Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Facebook should not be allowed to buy its way out of this latest mess

Elaine and I  continue to cover Facebook:  FTC investigating Facebook“ and “One more time on Facebook.“  She’ll be writing about it again tonight.  I’m covering the legal questions.   

The Zuckerberg empire is burning from all directions at once. Yes, the man who once called his users “dumb fucks” for entrusting him to be the steward of their personal data is in the midst of a disastrous and very public reckoning. Take a moment to process this unexpected turn of events if you must.
The epitome of Silicon Valley hubris, Zuckerberg so richly deserves to be forever clowned on for the utter gracelessness with which he tripped and continues to trip over his own dick. Since the scandal of Cambridge Analytica became international news, teams of expensive lawyers and public relationship professionals haven’t stopped the World’s Least Charismatic CEO from digging himself a hole big enough to fit, say, a 700-acre waterfront estate in.
Lawmakers, users, investors—all of them have very legitimate bones to pick with Facebook, such that it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep track of just which entities are currently threatening to depose tech’s boy-king. For your convenience, we’ve compiled them all here, and will continue to update them as this data fusking saga unfolds.
What exactly is going on currently?  REUTERS offers this summary:

·         37 US state attorneys are demanding answers from Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
·         American regulatory body the FTC has also announced it has opened an investigation into the social networking firm.
·         The company has lost $70 billion in market value since the scandal began.
·         CEO Mark Zuckerberg has now been invited to appear before a congressional committee.
So on top of that, CNN reports:
Data crunching firm Palantir Technologies is denying claims made by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie that it has links to the controversial company.
Wylie, a former contractor for Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the center of a debate over how social media data is used, told a UK parliamentary committee on Tuesday that senior Palantir staff had access to user data gleaned from Facebook.
"There were senior Palantir employees that were also working on the Facebook data," said Wylie. "There were Palantir staff who would come into the office and work on the data."
Wylie said there was no official contract between Palantir and Cambridge Analytica, but "there were Palantir staff who helped build the models that we were working on."

