Building—constitute “hate speech”?   

Proud Boys 

Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

  • I am currently banned from Facebook for posting the following: A Facebook member had posted this solution for achieving universal peace: All enlisted members of all the world’s militaries should refuse to serve. In 2002-3, I had watched President George W. Bush lie the country into a needless, bloody, budget-busting war in Iraq. Thus, I felt the poster’s “solution” required a serious dose of realism. 
  • So I posted a meme below it that contained an image of Herman Goring—chief of the German Luftwaffe (air force) during World War II. As a convicted war criminal, he should, I felt, have insight into how easy it is to lead a nation into war. And he did: “Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in every country.”
  • No sooner had I posted this than I found myself once again accused of violating Facebook’s “Community Standards.” As in past cases, Facebook did not deign to state, specifically, what standards I had violated, or how the post endangered other Facebook members. I simply found myself blocked from Facebook.

25+ Best Hermann Goering Memes | Goering Memes, His Memes, Are Memes

  • Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal in 2021. She testified before Congress that Facebook promotes conflict to increase its readership and keep them reading—and buying. So the comment I made fell exactly into that category of exciting controversy. 

People who libel and/or harass others should be banned from social media. It’s precisely because Twitter refuses to do so that its reputation is fatally tainted.

But posting a comment that is based on accurate history should not qualify as hate speech. And none of the examples I have cited fit that definition.

Through its worldwide membership, Facebook exerts an influence that rivals—if not exceeds—that of most government institutions. Its greatest infamy: Allowing Russian trolls to play a lethal role in electing Donald Trump President in 2016. And no doubt they are preparing to do so again in 2024. 

In a highly polarized political environment, Mark Zuckerberg holds the unique distinction of having infuriated both Democrats and Republicans during his appearances before Congress. His secret: The overweening arrogance he routinely displays to those he considers lesser mortals. His motto is: ““Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”

It’s long past time for those at the legislative level to show him that some things—such as the First Amendment, the right to privacy and elections free of foreign influence—should not be broken.  And that there is a high price to pay for those who do.

FACEBOOK VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, PRIVACY AND FREE ELECTIONS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

There is an urgent need for states—and especially the Federal government—to impose serious regulatory controls on Facebook.

Facebook is the world’s largest social media company, with 2.936 billion users by April, 2022. Its social and political influence on the United States is enormous. According to its profile on Wikipedia:

“The subject of numerous controversies, Facebook has often been criticized over issues such as user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections) and mass surveillance.

“Posts originating from the Facebook page of Breitbart News, a media organization previously affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, are currently among the most widely shared political content on Facebook.

“Facebook has also been subject to criticism over psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and various controversies over content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content as well as exaggerating its number of users to appeal to advertisers.”

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

To which should be added the following:

  • Facebook operates as virtually a law unto itself, arbitrarily deciding which posts violate its “Community Standards” and deleting them (and their posters) without warning and right to appeal.
  • No details are ever given as to what about the post, specifically, posed a threat to other Facebook members.
  • Facebook claims that its users have the right to appeal: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.”
  • But then Facebook declares: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got the decision wrong. We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to priorities reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 
  • Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” there is a moral obligation—if not a legal one—to give them a chance to share their side of the story.
  • Facebook revenues have made its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, worth $71.5 billion. But Facebook refuses to provide its users with an 800 number so they can appeal directly to the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comments they did.   

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg 

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Nor does Facebook provide even an Instant Messaging capability, so members can do so. 
  • Facebook’s refusal to provide a contact number for its members exposes them to potential fraud. National Public Radio published a January 31, 2017 article on “Searching for ‘Facebook Customer Service’ Can Lead To a Scam.”
  • “According to Google data: “‘Facebook customer service’ gets searched, on average, about 27,000 times a month in the U.S.” Yet on its own “Help Community” page, Facebook admits: “Facebook doesn’t offer a phone number for support.” 
  • Nor do Facebook’s executives deign to respond to letters sent to them. I have sent letters to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and to Sheryl Sandberg, a member of its board of directors. Neither had the courtesy to reply.
  • Many of those I know on Facebook have been censored for posts that criticize Donald Trump. Apparently, “freedom of expression” exists only for those who support a man who staged an illegal coup to overturn a totally legitimate election.
  • Members can be banned from Facebook for posting entirely legitimate news stories. One such story described how Texas Congressman Joe Burton had sent a series of smarmy emails to numerous women—while posing as a paragon of “family values.”
  • The post was removed and its poster was sent the following message: “We removed content you posted. We removed this content because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.” Then the member who posted it found himself blocked from Facebook.

facebook -community-standards-thou-shalt-not-have-personal-opinions-thou-50500808-1.png

  • One Facebook member posted an innocuous anti-Trump cartoon: A group of children are lined up at a house on Halloween. A woman at the door says: “Oh, look. We have a pirate, a witch and a Trump supporter [a boy wearing a white sheet as a ghost].” The post was removed and the poster blocked from Facebook:
  • Many Facebook users have found themselves punished after Facebook’s star chamber censors found a post they didn’t like from four years earlier.
  • Facebook’s arbitrary and punitive actions are so notorious they have become grist for countless memes—some of which are hilarious: “Warning: You have violated a rule we haven’t  made up yet. Because you’re a known troublemaker you’ve been banned for 30 days. Thank you for using Facebook, have a nice day.”

