Opinion | Facebook Isn’t Just Allowing Lies, It’s Prioritizing Them – By Tim Wu – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Wu is a law professor at Columbia.

Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

” “First, do no harm,” a doctrine typically associated with the practice of medicine, is the right ethic when it comes to decisions surrounding Silicon Valley’s paid promotion technologies and their effects on elections and democracy. A desire to avoid harm — in particular, the spread of misinformation — is part of what persuaded Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, to announce that his company will no longer run political ads. And Twitter is not alone: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Microsoft and Twitch also refuse political ads, while Google accepts them in some states but not others.

Facebook is now the outlier, and it is increasingly hard to understand why it is insisting on accepting not only political advertising, but even deliberate and malicious lies if they are in the form of paid advertisements. Given how much can go wrong — and has gone wrong — the question everyone is asking is: Why does Facebook think it needs to be in this game? Naïveté is at this point the most flattering explanation.

It isn’t, as some think, just about making money, for as a revenue source, the money at stake is minor. But the money does matter, in a different way. Paying for promotion is how, on social media, some speakers gain priority over others. This creates an advantage unrelated to actual popularity. Paired with the freedom to lie, the effect is to give political lies and paid misinformation campaigns a twisted advantage over other forms of election speech (like “the news.”) Even as Facebook’s “integrity” teams try to stamp out other forms of deception, paid promotions gain access to the full power of Facebook’s tools of microtargeting, its machine learning and its unrivaled collection of private information, all to maximize the influence of blatant falsehoods. What could possibly go wrong?

If the idea of prioritizing lies over truth doesn’t sound very appealing, Facebook’s defenses of its policy are almost their own misinformation campaign. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, has suggested that Facebook sees itself as providing the “tennis court” where politicians play the game of politics. But tennis actually has strict rules; Facebook has embraced, instead, the norms of a fighting cage. More important, Mr. Clegg is hiding the more fundamental question: Who ever said Facebook needed be the tennis court in the first place?”

Opinion | Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sorkin is a playwright and screenwriter.

Credit…Merrick Morton/Columbia Pictures, via Everett Collection

“Mark,

In 2010, I wrote “The Social Network” and I know you wish I hadn’t. You protested that the film was inaccurate and that Hollywood didn’t understand that some people build things just for the sake of building them. (We do understand that — we do it every day.)

I didn’t push back on your public accusation that the movie was a lie because I’d had my say in the theaters, but you and I both know that the screenplay was vetted to within an inch of its life by a team of studio lawyers with one client and one goal: Don’t get sued by Mark Zuckerberg.

It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended — on free speech grounds — Facebook’s practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates. I admire your deep belief in free speech. I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it’s a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong.

But this can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.”

David Lindsay:   Here are the top, most recommened NYT comments, which I supported:

Didier
Charleston. WV

If Facebook is really about people joining together to share their lives, it should follow Twitter’s lead and ban all political advertising. People can still discuss politics and Facebook will survive without the revenue from those who would use its platform to disseminate lies. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.

14 Replies1355 Recommended

 
Mary commented 5 hours ago

Mary
Lake Worth FL

When did free speech become synonymous with spreading lies for profit? When did antitrust laws disappear and corporations become we the people. When did it become ok to destroy truth if the price is right?

8 Replies1130 Recommended

 
David commented 5 hours ago

David
Major

Bravo. Most in media are scared to attack facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg this honestly and directly. Hopefully this is a piece that will bring more voices to the fore…. Antitrust as we know it today must evolve…and do so quickly or we will all pay much more dearly…

4 Replies773 Recommended

 
Just Ben commented 5 hours ago

Just Ben
Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico

Wishful thinking: No, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the damage his site does. That’s clear from both his actions and his words. The only things that motivate him are greed and growth. A solution is to write the “law”, or un-write it: repeal the exemption from the Communications Decency Act (which ought have been called the Communications Indecency Act) that shields Facebook from liability for what it publishes. Then, with any luck at all, lawsuits will put Facebook out of business lickety-split.

4 Replies626 Recommended

Opinion | Trump, Zuckerberg & Pals Are Breaking America – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“If America’s worst enemies had spent years designing a plan to erode our greatest strengths, they could not have done better than what some of our fellow citizens are doing to the country every day for short-term financial or political gain.

Prominent figures in government, politics and commerce are behaving in ways that are so destructive of the core institutions and norms that underpin our democracy, one can only assume that they take the country’s stability as a given — that they can abuse and stress it all they want and it won’t break.

They are wrong. We can break America, and right now we’re on our way there. Not in the Cold War, not during Vietnam, not during Watergate did I ever fear more for my country.

