Category Archives: Accountability and Representation

When the media does us wrong and community accountability

Why We Can’t Censor Our Way Out of Online Harms

by Tracy Rosenberg

Online Harms Need A Structural Solution: Ham-Handed Censorship Won’t Fix It

There is no doubt about it. Internet 2.0 made some people a lot of money. The quandary of the early 2000’s of how to monetize the Internet was answered by the rise of surveillance capitalism, and those positioned to grab the data in Silicon Valley have made (and in some cases lost) vast fortunes.

But as the early 2000’s receded, it became abundantly clear that the economic miracle of the monetized Internet had grave societal harms. Not just the obvious one of the institutionalization of an oligopoly of Big Tech firms who had scaled beyond any semblance of real competition, but kitchen sink harms that included the exploitation of children and youth, sexual abuse, black markets for harmful drugs and guns and the spread of virulent disinformation.

Not surprisingly, the large-scale distribution and increasing visibility of harmful content led to desires to make the “bad content” go away, some broadly recognized as such and other more ambiguously characterized as such depending on ideology.

Continue reading Why We Can’t Censor Our Way Out of Online Harms

Legal Battle on Trump’s Public Charge Rule Not Over: Amici Curae in 9th Circuit Court

On January 27, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision allowed the “public charge” rule to temporarily go into effect by voiding a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge.

However, the underlying legal process continues. Media Alliance is one of several parties to an amici filing coordinated by the National Consumer Law Center NCLC charging that the public charge rule was enacted in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and constitutes an improper use of the credit reporting system.

Here is the amici filing.

Want fair elections? Help us protest Facebook.

by Ted Lewis and Tracy Rosenberg. Originally printed in the SF Examiner

Facebook looms over our coming elections, and not in a good way. The giant media company has tremendous power and influence — and a bad track record.

In 2016, Facebook was successfully used as part of multi-faceted election interference campaign. Called to account by Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Russian ad buys and other efforts had little electoral impact in 2016, but the company later admitted that disinformation had reached 150 million Facebook and Instagram users in the United States.

The 2020 elections are already underway and protecting them now means more than deciding which candidates to support or pushing for ballot measures we believe in. This time, trust in our elections — the beating heart of our democracy – is at risk.

That is why protesting Facebook’s irresponsible policies is so urgent.

As a global media platform with billions of users, Facebook has the terrifying power to make or break the integrity of our elections. And in the near term are the only ones who can prevent the platform from being used to disrupt our elections — and elections around the world.

And while the Russian use of Facebook to interfere in the 2016 US elections is the most well-documented case of the company’s facilitation of efforts to sow discord, divisiveness, and disinformation, it is certainly not the only one.

In 2018, Facebook conceded its platform had been used to spread hate speech and disinformation that incited violence in Myanmar. The company commissioned a report about its role in human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, which stated that “Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence.” Again in 2019, Facebook was used to amplify hate speech, harassment, and calls for violence in India against caste, religious, gender and queer minorities. The authors of a recent report by Equality Labs warn that without urgent intervention, hate speech on Facebook in India could trigger large-scale communal violence in that country.

Here in the US we must make sure Facebook does not again become a megaphone for disinformation and hate speech during the 2020 election.

But Facebook CEO Zuckerberg has made it clear that won’t be easy. Last October he announced the company would allow politicians and political parties to openly lie in their advertisements – meaning that Facebook now holds paid political advertisements to a lower standard than all others.

The time has surely come for Facebook’s monopoly to be broken up, but that is not going to happen before November 2020. So in the meantime it is up to us to pressure them directly. Corporations are susceptible to mass public pressure, and Facebook is no different. They don’t want their brand to be tarnished or to lose advertisers.

We have to start somewhere and conveniently, Facebook headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there’s a long tradition of pressuring companies for change—whether to stop Gap and Nike from using sweatshop labor or convince Starbucks to buy coffee from Fair Trade farmers.

That’s why, on January 9, we’re kicking off a campaign that brings together human rights groups, media advocacy organizations, corporate campaigners and fed-up Facebook users to adopt the policies recommended by Facebook’s own employees in this public letter and to implement policies that discourage online hate, such as those recommended by Change the Terms.

Locally, we’ll be protesting outside of Facebook’s Menlo Park corporate headquarters under the banner, “Save Our Democracy: Protest Facebook.” Online, we’ll be “blacking out” Facebook on January 9 by replacing our Facebook cover and profile photos with a completely black box.

Some people say we should just abandon Facebook once and for all. But we’re not willing to cede a communications network that reaches billions of people to the unfettered practices of a corporation that cares more about its profits than about our democracy. Please join us in this fight.

