April 14, 2018

Crisis: Facebook*2, Cambridge Analytica, Massive Evictions, On US Oligarchs


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 14, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 14, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from April 14, 2018
1. Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for
2. Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust
3. Nearly 4 People Are Evicted Every Minute: New Project Tracks U.S.
     Eviction Epidemic & Effects

4. Facebook Is No Friend to Democracy

5. Where Are All the U.S. Oligarchs With Links to Washington?
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers

This article is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted in March, Facebook has been attempting to make a moral stand for your privacy, distancing itself from the unscrupulous practices of the U.K. political consultancy. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” wrote Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, just a few weeks before founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hit Capitol Hill to make similar reassurances, telling lawmakers, “Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good.” But in reality, a confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept shows that the two companies are far more similar than the social network would like you to believe.
Yes indeed, and I also have three remarks.

First, on the fraudulent Grewal: When he said that
“Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do” what he really must have meant is this: First, we steal almost every private piece of information we can get from you, and we make the fact that we do so very difficult or almost wholly impossible to follow; and then Facebook protects the data it stole from everybody else, and it keeps secret what it does with it, and it also keeps secret each and every program it uses to analyze these stolen data.

Second, on Zuckerberg´s trashy bullshit propaganda: When he said
“Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good” what he said was as meaningful as the agreement of a torturing cardinal in the 1500s that what he has is a responsibility to not just [people], but to make sure those [people] are used for good”.

And third, I also like to insist that even the phrase ¨
the social network¨ is propaganda: Facebook is no such thing, for it is thoroughly anti-social, anti-democratic, pro-Zuckerberg´s billions.

Here is more:
The recent document, described as “confidential,” outlines a new advertising service that expands how the social network sells corporations’ access to its users and their lives: Instead of merely offering advertisers the ability to target people based on demographics and consumer preferences, Facebook instead offers the ability to target them based on how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think. These capabilities are the fruits of a self-improving, artificial intelligence-powered prediction engine, first unveiled by Facebook in 2016 and dubbed “FBLearner Flow.”
As I have been insisting for a long time now (namely since 2012, when I found these facts) ¨the ability to target [people] based on how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think¨ was sought by the American national security´s Brzezinski already in 1969-1970.

Brzezinski completely succeeded, which also means that either he is the greatest genius I ever heard from (he is not) or else that the main purpose of the DARPA was not to help people but to spy on them all they could. For more see here: Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
One slide in the document touts Facebook’s ability to “predict future behavior,” allowing companies to target people on the basis of decisions they haven’t even made yet. This would, potentially, give third parties the opportunity to alter a consumer’s anticipated course. Here, Facebook explains how it can comb through its entire user base of over 2 billion individuals and produce millions of people who are “at risk” of jumping ship from one brand to a competitor. These individuals could then be targeted aggressively with advertising that could pre-empt and change their decision entirely — something Facebook calls “improved marketing efficiency.”
Yes indeed - but as I said: All these technicalities and all these (ab)uses were foreseen by Brzezinksi in 1969-1970, and were for that reason planned into the DARPA-manufactured world wide web.

And there is more in this article, that is recommended.

2. Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust

This article is by John Hermann on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

The queasy truth at the heart of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is so far the company’s defining disgrace of 2018, is that its genesis became scandalous only in retrospect. The series of events that now implicate Facebook began in 2014, in plain view, with a listing on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where users can complete small tasks for commensurately modest sums of cash. In exchange for installing a Facebook app and completing a survey — in the process granting the app access to parts of your Facebook profile — you would get around a dollar. Maybe two.

This was a great deal, at least by the standards of the time. Facebook users were then accustomed to granting apps permission to see their personal data in exchange for much less.
Well... yes and no.

I agree with Hermann that Facebook has - in my terms - been systematically abusing the private data of its customers ever since its beginning, and I also agree that was fairly to very clear from its beginning (and see here: A Nederlog from 2011 in which I articulated many of my fundamental objections to Facebook), but if so, why was there all these years very little on the NYT?

