Elisa Shearer (@elisashearer) is a Research Associate at the Pew Research Center. She earned her Masters in Communications, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Houghton College, from which she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Motherboard reports on Facebook’s comfortable relationship with the Menlo Park Police Department. Apparently, Facebook is paying the City of Menlo Park some $2 million per year – a large some for a small city – to have a dedicated police force for Facebook’s campus. One of the things the Facebook unit does is monitor for thefts of bikes the company sets out for its employees. The employees aren’t permitted to leave the bikes outside of Facebook’s campus, but they often do it anyway.
Sometimes citizens in the neighboring community, East Palo Alto, use the bikes. The majority of citizens on East Palo Alto are black or Latinx. One of the people the cops picked up for using one of the bikes was Latinx. But it turns out the employee was a Facebook contractor. So citizens and advocates have called out the police and Facebook for working together on racial profiling. It’s a long read, but you can find the full report in the show notes.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Facebook on Twitter on Saturday, calling the company’s political behavior “increasingly disturbing”. Connecting the dots, the Congresswoman noted that Zuckerberg claimed he didn’t know when Facebook discovered the Cambridge Analytica scandal, that Zuckerberg met with Trump, and the far right thenm started allowing disinformation ads, and that Zuckerberg didn’t tell the whole truth about fact checkers. She says that Facebook acts like they’re just an innocent bystander but that Facebook’s decisions have become more and more disturbing. According to the New York Times, Hundreds of Facebook employees wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging him to hold ads placed by politicians to the same high accuracy standard as those placed by any advertiser.
The House has passed a third election security bill designed to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 election. The bill passed 221-181 mostly along party lines. The act is dubbed the SHIELD act and it targets paid online political ads. Republicans raised First Amendment concerns about the bill, and the American Civil Liberties Union said that it sweeps to broadly.
According to Reuters, Russian operatives attempting to interfere with the platform ahead of the 2020 election are trying to remain invisible by sacrificing followers. Facebook is specifically flagging accounts that grow very quickly.
Google employees are claiming that the company is creating a tool to monitor calendar invites to try and prevent staffers from organizing. The tool would apparently flag employees that create events with more than 10 rooms or 100 people. Google denies that the tool is designed to thwart organizing efforts.
The Pentagon awarded its 10 year, $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to Microsoft, closing it off from Amazon, which was expected to win the deal, as it was considered by many analysts to have the best capabilities. But Microsoft too has the highest military security rating possible.
A former speechwriter for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that President Trump wanted to “screw over” Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post—one of the news outlets the president thinks is biased against him. But the Pentagon states that its awarding of the contract to Microsoft is in line with an overall multi-platform strategy, that can’t be handled by a single vendor.
Google announced a quantum computing milestone last week, saying that it had developed a microprocessor that took minutes to perform a calculation that would have taken the world’s best super computer thousands of years.
Andrew Free (@ImmCivilRights) is an abolitionist lawyer fighting alongside immigrant communities in the Deep South and across the country to defend deportations and advance civil rights.
A Good Provider is One Who Leaves by Jason DeParle
Mark Zuckerberg defends decision to allow misinformation by politicians
Zuckerberg delivered remarks on Thursday at Georgetown defending his company’s policy to leave up false political ads. But his speech was roundly criticized.
Both Democrats and civil rights organizations blasted Zuckerberg for deliberately refusing to fact-check ads placed by politicians. Leadership Conference for Civil Rights President Vanita Gupta, NAACP Legal Defense Fund head Sherrilyn Ifill, and Bernice King—the daughter of slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.—all pointed to the historical role that disinformation has played in suppressing the voices of and inciting hatred against people of color.
Elizabeth Warren also escalated her attacks against Zuckerberg, challenging Facebook to remove an ad that her campaign posted. In order to illustrate the absurdity of Facebook’s policy to leave up false ads placed by politicians, Warren’s ad contained a deliberately false claim that Zuckerberg had endorsed Donald Trump for president. Facebook responded that it would prioritize free speech over facts and that it wouldn’t step in to police false claims made by politicians.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sent a letter to Facebook after a political action committee posted an ad that falsely claimed that Biden blackmailed the Ukrainian government to stop investigating his son, Hunter Biden, by threatening to withhold aid. Biden’s campaign says the ad wasn’t posted by a politician—it was posted by a PAC—and should’ve been taken down. The ad has since been removed.