Ted Lewis is the human rights director of Global Exchange. Tracy Rosenberg is the executive director of Media Alliance.

US Senate Consumer Privacy Bills

Multiple consumer privacy bills have been emerging from the federal government lately, mostly in response to state efforts like CCPA.

Here’s a letter from privacy groups, including Media Alliance, about the batch from the US Senate including COPRA from Senator Maria Cantwell D-WA), USCDPA from Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and the Browser Act from Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Unsurprisingly, Cantwell’s bill comes the closest to a federal data privacy bill that would actually protect consumers.


On February 17, President’s Day, activists organized by Media Alliance and Global Exchange took to the streets in San Francisco and Palo Alto to tell the world’s biggest social network to stop sabotaging democracy for profit.

In San Francisco, FB founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pied a terre in Dolores Heights was surrounded with chalk and signs and besieged with kazoos and whistles, as locals told a bevy of observing press that AI formulas sold to political candidates to abet the spread of viral disinformation was an unacceptable business plan.

Images courtesy of Pro Bono Photos

And in Palo Alto, “TRUTH MATTERS” hung over the Oregon Expressway overpass on Highway 101.

Image courtesy of Pro Bono Photos

Neighbors in Dolores Heights and SF General (Chan-Zuckerberg) Hospital workers joined the San Francisco protest to highlight other disproportionate impacts from the Facebook founder on local communities.

For more on why SF’s safety net hospital should not bear the name of the Facebook founder, see this op-ed from Sasha Cutler from SEIU 1021.

Press Coverage: Newsweek, CNET, SF Gate, SF Examiner, KCBS Radio, SFIST, Xinhua, Mission Local, Breitbart

The President’s Day actions were the third in a series that began on January 9, 2020 with a protest outside Facebook headquarters and were followed by a Truth Matters human billboard the following week.

On February 28th, there will be an action at the headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation.

On April 9, Earth Day, the campaign will speak up again with an emphasis on viral climate change denial.

For more on the campaign, visit the Protest Facebook website.

67 Social Justice Groups Demand Free Phone Calls From Prison

67 social justice groups, including Media Alliance, demanded that the FCC require the provision of free telephone calls from jails and prisons during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The groups pointed to the FCC’s Connect America pledge and asked why the prison telephone companies were not asked to help “keep America connected” during the crisis.

The letter states:

Incarcerated people are not able to socially distance while inside, and therefore are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Moreover, in conditions where communications are limited, unjust practices may occur because incarcerated people are unable to communicate about dangerous crowding or lack of access to medical care. Adequate communications are a matter of civil rights and public health.

Continue reading 67 Social Justice Groups Demand Free Phone Calls From Prison

Turn Up the heat on facebook

Update: The Facebook Logout begins on Wednesday November 10, 2021 and lasts until Saturday November 13, 2021.

We are sending our message. Without us, Facebook is nothing!

Artists Steuer and Davis have created a new piece of art to decorate your page after you log out.

Download the Steuer/Davis Logout graphic here.

Tag it with #TheFacebookLogout and #FireZuck.

Update: The Protest Facebook campaign is thrilled by this gift of original art from SF artist Sharon Steuer and Flora Davis. Download this poster/graphic for your Facebook mobilizing.

The artists add “Feel free to download these posters to share on social media, and/or to print out and post. Please tag with: #StopHateForProfit #FacebookHateGroups #RussianInterference #CoronavirusDisinformation #BlackLivesMatter #CambridgeAnalytica #WhenTheLootingStartsTheShootingStarts #FinePeopleOnBothSides #CitizensUnited #stopzuck. Created by Sharon Steuer <https://sharonsteuer> @sharonsteuer, and Flora Davis <> @floralindadavis.To request a custom size or resolution, please send a message to

Whether it’s racist rhetoric by Donald Trump, disinformation about the coronavirus, or lies in ads by political campaigns, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have failed to act. Their unwillingness to stop Facebook from being used to do harm is inflaming racial hatred and inciting human rights violations. It also has the potential to disrupt the 2020 elections.

Enough is enough! A growing chorus of organizations is calling on corporations to stop advertising on Facebook until the company changes its ways. Please join us in urging these corporations to use the power of the purse to insist that Facebook protect the public from lies, hate, and disinformation on its platform.

This toolkit tells you how to easily reach out to a baker’s dozen of major Facebook advertisers who have not yet signed on to the boycott.

  • Sample tweets 
  • Sample Facebook posts  
  • Sample email
  • Sample phone script
  • Contact information for top Facebook advertisers and their corporate HQs
Continue reading Turn Up the heat on facebook