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Monday, April 09, 2018


Walking into a spear

by Tom Sullivan

Somehow I missed Facebook's alleged role in the alleged genocide in Myanmar. (That's already too many alleges.) Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy brought it up Sunday on "Face The Nation." He will be questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in hearings this week on Capitol Hill:

Kennedy, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hear Zuckerberg, voiced concerns not only about the breach but also about Facebook’s role in disseminating false information — which, he noted, helped contribute to a possible genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“We can do it the easy way, or the hard way,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” urging Zuckerberg to be frank and suggest solutions. “I do not want to regulate Facebook half to death, but we do have two major problems we’ve discovered.”

Kennedy also worried aloud that the issues may be “too big for Facebook to fix.”
Vox provides some background on Kennedy's comments:
Close to 700,000 Rohingya, a minority Muslim group, have fled Myanmar in the wake of a coordinated campaign of ethnic cleansing. Facebook has helped fuel the violence, becoming a platform for hate and violent speech against the minority group. The popularity and accessibility of the social network has exploded in recent years and become a vital source of information — something bad actors are trying to exploit.
In an interview with Ezra Klein, Zuckerberg claimed his company's detection systems put a stop to violent communications. But that claim is dubious, civil society groups wrote in an open letter to Facebook:
“In your interview, you refer to your detection ‘systems’. We believe your system, in this case, was us — and we were far from systematic,” the letter read. “We identified the messages and escalated them to your team via email on Saturday the 9th September, Myanmar time. By then, the messages had already been circulating widely for three days.”

The letter explains that this particular Facebook Messenger incident wasn’t an isolated one, and “epitomizes the kind of issues that have been rife on Facebook in Myanmar for more than four years now and the inadequate response of the Facebook team.”
During the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, new communications technology (fax machines) allowed protesters to bypass government censors and inform the world of what was happening. But as the GRU and Guccifer 2.0 know well, communication technology cuts both ways. It is not only a tool for liberation. Radio fueled the Rwandan genocide.

Facebook's rosy predictions of the transformational possibilities of its platform have bumped up against reality:
“I think that if he had gone immediately [after the scandal broke] up to Congress it would have been bad, now I think it’s gonna be horrific,” veteran political analyst Charlie Cook told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “This poor guy’s gonna be walking into an ambush…It’s gonna be like Custer’s last stand.”

“Zuckerberg will get roasted,” the National Review’s Editor Rich Lowry added. “The issue is that Facebook has a tremendous amount of data and there’s one man who makes the decision about how it’s used and that’s Mark Zuckerberg and I think that regime, one way or another, is ending.
Eventually, Facebook will go the way of the fax machine. The question is how much damage it will do while it hangs on.

Hey, we're still trying to hasten the revolution using Blogger.

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