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Monday, October 31, 2016

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Chanson de Roland

Just when I thought that my reasons for detesting Facebook has been exhausted, I learn this. So in addition to violating our privacy by collecting our personal information and profiling us and then selling all of us, that is, our personal information and our profiles, to advertisers, marketers, political campaigns, etc., as if we were a bunch of field slaves at auction; and engaging in censorship of views and news stories in ways that have been shown to discriminate against conservatives, censor stories critical of Facebook, and otherwise promote the views of its Mark Zuckerberg and/or his senior managers; conduct tests on its users without their knowledge, much less their permission by controlling the content that they are exposed to, we know have Facebook as abettor and facilitator of racist advertising. To borrow, the phrase of one of the biggest beneficiaries of it political contributions, Hillary Clinton, Facebook should be in the basket of deplorables.

Now, that they have been called on it, I suppose that Facebook will have to do something other than be guided, as it almost always is, by the principles of doing what makes the most profit, as long as we can get away with it, and if it doesn't get away with it, it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

These social media companies are becoming way to powerful in our lives and in our politics. Thus, it is time to apply venerable legal principles to curb their power and wealth. First, it should be acknowledged that our personal information, that we author online, is our property in which we have a copyright; second, where companies have too much market share based not on a superior product and, thus, winning the battle of competition but merely because of what are known as network effects, antitrust law should be applied to break those companies up into independent competitive units with smaller market shares but which are interoperable, so that users on one social media company can fully interact with those on another such company; in addition to acknowledging our ownership of our personal information, as set forth supra, Congress should empower the FTC to protect our privacy from un-consented to intrusion and unfair commercial agreements; parents should be allowed to have access to and control of the Facebook accounts of their minor children; and Facebook should not be allowed to discriminate in its services against content based on its ideas, political philosophy, and or expression, provide that content and expression is decent, civil, lawful, and reasonable.

These are some of the reforms that are needed to prevent Facebook's pernicious social effects and violation of personal rights, which should also be applied to any social media that has significant market share in any relevant market.

George

Everyone:

Thanks to Roland for the comment. Yes, this is very troubling. There are valid applications to filter on race, such as advertisers selling food, hair care products, and such. It seems that too many Americans either don't know or have forgotten that there are both federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in housing, which these FBook filters allegedly facilitate. Some people mistakenly believe that these housing filters are okay given recent trends in "big data" and data mining.

While some readers know this history, I think that it is important to remind all readers that the United States has a long, sordid history of people being discriminated against when trying to buy, sell, rent, or finance a place to live. I hope that today's blog post (and future posts) will encourage readers to familiarize themselves with anti-discrimination laws, so they can tell the difference and know their rights.

Some sources for people unfamiliar with anti-discrimination laws in housing:

What Kind of Housing Discrimination Is Illegal?
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter5-2.html

And, the Federal law:

Fair Housing Act
https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-2

In its race to make money and maximize profits, it seems that Facebook did not think through instances, applications, or use models where the filters can be applied illegally. Or maybe Facebook's attorneys judged that the advertiser would be liable in court (and not Facebook) for using the filters illegally. Either way, ethically dubious.

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

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