Oct 29, 2019
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.