Category Archives: media

Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business

Pretend you are the lead detective on a hit new show, “CSI: Terrible Stuff on the Internet.” In the first episode, you set up one of those crazy walls plastered with headlines and headshots, looking for hidden connections between everything awful that’s been happening online recently.

There’s a lot of dark stuff. In one corner, you have the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election with digital propaganda. In another, a rash of repugnant videos on YouTube, with children being mock-abused, cartoon characters bizarrely committing suicide on the kids’ channel, and a popular vlogger recording a body hanging from a tree.

Then there’s tech “addiction,” the rising worry that adults and kids are getting hooked on smartphones and social networks despite our best efforts to resist the constant desire for a fix. And all over the internet, general fakery abounds — there are millions of fake followers on Twitter and Facebook, fake rehab centers being touted on Google, and even fake review sites to sell you a mattress.

So who is the central villain in this story, the driving force behind much of the chaos and disrepute online?

This isn’t that hard. You don’t need a crazy wall to figure it out, because the force to blame has been quietly shaping the contours of life online since just about the beginning of life online: It’s the advertising business, stupid.

Ads are the lifeblood of the internet, the source of funding for just about everything you read, watch and hear online. The digital ad business is in many ways a miracle machine — it corrals and transforms latent attention into real money that pays for many truly useful inventions, from search to instant translation to video hosting to global mapping.

But the online ad machine is also a vast, opaque and dizzyingly complex contraption with underappreciated capacity for misuse — one that collects and constantly profiles data about our behavior, creates incentives to monetize our most private desires, and frequently unleashes loopholes that the shadiest of people are only too happy to exploit.

And for all its power, the digital ad business has long been under-regulated and under-policed, both by the companies who run it and by the world’s governments. In the United States, the industry has been almost untouched by oversight, even though it forms the primary revenue stream of two of the planet’s most valuable companies, Google and Facebook.

“In the early days of online media, the choice was essentially made — give it away for free, and advertising would produce the revenue,” said Randall Rothenberg, the chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association that represents companies in the digital ad business. “A lot of the things we see now flow out from that decision.”

Mr. Rothenberg’s organization has long pushed for stronger standards for online advertising. In a speech last year, he implored the industry to “take civic responsibility for our effect on the world.” But he conceded the business was growing and changing too quickly for many to comprehend its excesses and externalities — let alone to fix them.

“Technology has largely been outpacing the ability of individual companies to understand what is actually going on,” he said. “There’s really an unregulated stock market effect to the whole thing.”

Facebook, which reports its earnings on Wednesday, said its advertising principles hold that ads should “be safe and civil,” and it pointed to several steps it has taken to achieve that goal. “We’ve tightened our ad policies, hired more ad reviewers, and created a new team to help detect and prevent abuses,” said Rob Goldman, the company’s vice president of advertising. “We’re also testing a tool that will bring more transparency to ads running on our platform. We know there is more work to do, but our goal is to keep people safe.”

A spokesman for Google, whose parent company, Alphabet, reports earnings on Thursday, said that it is constantly policing its ad system, pointing out recent steps it has taken to address problems arising from the ad business, including several changes to YouTube.

The role of the ad business in much of what’s terrible online was highlighted in a recent report by two think tanks, New America and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

“The central problem of disinformation corrupting American political culture is not Russian spies or a particular social media platform,” two researchers, Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott, wrote in the report, titled “Digital Deceit.” “The central problem is that the entire industry is built to leverage sophisticated technology to aggregate user attention and sell advertising.”

The report chronicles just how efficient the online ad business has become at profiling, targeting, and persuading people. That’s good news for the companies that want to market to you — as the online ad machine gets better, marketing gets more efficient and effective, letting companies understand and influence consumer sentiment at a huge scale for little money.

But the same cheap and effective persuasion machine is also available to anyone with nefarious ends. The Internet Research Agency, the troll group at the center of Russian efforts to influence American politics, spent $46,000 on Facebook ads before the 2016 election. That’s not very much — Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump’s campaigns spent tens of millions online. And yet the Russian campaign seems to have had enormous reach; Facebook has said the I.R.A.’s messages — both its ads and its unpaid posts — were seen by nearly 150 million Americans.

