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Facebook’s shady behavior threatens to derail study of platform’s effect on democracy

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With our democracy going digital at an alarming rate, several serious research groups have set out to ensure that Americans the nation over aren’t losing their sovereignty on account of Silicon Valley.

Facebook is clearly an online leader in social discourse, and, as such, has garnered an unfathomable ability to steer the course of popular opinion.  While one would hope that the social media giant would use their powers for good, it has been proven time and again that this has not been the case.  Instead of fostering an open and diverse dialogue among Americans, Facebook has consistently pushed a liberal slant into the mainstream, and they have done so with serious gusto.

Their latest bald-faced efforts to subvert our democracy are so brazen that one research group has threatened to discontinue their work with the social media giant.

Reuters reports that a group of researchers working with Facebook to study the effects of the website on democracy have threatened to quit this week claiming that Facebook has not provided them with data as it previously promised to do. Philanthropists funding the research states that Facebook granted 83 scholars access to “only a portion of what they were told they could expect,” making it impossible to carry out the research.

Trending: Female Student Breaks Down In Tears As School Board Grants Boys Access To Girls Locker Room

Groups backing the project have given Facebook until September 30 to provide the researchers with sufficient data to conduct the study. One main area of concern is a lack of data showing which web pages were shared on Facebook dating back to January 2017. In a statement, Facebook said that it remained committed to the project and would “continue to provide access to data and tooling to all grant recipients — current and future.”

Facebook has been notorious for their censorship of conservative news outlets, particularly in the aftermath of the 2016 election.

This sort of techno-fascism falls squarely under the umbrella of election meddling, and Facebook’s reticence to provide the data necessary to complete these studies appears to support the nation’s concerns about the effect that they will have come 2020.

 

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Science/Tech

VIDEO: Tesla’s ‘Cybertruck’ Release Tainted by Botched ‘Bulletproof’ Glass Demonstration

Today, Tesla, (the car company), released their Cybertruck – a futurist utility vehicle that was equal parts Delorean and Lamborghini, with perhaps a dash of Tonka Truck thrown in for the sake of Musk’s manufactured eccentricity.

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Elon Musk is a bit of a character, that’s for sure.

He’s a man who, at every turn, seems to channel his inner-Nikola Tesla – quite blatantly in the naming of his car company – but also a bit more subtly through his enthusiasm for conjuring his own mythos.  Tesla, the man, was eccentric and odd, and so Musk puts on that mask when he can, attempting to glean something from the behavior that might help him to truly unlock the Nikola narrative.

But it doesn’t work that way.  Tesla’s eccentricities were a product of his genius, not the other way around, and Musk’s frantic character development just feels forced.

Today, Tesla, (the car company), released their Cybertruck – a futurist utility vehicle that was equal parts Delorean and Lamborghini, with perhaps a dash of Tonka Truck thrown in for the sake of Musk’s manufactured mania.

Also, as has become a staple of Elon’s eccentricity, the truck was over-built – including what was advertised as “bulletproof glass”.

Turns out that this was perhaps a feature to be added after launch.

You see those wholes in the “bulletproof” windows?  A metal ball thrown with the gusto of a pre-teen little leaguer created them.

I’ve seen more heat in tee ball.

Surely, Musk will get the window issued fixed before these angular activity pods hit the streets, but will he do anything to repair how they look?

 

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2020

Liz Warren Raises Concerns Over President Trump’s Dinner with Zuckerberg

Warren seems all too happy to participate in Facebook’s obstruction fo the First Amendment, and is seemingly concerned about President Trump’s work to restore freedom online.

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Throughout the entirety of Donald Trump’s presidency, there have been concerns regarding the tilt of the mainstream media, but also a shift in tactics being deployed by the leviathans of the social media scene as well.

It has been patently obvious that companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are being helmed by figures who find themselves on the left side of the political aisle, and, given the heightened state of agitation among the Democratic Party in the days following Trump’s electoral victory, these figures seemed unafraid of pursuing their political goals throughout their platforms.

