Civil Rights Groups Have Been Warning Facebook About Hate Speech In Secret Groups For Years

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by Ariana Tobin

Facebook says its standards apply just as much in private groups as public posts, prohibiting most slurs and threats based on national origin, sex, race and immigration status.

But dozens of hateful posts in a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents raise questions about how well if at all the company is policing disturbing postings and comments made outside of public view.

Many of the posts ProPublica obtained from the 9,500-member “I’m 10-15” group (10-15 is Border Patrol code for “alien in custody”) include violent or dehumanizing speech that appears to violate Facebook’s standards. For example, a thread of comments before a visit to a troubled Border Patrol facility in Texas by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Veronica Escobar, of Texas, included “fuck the hoes” and “No mames [fist].” Another post encouraged Border Patrol agents to respond to the Latina lawmakers visit by hurling a “burrito at these bitches.” And yet another mocked a video of a migrant man trying to carry a child through a rushing river in a plastic bag. A commenter joked, “At least it’s already in a trash bag” — all probable violations of the rules.

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Facebook, citing an open federal investigation into the group’s activities, declined to answer questions about whether any posts in the 10-15 group violated its terms of service or had been removed, or whether the company had begun scrutinizing the group’s postings since ProPublica’s story was published. It also refused to say whether it had previously flagged posts by group members or had received complaints.

Facebook’s only response, emailed by a spokeswoman who refused to let ProPublica use her name, was: “We want everyone using Facebook to feel safe. Our Community Standards apply across Facebook, including in secret Groups. We’re cooperating with federal authorities in their investigation.”

Since April, the company has been calling community groups “the center of Facebook.” It has put new emphasis on group activity in the newsfeed and has encouraged companies, communities and news organizations to shift resources into private messaging. These forums can give members a protected space to discuss painful topics like domestic violence, or to share a passion for cookbooks. Groups can be either private, which means they can be found in search results, or secret, which means they are hidden unless you have an invitation.

This is part of an intentional “pivot toward privacy.” In a March blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks.”

But this pivot also fosters hidden forums where people can share offensive, potentially inflammatory viewpoints. “Secret” groups such as 10-15 are completely hidden from non-members. Would-be participants need an invitation to even find the landing page, and administrators of the groups have full jurisdiction to remove a person’s access at any time.

When such groups operate out of sight, like 10-15, the public has a more limited view into how people are using, or misusing, the platform. In a secret group, only members can flag or report content that might be in violation of Facebook’s policies. The administrators of the group can set stricter policies for members’ internal conversations. They cannot, however, relax broader Facebook standards. They also can’t support terrorist organizations, hate groups, murderers, criminals, sell drugs or attack individuals.

Civil rights groups say they have been noticing and raising the issue of hateful posts in hidden forums for years — with limited response from Facebook.

Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and a member of Change the Terms, a coalition of civil rights groups pushing for better content moderation on Facebook, said the platform keeps creating features without “without vetting them for their implications for the use by hate groups or, in this case, Border Patrol agents acting in hateful ways.”

Posts in hidden groups have incited incidents of violence in the real world, most famously against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and at the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. The military launched an investigation of a secret Facebook group in 2017 after Marines shared naked pictures of female service members. Facebook has acknowledged the problem and has made some efforts to address it with new initiatives, such as a proposed independent review board and consultations with a group of 90 organizations, most focusing on civil rights.

ProPublica’s Border Patrol story came out the day after Facebook released an audit of civil rights issues on the platform. Recommendations included strengthening hate speech policies around national origin, enforcing a stricter ban on the promotion of white supremacy and removing an exemption that had allowed humorous posts that contained offensive content.

Facebook did not say whether it will make all of the recommended changes. But in a blog post, COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote, “We will continue listening to feedback from the civil rights community and address the important issues they’ve raised so Facebook can better protect and promote the civil rights of everyone who uses our services.”

Jessica Gonzalez, vice president of strategy and senior counsel at FreePress and co-founder of Change the Terms, said that even after the back and forth with auditors, she was not surprised that the hateful posts in 10-15 were not flagged.

“What Facebook released on Sunday is an improvement,” she said, “but I think Facebook has engaged in this all along in an appeasement strategy. They’ll do what they need to do to get the bad publicity off [their] backs.”

The civil rights audit also called for better transparency about civil rights issues on Facebook’s advertising portal, which became a priority for the company after multiple ProPublica investigations and lawsuits by civil rights groups.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Business, said the new emphasis on privacy is part of Facebook’s attempt to keep users on the platform, while reassuring investors.