How the I.R.A. achieved this mass reach likely has something to do with the dynamics of the ad business, which lets advertisers run many experimental posts to hone their messages, and tends to reward posts that spark outrage and engagement — exactly the sort that the Russians were pushing.


A sample of a Facebook ad that ran around the time of the 2016 presidential election that was eventually linked back to Russian agents.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Mr. Scott said. “Either you have a brilliant technology that permits microtargeting to exactly the people you want to influence at exactly the right time with exactly the right message — or you’re only reaching a small number of people and therefore it couldn’t be influential.”

The consequences of the ad business don’t end at foreign propaganda. Consider all the nutty content recently found on YouTube Kids — not just the child-exploitation clips but also videos that seem to be created in whole or in part by algorithms that are mining the system for what’s popular, then creating endless variations.

Why would anyone do such a thing? For the ad money. One producer of videos that show antics including his children being scared by clowns told BuzzFeed that he had made more than $100,000 in two months from ads on his videos.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has since pulled down thousands of such disturbing videos; the company said late last year that it’s hiring numerous moderators to police the platform. It also tightened the rules for which producers can make money from its ad system.

Facebook, too, has made several recent fixes. The company has built a new tool — currently being tested in Canada and slated to be rolled out more widely this year — that lets people see the different ads being placed by political pages, a move meant to address I.R.A.-like influence campaigns. It has also fixed holes that allowed advertisers to target campaigns by race and religion. And it recently unveiled a new version of its News Feed that is meant to cut down on passively scrolling through posts — part of Mark Zuckerberg’s professed effort to improve the network even, he has said, at the cost of advertising revenue.

The tinkering continued on Tuesday, when Facebook also said it would ban ads promoting crypto currency schemes, some of which have fallen into scammy territory.

Yet these are all piecemeal efforts. They don’t address the underlying logic of the ad business, which produces endless incentives for gaming the system in ways that Google and Facebook often only discover after the fact. Mr. Rothenberg said this is how regulating advertising is likely to go — a lot of fixes resembling “whack-a-mole.”

Of course, there is the government. You could imagine some regulator imposing stricter standards for who has access to the online ad system, who makes money from it, how it uses private information, and how transparent tech companies must be about it all. But that also seems unlikely; the Honest Ads Act, a proposal to regulate online political ads, has gone nowhere in CongressOne final note: In 2015, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, warned about the dangers of the online ad business, especially its inherent threat to privacy. I wrote a column in which I took Mr. Cook to task — I argued that he had not acknowledged how ad-supported services improved his own company’s devices.

I stand by that view, but now I also regret dismissing his warning so cavalierly. Socially, politically and culturally, the online ad business is far more dangerous than I appreciated. Mr. Cook was right, and we should have listened to him.

By Farhad Manjoo/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist


4 reasons why people ignore facts and believe fake news

The new year has brought us the apparently new phenomena of fake news and alternative facts, in which black is white, up is down, and reality is up for grabs.

The inauguration crowds were the largest ever. No, that was not a “falsehood,” proclaimed by Kellyanne Conway as she defended Sean Spicer’s inauguration attendance numbers: “our press secretary…gave alternative facts to that.”

George Orwell, in fact, was the first to identify this problem in his classic Politics and the English Language (1946). In the essay, Orwell explained that political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful” and consists largely of “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

But if fake news and alternative facts is not a new phenomenon, and popular writers like Orwell identified the problem long ago, why do people still believe them? Well, there are several factors at work.

Cognitive simplicity

In general, when our brains process information belief comes quickly and naturally, skepticism is slow and unnatural, and most people have a low tolerance for ambiguity. Research shows that when we process and comprehend a statement our brain automatically accepts it as true, whereas the subsequent skepticism of the statement requires an extra cognitive step, which is a heavier load to lift. It is easier to just believe it and move on.

fMRI brain scan research shows that when we understand a statement we get a hit of dopamine in the reward areas of our brain, in which comprehension is positively rewarded and feels good. By contrast, the brain appears to process false or uncertain statements in regions linked to pain and disgust, especially in judging tastes and odors, giving new meaning to a claim “passing the taste test” or “passing the smell test.”

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. It’s easier to dispute the facts than to alter one’s deepest beliefs. Creationists, for example, challenge the evidence for evolution not for scientific reasons but because they fear that if the theory is true they have to give up their religion. Climate deniers don’t dispute the data from tree rings, ice cores, and the rapid increase of greenhouse gases out of scientific curiosity – but because they’re afraid that if it’s true it might mean more restrictive government regulations on business and industry.