And if that’s not bad enough, take a gander at this:
March 27, 2018, New York City – Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”) and three of its member organizations filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. in federal court in New York City, alleging that Facebook’s advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads. With almost 2 billion users, Facebook customizes the audience for its millions of advertisers based on its vast trove of personalized user data. After being warned repeatedly about its discriminatory advertising practices, Facebook continues to use this data to deny people access to rental housing and real estate sales ads because of their sex and family status.
In addition to NFHA, the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the New York City-based Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”); Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”) in Miami, Florida; and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”). All four Plaintiffs are non-profit organizations with the common mission of eliminating housing discrimination and promoting residential integration. Plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman of the New York City-based civil rights law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (“ECBA”).
The lawsuit alleges that Facebook has created pre-populated lists that make it possible for its housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) home seekers from viewing or receiving rental or sales ads because of protected characteristics, including family status and sex. Plaintiffs conducted investigations in each of their respective housing markets that confirmed Facebook’s discriminatory practices.
Plaintiffs created a non-existent realty firm and then prepared dozens of housing advertisements that they submitted to Facebook for review. Facebook provided Plaintiffs with specific lists of groups they could exclude from receiving the ads, including families with children, moms with children of certain ages, women or men, and other categories based on sex or family status. The investigations also revealed that Facebook provides housing advertisers with the ability to exclude certain “interest” categories from receiving ads that are disability-based (e.g., people who are interested in disabled veterans or disabled parking permits) or national origin-based (e.g., people who are interested in English as a second language). Starting in 2016, an investigation by the news organization ProPublica found that Facebook’s ad platform permitted advertisers for a variety of goods and services, including housing, to exclude African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans from receiving ads. As the Complaint explains, while Facebook has recently removed some of these options, it continues to violate fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination in other ways.
Exhibits attached to the Complaint show screenshots of many of the discriminatory exclusions that are currently available to housing advertisers. A copy of the Complaint is available at http://nationalfairhousing.org/facebook-complaint/.
“Amid growing public concern in the past weeks that Facebook has mishandled users’ data, our investigation shows that Facebook also allows and even encourages its paid advertisers to discriminate using its vast trove of personal data,” said Lisa Rice, NFHA’s President and CEO. “Facebook’s use and abuse of user data for discriminatory purposes needs to stop. It is already a challenge for women, families with children, people with disabilities and other under-served groups to find housing. Facebook’s platform that excludes these consumers from ever seeing certain ads to rent or buy housing must be changed immediately. Facebook ought to be opening doors to housing opportunities instead of closing them,” Rice added.
FHJC’s Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Facebook enables a real estate company or landlord to discriminate by selectively targeting housing advertisements to exclude specific populations.” Freiberg added, “Facebook’s platform is the virtual equivalent of posting a for-rent sign that says No Families with Young Kids or No Women, but it does so in an insidious and stealth manner so that people have no clue they have been excluded on the basis of family status or sex.”
“The illegal exclusion of women and children from housing opportunities should never be an option,” said Keenya Robertson, President and CEO of HOPE, Inc. “Such an option should not only trigger one’s sense of right and wrong, but simply offend one’s common sense.”
“This year is the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the final great legislative achievement of the civil rights era,” said Sandra Tamez, FHCGSA’s Executive Director. “We are still fighting to increase housing opportunities for historically excluded groups such as women with children and persons of color, and to end the discrimination in advertising that persists today, albeit in new forms on Facebook and other online platforms.”
“Facebook has known for years that its advertising platform violates civil rights laws, but it has refused to change its ways on a voluntary basis,” said Diane L. Houk, one of Plaintiffs’ attorneys. “Facebook is not above the law and must answer these civil rights claims in court.”
“Facebook announced this year that its new mission is to bring the world closer together, but this remains empty corporate jargon as long as Facebook discriminates in its ad platform,” said Katherine Rosenfeld, another of Plaintiffs’ attorneys. “If Facebook truly wants to bring the world closer together, it could start tomorrow by giving female-headed families with children equal access to Facebook advertisements for apartment rentals.”
In the Complaint filed today, Plaintiffs allege that Facebook’s practices violate federal and local fair housing laws that bar discrimination in housing advertising. Plaintiffs ask the Court to:
·         Declare that the practice of excluding Facebook users from receiving housing ads on the basis of sex, family status, and any other legally protected categories violates the Fair Housing Act and the New York City Human Rights Law;
·         Issue an injunction barring Facebook from continuing to engage in discriminatory housing advertising; and
·         Require Facebook to change its advertising platform and its practices to comply with fair housing laws, including by eliminating checkboxes, selection categories, and other content that enable advertisers to restrict access to housing advertisements.
– ### –
Founded in 1988, the National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the National Fair Housing Alliance, through comprehensive education, advocacy, enforcement programs, and neighborhood-based community development programs, provides equal access to apartments, houses, mortgage loans, and insurance policies for all residents of the nation.
The Fair Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination; promoting policies that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthening enforcement of fair housing laws. The FHJC serves all five boroughs of New York City and the seven surrounding New York counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.
Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. is a thirty year old, non-profit Fair Housing organization whose mission is to fight housing discrimination in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and to ensure equal housing opportunities throughout Florida.
The Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1996 to promote fair housing and eliminate discriminatory housing practices in the areas of rental housing, real estate, mortgage lending, and homeowners’ insurance. Originally established to serve the residents of San Antonio and Bexar County, FHCGSA has expanded its service area to include 36 other counties in South Texas.
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP is a litigation boutique that focuses on civil rights, commercial, criminal, and ethics matters. We represent individuals, businesses, and institutions in all aspects of litigation and pre-litigation dispute resolution, from negotiation, mediation and arbitration, through hearings, trials, and appeals.
Housing?  Honestly?  Facebook is really evil.  I can’t believe that.  Watch them try to make a donation to the NAACP and act like that makes it okay.  It doesn’t.  They need to apologize. 


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, March 27, 2018.  Does violence in Iraq not matter?

ALSUMARIA reports that a bombing east of Baghdad left two people injured.  At ANTIWAR.COM, Margaret Griffis counts 35 dead in Monday's violence.  SHIA WAVES notes one incident of violence on Monday.