Here is more:
It was the tail end of a Facebook era defined by connected apps: games like FarmVille, Candy Crush and Words With Friends; apps that broadcast your extra-Facebook activities, like Spotify and Pinterest; and apps that were almost explicitly about gathering as much useful data as possible from users, like TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited app, which let you share a digital pushpin map with your friends.

Most of these apps, when installed, demanded permission to access “your profile info,” which could include things like your activity, birthday, relationship status, interests, religious and political views, likes, education and work history. They could also collect information about users’ friends, multiplying their reach.
Yes indeed, but also:

Very few people who use Facebook satisfy these three characteristics: (i) they are intelligent with an academic education; (ii) they really know about programming and programmed a good deal; and (iii) they really know about - American - law (and laws from other nations) that are associated with what one downloads.

In fact, I do not satisfy these three criterions either, for while I do satisfy the first two, I do not have much knowledge of the laws that apply, and certainly not on the required legal details in any law, including Dutch law.

And it is precisely because virtually everybody lacks all three characteristics that Facebook could acquire so many members, and could also deceive so many of its members about what it is really doing: Profiting as much as it can from private information it gathers from its users.

Here is more on Cambridge Analytica:
One of them turned out to be connected to Cambridge Analytica, which was using the data for right-wing political campaigns — a fact that was lucidly and widely reported as early as 2015 but promptly lost in the roiling insanity of primary season. (As of Facebook’s most recent admission, data was collected on as many as 87 million users.)
Yes. But from here on it starts being dishonest, at least from my - intelligent, well-educated, with good programming abilities and knowledge - point of view:
Not that more exposure in the news cycle would have mattered much back then. It was self-evidently absurd to grant a virtual-farming game access to your religious views, but that’s just how the platform worked at the time, and so we got used to it, much in the same way we got used to conducting our private lives on any other corporate platform.
No, definitely not:

In the first place, I did not get used to it because I did not want to get used to it, and expressed so already in 2011, when it was very clear to me that Facebook wanted personal data from me I would never freely give it. (See my
On the sham called "Facebook" from 2011.)

And in the second place: I did not ever ¨
got used to conducting our private lives on any other corporate platform¨, and I also strongly deny that almost anybody else with my qualifications - real intelligence and real programming abilities and knowledge - would or could have been taken in by the frauds from Facebook.

Then there is this bit of utterly sick and misleading propaganda:
Whenever you sign up for any free service, you’re aware, in the loosest terms, that you’re giving up something.
This is total bullshit as long as no distinction is made betweeen free and open software - that is: software one does not have to pay AND one can get and see (and compile) all the code for - which is what I use for the most part, and the sick and degenerate ¨free software¨ that is offered for free but is written wholly in secret and privately owned code I avoid as much as I can.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The wider consequences of these arrangements are harder to quantify and sometimes even to see. They are: a social-media ecosystem that has annexed the news and the public sphere; nascent but increasingly assertive systems of identity and social currency that seek to transcend borders while answering only to investors; billions of lives’ worth of trustingly volunteered data in the hands of companies that might want to make money from it, or that might have no need for it anymore, or that might go out of business, change ownership or simply forget what they had in the first place.
This is more or less correct. But I will not recommend it because it also contains sick propaganda.
3. Nearly 4 People Are Evicted Every Minute: New Project Tracks U.S. Eviction Epidemic & Effects

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
A new project called the Eviction Lab examined more than 80 million eviction records going back to 2000 and found that in 2016 alone there were nearly four evictions filed every minute. More than 6,300 Americans are evicted every day. Studies show that eviction can lead to a host of other problems, including poor health, depression, job loss and shattered childhoods. Having an eviction on one’s record also makes it far more difficult to find decent housing in the future. Now the Eviction Lab’s database is being shared with the public in an interactive website that allows people to better track and understand evictions in their own communities. We speak with Matthew Desmond, who runs the project at Princeton University, where he is a professor of sociology. It grew out of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”
Yes indeed, and here is the number of persons in the USA that are evicted each year: More than 365*6300 = 2,299,500 or rounded off: 2,3 million persons who get evicted. Each year.