Backfire Effect

Cognitive simplicity and dissonance leads to a peculiar phenomena in which people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. This is called the backfire effect. In a series of experiments by the Dartmouth College, subjects were given fake newspaper articles that confirmed widespread misconceptions, such as the existence of WMDs in Iraq.

When subjects were then given a corrective article that WMDs were never found, liberals who opposed the war accepted the new article and rejected the old, whereas conservatives who supported the war did the opposite. And more: they reported being even more convinced there were WMDs after the correction, arguing that this only proved that Saddam Hussein hid or destroyed them. In the real world, when WMDs were not found, liberals who supported the war declared that they had never supported the war, and conservatives who supported the war insisted there were WMDs.

Tribal unity

We are a social primate species and we want to signal to others that we can be trusted as a reliable group member.

This means being consistent in agreeing with our other group members—whether that group is our political party or our religious faith—that we will not stray too far from our group’s core beliefs.

Thus, cognitive simplicity and cognitive dissonance may have an evolutionary adaptive purpose, as the social psychologist Carol Tavris outlined it in an email to me:

“When you find any cognitive mechanism that appears to be universal—such as the ease of creating ‘us-them’ dichotomies, ethnocentrism (‘my group is best’), or prejudice—it seems likely that it has an adaptive purpose; in these examples, binding us to our tribe would be the biggest benefit.In the case of cognitive dissonance, the benefit is functional: the ability to reduce dissonance is what lets us sleep at night and maintain our behavior, secure that our beliefs, decisions, and actions are the right ones. The fact that people who cannot reduce dissonance usually suffer mightily (whether over a small but dumb decision or because of serious harm inflicted on others) is itself evidence of how important the ability to reduce it is.”

Ultimately we are all responsible for what we believe and it is incumbent on us to be our own skeptics of fake news and alternative facts. When in doubt, doubt.

Ask “how do you know that’s true?” “What’s the source of that claim?” “Who said it and what is their motivation?” We must always be careful not to deceive ourselves, and we are the easiest people to deceive. As George Orwell wrote in a poignantly titled 1946 essay In Front of Your Nose:

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. … The point is we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

By Michael Shermer/BusinessInsider

Posted by The NON-Conoformist

Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed

someone sounds like an “apologist” for theirs or others wrongdoing or wrong language…just saying

Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.

It has become not a descriptive term for a person who believes in the superiority of one race over another, but a term of malice and libel — almost beyond refutation, as the words “communist” or “communist sympathizer” were in the 1950s.

Moreover, the accuser somehow covers himself in an immunity of superiority. If I call you a racist, I probably will not be called one. And, finally, having chosen the ultimate epithet, I have dodged the obligation to converse or build.

If Donald Trump is called a racist for saying some nations are “shithole countries,” does that help pass a “Dreamers” bill to keep gifted young people in this nation — people who have something to give the United States and are undocumented only because they were brought here by their parents illegally?

That’s the goal, is it not? To save the Dreamers? That’s what the White House meeting last week was about. It’s what the whole week was about, until we went down the “racist” rabbit hole.

We were having an immigration debate. To the president, it is a reasonable goal, and one that most Americans would agree upon, to want to naturalize more people based on “merit.” We want more people who can contribute to our culture and economy, and they tend to come from stable nations.

If the president had used the world “hellhole” instead, would that have been racist?

If he had used the word “failed states,” would that have been racist?

But there are nations that are hellholes in this world. And there are failed states. It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places and that we want some of the best people from the best places, many of which are inhabited by people of color. That’s not racism, it is reason.

Yes, we should take in unskilled refugees. We also want more Indian Ph.D.s and engineers.

If Sen. Dick Durbin wants to disagree about placing merit at the center of our immigration policies, if he wants to take an unlimited number of unemployed and unemployable people because, after all, that’s what most Poles and Irish were called in the 1900s, let him say that. And let Mr. Durbin and the president debate two concepts of American immigration policy honorably and finally find a middle ground where there is agreement and common purpose.

But, when we have a chance to reform the immigration system, and save the Dreamers, and find common ground, let us not get distracted by another cudgel to use against the president. Calling the president a racist helps no one — it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.