This, quite simply put, is a violation of the First Amendment rights of many Americans, both constitutionally and ethically.

Now, as President Trump looks to turn the tide back into the favor of freedom its very self, Senator and presidential candidate Liz Warren is raising an objection.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tore into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for attending a previously undisclosed meeting with President Trump at the White House in October, accusing the tech billionaire of intentionally cozying up to the administration as his company faces increased scrutiny from regulators and Democratic lawmakers.

“Amid antitrust scrutiny, Facebook is going on a charm offensive with Republican lawmakers,” Warren wrote in a series of tweets on Thursday. “And now, Mark Zuckerberg and one of Facebook’s board members—a major Trump donor—had a secret dinner with Trump. This is corruption, plain and simple.”

If elected next year, Warren said she “won’t cozy up to Facebook.”

“It’s time to root out corruption in Washington,” she said.

Warren is essentially telling the nation that the limits put on free speech by Facebook over the course of the last three years, particularly as it pertains to domestic American politics, should be the new norm despite the very obvious conflict that this creates with the constitution.

 

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Science/Tech

Report: Google Does Blacklist Conservative Sites Despite Claiming It Doesn’t

Google is secretly blacklisting conservative sites to prevent them from appearing in search results, despite public denials of doing so.

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Google is secretly blacklisting conservative sites to prevent them from appearing in search results, despite public denials of doing so.

The tech giant has claimed that it does not manipulate its search results to exclude conservative sites and also denies manipulating results to benefit certain big corporations. But a new report finds that the search giant has lied. It absolutely manipulates the results in those ways.

The report at the Wall Street Journal claims that Google blacklists certain sites going back as far as the early 2000s, including sites that continually break copyright laws and sites that contain certain types of pornography.

But Google also blacklists conservative sites so that they do not appear in searches for news.

Explaining the results of the report, Google claims that sites that do not adhere to its “inclusion policies” are “not eligible to appear on news surfaces or in information boxes in Search.”

Even though it appears that mostly conservative sites are blacklisted, Google maintains that it does not employ “political bias” to exclude sites from search results.

Indeed, just last year Google said it doesn’t blacklist conservatives at all. In a public statement, Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of public policy, said, “We don’t use blacklists/whitelists to influence our search results.”

Google also slammed the Journal’s story. In a statement this week, Google said:

This article contains a number of old, incomplete anecdotes, many of which not only predated our current processes and policies but also give a very inaccurate impression of how we approach building and improving Search.

Google adds that it only works to quash sites that are “actively deceptive.” By that they mean sites that hide true identities of owners, writers, and participants of the site, or sites that actively push false stories.

The Journal also found that Google pushes sites of big corporations over other small companies, especially big corporations that are Google advertisers.

Finally, the Journal report found that Google screens negative searches from its autocomplete results for Democrats to help maintain the left’s positive veneer.

The paper noted that if you type in “Joe Biden” in a number of search engines, one of the autocomplete choices is always “creepy” except when you use Google. “Creepy” is never associated with Biden in a Google search because, the paper says, Google purposefully prevents such results for Democrats.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

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Science/Tech

Google Collected Medical Data on Millions of Americans Without Telling Patients or Doctors

Tech giant Google has been caught red-handed secretly collecting the medical data about millions of Americans without telling the doctors or patients involved.

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Tech giant Google has been caught red-handed secretly collecting the medical data about millions of Americans without telling the doctors or patients involved.

The spy program even had a slick little name: “Project Nightingale.”

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Google began Project Nightingale in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals, doctors’ offices and other facilities, with the data sharing accelerating since summer.

The data involved in the initiative encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

“Neither patients nor doctors have been notified,” the paper added. “At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents.”

Google’s program was launched last year in cooperation with Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals spread out over 21 states and in Washington D.C., along with other doctors.

According to Forbes, Google’s program “involves Ascension moving patient records onto Google’s cloud servers and includes a search product that allows Ascension healthcare providers to see an ‘overview page’ about their patients. The page includes complete patient information as well as notes about patient medical issues, test results and medications, including information from scanned documents, according to presentations viewed by Forbes.”