Here is some more on that number:
MATTHEW DESMOND: So, we know, in 2016, which is the most recent data we have, because it’s comprehensive, there were about 2.3 million people that received an eviction judgment. That’s a giant number. And let’s just try to put that in perspective. That’s twice the number of people that get arrested for drugs every year in America, for example. We heard a lot about the opioid crisis last year, and for good reason. There were 63,000 overdose deaths last year. There were about 2.3 million people evicted from their homes. So, for every overdose, tragic overdose, there’s 36 people that receive an eviction judgment. This is a problem of colossal importance and scope, and it’s affecting not only big cities and expensive cities on the coast, but it’s affecting midsize cities and small towns all across America.
I completely agree. Here is more:
MATTHEW DESMOND: (..) So we’re in the middle of a housing crisis. Incomes have flatlined. Housing costs have soared. And most people that need housing assistance don’t get it. So the majority of poor working families today are spending at least 50 percent of their income on housing costs. One in four are spending over 70 percent of their income just on rent and utilities. So we’ve pushed millions of families to the brink of eviction.
Again I completely agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about the numbers, Matthew Desmond. I mean, it is hard to understand. Four every minute?

MATTHEW DESMOND: Four evictions are filed every minute in America. So the number of evictions filed in 2016 is equivalent to the number of foreclosure starts in 2009 at the height of the crisis. So it’s as if renters are facing foreclosure-level crisis evictions every single year. And this is not just a problem that’s in New York or San Francisco or Boston—cities we often talk about as being hotbeds of the affordable housing crisis. If you go to Wilmington, Delaware, one in 13 renter families are evicted every year. If you go to Tucson, Arizona, or Tulsa, Oklahoma, Albuquerque, New Mexico, you see very high eviction rates. And so, it means that the affordable housing crisis is much more deep and spread out than we originally thought it was.

Yes indeed - and this is indeed also among my reasons to have written about the Crisis ever since 2008: It has hardly diminished for the many who are not among the 10% well off in the USA. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Facebook Is No Friend to Democracy

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The for-profit social media giant Facebook harvests vast amounts of data from each of its 2 billion users across the globe. This data trove gives Facebook unparalleled commercial power and, as is becoming increasingly clear, the ability to influence significant events, including national elections. Revelations about Facebook’s role in the exploitation of user data by a company called Cambridge Analytica to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, as well as the outcome of the Brexit vote — the referendum leading the United Kingdom to leave the European Union — have provoked widespread calls for tough, new data privacy laws.
Yes, I completely agree, although I should and do add that I do not believe that ¨tough, new data privacy laws¨ have a credible probability of succeeding, at least not without a major economical crisis. (You may think I am pessimistic, and indeed I am.)

Here is more (and this is an article rather than an interview):
The hearings generated much heat but little light, as was predicted by Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina and one of the keenest observers of Facebook and our evolving digital landscape. Appearing on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, Tufekci said: “We don’t really need Mark Zuckerberg to explain the very basics of Facebook to a bunch of senators who don’t seem to even understand that. We need to sit down and say, ‘How do we deal with the new information commons? How do we deal with the new public sphere as it operates?'” She added: “People mistakenly think that Facebook sells your data. Facebook doesn’t sell your data. Facebook sells you.”
Yes, that is mostly quite correct, although I think Facebook does sell your data and indeed also is selling you, simply because it has more data about every aspect of you than you know yourself.

Here is more:

Cambridge Analytica, co-founded by former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and billionaire Trump supporter and extreme right-wing ideologue Robert Mercer, claimed it could create “psychographic profiles” of people based on their Facebook data. A company whistleblower revealed that they advised the Trump campaign on how to target ads, both to boost Trump and suppress Democratic voter turnout.

The wholesale, planetwide exploitation of personal data has dark implications, Zeynep Tufekci said: “We could enter into a phase of ‘surveillance authoritarianism,’ where we don’t face [George Orwell’s] ‘1984’ model, where there’s open totalitarianism, where we’re dragged off in the middle of the night. But we’re silently and quietly, person by person, screen by screen, nudged and manipulated according to our individual vulnerabilities.”

Yes, although I should add that Facebook itself prides itself on its “psychographic profiles”. And I reviewed the interview Democracy Now! had with her on April 12, and indeed that was a quite good interview.