Did the president use a crudity in a private meeting? He says he did not. No one who was there has said he did on the record. But if he did, so what? So what? America today is a sadly crass place where many of us use vulgar, corrosive language we ought not use in private and work conversations. How many of us would like to see and share a transcript of everything we have said in private conversations or at work?

And how many presidents have said crass things in the Oval Office in private meetings? Think of Kennedy, Clinton and Nixon, to name three.

If the president is wrong on immigration — on merit, on finding a balance between skilled and unskilled immigrants, on chain migration, on the lottery — let his opponents defeat him on these points, and not by calling him a racist. If he is to be removed from office, let the voters do it based on his total performance — temperament as well as accomplishment — in 2020. Simply calling him an agent of the Russians, a nutcase or a racist is a cowardly way to fight.

We need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof. For if every person who speaks inelegantly, or from a position of privilege, or ignorance, or expresses an idea we dislike, or happens to be a white male, is a racist, the term is devoid of meaning.

We have to stop calling each other names in this country and battle each other with ideas and issues, not slanders.

Posted by The NON-Conformist

‘Me Too’ Creator Tarana Burke Reminds Us This Is About Black and Brown Survivors There’s another “me too” story, about a movement that began a decade before it was a hashtag.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts with #MeToo have been used tens of millions of times since the hashtag was initially used in October, when actor Alyssa Milano set off the social media storm by posting, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

Within 24 hours the hashtag had been used on Twitter 825,000 times, and on Facebook, 4.7 million people had used it in 12 million posts.

But there’s another “me too” story, about a movement that began a decade before it was a hashtag.

In 2006, Tarana Burke, founder and director of Just Be Inc. and senior director of Girls for Gender Equity, founded the program me too Movement. Its goal is to empower young women of color who have been sexually abused, assaulted, or exploited, women from marginalized communities. These are the women missing from media discussions of celebrity cases such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. They are the survivors of sexual harassment and assault that occur in ordinary work spaces, or schools, churches, homes of friends or family members, or the streets of their neighborhoods. But they lack the resources, class status, or even the acceptable skin color to have their stories told.

I recently had a conversation with Burke about the decade-old me too Movement, the recent social media campaign, and what’s in store for me too in 2018.

This interview has been lightly edited.

Zenobia Jeffries: How did Just Be’s “me too Movement” begin? How is it different from the current social media campaign?

Tarana Burke: My work started in support of Black and brown girls in the community in Alabama. And it grew to be about supporting Black and brown women and girls across the country. And beyond that it grew to be about supporting marginalized people in marginalized communities. And it was very specifically about supporting survivors. It didn’t deal with the perpetrators so much as it dealt with supporting the survivors.

And so this iteration in social media has placed a larger focus on perpetrators being called out and held accountable for their actions. But the actual me too Movement is about supporting sexual assault survivors. So that’s where it’s different.

Jeffries: On your site you mention, as an example, young girls in school being harassed or made to commit sexual acts or perform sexual acts under duress. That reminded me of a story I recently learned of about a young mother in St. Louis who was similarly sexually exploited, but by a police officer. Andrea Ritchie, talks about stories like hers in her book Invisible No More. Can you talk about the dynamics of those gray areas for women between consent and compliance or coercion?

Burke: Right, she felt intimidated. By the nature of being a police officer there’s a certain power and authority that you hold, stature that you hold, that immediately qualifies it as coercion in my opinion.

The gray area is really important to talk about because so many of us live in the gray area. People talk a lot about how men are confused about consent and they don’t know if they should touch this or touch that, or ask.

But I also think there are issues around consent for women as well because we’ve been socialized to believe that we have to give in to the whims of men. That you have to well, OK, he asked three times, he asked four times, I gave in on the fifth time. And I’m not saying that giving in is automatically sexual assault, but it definitely is a gray area.

Or cases of people with their spouse or their partner who are forced into sexual acts. There’s just so many nuances that we don’t cover. And what we’ve been raised on is media giving us the stranger danger, the person that you see in the dark alley ready to jump you. And that happens, there are definitely lots of cases of women being sexually assaulted by strangers, or at gunpoint as part of a robbery or things like that.

But more often than not, the reality is we live in the gray areas around sexual violence.

Jeffries: How do we—men and women—effectively navigate those gray areas?