Saturday's violence resulted in at least 21 deaths.  The violence receives little coverage in the US media these days.  The silence certainly helps the US government sell the lie that the war is over and that Iraq has "turned a corner" -- that mythical turned corner claim is trotted out every few years.  It's never been true so far but they keep trying.  MSNBC features Rachel Maddow who will never explore violence in Iraq or note dead Iraqis.  She's got so much to talk about -- none of it important.  We avoided Keith Olbermann here because his reputation was well known (sexist and piggish).  During his rise on MSNBC, you won't find me praising him here.  But I will note now that he was willing to discuss Iraqi deaths and the effects on the Iraqi people.  Rachel won't.  But she was for the Iraq War before it started.  Then came AIR AMERICA RADIO and, on UNFILTERED, she wouldn't book veterans who were against the war.  She would repeatedly say that there was no point in talking about the US leaving Iraq because they were there now.  That's the sort of voice that gets on MSNBC.  (Also remember, she put on a man -- not once but twice -- known to have beaten his wife and praised and coddled the man -- known to have beaten his wife that year.  That's the sort of 'caring' and 'social minded' talk show host Rachel is.)

The faces on camera for MSNBC have shuffled but the people behind the scenes have not and MSNBC existed to sell the war.  So much so that they fired Phil Donahue on the eve of the Iraq War because they couldn't have anyone on air who might prompt actual thought.  When you grasp that, you grasp the current on air 'talent' at MSNBC and how they serve a purpose: Diversion.  They exist to distract you from real problems.  They exist to ensure that you never take on the government, you only take on your fellow citizens.  They distract from reality.

Rachel had Colin Powell on her show, you may remember.  And fawned all over him.  Didn't make him uncomfortable about his lies to the United Nations about Iraq.  Because that's not why she's on television.  She's there -- like a good whore -- to provide a distraction that lets you safely vent anger at safe targets.  She's a fake.  A radio dee jay mistaken as a journalist.  She spent weeks on her self-titled AIR AMERICA RADIO SHOW lying to her listeners as she defended the TIME magazine writer who wrote the lurid prose piece on Ann Coulter.  Critics were outraged by that piece -- rightly -- but Rachel defended it.  She forgot to tell you that she was besties with the writers -- a gay man who referred to her as "my angel."  She forgot to tell you that, so we had to.  That's how it works.  You'll never get the truth from her.

UNFILTERED listeners learned that the last month of the show.  Lizz Winstead walked off the show when they learned it was the last month and that they would be replaced by Jerry Springer.  Rachel didn't walk.  Like a good whore, she showed and she lied.  For a month, she lied that Lizz hadn't quit -- the show's official message board was enraged that Lizz wasn't there -- she lied and insisted that Lizz was just home sick.  That's how she lies to her audience.  And the fact that she did that not only got her a solo show on AIR AMERICA RADIO, it ended up getting her a slot on MSNBC.

That's who some people wrongly put their trust in.  A spoiled, baby ass who got her own parents to be sock puppets on the AIR AMERICA RADIO message boards.  How pathetic.

But people think she's smart -- only when it comes to whoring -- and that she's honest.

She's just another person pocketing millions for deliberately distracting the American people.

Rachel Maddow exists to distract.

She doesn't inform.  She doesn't shine a light.

The US has been at war with Iraq for fifteen years, had troops stationed in Iraq for fifteen years.  That's not a story for Rachel.  When she tried to make it one, it was so full of lies that even Randi Rhodes mocked her for her refusal to be honest.

And, getting back to yesterday's snapshot, a few e-mails came in saying "I can only follow so much, I can't go all over to pick up news reports I don't know about."

Alice Walker, in 2006, addressed what we can do.  That interview is collected in THE WORLD HAS CHANGED: CONVERSATIONS WITH ALICE WALKER (pages 308 - 309):

Many people live with two sides of themselves out of touch with each other.  They complain about paying their taxes but don't complain about what their taxes actually buy, like cluster bombs.  A million of these bombs, originally supplied by the US government, were left in Lebanon.  Children will come and pick them up, and they will blow up in their faces.  Then you have all these maimed and dying children.  But since your right hand, which wrote the check for the taxes, has learned not to care about the left hand, which has actually sent this off to the IRS and the government and the military, you pretend you are innocent.  Well, you're not.  That's what I mean.
Of course, I know how difficult it can be to become fully aware and bear responsibility, and even though I figure there's very little I can do to actually stop the war, I feel like I can make every effort to be aware.  Not to be aware is very soul shredding.  People might say, "I didn't know they were making tanks big enough to level people's houses."  Well, they should know that.  You may not be able to dismantle the tank, or even stop paying for the tank, but you can know that's what is happening.