The financial magazine added, “A source familiar with the project said that patients are not aware of Google’s access to their data, though patient privacy laws generally allow the sharing of patient data with third parties without notification if it is for purposes that ‘help it carry out its health care activities and functions. Ascension employees have raised concerns internally, according to documents, about patient data privacy.”

Despite the secrecy of the program and the fact that patients were not told, both news sources claim that Google’s actions were not in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Google claims that the goal of ‘Project Nightingale’ was to collect patient data to create a better system of diagnosis. Google claimed that the program could spot things that a doctor or hospital missed.

Google is already being sued or a similar agreement with the University of Chicago Medical Center.

The New York Times recently reported that a lawsuit argues that Google violated patient privacy with its program with the Chicago medical center.

Big tech companies such as Apple and Google are making huge strides in taking over America’s medical sector.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

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Science/Tech

Microsoft’s Surprise JEDI Contract Win Says More About Jeff Bezos Than Bill Gates

Did Microsoft win the contract, or did Jeff Bezos lose it?

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The size and scope of Amazon.com is stupefying, to say the least.

What began as a small online bookstore in the dawning of the internet age has become one of the most valuable and powerful corporations this planet has ever seen.  Founder Jeff Bezos now has his hands in just about everything, from mainstream newspaper news, to grocery chains; web server solutions to streaming entertainment.

Of these varied disciplines, Amazon itself does one thing better than anyone else on the planet, however, and that is Cloud computing.

A recent study showed that Bezos’ company was responsible for 33% of the world’s Cloud market share; more than double that of their nearest competitor, Microsoft, who account for only 16%.

So, when The Pentagon went looking for a company to revitalize its data systems, preferably in Cloud format, Amazon seemed like the natural choice.

Then, this happened:

On October 25, the Pentagon awarded Microsoft (MSFT) with the ten-year cloud contract for JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure). The government contract, worth $10 billion, will put the US DoD (Department of Defense) on the cloud. As a result, all of the data from the military’s computer systems will be moved to a single cloud system. According to the New York Times, a lot of the military data still operates on technology from the 1980s and 1990s. The deal would modernize the military data and address security concerns. The DoD can access the company’s networks easily from cloud platforms.

Amazon was even considered the frontrunner in the race for the JEDI contract at one point, but this alleged favoritism was a problem as well.

Reportedly, President Trump received complaints about Amazon getting the Pentagon’s contract. Other companies, including Oracle, also raised concerns about Amazon. They thought that Amazon was a favorite to win the JEDI contract. For example, Oracle CEO Safra Catz met with President Trump in 2018 to discuss the issue.

After complaints related to Amazon and the JEDI contract, President Trump delayed the decision-making process. He stated that the administration would review the process to make sure that the decision was fair. Later, Defense Secretary Mark Esper quit the Pentagon review process despite working on it for months.

Trump and Bezos have a bit of a history, with the President often lashing out at both Amazon and its founder via Tweet.

Bezos’ seemingly unending desire for power and wealth have made him a poster child for corporate greed over the course of his rise to prominence.  That, along with this never-ending criticisms of Donald Trump, set the two on a collision course years ago.

Amazon is expected to appeal The Pentagon’s decision.

…the decision surprised an AWS spokesperson. The spokesperson said, “AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings lead to a different conclusion.” The Pentagon stated that the bid offers and the decision were fair. However, Amazon might challenge the Pentagon’s decision.

The deal could benefit Microsoft, which has a smaller share in the cloud market than Amazon. Recently, Amazon reported disappointing third-quarter results. However, the company earned $9 billion in revenues from AWS in the third quarter.

The deal is expected to boost Microsoft’s stock value for years to come, should the contract remain intact under the weight of Bezos’ possible legal assault.

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Opinion

Friday Google Outages Reignite Concerns Over Consolidation of Power Online

All of our eggs are in Google’s basket…and you know what they say about that sort of thing.

