Category Archives: Accountability and Representation

When the media does us wrong and community accountability

US Senate Consumer Privacy Bills

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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.

Cantwell-Wicker-Letter

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Want fair elections? Help us protest Facebook.

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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.

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

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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.

Filed-19-17214

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#ProtestFacebook

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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.

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Strengthening CCPA

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15 prominent privacy groups (including Media Alliance) sent a letter to the CA Legislature encouraging them to strengthen California’s state privacy law (CCPA), the only statewide comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in the county, and prevent industry gutting it prior to 2020, when the law is scheduled to take effect.

The privacy groups stated “We urge you to keep the focus on strengthening protections for your constituents, and to reject
efforts to diminish Californians’ privacy and security protections.” Continue reading Strengthening CCPA

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Urban Shield/UASI Task Force – Selected Recommendations

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Alameda County’s Urban Shield/UASI Task Force has been charged with “ending Urban Shield as we know it” and rethinking the County’s use of the Homeland Security monies it receives for disaster preparedness training.

On December 14, the five-person task force will debate and vote on over 60 recommendations developed by task force members and received via community input,  and decide what to put in their final report.  Continue reading Urban Shield/UASI Task Force – Selected Recommendations

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16 Privacy Groups Tell The Feds Not To Pre-Empt The States

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16 privacy and civil rights groups told the US Congress that the federal government should not interfere with efforts by the states to legislate strong local privacy regulations. 

Among the states that have passed privacy protective laws are Illinois which passed a Biometric Information Privacy Act, Vermont which regulates data brokers and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The letter states:

Our organizations favor federal baseline privacy legislation that ensures a basic level of protection for all individuals in the United States. We will oppose federal legislation that preempts stronger state laws. Not only will preemption leave consumers with inadequate privacy protections, it will likely result in their being worse off than they would be in the absence of
federal legislation. The states are the “laboratories of democracy” and have led the way in the development of innovative privacy legislation

Read the rest of the letter below. 

FINALpreemptionletter

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CA Privacy Act: Protection Or A Slippery Slope?

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The good news is that California has passed the country’s first comprehensive consumer privacy law (CCPA). It goes into effect in 2020.

The bad news is that while CCPA will let you find out if companies are selling the personal information you give them to third parties, the law currently lets companies give better prices to customers who don’t opt out of such sales. Which can mean higher prices if you choose to protect your privacy.

Think about it. How many big companies do you engage in transactions with every year that collect some identifying data on you? Think about all those companies sending you opt-out notifications with a charge attached? 

Even if it is only $10 or $20 a year, how many of those would it take before your budget was busted and you lost interest in emptying your pockets to protect your privacy?

If you’d like to say the quantity is not unlimited, Media Alliance has a quick targeted action to write to the AG privacy team and say you can only pay so much for your privacy. Click here to take action.

You can also come to the January 8th public forum on the implementation of the Privacy Act. The Bay Area forum will be held on January 8th at 10am at the Milton Marks Auditorium at 455 GoldenGate Avenue in San Francisco.

The slippery slope the new law can create is privacy-haves and privacy have-nots, with the wealthy safe and secure and the poor and struggling middle awash with “rights” they can’t afford to exercise. 

Media Alliance sent in organizational comments and recommendations on privacy that Californian’s can afford.

Media-Alliance-Comments-on-CCPA-Pay-For-Privacy-Regulation

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