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

  • I was sentenced to “Facebook Jail” for two posts. The first of these stated: “Americans are historical illiterates.” This was labeled “hate speech and inferiority.” The fact that the distinguished historian David McCullough had said exactly the same meant nothing to Facebook.
  • Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

TIME FOR A WAR ON UNVACCINATED STORMTRUMPERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2021 at 12:10 am

It’s time to punish the egotistical selfishness of those who refuse to get vaccinated or even mask up  against COVID-19. And some major corporations have finally begun doing so.  Among these:

  • Disney is requiring all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in America to be vaccinated. 
  • Uber announced that its U.S.-based office staff needs to be vaccinated to return to the office. It isn’t requiring the same for drivers.
  • Walgreens is requiring vaccinations for all of its corporate employees in the United States.
  • Netflix will require COVID-19 vaccinations for the casts of all its American productions, including those who come in contact with them.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue is requiring that all employees be vaccinated.
  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced in a July 30 memo that all of its American-based corporate employees must be vaccinated by October 4.  
  • Tyson Foods will require that its 120,000 U.S. employees be fully vaccinated. According to the company, about 56,000 already are.
  • Ascension Health will require COVID-9 vaccinations for all of its employees.
  • On August 4, Twitter closed its offices in New York and San Francisco and paused further office reopenings. It was already requiring employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • Lyft is requiring all employees working in its offices to be vaccinated.
  • The Washington Post will require all current employees and new hires to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Morgan Stanley is barring all unvaccinated staff and clients from entering its New York headquarters office.

Vaccines for COVID-19 | CDC

On the October 15 edition of the PBS Newshour, political commentators David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart reached similar conclusions about the COVID pandemic.

CAPEHART: This is not supposed to be political. This is supposed to be about public health. And the sooner we get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic, the sooner all these things we have been talking about—unemployment, inflationary pressures, the need to have a reconciliation bill and an infrastructure building to get people back to work—won’t be necessary. 

BROOKS: Some things are matters of communal health and safety. And a stop sign is a matter of communal health and safety. And this vaccination is a matter of communal health and safety. So, to say it’s a matter of individual liberty is just not true. And it’s—they’re just making it so political….

And if you mandate it, it turns out they get the shot. And so The Times reported today United Airlines has 67,000 employees. They mandated. Only 232 said no. So, if you mandate it, it turns out it works. People get the shot, and that increases public health.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) | Santa Cruz County, AZ - Official Website

And some cities and states have finally begun to do stand up to unvaccinated Stormtrumpers and anti-vaxxers. Among these:

  • Starting August 16, New Orleans requires people to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter some indoor places, including bars, restaurants, gyms and stadiums.
  • As of August 17, New York City is requiring people to provide proof of vaccination before entering indoor venues.
  • San Francisco is requiring some indoor businesses—including restaurants, bars, gyms, clubs and entertainment venues—to obtain proof of vaccination from their patrons and employees before they can enter.
  • The Colorado Board of Health voted August 30 to mandate vaccinations for healthcare workers.
  • As of August 26, Illinois requires vaccinations for healthcare workers, including nursing home employees. 
  • In an August 9 emergency proclamation, Washington Governor Jay Inslee required most state employees and all healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by October 18.

No Admittance Sign | Authorised personnel only sign | Safety Signs & Notice

 * * * * *

But by far the best way to serve notice on the unvaccinated would be to turn them away from hospitals when they show up. 

They should be forcibly told: “You say it’s your right to refuse to get vaccinated. Fine. We say it’s our right to reserve beds for patients who deserve to be treated. And you don’t.”

So long as hospitals continue to cater to their self-indulgent Right-wingers—most of them Trump supporters—they will feel empowered to consume vital medical resources needed for victims of strokes, heart attacks, accidents and crime.

Anti-vaxxers or their loved ones have filed at least two dozen lawsuits across the country to force hospitals to give them ivermectin, a drug for de-worming cows and horses. But it remains an unproven cure for the virus.

These people need to be forcibly taught there are consequences for irresponsible behavior. So long as they are catered to, they will never learn this vital lesson.

And there is an even more important reason for taking what many will see as a radical step.

Those unvaccinated men and women who survive to 2024 will eagerly cast their votes for Donald Trump. Trump makes no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life”—and incited a treasonous attack on the United States Capitol to overturn the free and fair election of 2020.

Even now, he continues to lie that the election was “stolen” from him—and is laying the groundwork for subverting the results of the 2024 Presidential election.

So the more of these unvaccinated Right-wingers who aren’t around to cast their votes in 2024, the safer democracy will be. 

TIME FOR A WAR ON UNVACCINATED STORMTRUMPERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2021 at 12:05 am

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

Thus warned Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, in his classic work, The Discourses.

It is a lesson that American cities, states and the United States Department of Justice have refused to learn in protecting Americans from millions of egotistical Right-wingers in the age of COVID-19.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

A white woman with dark hair is lying in a hospital bed; she is looking at the camera

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

It’s past time to apply the same standard to Right-wingers who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19—or even mask up against it.

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Early on, President Donald Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23, 2021.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

George Karabassis, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?'”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all cases nationwide.

For this, their governors—Ron DeSantis (Florida), Gregg Abbott (Texas) and Mike Parson (Missouri) must take pride-of-place.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated is the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19.

The result has been a massive overcrowding of hospitals—where those who refused to get vaccinated are now taking up beds needed for legitimate victims of strokes, heart attacks, accidents and crime.

Many of these same patients beg—or demand—to be vaccinated. But to their surprise, they’re told it’s now too late.

It’s time to punish the egotistical selfishness of those who refuse to protect themselves and others. And some major corporations have finally begun telling their employees: “Get vaccinated—or find another place to work.”  

Among these:

  • In May, Delta Airlines began requiring newly-hired employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • On August 6, United Airlines announced that it would require its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated by October 25—or risk termination.
  • Hours later, Frontier Airlines announced that its employees must be vaccinated by October 1—or be frequently tested for COVID-19.
  • On August 4, Facebook announced that all of its employees would have to prove that they had been vaccinated to return to the office.
  • That same day, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a similar email to his staffers. 
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