Our government is at war on Iraq.

Black Alliance for Peace noted last week:

Monday marked the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “Humanitarian intervention” to depose a “dictator” was the excuse. Now Iraq—home to a major civilization—is littered with military waste that has caused birth defects in Iraqi infants and has been a breeding ground for armed, right-wing Islamic groups. The bill for re-constructing Iraq is estimated at $100 billion. The United States says it will not pay a cent. Keeping Iraq in ruins allows the United States to control the oil Iraq produces and keep that crucial resource out of the hands of China and Russia, both of which have been demonized by the ruling class with the help of the Western press.

If you're not getting how bad the media is, check this out from a WASHINGTON POST journalist:

Total U.S. military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan: 6,950 Number of U.S. children killed by gun violence in past five years: 6,984

Apparently, we have to review this again.  US service members killed in Iraq are not the same as children killed in the US.  US service members are trained in combat, are given firearms, are sent to another country to engage in war.

Ingram, like the idiot we noted yesterday, ignores the true comparison: Iraqi civilians.

Nicholas J.S. Davis (NEW MINT PRESS) notes the death toll in Iraq is easily 2.38 million killed since the start of the 2003 US-led invasion.

It was bad enough with the idiot yesterday.  Why would a journalist like Ingram do it?  Because it's a talking point -- we've received it in the public e-mails.  It's part of astrotruf.  And that a reporter would do this?  That goes to how little Iraqi lives are valued.

Their 'crime' is living in Iraq.

For that, they are killed and injured.

It takes a lot of xenophobia to ignore the Iraqi people but, fortunately, the corporate media is full of xenophobes.

Outside the corporate media, most get it.

Not that I think the gun violence march in America was irrelevant but the children of Iraq, Syria, and Palestine would like to be safe in school and at home. Where are the marches for these children? Why is the world so silent when it comes to them?

1) Violence. When you see some poor father in Iraq crying, carrying his dead child in his arms, and you call it "collateral damage"? Well:

2) Children are killed by US military violence. Their lives are EQUAL to the lives of American children. Americans are not worth more, ok?!

3) When violence is practiced by a society anywhere, it will manifest within that society in ways the society did not anticipate.

4) When I was in grade school in 1970s, a sign in classroom said: "Children learn what they live" Somewhere we've lost sight of that.

5) Because our govt uses violence against innocent people and justifies it as "necessary", this same phenomenon manifests within society.

6) You cannot hope to end violence by banning a certain gun without banning the use of the same gun against kids in other countries.

7) Violence is violence in America, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It's wrong and evil in all the world. All children deserve safety, not just here

8) So let's have an end to drawing some line that says "This gun can be used to kill kids over there but not here." Or excusing govt murder.

9) The govt has murdered millions for reasons they themselves cannot fully explain. So let's have an end to THAT. Murder is murder.

10) Americans are too damn nearsighted on this. We've been killing people all over the planet for decades but don't like it done here.

11) When you say human life is sacred EVERYWHERE then it will permeate society here, too. But you've got to practice it! ALL LIFE IS SACRED!

As Nick Pemberton (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

Violence in Iraq is safer for the ruling class and the middle class here in America. Barack Obama would never really drop a drone on a Jonas Brother, even if he makes jokes about it. Segregated neighborhoods operate in the same way. As long as the police continue to occupy them we assume we are safe from any stray bullets.
The contradictory media coverage goes something like this: When kids die in the United States it is senseless. When kids die in Iraq it is necessary. When kids die in the United States they have lost a future. When kids die in Iraq they have lost a present. When kids die in the United States their parents are heartbroken. When kids die in Iraq their parents are terrorists. When kids die in the United States it is tragic. When kids die in Iraq it is just another day.
[. . .]
The hysteria around the death of rich white children is a different sort of reaction than the occasional pity we feel for Iraqi children. 

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, DISSIDENT VOICE and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

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