“So to the extent that Facebook provides shelter to groups of all kinds — whether they are people who are sharing hateful messages or messages for the good of the world — it benefits their business model.”

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In Hungary, an Online Photo Archive Fights Revisionist History

Carl Lutz (image credit Fortepan and Archiv für Zeitgeschichte ETH Zurich / Agnes Hirschi)

Miklos Tamási, founder of Fortepan, launched the free online photo archive after finding a collection of pictures in a pile of garbage on a Hungarian curbside. He named the site after the Forte film factories in Hungary, and debuted it in 2010 with 5,000 images. Since then, Fortepan has quickly expanded. Today it contains over 114,000 photographs taken by Hungarians between the years 1900 and 1990, and its first-ever exhibit opened in April at the Hungarian National Gallery.

Fortepan’s manager András Török shared the archive’s story last week while lecturing at Manhattan’s American-Hungarian Library. The timing of the lecture was impeccable. The European Parliament election results had just come in, and the far right had made gains across the continent. In Hungary, the right-wing Fidesz Party won an additional seat and 52% of the vote. Its leader is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Since his election in 2010, he has rewritten Hungary’s constitution, taken control of newspapers, and propagated anti-immigration conspiracy theories. In such a political climate, it’s no wonder that Fortepan, which is devoted to visual fact and testimony, has become a national phenomenon.

“There’s very little free press,” Török told me in a conversation after his lecture. “Our political life isn’t really free.” Hungary’s historical narrative has become inconsistent. One recent controversy involved the unveiling of a monument in Budapest commemorating Hungary’s role in World War II, which suggests the country entered the war involuntarily, as the result of German invasion. In truth, Hungary collaborated with the Nazis as an Axis Power until 1944, when Hitler installed the Arrow Cross puppet government. This revisionism illustrates Orbán’s nationalist agenda. A resource like Fortepan, which includes images from WWII, helps maintain Hungary’s true history.

During his lecture, Török highlighted several rare Holocaust-related photos that took extensive effort to acquire. One shows a somber man sitting upright behind his desk. It’s Carl Lutz, the Swiss diplomat responsible for saving thousands of Hungarian Jews inside the basement of his glass factory in Budapest. Images of Lutz’s Glass House from the war-torn 1940s are practically nonexistent, but after six months of correspondence with Lutz’s daughter and the Zurich Institute of Technology, Török was able to obtain two. Now anyone with an internet connection can view and download these pictures.

The Glass House (image credit Fortepan and Archiv für Zeitgeschichte ETH Zurich / Agnes Hirschi)The Glass House (image credit Fortepan and Archiv für Zeitgeschichte ETH Zurich / Agnes Hirschi)

The editors of Fortepan are aware that their archive reflects shifting power dynamics over the 20th century. One reason so few photos from World War II exist is that Jews were not allowed to own cameras. Before that, in the early days of home photography, only the wealthy could afford the equipment. Accordingly, Fortepan contains many scenes of idyllic upper-class life: children sledding, friends in knit sweaters holding each other’s waists.

To correct the overly rosy situation this suggests, Fortepan encourages donations from all Hungarians, including those who emigrated or were forced to flee. The site’s policies are also written with an egalitarian point of view. It’s free to access, and users can submit their own tags to index entries, which invites the public to help democratically shape the archive. And by encouraging high levels of transparency and open dialogue between its editorial board and the public, Fortepan promotes the free speech that some fear is disappearing. In turn, Hungarians have embraced Fortepan as a public service. “Because we don’t make any money from the site,” Török explained, “we have established public trust.” Civilians often choose to donate to Fortepan instead of national libraries or museums.

Amidst political dissatisfaction, there’s still room for national pride. Fortepan makes a point of celebrating Hungary’s successes. For its 100,000th entry, they approached prizewinning author Péter Nádas for a contribution. He donated what Török calls an “early selfie”: an analog self-portrait from 1958, when Nádas was a teenager experimenting with his camera in a mirror. As Török continues his work on Fortepan, he remains cautiously optimistic. After all, engaging with a century’s worth of photographs puts today’s political environment in perspective. Hungary has survived far worse than Orbán, and Török believes that eventually, the country’s youth will shift the government back toward democracy. “That’s why I go to the gym three times a week,” he said, laughing. “I want to be alive to see it happen.”

