Regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

With the recent announcement that Mark Zuckerberg would meet with Congress to discuss the Cambridge Anayltica scandal, and that whole mess having not been discussed on this blog, I figured now is as a good a time as any. And since the latter is significantly less complicated than Facebook, we’ll start with the would-be propagandists. Which probably gives you a good indication of my views on them anyway.

So yes, I don’t think well of people who believe a convincing argument to a would be client is to suggest the hiring of whores, blackmail and of course convincing people via propaganda, but making sure it doesn’t look like propaganda. Rubs me the wrong way I guess. None of which is meant to imply I think they are terribly successful in manipulating people via Facebook and the like. On one hand yes they clearly do manipulate people as best they can with their information, and do so for their (predominately conservative as far as I’m aware) clients. But, at the end of the day if people are willing to believe what they read on Facebook over actual reporting, that is opinion and memes and the like over facts, then they do really only have themselves to blame. I don’t think Cambridge Analytica can really change what people think, just nudge them further to where they were already leaning. I still don’t approve of their methods, hyperbolic bullshit or not.

And all of that doesn’t get into the fact that they basically stole about 50 million users profiles worth of data from Facebook without permission from the users, stored on a private server instead of deleting it, and then using it create said ads, memes, and propaganda to manipulate people. That is something I find deeply twisted, and very dangerous. It is also, as far as I’m aware, not illegal, or against Facebook’s terms of service. Which is also wrong, and needs to be fixed. And look, again, this is the act I find reprehensible, I don’t think they had much of an impact in regards to the American Election, Brexit (which apparently they were also involved in) or anything else, people make up their own minds.

Though at the same time, if we’re not paying attention and just taking in whatever is in front of us, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we were led astray. Regardless, that is my chief issue with Cambridge Analytica, the (in my view) theft of personal data, if not the usage of it in later events.

And part of the problem with that theft is that Facebook knew about this, tried to hide and is now dealing with the fact that in the wake of this reveal, it looks like this ‘Radical Transparency’ Zuckerberg espouses apparently only applies to the Users not the Company. In other words they look like a bunch of hypocrites. Now if this was a normal company, retail or food or whatever, honestly that wouldn’t be a big deal. Big Business is full of hypocrisy, it’s all about the bottom line after all, but Facebook isn’t like any other business. It’s integrated into so much of society, so much of the economy relies on it for outreach and visibility, people still think of Facebook as the social media, regardless of whatever they use, and with over two billion active users, there is a very good reason for that. So this can’t be ignored or brushed off, because we’re not dealing with just a business, we’re dealing with part of Society that doesn’t feel responsible for it’s mistakes.

And that’s what this is: a mistake. Letting an app steal third party (Friends of Friends and so forth) data to store elsewhere? A Mistake. Hiding that breach when it was discovered? A Mistake. This should not have happened. Users are supposed to be the clients of Facebook, not the commodity, but if Facebook doesn’t understand then unfortunately it’s not the company that will suffer. Even with a boycott (sorry #deletefacebook, but a twitter trend isn’t going to be enough for this), the only people that suffer are the users.

The way I see, the only way this is going to be fixed is regulation, because Zuckerberg isn’t going to fix this, again radical transparency (of the users) is the point of Facebook not the consequence. Social media’s simply too big and to integrated not to be bound by certain rules, and if these companies don’t like that, tough. You screwed up and people, not your business, got hurt because of this; that is the problem. If this was a hacking incident, and only an algorithm was stolen, the situation would be different. But instead Cambridge Analytica took information from unknowing people and used it for profit, for their client, to manipulate them for politics. That is not acceptable and it cannot happen again, most certainly not without the users permission, and not by a company that claims to make propaganda.

So yes regulation, if only because you forced the public’s hand.

 

Citations:
Al Jazeera: Cam,bridge Analytica and Facebook: the Scandal so Far 
Vox: Facebooks Cambridge Analytica Breach 
Reuters: Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress

 

(Christ, that was a rant though, wasn’t it?)

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Senate bill drops, it’s about what you’d expect

Every so often I forget how bad American politics can be, how often, it seems, that the republican party seems more interested in punishing people than serving them, and how ineffectual the Democratic party is. And then the former does something petty and cruel and I’m reminded all over again.