Burke: I just don’t think that you can policy your way, or legislate your way, into teaching somebody to treat another person as a human being. You can incentivize it in that way, or make consequences that say if you do this, then these are consequences, or if you don’t, then you’ll have your freedom, or whatever.

But at the end of the day we have to really interrogate the way that we raise our children. And the way that we socialize our children. We have to talk about consent really early on. I’m a big champion of sex education. Because I think that the only way we can have lasting changes is if we change the way that young people think about each other. We start teaching respect and boundaries very early, you know kindergarten, pre-kindergarten. We should be talking about respect and boundaries. We should be talking about what it means to ask permission. We should be talking about those things.

I’m 44 years old. I grew up with [the] Just Say No [campaign against drugs]. I grew up in the midst of the “drug war,” with Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan. And there were many problematic things about that, but the flip side of that was I was inundated as a child with the message of “just say no.”

So, I feel like we have to have a similar wave with young people around consent. We need to be inundating these children with the idea that consent is the way of life. Yes, you do have to ask to touch somebody.

I think that’s how we start having an actual culture shift. This moment is the start maybe of a culture shift.

Jeffries: I read an article that stated, “We should also keep in mind creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.” Meaning that while trying to correct or eliminate the predatory culture on women and girls, there shouldn’t be a lack of, or no, due process. It’s only been a couple of months, and already people are talking about a backlash. Do you think this could prevent that culture shift?

Burke: I do think a backlash is coming. But I think that we have to be present and know that that’s coming and really be aware and ready to push back against that. Those of us who do this work know that backlash is inevitable.

I know what the underlying sentiment is about, [having] a sense of fairness. And I think a sense of fairness is right. This is not a witch hunt as people try to paint it. It’s not about that at all.

We’re talking about two months of people—that’s all we’ve had, two months of people—interrupting something that is a deeply pervasive problem in our country, and in our world.

Sexual violence happens on a spectrum, and I think that accountability should happen on a spectrum as well.

I think people are really focused on the drilling-down part before we even get to the sorting-out part [of who’s a perpetrator and who’s not]. Everybody’s like, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, what about the good guys?”

The “good guys” need to spend more time examining how they support rape culture and less time thinking about how they haven’t actually touched anybody.

Jeffries: To your point, there are men chiming in on the issue. I’m sure you’ve heard Matt Damon’s comments. What advice would you give the Matt Damons, those who are saying, “What about us good guys?” “Not all men are sexual predators?”

Burke: That’s actually the most problematic part here. All of this media attention is on the perpetrator. All of the conversation about fairness and due process is focused on the perpetrator. And this movement, this work that we have to do is about supporting survivors. And about interrupting and ending sexual violence where ever it lives.

And so, in terms of advice, I don’t know if I have advice except for what I say. A hit dog will holler. You know, that’s an old saying.

Folks who consider themselves good guys know that they exist in a world where guys are not good in the same way that they claim that they are. And so maybe your focus should be on what can you do to help lessen rape culture. Standing up and just making a declaration that you’re a good guy is like the safety pin thing: Let me show you that I’m somebody that you can trust. That’s not really helpful in this moment. Go talk to your people. Men can talk to other men, and support other men to become the unicorn that they are.

Jeffries: The stories that are coming out now are focusing on high-profile people in Hollywood, media, Congress. Yet so many others are going unheard. While praising the work of the TIME magazine “silence breakers,” Melissa Harris Perry said, “But the space has not been silent. Our nation has been deaf.” Do you worry that the responses—with the expediency of firings, etc.—could close our ears again to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in other spaces?

Burke: I think that was a great line. Something that needs to be said. And what I’ve been saying from the beginning.

People keep saying to me, “Don’t you feel so fortunate that Alyssa Milano or this movement has elevated your work and now people know about it and now you’re successful?”

That’s “successful” based on whatever your gaze is. I’ve been doing this work successfully for 10 years. Now, is it elevated, is my platform larger? Absolutely. I have a bigger platform to talk about what I think should be happening around survivors of sexual violence, and the ways I think we can interrupt sexual violence in our community. And I’m grateful for that.

But success for me looks very different. Success for me is not just being recognized or acknowledged or becoming some sort of celebrity of the moment. Success for me is when we are acknowledging the pervasiveness of sexual violence in all areas of the country, in all industries. Not in just Hollywood.