Young Péter Nádas’s self-portrait (photo credit Fortepan / Péter Nádas)

The post In Hungary, an Online Photo Archive Fights Revisionist History appeared first on Hyperallergic.

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Trump: I may tackle homelessness because leaders ‘can’t be looking at that’

He does not mean it and why is media even broadcasting his drivel for airtime

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Highlighting San Francisco and Los Angeles, president calls crisis disgraceful and says it could ‘ruin’ cities

Donald Trump said he might “intercede” to “clean up” homelessness in San Francisco and Los Angeles, noting that world leaders “can’t be looking at that”.

In a conversation with the Fox News host Tucker Carlson broadcast Monday evening, Trump called the situation “disgraceful” and implied that it was making police officers sick.

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Donald Trump threatens new tariffs on $4bn of EU products

Really clear his is an unstable bluffer and Congress does not have will to stop him. Tax payers and companies will pay dearly for his gaming for nothing.

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Whisky, cheese and olives among items that could be hit in row over aircraft subsidies

Donald Trump has threatened fresh tariffs on $4bn (£3,2bn) of European products including cheese, scotch whisky and olives, ratcheting up pressure on the EU in a long-running row over aircraft subsidies.

The US trade representative’s office released a list of 89 additional items – including olives, Italian and Dutch cheese, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, pasta, coffee and ham – that could face tariffs. These join products worth $21bn that were announced as potential targets for tariffs in April, which included roquefort cheese, wine, champagne, olive oil and seafood such as oysters. The latest list also includes a number of copper products and other metals.

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Julian Castro’s Police Reform Policy

People First Policing Plan

On the day Julián announced his candidacy for President of the United States, he talked about health care and education, economic prosperity and immigration. And he also talked about the frightening rate at which unarmed black and brown folks have been killed by law enforcement officers all over America.

“If police in Charleston, South Carolina can arrest Dylann Roof after he murdered nine people worshipping at Bible study, without hurting him,” he said in January, “then don’t tell me that Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and Aiyana Jones, and Eric Garner, and Jason Pero, and Stephon Clark, and Sandra Bland shouldn’t still be alive today, too.”

In March 2018, in Sacramento, California, police shot and killed a young black man named Stephon Clark. Stephon, you might say, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, he was in his grandmother’s backyard. Police were looking for a vandal in the neighborhood that night in the dark. A police helicopter spotted 22-year-old Stephon and two officers ran to attempt an apprehension. They reeled around a blind corner and one yelled, “Gun, gun, gun, gun!” The officers immediately fired their weapons 20 times. Stephon Clark fell and died there in his grandmother’s backyard, a cellphone on the ground next to him. There was no gun. He had done nothing wrong.

Stephon Clark’s story is not unique. In the United States, according to a Washington Post analysis, nearly one thousand people are shot and killed by police each year. When you break down that number, you see clearly that black men make up a disproportionate number of the victims of excessive police force. This is not a case of a few bad apples. The system is broken.

We have on our hands a national crisis in public safety. If elected president, Julián Castro would treat this as the crisis it is, demanding of a federal response. This is Julián’s plan to fix this broken system:

End over-aggressive policing and combat racially discriminatory policing.

Hold police accountable.

Start the healing process between communities and law enforcement.

Tuesday Open Thread | President Jimmy Carter: Trump is an illegitimate president

Former President Jimmy Carter made a remarkable claim during an event at the Carter Center in Leesburg, Virginia, on Friday, describing President Donald Trump as an illegitimate president who wouldn’t have won but for Russian interference on his behalf.

“I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated, would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016,” the 94-year-old Carter said. “He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”

The panel moderator, historian Jon Meacham, asked Carter if that means he thinks Trump “is an illegitimate president.” Carter said he does.

“Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract, I would say yes,” Carter said, as the crowd responded with chuckles.

Carter’s position is a matter of opinion. There is no hard evidence that Trump wouldn’t have prevailed without Russian help.

But there’s no doubt that that help — which, according to the US intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, included digital propaganda and disinformation campaigns, the hacks of Democratic targets, and the ensuing WikiLeaks email dumps that were timed to do maximum damage to Hillary Clinton — helped Trump overcome a 3 million vote loss in the popular vote and win in the Electoral College.

Carter’s opinion, however — coming as it does from a former president — is a remarkable one. On Twitter, former Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich described Carter’s comments as “stunning” and asked, “When has a former president ever accused a current president of being illegitimate?”