Category Archives: Press Room

Recent press releases issued by Media Alliance. Sometimes we’ll post newspaper, radio and broadcast interviews here as well.

Letter From New Hampshire: The Dangers of Disinformation

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by Alexander Zaitchik for Coinbase and Yahoo Finance

A few days before the New Hampshire primary vote, midway through a speech at a packed town hall in Nashua, Andrew Yang began to talk about data.

Specifically, the industrial-scale harvesting of private data that is at the heart of today’s biggest and most profitable tech companies. “We produce an enormous outflow of information that is taken from us, often without our consent, and monetized,” said Yang. 

Continue reading Letter From New Hampshire: The Dangers of Disinformation
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‘Wake up Zuck’: Protesters gather outside of Facebook founder’s home, demand regulation of political ads

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by Loi Almeron and Justin Mark. Originally printed in SF Gate and Mission Local

On Monday morning around 10 a.m., about 50 protesters gathered outside of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s home in the Mission District to protest the social media giant’s use of personal data and refusal to regulate misleading political advertisements.

“We’re sick and tired of waiting for the government to regulate Facebook,” said Tracy Rosenberg, the executive director of Media Alliance and one of the protest’s organizers. “You’re profiting off of us — you’re selling our information.”

Continue reading ‘Wake up Zuck’: Protesters gather outside of Facebook founder’s home, demand regulation of political ads
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Bay Area protest urges Facebook not to run misinformation ads for U.S. politicians

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originally posted on Xinhua

Some advocacy groups in Bay Area rallied on Monday in front of a property owned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in downtown San Francisco to urge him to stop profiting from misinformation ads for U.S. politicians.

People from various cities in the Bay Area gathered outside Zuckerberg’s house on Presidents’ Day, which falls on Monday, to stage a “Wake the ZUCK Up” protest by chanting slogans and making noises with whistles to press him for making changes to his political ads policy.

Under current Facebook political ads policy, the Silicon Valley tech giant will not take any action against advertisements run by political leaders or groups even if they contain misinformation or lies, and those political ads, which target directly particular populations, creates “a completely distorted political dialogue,” Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of the San Francisco-based non-profit Media Alliance, told Xinhua.

She criticized Facebook for using technology of artificial intelligence to manipulate ad content so that other people cannot see it at all.

“This kind of mechanical distortion of communication on behalf of political candidates is an inordinate threat to democracy,” she said.

The protesters called themselves as “fed-up Facebook users” who are not happy with what’s going on with Facebook.

“We don’t want distorted information fed to us day after day for your personal profit,” Rosenberg stressed.

She said her organization will partner with other groups to contact some Facebook advertisers to press Zuckerberg’s company to take on greater “corporate social responsibility” and handle “political ads in a much better way.”

Monday’s event was organized by Media Alliance and another San Francisco non-profit Global Exchange, in partnership with other community and advocacy groups in the Bay Area.

On Jan. 9, Facebook Director of Product Management Rob Leathern said the company will continue to allow political ads on its platform including Instagram, despite possible false information in those ads run by politicians.

He reasserted that “people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

He argued that decisions about those topics should not be made by private companies like Facebook.

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40 Civil Rights Groups Ask Colleges to Keep Facial Recognition Off Campuses

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An open letter from an assortment of civil rights groups, including Media Alliance, asked university administrators to keep their campuses free of facial recognition.

On March 2, students and faculty at schools across the country will organize to reject facial recognition’s false promises of safety, and stand against the idea of biased 24/7 tracking and analysis of everyone on campus.

Dozens of schools have clarified that they don’t use or plan to use the technology, while about one third have not responded. Three schools—George Washington University, Duke University, and American University—gave vague statements that implied they may have plans to use facial recognition in the future. And UCLA and Tufts University currently use or have plans to use the technology on its campus.

Campuses that have stated they have no intention of using facial recognition include Boston College, Brown University, Columbia University, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, DePaul University, MIT, Michigan State University, Georgia Tech, NYU, Hampshire College, Kent State University, Rice University, University of Florida, Oregon State University, UPenn, and John Hopkins University. University of San Francisco clarified that it abandoned its controversial facial recognition program in 2016. Activists made multiple attempts to contact every institution on the scorecard. More than 30 schools did not respond after multiple attempts, including Harvard, Yale, Oberlin, Howard University, Ohio State, Reed, and Sarah Lawrence College.

Letter-from-40-civil-society-organizations_-ban-facial-recognition-on-college-campuses

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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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A Nonprofit Alliance Becomes an Ally of Big Telecom

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How well-meaning, public-serving groups wound up as part of an alliance aimed at undermining state regulation of broadband and privacy laws.

BY CHRIS WITTEMAN AND TRACY ROSENBERG -NOVEMBER 24, 2019

Originally published in 48 Hills.

It’s not unusual for businesses to spend princely sums lobbying government to free them from regulations, which generally means consumer protections are reduced or eliminated.  In a nutshell, that’s much of what goes on in the halls of government, as we’ve previously reported.

But it is a bit more unconventional when a self-described coalition of nonprofit organizations promotes the same agenda as large telecom companies, putting consumers at the short end of the stick.

Continue reading A Nonprofit Alliance Becomes an Ally of Big Telecom
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