Here is the ending of this article:

“Here is Facebook knowing this research and deliberately trying to get even younger kids to use their platform … the last thing that kids need is to normalize this idea that relationships should take place online, that relationships should take place through a commercial product.”

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms have become central to our modern, digitally connected lives. But evidence is mounting that who we “friend,” what we “like” and share, can be used by malevolent groups to target entire swaths of the population with a few keystrokes. If democracy is to survive in this brave new world, mass movements of people will need to organize together to restrain these corporate behemoths and protect our digital commons.

Yes indeed, although I add that I despise Facebook and I despise Twitter and indeed never used them; I never used any of the - really, extremely - a-social media; and I despise Google and use it as little as possible.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Where Are All the U.S. Oligarchs With Links to Washington?

This article is by Jeff Cohen on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

TV news shows are good at getting viewers riled up. Day and night, I hear the anchors on CNN and MSNBC getting us riled up about the schemes of this or that “Russian oligarch with links to the Kremlin.” I’ve heard that phrase incessantly in recent weeks.

And plenty of others have heard the “Russian oligarch” phrase. reported that “oligarch” was one of its most searched-for words on April 5 “following reports that Robert Mueller had questioned Russian businessmen to whom this descriptor applies.”

But here’s a phrase I haven’t heard from any of the purportedly progressive hosts on MSNBC: “A U.S. oligarch with links to Washington.”

That avoidance is revealing when one considers an indisputable fact: U.S. oligarchs have done far more to undermine U.S. democracy than any Russian.

Yes indeed - and besides: If there are oligarchs in Russia, which indeed is a fact, as it also is a fact that Russia is not socialist (or ¨socialist¨) anymore since 1991, and in fact is a quite capitalist country now, like the USA, it surely also is a fact there are oligarchs in the USA - except indeed that CNN and MSNBC never mentions that fact.

Here is one example:

Take, for example, Brian L. Roberts—who certainly fits the dictionary definition of “oligarch” as “one of a small group of powerful people who control a country or an industry.” As chair and CEO of Comcast, Roberts runs the company his dad founded and has sole voting rights over one-third of the corporation’s stock. His annual compensation last year of $28.6 million was less than what 14 other U.S. oligarchs—I mean, CEOs—“earned.” His net worth is estimated to be over $1.65 billion.

Does this oligarch have “links to Washington”? In one recent year, Comcast devoted nearly $19 million to lobbying, second only to military-industrial firm Northrop Grumman. Last year, Comcast spent more than $15 million. And oligarch Roberts has been a top D.C. power player for decades, having gotten his way with one president after another—from President Clinton’s deregulatory, anti-consumer Telecommunications Act of 1996 to President Trump’s current effort to end net neutrality on behalf of Comcast and other giant Internet providers.

And that is just one example of quite a few more. Here is how Bill Clinton became a multi- milionaire (estimated at $150 millions): by deregulating as much as he could:

Clinton’s pro-conglomeration Telcom Act and Trump’s net neutrality assault have both undermined U.S. democracy. No Russian had a hand in it. (You may have heard that the Trump-propagandist Sinclair Broadcast Group will soon own more than 200 local TV stations; until the Telcom Act, a company could legally own no more than 12.)

You’ve got to hand it to U.S. oligarchs. So many of them stay on top no matter which party runs Washington. They sure have greater staying power than Russian oligarchs—who, we’re constantly told, end up dead or in prison if they fall out of favor with President Putin.

Yes, I quite agree. And here is the ending:

But to get a clear and comprehensive view of the workings of the U.S. political system (aka “U.S. oligarchy”), I have a suggestion: Disconnect from MSNBC, CNN, Fox and other corporate news sources and turn instead to high-quality, independent progressive media.

If you do, you’ll see that the problems plaguing U.S. democracy and the U.S. economy are definitely the work of oligarchs. But they don’t speak Russian.

I agree, although I do look daily at The Guardian and The New York Times, indeed next to 33 other sites, nearly all of which belong to the ¨high-quality, independent progressive media¨. And this is a strongly recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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