On Monday, Facebook announced that it found and disabled misinformation campaigns apparently being conducted by Russia and Iran. The company also announced plans to label content posted by state actors.
Warren pledges to reject donations from big tech
In a blog post ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren also pledged to reject campaign funding from executives at Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Lyft, and other big tech companies. Those executives would otherwise be allowed to donate up to $2,800.
Harris and Warren spar over Twitter
During the Democratic debate Tuesday night, Kamala Harris went after Elizabeth Warren for the latter’s refusal to support Harris’ call for Twitter to disable Trump’s Twitter account. Warren responded that her goal is to get Trump out of the White House not off Twitter. Twitter has said that it would not disable Trump’s account unless he specifically violates the social media company’s rules against threatening individuals, promoting terrorism or self-harm, or posting private information like a phone number.
Bernie Sanders wants to break up big media
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is taking a slightly different tack. The presidential candidate released a plan to dismantle the mergers of large media companies that have been approved during the Trump era. Sanders specifically mentioned Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox as an example of corporate greed that he would seek to tamp down as president.
Facebook loses support from major Libra allies
Facebook has lost the support of major banks it relied on to make its cryptocurrency, Libra, a reality. Mastercard, Visa, Ebay, Stripe and Latin American payments company Mercado Pago all pulled out of the partnership with the so-called Libra Association, citing regulatory concerns and a number of other factors. The companies joined PayPal, which left the association the week before last. Lyft and Vodafone are still in, according to Reuters.
FCC approves Sprint T-Mobile merger
The Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to approve the Sprint-T-Mobile merger last week, with Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks opposing based on pricing concerns, including the lack of a resolution regarding the broadband subsidy program known as Lifeline. The deal got the DOJ’s stamp of approval in July. But the merger still faces a multistate lawsuit from ten states seeking to block the merger.
AT&T ‘s keeps hiking prices
AT&T has continued to hike prices by as much as 50%, according to Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica. The company’s new “TV Now” package is rising by $15 per month, from $50 to $65. The company is also raising prices on its “Live a Little” plan from $50 to $60 in November. This is the second time the company has raised prices for this plan. In April, it hiked it from $40 to $50—that’s a $20 monthly increase over the span of just 7 months.
Ora Tanner (@odtanner) is Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of South Florida (USF). She previously worked as a nuclear physicist, science educator, and more recently as a graduate researcher on NSF-funded grant projects related to digital game-based learning and assessment. Ora earned her B.S. and M.S. in physics from Dillard University of New Orleans and USF, respectively, and expects to complete her doctorate in Instructional Technology and Educational Measurement in 2019. She studies the latest emerging technologies and explores how they can be used to empower both K-12 students and teachers in science education.
Right to Petition: A Practical Guide to Creating Change in Government with Political Advocacy Tools and Tips by Nicole Tisdale (Advocacy Blueprints Press, 2019)
Email questions about the safety portal to: email@example.com
Submit public input here.
Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign targeted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week in a new social media ad. The ad facetiously alleges that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has endorsed Donald Trump for President. The assertion wasn’t true, of course, but that was the point: Warren says that endorsing Trump is essentially what Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are doing by allowing politicians to post false ads on the platform.
In recent weeks, the social media giant has refused to remove false ads from politicians. As recently as Friday, Facebook declined to remove a Trump campaign ad questioning Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s alleged role in ousting a Ukrainian prosecutor, after the Democratic National Committee called for the ad to be removed. Facebook is uniformly refusing to take down false ads, claiming to prioritize freedom of expression over truth.
But Zuckerberg has also been defending himself for meeting with conservative groups, politicians, and pundits in private dinners and other gatherings. Zuckerberg’s terse response to those who criticized the meeting was, “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning … If you haven't tried it, I suggest you do!" Zuckerberg is set to return to Washington on October 23rd, to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by Maxine Waters.
Public demand for government intervention in online extremism clashes with civil liberties groups
According to a recent Morning Consult poll, some 58% of Americans want Congress to take a more active role in moderating online content. But the efforts of Democrats in Congress to push for legislation to curtail online extremism are getting resistance from civil liberties groups, including NYU’s Brennan Center.
The Hill reports that the Democrat-controlled House Homeland Security Committee is pushing for a bill that would create a bipartisan, 12-member commission with the power, not only to study online extremism, but also to subpoena certain communications. Civil liberties groups oppose any expansion of government surveillance, stating that such surveillance could have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, such as communities of color.