Jeffries: So, Alyssa Milano knew about your movement and work? Had you met?

Burke: No, she didn’t know. Alyssa Milano is not complicit in doing anything sinister to me. I’m not trying to say that at all.

I don’t know if a friend suggested it to her to put that out. And when she found out about it, to her credit, she not only contacted me, she tweeted about it. She made every effort to make sure that people knew that this was my work. And I appreciate that level of support. And we’ve become friends in this process.

But our work is inherently different. Our goals are inherently different.

Jeffries: The story of Recy Taylor has been talked about a lot lately in media, unlike 70 years ago when she was first gang-raped by six White men. It makes me think of the young women you started out helping, how similarly their stories are being ignored. Gabrielle Union, a survivor of sexual violence, who was raped before her celebrity, has called attention to these stories going unheard and the focus being solely on White women. You’ve been working with survivors in vulnerable communities for so long. How does that make you feel?

Burke: I struggle with this as an idea because I don’t expect the media to cover, to talk about, and highlight the issues that happen in marginalized communities. It took us taking it to the street en masse for them to look at the issue of police brutality because of Black Lives Matter. Literally, human beings going into the streets with signs and protest and interrupting everyday reality in order for it to become a mainstream media event.

I would love if mainstream media would highlight the fact that R. Kelly has been preying on Black and brown girls for almost two decades. But we’ve been screaming and yelling about it for just as long, and nobody has done anything.

Jeffries: That reminds me of a Facebook friend’s post that read, “Why is it that the whimpers of White women are always heard louder than Black women’s screams?”

Burke: Because we are conditioned to respond to the vulnerability of White women.

Jeffries: But your work will continue to focus on those vulnerable communities of Black and brown women and girls.

Burke: Absolutely. And that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take our communities.

I guess that’s my point about it being complicated and nuanced because I don’t have an expectation of media—White media—to pay attention to us, but I do have an expectation of us to take care of us.

So, it’s going to take other me toos and Just Be’s and grassroots organizations, which exist across the country, committed people who are focusing on the health and well-being of Black and brown girls, the most marginalized of us, queer children and trans.

It’s going to take us making sure that we are taken care of. I have a girlfriend who always says, “We all we got.”

And so, I think we spend a lot of energy worrying about what White people aren’t doing for us.

And that’s a hard quote, and Black people don’t hear that, sometimes, in the right way.

Jeffries: What else can we do besides the online #MeToo?

Burke: That’s the question. There you go, right there. The work that I am responsible for, the lane that I occupy, is helping people understand what community action looks like, and what supporting survivors looks like. For me, I’m interested in what we’ll be doing in 2018—building this out both online and offline. Helping people, training people, guiding people to be active in their community.

And that looks like parents who come together and vetting the guidelines for hiring paraprofessionals and teachers, or whatever, in their school. I’m being super-specific, but these are things you can do right away. Are your teachers being fingerprinted, are they running background checks to make sure they’re not pedophiles? I mean that’s a real thing that needs to happen in schools. And sometimes schools don’t have the money to do it, or they don’t have the capacity, or they just don’t. That’s an action that parents can take tomorrow.

I think that what we have to do is be really proactive in our communities. Really drill down to the most basic in our communities. We have to find ways to interrupt sexual violence everywhere, every day, all the time.

What my lane is, is helping people to figure that out. And also finding real, legitimate ways to support survivors. As many organizations and advocacy agencies that we have across the country, there are still so many communities without resources. And so, part of my work is also teaching us, again, take what you have and make what you need.

I live in Alabama, so I got all these old people sayings.

Jeffries: You gave an example of what parents can do in the schools. What about in community at home, with family?

Burke: We’ll have guides on how to have hard conversations, guides on how to disclose.

That’s part of the online thing. We saw this wave of me too on social media, but one of my biggest concerns when I saw that is disclosure is hard. It’s easy to type something on the internet, not realizing in that moment that’s going to live there forever.

So, we want to help, support survivors around disclosure and what they need after that.

I’m just going to continue to speak, and speak out, and try my best to represent the many intersections that I sit in. I’m a Black woman. I’m a Black mother. I’m a survivor of sexual violence. I’m an advocate for survivors of sexual violence. In all of those ways that I exist, all of those things coexist, there’s a role that I play in supporting people whom I represent in those demographics. So, that’s really important to me.

