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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 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.

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