Meanwhile, online extremists who used to post on 8chan until it was shut down, have now been migrating over to Telegram, according to a new Vice News investigation published last week finding that more than two thirds of the 150 extremist groups on Telegram were established in 2019. And extremist content on YouTube shows few signs of slowing. A violent YouTube video containing fictitious movie footage of a shooting surfaced over the weekend, after it was shown at a pro-Trump event hosted by the conservative group American Priority on a Trump golf course. In it, Trump’s image is superimposed on top of ashooter’s, and those of his political opponents, including Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and logos of major media companies, were superimposed on top of the faces of the victims in the movie, to make it appear as though the president was massacring his opponents inside a church. The president stated that he strongly condemns the video, but that he hasn’t seen it. On Friday, in an ostensible coincidence, Trump stated at a rally that there is an “unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians, deep-state bureaucrats and the fake news media.”
California blocks facial recognition in police body cams
California governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill last week that prevents the police from using facial recognition in body cams. The bill remains in effect until January 1st, 2023. New Hampshire and Oregon have passed similar legislation.
Domino’s must make its website and app accessible to people with disabilities
Finally, In a case that carries significant implications for every online platform, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling that a blind customer can sue Domino’s pizza, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for failing to make its website fully accessible. Fast Company reports though that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing back, saying that allowing customers to sue can open the floodgates of litigation and thereby harm small businesses.
Data journalist Meredith Broussard (@merbroussard) is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and the author of “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World.”. Her academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She is also interested in reproducible research issues and is developing methods for preserving innovative digital journalism projects in scholarly archives so that we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Moore Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science, a 2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, and her work has been supported by the Institute of Museum & Library Services as well as the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. Her features and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, and other outlets.
Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press, 2018)
The New York Daily News reports that Google apparently sent out contractors to pay homeless people $5 gift cards to train facial recognition on ‘dark skinned’ homeless people. The revelation comes after several former Google temp workers came forward. Google has acknowledged the program, though, and said its primary goal is to have a diverse and inclusive data set. Better security is also a goal, said the Google spokesperson, because the company is seeking to protect as many people as possible. But the workers took issue with some of the specific tactics they were asked to employ via their staffing agency, Randstad, under the direction of Google.
The CEO of the Democratic National Committee, Seema Nanda, went on CNN last week and accused Facebook of catering to Trump by allowing him to “mislead the American people”. The previous week, Facebook refused to remove posts and ads from politicians even if they violate Facebook’s community rules.
Also, Scott Lucas of BuzzFeed wrote a piece on Facebook’s growing popularity among older and more conservative voters, and whether Facebook may in fact be Trump’s secret weapon against Democrats in the 2020 election.
In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Senator Kamala Harris, who is running for president, called on Twitter to suspend Trump’s Twitter account, citing the president’s attempts to “target, harass, and attempt to out” the first Ukraine whistleblower. She also referred to the president’s tweet stating that there would be a Civil War-like fracture, if he’s impeached, saying it was an incitement to violence. The president also referred to the impeachment investigation as a “coup” to which Harris retweeted with a comment saying “Hey Jack … time to do something about this.” But Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom are also running for president, disagreed that Twitter should suspend the president’s Twitter account. The two lawmakers said that “we can’t just cancel or shutdown or silence those who we disagree with or who hold different views or who say things even that we strongly disagree with or abhor.”
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules. The court sided with the FCC in saying that the internet isn’t a “telecommunications service”. But the court did say, however, that the FCC didn’t make a compelling argument that the FCC preempts state law, clearing the way for states to enact their own net neutrality rules, provided that they don’t undermine the repeal order. The court also said the FCC failed to properly consider the effect the rules would have on public safety, serving the underserved, and a wonky area of telecom law that deals with regulations around how ISPs should attach telecom equipment to existing telephone poles.
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a rule that would allow the widespread collection of DNA from detained migrants. The Trump administration argues that the effort would aid the U.S. in identifying undocumented individuals. But policy experts cited in Roll Call are concerned that the program is just another way to target people of color.
Tim Cook filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging the Court to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood (DACA) arrival program. If the Supreme Court rules against the program, hundreds of thousands of individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children, some of which work at Apple, could face deportation.