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Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s a saying that we’ve heard time and time again throughout our lives, from any number of sources.  It’s the sort of cliché that has a place in almost any workplace or strategic planning session.  It’s simple to understand, and it cuts to the core of individual responsibility.

Heck, we’ve even used this principle in our legislative efforts, particularly in the realm of avoiding monopolies and taking up anti-trust efforts against those who look to consolidate any market into submission.

One place where we’ve failed to keep all of our eggs out of one basket is on the internet.  Part of the reason for this is that the world wide web itself boomed swiftly and uncontrollably, much like the early days of the California gold rush, where shrewd businessman understood the value of lawlessness and greed.  Get your fortunes while the gettin’s good, because soon, the law will come to town and button up the easy money, and make things fair.

Google is just that baron of bandwidth, soaking up an inordinate amount of the traffic online and redirecting it wherever they please.  Looking for a home assistant?  They’re not likely to steer you toward an Amazon Alexa.  Searching for a new cellular device?  You can bet that the iPhone doesn’t get the same algorithmic advantages as Android devices do.

And, of course, when exploring the wide world of news, Google is only going to give you what they want you to see.

This manipulation of our assumed freedom online is a travesty, and is indoctrinating those too naive to recognize the biases into believing that Google is a fair reputation of the world at large.  Worse still is the fact that Google is nearly inescapable.

Case in point:  This afternoon, a worrisome email chain began coursing throughout the workplace here at The Washington Sentinel.  We, along with our allies in the fight for alternative media’s rights, noticed that Google Analytics was behaving strangely.  Across the board, and across a number of websites in and outside of our purview, an 80% drop in traffic took place at precisely the same time.

Were we being throttled?  Not likely, (at least in this instance), as the reporting parties had no real common denominator other than their conservative roots.

No, Google Analytics was simply FUBAR, and for some time.  The folks at DownDetector.com reported several issues with the world’s most powerful online corporation, starting on the 17th and continuing through today.

And while the search engine leviathan was eventually able to bring its services back up to speed, the fact that this minor hiccup had such wide-ranging ramifications should, in and of itself, be cause for concern.  What if the next glitch at Google comes in the form of a Maps outage during rush hour, or a Google Pay fiasco on the first of the month?  What happens if a terror group decides to annihilate Google’s server farms one afternoon?

All of our eggs are in Google’s basket…and you know what they say about that sort of thing.

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Science/Tech

Snopes Will Abandon Facts for ‘Lived Experiences’ When It Comes to Debunking Trump

This eliminates and disqualifies Snopes as a source for “fact checking” henceforth, despite what we can only assume will be their continued meddling in the political realm. 

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The entire idea of a “fact checking” industry is a falsehood in and of itself.

Facts, and the truth that they embody, are binary.  They don’t have grey areas, maybe’s, or malleability.  They are either correct or incorrect – full stop.

So when a glut of fact-checking “companies” arose on the political scene just a few years ago, logical Americans everywhere wondered how it was possible that a need for more than one of these entities could exist?  After all, if they were truly using “facts”, there could be no chance for competition among them, right?

Now, as the fact-checking waters become muddier, the overall impression of the phony industry has become crystal clear:  These are nothing more than propaganda rudders in disguise.

Snopes, one of the foremost fact-checkers on the planet, has been forced to admit this week that facts alone cannot advance their narrative, and they will be turning to “shared stories” and “lived experiences” to counter President Donald Trump.

In a stunning admission (of what we already knew), Snopes announced Thursday that Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are such a unique threat to world that “experts must find new ways to reach people.” Which means that — get this — Trump and Johnson must be “countered by the shared stories, experiences and emotions of real people and how they are affected by the big global issues.”

“Public austerity measures, for example, are not simply about financial facts,” Snopes mewls. “Indeed, when presented merely as economic data, many people can neither identify with nor understand them. Instead, austerity poses problems that compel us to examine how they affect people and families in their daily lives. The experiences of those individuals must be shared.”

This eliminates and disqualifies Snopes as a source for “fact checking” henceforth, despite what we can only assume will be their continued meddling in the political realm.

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