On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the US Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees to answer questions on a variety of subjects with regard to Big Data.

Did we know how short he is?

Censorship

According to The Daily Caller, questions were relatively anodyne, until Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stepped up to the plate.

Cruz asked Zuckerberg about the number of conservative and religious pages Facebook has hidden or blocked (emphases mine below):

Cruz noted the number of examples of Facebook censoring conservatives, including labeling conservative commentators Diamond and Silk as “unsafe,” hiding stories about the IRS targeting conservatives and blocking over two dozen Catholic pages.

“To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias,” Cruz said. “Do you agree with that assessment?”

Zuckerberg, of course, said that his social media platform tries to be unbiased.

Then, Cruz asked about left-leaning pages:

“Are you aware of any ad or page that has been taken down from Planned Parenthood?” Cruz shot at the tech billionaire.

“Senator, I’m not,” Zuckerberg conceded. “But let me just — ”

“How about MoveOn.org?” Cruz continued.

“I’m not specifically aware of those,” Zuckerberg again admitted.

There was more:

Cruz also pointed out that Zuckerberg is unaware of the political breakdown of his employees and the 15,000-20,000 people who police content for the site, leaving Zuckerberg struggling to explain why conservatives should not be worried that the social media site is apt to block their content.

Hmm. Zuckerberg is highly aware of at least some of his employees’ political leanings.

AI for ‘hate speech’

The Daily Caller was one of several media outlets carrying the story that Facebook’s artificial intelligence (AI) would detect ‘hate speech’.

Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) asked him if conservatives would be targeted:

Zuckerberg did not have an answer.

Of course not, because the answer clearly ‘yes’.

Sasse pressed Zuckerberg on the subject:

“Can you define hate speech?” Sasse asked one of the world’s most powerful CEOs bluntly.

“Senator, I think this is a really hard question,” Zuckerberg said, “It’s one of the reasons why we struggle with it.”

“I am worried about the psychological categories,” Sasse replied. “You used the language of safety and protection. We have seen this happen on college campuses. It’s dangerous.”

Sasse cited a poll that said a high proportion of college students believe the First Amendment is “dangerous” because it “might hurt someone else’s feelings.”

There are some passionately held views about the abortion issue on this panel,” Sasse said. “Can you imagine a world where you might decide that pro-lifers are prohibited from speaking about their abortion views on your platform?

Did Zuckerberg feel uncomfortable?

After a long pause, Zuckerberg said, “I would not want that to be the case.”

Yeah, sure.

Sasse did not let up:

It might be unsettling to people who’ve had an abortion to have an open debate on that, wouldn’t it?” Sasse pressed.

Zuckerberg said that other countries are putting such laws in place. (If so, bad news.) He then said:

I think America needs to figure out and create the principles we want American companies to operate under.

The Daily Caller said that Sasse looked less than impressed by that response.

Zuckerberg — and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey — want to change the paradigm and suppress the First Amendment by saying that their platforms fall under private enterprise. Therefore, users have to play by their rules.

Yet, courts have ruled against conservative businesses that do not want to accept every customer coming through their doors.

Talk about a double standard.

Political data mining

On March 22, after the Cambridge Analytica data flap hit the media (Brexit and Trump campaigns), I wrote about the mining of Facebook data with during Obama’s 2012 campaign. That was even bigger, and even the former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America called it ‘creepy’.

The Daily Caller also noticed that everyone is ignoring the 2012 Obama campaign’s data scrape:

… little was made of the fact that the Obama presidential campaign in 2012 used the same tactic with the social network. Former Obama campaign staffers have openly bragged about how Facebook turned a blind eye to the practice and even congratulated them. (RELATED: Obama Staffer: Facebook Knew Presidential Campaign Improperly Seized Data, Looked the Other Way)

Whilst acknowledging Cambridge Analytica, Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) had his chance to question Zuckerberg on the massive Obama data harvest:

“Somebody asked you earlier if it made you mad about what Cambridge Analytica did,” Tillis noted, saying Zuck should be “equally mad” about the Obama campaign.

“When you do your research on Cambridge Analytica, I would appreciate it if you would start back from the first high-profile national campaign that exploited Facebook data,” the senator said

Facebook has been silent on the Obama campaign scraping for data.

Exactly!

This double standard has been in operation for years (see ANDERSON 4 SENATE’s tweet; TheLastRefuge’s will feature next week):

Tillis said that the Facebook employee who mined the Obama data shouldn’t be working there:

I also believe that that person who may have looked the other way when the whole social graph was extracted for the Obama campaign, if they are still working for you, they probably should not.

He concluded:

At least there should be a business code of conduct that says that you do not play favorites. You are trying to create a fair place for people to share ideas.

Except Facebook, Twitter and Google do not care about fairness. They are trying to shape the way people think — with some dastardly success, too.

Appalling user agreement

The Daily Caller reported that John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) bluntly criticised Facebook’s user agreement:

Kennedy said, “I do not want to have to regulate Facebook. I will. A lot of that depends on you.”

Kennedy called what Zuckerberg has done “magical,” before noting that “there is some impurities in the Facebook punch bowl.

He did not stop there:

The senator then got to the point, “I say this gently. Your user agreement sucks.”

Kennedy told the laughing hearing room that Facebook was covering their “rear end” with the user agreement before bluntly stating, “I am going to suggest to you that you go back home and rewrite it…Tell them you want it written in English and not in Swahili.”

The two then got into ‘another heated exchange’ over access to private data.

Zuckerberg apologises, nothing changes

A March 26 article I cited in yesterday’s post from web hosting site easyDNS, ‘Should You Delete Your Facebook Page?’, stated that Facebook has often apologised in the past but nothing changes. It appears to be company policy. On the Cambridge Analytica controversy:

Mark Zuckerberg has issued yet another “Mea Culpa” on CNN, and Facebook will take out full page ads in newspapers to apologize to the public. Yet, by now, “Groveling Zuckerberg apologies” are just part of the Facebook playbook, as Liz Gannes observed back in 2011, after Facebook had just settled with the US Federal Trade Commission over still more privacy violations:

“At this point, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pattern on privacy is clear. Launch new stuff that pushes the boundaries of what people consider comfortable. Apologize and assure users that they control their information, but rarely pull back entirely, and usually reintroduce similar features at a later date when people seem more ready for it.”

It becomes clear, as Futurist (and easyDNS member) Jesse Hirsh made this point on Steve Pakin’s “The Agenda” over the weekend: “Facebook ships with all privacy enhanced settings disabled” – further, my personal findings are that they use obfuscation to make it harder to disable data sharing settings. You have to jump through hoops to do it.

Zuckerberg knows exactly what’s going on, which shows what contempt he has for Facebook users.

Zuckerberg’s possible 2020 presidential run

In August 2017, news emerged that Mark Zuckerberg is considering running for US president in 2020.

CNBC reported:

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have hired Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster, adviser to former President Barack Obama and chief strategist of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant for their joint philanthropic project, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

The pair also hired David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run; Amy Dudley, former communications adviser for Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Ken Mehlman, who directed President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

The couple plan a ‘listening tour’ of all 50 states.

Imagine if Zuckerberg goes ahead with this and consider all the Facebook data he has at his disposal.

The public would not know if he were data mining or not, although, surely, he would be.

Facebook users, beware. Do you really need that account? If it’s to share socio-political articles and opinion, why not start a (non-Google) blog featuring short posts with relevant links instead?

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