This moment “is like Wall Street before the financial crisis, when everyone just took for granted that the system was forever stable,” remarked Gautam Mukunda, research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter.” “

“. . .  And, finally, there’s the internet barons who for too long ignored the weaponization of social media, which is turning our free press into a house of mirrors, where citizens can no longer cognitively discern fact from fiction and make informed judgments essential for democracy.

I watch it all and wonder: “Are you really doing that? Do you all go home at night to some offshore island where the long-term damage you’re doing to America doesn’t matter?”

Here is my question to the NYT, and the two top comments, which I recommended.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT |
Does the NYT and most other newspapers fact check political ads before running them?

 

Socrates commented October 29

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ
Times Pick

Zuckerberg has a lot of social problems for a guy who runs a social network. You would think he’d have a special sensitivity to the obvious human horrors of propaganda that we all know helped destroy European society eighty years ago. You would think that his education and rarified, privileged status might endow him with a sliver of humanity, wisdom and goodwill toward others, but instead he appears to be just a run-of-the-mill greedy corporate soul who has trouble seeing the destruction he and his Frankenstein invention have wrought on society. Most people don’t read much…most people don’t research much….most people aren’t great critical thinkers….many people are easily duped…most people aren’t well-informed…and these folks love Facebook and their minds are easily hijacked by professional gaslighters, liars and propagandists; Facebook allows these folks to be specifically targeted and manipulated into the twilight zone thanks to Facebook’s human-privacy-organ-harvesting business model. FOX News and Hate Radio also deserve credit for whipping up voters into a rabid, irrational state of fear and loathing as well; Rupert Murdoch is one of the worst things to happen to America. Murdoch, Zuckerberg and all the other gaslighting Robber Barons are long overdue for a heavy dose of reality and government regulation to keep the public safe from Grand Old Propaganda, a known hazard to human civilization. Time to regulate Facebook and bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

64 Replies3212 Recommended
ChristineMcM commented October 29

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts
Times Pick

I’m just as frightened as you, Tom Friedman, maybe even longer than you–I saw the signs of Trumps power abuses starting with the inauguration accounting issues. In addition to Zuckerberg, Graham, and Trump smashing the country to smithereens, you should have mentioned Bill Barr. He’s put least 5 nails in the coffin of American democracy by conducting a criminal investigation of FBI and CIA individuals who were so alarmed by intelligence intercepts of members of the Trump campaign that they reacted as any good security experts do: investigate. If that isn’t Putin territory Barr is taking us to, I don’t know what is. He’s weaponizing the DOJ to appease Trump’s lust for vengeance. Trump gets away with everything because he’s enabled. He’s getting plenty of help as he brings us all down.

21 Replies2754 Recommended

Opinion | Trump Is Too Dangerous for Twitter – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“It’s almost as if Donald Trump is trying to get impeached.

By Twitter, I mean.

That’s where the twitchy fingers of the president of the United States have been working overtime to try to get him tossed off the digital communications service by posting all kinds of rule-breaking things and often in all caps with lots of exclamation marks — just so we don’t miss them.

But just as the internet companies have been gifted with a big hug of a law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which extends them broad immunity from controversial content that is posted on their platforms, Mr. Trump has been given an epic pass on Twitter for whatever he does.

Why? Basically, he’s been deemed newsworthy by the company.

True enough. But that means that every day and literally twice on Sunday, it’s more incendiary tweets and rage-filled tweets and appalling tweets and reckless tweets and misleading tweets and inaccurate tweets and really inaccurate tweets. And the many lies as tweets — so, so many tweet lies.”

How YouTube Radicalized Brazil – The New York Times

“NITERÓI, Brazil — When Matheus Dominguez was 16, YouTube recommended a video that changed his life.

He was in a band in Niterói, a beach-ringed city in Brazil, and practiced guitar by watching tutorials online.

YouTube had recently installed a powerful new artificial intelligence system that learned from user behavior and paired videos with recommendations for others. One day, it directed him to an amateur guitar teacher named Nando Moura, who had gained a wide following by posting videos about heavy metal, video games and, most of all, politics.

In colorful and paranoid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused feminists, teachers and mainstream politicians of waging vast conspiracies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube recommended videos from other far-right figures. One was a lawmaker named Jair Bolsonaro, then a marginal figure in national politics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right community in Brazil, where the platform has become more widely watched than all but one TV channel.”

David Lindsay:  When Elizabeth Warren included Google in her list of major Social Media and Tech companies that should be broken up and heavily regulated, I thought she had gone overboard. It turns out, she was right, and I was clueless as to what a nightmarish monster parts of Google, such as Youtube, have become, aiding and abetting the rise of facists and extreme right wingers around the world. I now join Elizabeth Warren, that Google is on the list of oversized and dangerous monoliths that have to be broken up and carefully regulated to protect democratic and open market values.

Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – by Chris Hughes – The New York Times

“Over a decade later, Facebook has earned the prize of domination. It is worth half a trillion dollars and commands, by my estimate,more than 80 percent of the world’s social networking revenue. It is a powerful monopoly, eclipsing all of its rivals and erasing competition from the social networking category. This explains why, even during the annus horribilis of 2018, Facebook’s earnings per share increased by an astounding 40 percent compared with the year before. (I liquidated my Facebook shares in 2012, and I don’t invest directly in any social media companies.)”

The Weekly | Facebook Love Scams: Who’s Really Behind That Friend Request? – The New York Times

Producer/Director Rolake Bamgbose

“A lonely Florida woman established a Facebook romance with a man she thought was an American soldier in Iraq. It wasn’t until she had sent him tens of thousands of dollars from her and her husband’s life savings that she learned her buff, blue-eyed friend was a fake.

Online scams may be as old as the internet, but Facebook has made it easier for scammers to victimize users longing for connection, and to draft unwitting U.S. service members into their schemes. Neither the world’s largest social network nor the world’s most powerful military seem to be able to stop it.

In a special one-hour episode of “The Weekly,” our technology reporter Jack Nicas tries to track down some of these digital con artists.”

Opinion | The Fake Nancy Pelosi Video Hijacked Our Attention. Just as Intended. – The New York Times

Charlie Warzel

By Charlie Warzel

Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

CreditJoel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last week, a series of manipulated videos — subtly slowed down and then pitch-corrected to make it appear as if the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was drunk or incapacitated — were published across Facebook and other social networks, including YouTube and Twitter.

The swift spread of agitation propaganda and the creep of hyperpartisanship across social media isn’t a bug, it is a feature.

The videos were viewed millions of times. They were shared by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani (the tweet was later deleted) as well as dozens of supporters in the pro-Trump media. The president didn’t share the agitprop, but he did bang out a tweetquestioning the speaker’s well-being.

Mainstream media outlets, in an effort to debunk the viral clips, linked to the video or reposted portions of it themselves, side-by-side with the un-doctored footage of the House speaker. YouTube removed the video, but only after it amassed thousands of views. Twitter and Facebook did not remove the video (Facebook eventually added “fact check” links to the clips). Journalists and pundits debated the social networks’ decisions to leave the video up, while others lamented the rise of political misinformation, filter bubbles, the future of “deepfake” videos and the internet’s penchant to warp reality.”

Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – By Chris Hughes – co-founder of Facebook – The New York Times

By Chris Hughes
Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.
May 9, 2019, 14
“The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark is still the same person I watched hug his parents as they left our dorm’s common room at the beginning of our sophomore year. He is the same person who procrastinated studying for tests, fell in love with his future wife while in line for the bathroom at a party and slept on a mattress on the floor in a small apartment years after he could have afforded much more. In other words, he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo Chris Hughes, I feel enlightened. So, Elizabeth Warren knew about this stuff when she called for the breakup of Facebook. After reading this and the top comments, I want to second this idea, and also, insist that we also breakup Amazon. Amazon went around blackmailing companies like Diapers.com. Sell out to us or be destroyed, was the way Amazon treated such new upstarts and success stories in the online market place, and they got away with it.

Some commentators insist we should all quit Facebook, but I don’t agree. I enjoy and use it way to much to share or push ideas, causes, and humor, and to follow (less often) my friends and family.

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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

Opinion | A Citizens’ Guide to Regulating Big Tech – The New York Times

By Kartik Hosanagar
Mr. Hosanagar is a professor at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

March 28, 2019
Image
CreditCreditSaul Gravy/Ikon Images, via Getty Images

“This election season, Americans are going to hear a lot about regulating big tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already kicked off that debate, and it would be the tone-deaf candidate who wasn’t alert to the increasing anxiety among the public over the power Silicon Valley giants wield. According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans feel that big tech companies should be regulated more than they are now.

A candidate who fails to address these issues in a meaningful way is not taking these concerns seriously. But how should we, as citizens, evaluate these proposals?

Any effort to regulate big tech will have to address two main issues. The first is consumer protection. When the private sector controls so much of our data, Americans should be able to know who has access to this data and how they use it. The second issue relates to “platform companies,” services that connect two or more sides of a transaction: Google Search connects people with websites, Amazon connects buyers with sellers, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android connect consumers with apps, and so on. The concern is that platforms can build services that compete with third-party services running on their platforms, and can easily give themselves an unfair advantage.

The more visible concern is consumer protection, particularly protections for privacy. Any regulation addressing consumer protection should, first, specify whether consumers have the right to access data that companies store about them and whether firms are allowed to share confidential data with a third party.”