Well that didn’t take long. 

So, McConnell dropped the Senates new healthcare bill the Better Care Reconciliation Act and it somehow strives to be even worse than the AHCA. I don’t know if it will be yet, I’ve yet to see serious projections regarding it, but what I’ve seen does not bode well for anybody who at some point may, as former President Barack Obama said, get sick, have a pre-existing condition or plan to start a family.

In his words: ‘This bill will hurt you’.

The plan, boiled down, does it’s level best to cut medicaid, remove the expansion, provide smaller subsidies for worse insurance plans, allows states to opt out of the Obamacare marketplaces, de-funds Planned Parenthood for a year (see how long that can work I guess) and, of course, cuts taxes for the top earners.

Buchanan politics at its finest folks. 

I’m not gonna pretend this cannot pass, nor that it will succeed absolutely. This is not a good bill, but it’s also all the republicans have. That may be enough to pass it, it may be enough to kill it. What I do know is that as this stands, this will likely end in the deaths thousands of people. Pre-existing conditions, dangerous births, serious illness and disease, all of these and more will kill. And if anyone in Middle America thinks they won’t be affected they better start looking at their wallet.

Cause they are not the rich, and this bill hits them first.

(edit: minor edits, didn’t read well on reflection)

 

Citation:
Vox: Senate Plan, Explained
The Atlantic: The Architect of the Radical Right

Trump surrogates calling for firing Mueller

Yeah, okay, no.

Ann Coulter, Gingrich, shut it, and listen. If somehow you or any other conservative halfwit (do they even have less than half a wit combined? I seriously don’t know) somehow find this blog, let me give you a bit of advice.

Never, ever, fire a special prosecutor. Or did the consequences of Nixon’s and Clinton’s actions not happen in your world? Is impeachment not a thing there?

Regardless, the idea that removing Mueller from the investigation will end in anything other than a declaration of obstruction of justice is nonsense at best, political suicide (for Trump and you) at worst. At least the republican senators understand that.

Good god, you think one of them might just grow a brain-cell or two and then this shit happens. I will never understand why provocateurs think nothing bad will never happen to them, or why American conservatives are surprised the rest of the world mocks them.

Ah whatever, if Trumps stupid enough to do this then he’s just dug his own grave. Won’t see me complaining.

 

Citation:
Bloomberg: Trump Cheerleaders Call for Mueller’s Firing

Why an FBI Director should be disliked

Before he was fired, Former FBI Director James Comey was attacked and lambasted from both sides of the isle for his involvement in the election and his response to Hillary Clinton’s emails. Republicans felt he let her off easy for what they considered a terrible crime (unless they commit it of course, eh Pence?) while the Democrats were outraged with what they perceived as his interference in the election which some have claimed tipped the election into Trumps favor.

Both sides have merit, frankly Comey should not have revealed the position of the FBI in regards to the investigation in any manner, that was for the Department of Justice to decide. He had his reasons but it was unprecedented for a very good reason: investigators investigate. They do not prosecute. And the FBI does not get involved in politics for any reason. The aftermath of this decision and the FBI’s decision to maintain an investigation into the Trump campaign led in many ways to Comeys dismissal.

However one very important point was missed and in some regards remains missing from the discussion regarding Comey, his role in government, law enforcement and his dismissal: the FBI director should not be liked by either political party, it is a role designed to be independent.

The Direcotr should be disliked and in some ways feared, because the FBI director is not beholden to one party or another, nor one leader. The FBI director serves as one of the chief federal officer of the country, not the most powerful (that title goes to the Attorney General) but one of the more long-lasting positions in government. If one party or another is pleased with the directors placement or decisions, that should at best be temporary. If it remains, if one party is seen as too cozy or positive in regards to the FBI Director, it implies they are compromised. Be it politically or otherwise and the position that Comey and his predecessors held is to important to be allowed to be swayed by politics, money or any other influence.

Comey’s successor needs to be independent, and they need to be distrusted by the political elite, establishment, outsiders, and so forth. No politician should like one of the chief law enforcement officers of the Country for a very good, very vital reason: in many respects, politicians are who the Director could and may very well should be targeting.

Let’s hope Trump screws up and selects someone competent this time.