By Zenobia Jeffries / YES! Magazine

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Facebook Deletes Accounts at Request of U.S., Israel, Intercept Reports

Facebook is deleting accounts at the direction of the U.S. and Israeli governments, reports Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept. Greenwald noted last year that representatives of the social media giant had met with the Israeli government to determine which Palestinian accounts ought to be deleted on the basis of “incitement.”

Evidence has long suggested Facebook’s favoring of Israeli officials over Palestinian activists and journalists. The New York Times reported in December 2016 that “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”

This is significant given that an estimated 96 percent of Palestinians use Facebook mainly for following news. The Independent reports that in October 2016, “the activist collective Palestinian Information Centre reported that at least 10 of their administrators’ accounts for their Arabic and English Facebook pages—followed by more than two million people—have been suspended, seven of them permanently, which they say is a result of new measures put in place in the wake of Facebook’s meeting with Israel.”

“Israel doesn’t want the Palestinian story about violations against them in the occupied territories to reach a worldwide audience,” Musa Rimawi, director of the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), told The Intercept. A 2016 report from MADA outlined the details of the censorship:

Pages and personal accounts that were filtered and blocked: Palestinian Dialogue Network ( Gaza now, Jerusalem News Network, Shihab agency, Radio Bethlehem 2000, Orient Radio Network, page Mesh Heck, Ramallah news, journalist Huzaifa Jamous from Abu Dis, activist Qassam Bedier, activist Mohammed Ghannam, journalist Kamel Jbeil, administrative accounts for Al Quds Page, administrative accounts Shihab agency, activist Abdel-Qader al-Titi, youth activist Hussein Shajaeih, Ramah Mubarak (account is activated), Ahmed Abdel Aal (account is activated), Mohammad Za’anin (still deleted), Amer Abu Arafa (still deleted), Abdulrahman al-Kahlout (still deleted).

Greenwald writes that there is a significant disparity between Facebook’s censoring of Israeli versus Palestinian accounts:

Needless to say, Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed. …

Though some of the most inflammatory and explicit calls for murder are sometimes removed, Facebook continues to allow the most extremist calls for incitement against Palestinians to flourish. Indeed, Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has often used social media to post what is clearly incitement to violence against Palestinians generally. In contrast to Facebook’s active suppression against Palestinians, the very idea that Facebook would ever use its censorship power against Netanyahu or other prominent Israelis calling for violence and inciting attacks is unthinkable. Indeed, as Al Jazeera concisely put it, “Facebook hasn’t met Palestinian leaders to discuss their concern.”

Earlier this week, Facebook deleted the account of Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarian leader of the Chechen Republic. However, Kadyrov’s seemingly endless list of human rights violations were not among the reasons the account was deleted. The New York Times reports that “Mr. Kadyrov’s accounts were deactivated because he had just been added to a United States sanctions list and that the company was legally obligated to act.”

Greenwald continues:

What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government—meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration—has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. …

As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S. and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not.

Jennifer Stisa Granick, an ACLU attorney, told The New York Times: “It’s not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it’s lawful or appropriate to repress speech. … This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic.”

Greenwald’s report comes amid an ongoing conversation about massive media companies implementing policies that potentially target journalists and limit the reach of independent websites.

After Google’s mysterious, ill-defined algorithm found “violations” that banned Truthdig from AdSense (which targets ad placements and is a significant source of revenue for blogs and independent sites) for nearly a year, Truthdig Publisher Zuade Kaufman wrote in an open letter on censorship:

The danger for all of us is Google dictating what is and isn’t permissible and feeling it’s free to explain its reasons or not because it is the sole arbiter. This affects not only the media but also readers who comment online. Do we really want anyone—companies, governments, neighbors, religious institutions—to have that sort of power? The restrictions on freedom of expression could be enormous.

By​ Emily Wells/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Net neutrality repeal: ‘Good day for the internet’ or ‘step in the wrong direction’?

It is sad to see US net neutrality repealed as only internet service providers will benefit, says Katy Anderson, Net Neutrality campaigner. The rules are a way for the government to control the content, argues Chris Kitze.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to eliminate net neutrality protection.