Google researchers presented a model that recognizes speech in 9 “data scarce” Indian languages at Interspeech 2019 last week. The researches say the model allows for real-time speech recognition of all of the languages and does so better than other models. The languages include Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Gujarati.
The House Financial Services Committee, for which California Representative Maxine Waters serves as chair, is demanding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify regarding its plan to introduce its Libra cryptocurrency. The company has planned to send COO Sheryl Sandberg, but the Committee indicated that sending Sandberg is insufficient. Waters has called for Zuckerberg to testify by January.
Microsoft reported a hacking attempt linked to Iran on 2,700 email accounts, of which 241 were successful. Some of the accounts included presidential candidates, according to the Hill, which also noted that an undisclosed source indicated that the Trump campaign was among the targets. The Trump campaign has said that it does not have any evidence of an attack.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved UPS’ plan to operate an unlimited fleet of drones nationwide. The drones are permitted to operate at night, but not yet in populated areas. UPS has not announced plans to train existing drivers to pilot the drones.
Charlton McIlwain (@cmcilwain) is Vice Provost or Faculty Engagement and Development; Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at
New York University. His recent work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He recently wrote Racial Formation, Inequality & the Political Economy of Web Traffic, in the journal Information, Communication & Society, and he co-authored, with Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark, the recent report Beyond the Hashtags: Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, published by the Center for Media & Social Impact, and supported by the Spencer Foundation. Today, Tuesday October 1st, 2019, his new book entitled Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, releases via Oxford University Press and available wherever you buy books.
McIlwain, Charlton. Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AFRONET to Black Lives Matter (Oxford University Press, 2019)
The New York Times reports that the Electronic Frontier Foundation shared with it scores of documents uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act request that reveal the extent to which federal law enforcement officials issue subpoenas to companies in an effort to uncover personal data about individuals the Justice Department suspects of being a threat to National Security. The Justice Department has issued the so-called National Security Letters (NSLs) to companies as diverse as Equifax, Verizon, Google, and Microsoft seeking things like user names, IP addresses, locations, and records of purchases made by their customers.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is pushing for more tech expertise on the Hill, saying that it would help resist tech companies’ growing lobbying influence in Washington. Warren says tech companies’ strategy has been to purport that they understand tech issues better than congressional staffers. So she’s advocating for the reestablishment of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which Newt Gingrich dismantled in 1995. For about two decades, the OTA was tasked with helping to keep Congressional staffers abreast of tech issues.
The NAACP slammed Comcast for asking the Supreme Court to curtail section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which outlaws discrimination in contracting. Comcast and Trump’s Department of Justice are asking the Supreme Court to water down the statute by requiring plaintiffs to prove that race was the only motivating factor for why a defendant didn’t award a contract, as opposed being one of several factors. Comcast is requesting the more conservative reading of the statute in the context of a $20 billion lawsuit Byron Allen brought against it and Charter for opting out of carrying Allen’s cable channels. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief on Comcast’s behalf. Allen is arguing that race does not need to be the only motivating factor in a contract discrimination lawsuit and that Comcast and the Trump administration are conspiring to eviscerate this landmark civil rights law, which was passed in the wake of the Civil War—the first one.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that seven (7) companies including Capital One, Edward Jones, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Enterprise Holdings, Renewal by Andersen, Drive Time Auto, and Sandhills Publishing discriminated against women and older workers by targeting ads based on age and gender. The Commission found that while targeting based on ages an gender may be appropriate in some cases, it’s not appropriate for housing, real estate, financial services, and job opportunities.
The Federal Trade Commission is suing dating platform Match Group, owner of Match, Tinder, OKCupid, Hinge, PlentyofFish and other dating apps, for fraud, TechCrunch reports. The lawsuit targets Match.com specifically saying the platform is overrun by bots and spammers that Match encourages and profits from.
Online delivery service DoorDash is one of the latest targets of a hack. This time, the hack exposed the data of 4.9 million people. Even though the hack happened in May, DoorDash didn’t discover it until September.
Finally, the Government Accountability Office wants the FCC to take more active measures to address a shortage of spectrum on Tribal lands. The report indicates that Tribal lands, especially those in rural areas, lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to broadband access. It says that wireless can help close the divide. GAO says the FCC needs to do more to assess the extent to which Tribal organizations participate in spectrum auctions and to which unused spectrum across tribal lands could be used to deliver broadband access.