Net neutrality means internet service providers must treat all data on the web equally, regardless of the content, website, platform, application or method of communication.
The FCC says net neutrality is preventing websites from investing trillions of dollars in network services. However, it is feared that with net neutrality regulations gone internet service providers will charge extra to prioritize traffic, effectively creating a ‘slow lane’ for smaller websites.

RT discussed the possible consequences of the decision in regards to the freedom of the internet with Chris Kitze, founder of “Unseen,” a company providing secure communications, and Katy Anderson, the director for the Net Neutrality campaign.

RT: Could you give us your insight on what this ruling on net neutrality will mean, in practice, for ordinary internet users?

Chris Kitze: Let’s look at what happened before they had these net neutrality rules – they had no rules. And the internet did just fine. And then they imposed these rules under President Obama, and now they are getting rid of these rules. Why did they want to impose these rules? If you look at the people who benefited from having everything equally carried – if you are Netflix and you are literally consuming one-third of the internet bandwidth, and you want to be charged the same as some small website to deliver their content, of course, it makes sense. That is why those are the people who are in favor of net neutrality. What they did is they dressed it up and tried to put it in the class warfare, the kind of communist things that you hear about from a lot of people who are in favor of a lot of regulations. And what happened is that they just swept it away. It is actually a very good day for the internet, I think.

RT: The FCC is controlled by Republicans. Why is scrapping net neutrality so important for the Republican Party? What are they gaining by it?

CK: I don’t look at it politically. I don’t get politically motivated. I just believe in freedom. And the problem with net neutrality is that it is a way for the government to come in and regulate and control the content that is going through the pipes. That to me is the real issue…If you look at Google and Facebook, they are controlling the access to a lot of content, [if] you look at Netflix – all these different large Silicon Valley companies have controlled the dialog, they are the once who are behind this net neutrality. And this is in effect, something from Donald Trump going against these big companies, who by the way, did everything they could to keep him from being elected.

‘Step in the wrong direction’

RT: Is this the end of the open internet as we know it, essentially equality for all web-users?

Katy Anderson: We’ll see. The vote is definitely a step in the wrong direction as it repeals the 2015 order that put in force these net neutrality protections. It is sad to see, but I hope, we’ll see Congress in the US repeal it. We already had five Republicans come forward as well as a slew of Democrats. Hopefully, it is something that we will see overturned over the next coming months.

RT: What does it mean for the average American?

KA: Over the past 20 years we’ve seen the internet where all content was treated equally. It doesn’t matter what news website you want to see, it doesn’t matter what video content you want to see – the internet service provider treats it exactly the same, and they can’t charge a content producer more money to actually get in front of consumers… What we will see is that internet search providers can charge more for some companies to get in front of consumers faster or completely block other companies that don’t pay. For consumers what that can mean that prices could go up as their favorite service providers are forced to pay more or that their favorite websites could get blocked.

RT: Who will benefit from the absence of net neutrality?

KA: Internet service providers. The people that control the networks right now are the ones that are going to benefit. They will be able to charge more and just have more control. And those billions of dollars industry will have even more control of what you and I see and do online.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Defiant Bannon vows to ‘pour gasoline’ on his war with the GOP establishment: report

A new report suggests that Breitbart boss Steve Bannon is unbowed by the humiliating defeat of his chosen candidate, Roy Moore, in the Alabama Senate race.

A “source close to Bannon” tells Bloomberg TV reporter Kevin Cirilli that the former Trump political strategist is as determined as ever to wage war against the Republican establishment, which includes plans to run multiple insurgent primary challengers against GOP incumbents in 2018.

“This doesn’t stop Steve’s war against the establishment, all it does is pour gasoline on top of it,” the source tells Cirilli.
Kevin Cirilli

Source close to Bannon re: #AlSen: “This doesn’t stop Steve’s war against the establishment, all it does is pour gasoline on top of it.”
7:43 AM – Dec 13, 2017
241 241 Replies 164 164 Retweets 327 327 likes

The right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page on Wednesday called out Bannon for his decision to back Moore’s campaign, and warned Republican donors and voters against supporting Bannon-backed insurgent candidates in the future.

“The Alabama result shows that Mr. Bannon cares less about conservative policy victories than he does personal king-making,” the editors wrote. “He wants to depose Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader even if it costs Republicans Senate control. GOP voters, take note: Mr. Bannon is for losers.”