Category Archives: Facebook

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 12, 2018: Mistakes, Senators, Survivors, The Pope And Cosby

Good morning!

(I’m in a good mood because this happened last night…)

1. Incompetent elected officials of the month…From Reason:

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s insufficient efforts to protect users’ personal data…

Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.) … didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in…. Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.) needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Sen. Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) brought along a poster on which his office had printed out images of various Facebook pages. Leahy asked whether these were Russian propaganda groups. “Senator, are you asking about those specifically?” Zuckerberg asked. He of course had no way of knowing what was going on with those specific pages, just from looking at pictures of them….Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) offered this metaphor: “the way I explain it to my constituents is that if someone breaks into my apartment with a crowbar and takes my stuff, it’s just like if the manager gave them the keys.” But …Facebook didn’t willfully assist in a crime. …Sen. Debbie Fischer (R–Neb.) didn’t understand, at a fundamental level, that if you’re using Facebook, you have agreed to let Facebook know a lot of information about you. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) asked whether Facebook had any major competitors. …

 

This is a theme of regulation, rules and laws in the cyber age: the officials responsible for regulating the uses and abuses of technology don’t use the technology involved, don’t understand it, aren’t willing to take the time to learn, and are apparently not even aware of how irresponsible and incompetent this is, how stupid and lazy it makes them look, and how it undermines the public trust.

2. But don’t worry…In his testimony, Zuckerberg said that Facebook was working on a way to ban “hate speech.” I can’t wait to see what the left-wing crypto-fascists who run the Big Tech giants consider “hate speech.”  Actually, we have some pretty good clues. Facebook silenced pro-Trump video-bloggers “Diamond and Silk,” deeming their political content “unsafe to the community.” Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2018: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Gooooood Morning!

1. From the Moral Luck files:

What you just saw is a bald eagle landing on Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder during the National Anthem before yesterday’s Mariners-Twins game.  Here’s a closer look…

The eagle got confused: it is supposed to go to his trainer, in one of the more spectacular Anthem displays that has ever been devised: I’ve seen this performance several times.  After the game, Paxton was asked why he didn’t try to escape. His answer:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

Heck, he had already endured the horror of Dessa’s incredibly off-key rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” what’s a mere bald eagle attack? Seriously, Paxton’s quote is an ethics guide: Don’t panic, don’t act on emotion, assess the situation, see what happens, and act accordingly. Of course, the fact that this strategy worked out well helps: if the eagle had ripped his eyes out, everyone would be saying Paxton was an idiot not to run.

How I would have loved to see this happen to Colin Kaepernick!

2. How the President gets himself into ethics trouble. I just watched a clip of Trump speaking yesterday about California’s sanctuary cities. “The thing is that these cities are protecting bad people,” he said, with emphasis. Naturally, this will be characterized as racism. It’s not racism, however. The statement is just overly simplistic, and exacerbated in its inflammatory elements by the President’s rudimentary vocabulary, in which the only operable adjectives appear to be great, bad, horrible, wonderful, terrible, sad, and a few more. It is impossible to communicate about complex issues competently and fairly with such meager tools. Illegal immigrants have broken our laws and willfully so. That is not good, but it does not make all of them bad people….though many are. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Facebook’s “Ugly Memo” Is Completely Ethical.

Facebook employees were horrified last week by over a leaked 2016 memo from  Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth defending the social network’s aggressive expansion plans. Naturally, since the news media is in a Hate Facebook mode, ever since it was discovered that the social networking giants didn’t just let Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton acquire personal, data from its users: Republicans got some of the “big data” too, the Bosworth memo, nicknamed “The Ugly,” was more fodder to declare Mark Zuckerberg’s baby evil.

It may be evil, but not on the basis of the memo. Here’s what Bosworth wrote:

The Ugly

We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly.

We connect people.

That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.

So we connect more people

That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned. That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.

That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.

The natural state of the world is not connected. It is not unified. It is fragmented by borders, languages, and increasingly by different products. The best products don’t win. The ones everyone use win.

I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here. If you joined the company because it is doing great work, that’s why we get to do that great work. We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth. Nothing makes Facebook as valuable as having your friends on it, and no product decisions have gotten as many friends on as the ones made in growth. Not photo tagging. Not news feed. Not messenger. Nothing.

In almost all of our work, we have to answer hard questions about what we believe. We have to justify the metrics and make sure they aren’t losing out on a bigger picture. But connecting people. That’s our imperative. Because that’s what we do. We connect people.

Anyone who thinks this is a horrible or unethical sentiment doesn’t understand the fallacy of consequentialism, doesn’t comprehend moral luck, and doesn’t understand ethics or the concept of liberty. The section in the memo that has the Left’s new moralists suffering from the vapours is this one:

“So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

That’s not “ugly.” That is a statement of reality, though admittedly one that certain political groups can’t understand, or choose not to accept. The value of tools that expand human power and experience is not diminished because they can be, and predictably will be, misused by some people, sometimes tragically. The nation was built on a basic understanding and embrace of that concept. Recently, a powerful movement has arisen challenging the assertion that personal; liberty is a universal good, on the grounds that liberty can be abused..  Here are some of the parallel and equivalent statements that this group currently challenges, often in  angry and demonizing terms: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Facebook, Government & Politics, Rights, Science & Technology, Social Media, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/29/18: Baseball Opening Day Edition, Plus Earlobes, Insults, And Tampons…

Good Morning, And Play Ball!

1. To Tony C.  This is always a happy day for me, but I want to mute my joy a bit by dedicating this baseball season to the late Tony Conigliaro. Since my teens, he has been my constant inspiration to live every day to its fullest, because no matter how bright and promising the future seems at any moment, everything can change in the blink of an eye, or an errant pitch from Fate right into your face.

That’s what happened to Tony C. on a cruel August night in 1967. He was playing right field and batting clean-up for his home town baseball team, in a season that would see them win a miracle pennant. He was young, handsome and incredibly talented. He had become the youngest player ever to hit a hundred home runs,  and was in his fourth big league season at the tender age of 22.Then everything changed. Tony’s existence was swept up and placed on a new and dark road that ended with a fluke heart attack and stroke at the age of 37, and a lingering twilight half-death in brain damage until he mercifully passed away eight long years later.

All we can do now is remember a beautiful young man and a brilliant athlete who gave his home town many thrilling moments to savor in the brief time allotted to him, who had everything, and then lost it without reason, warning or justice…and also remember that every day should be lived right, and well, with the determination to be the best we can be, because we may never have a chance to be any better.

Yes, this baseball season is dedicated to you, Tony.

For me, I guess they all are.

2. No, this isn’t The Onion. This is a real tweet from the Democratic Party, authored by Congresswoman Grace Meng:

She continues

“Women deserve equal access to our economy, not punishment for their gender. That’s why I’ve been working with my fellow women to fight for more access to tampons, pads, and the full range of menstrual products since 2015. …I’ve introduced legislation to make these products more affordable — because leveling the playing field and stopping period-shaming give women, especially low-income women, a better chance to succeed in our economy…What else would give women a better chance to succeed? Electing more women to fight these fights with me — because we need leaders who understand the experiences of those they represent. ..Head to and commit to vote in 2018 and beyond, because women can’t wait for economic fairness any longer.”

I hope I don’t have to explain what is wrong with this, and I eagerly anticipate being able to parry any brain-melted partisan who reads something like this and says, “Hey, what a good idea!” Yet obviously millions of people are in thrall to this kind of slippery slope progressivism: if a gender, or a race, or a nationality or any other tribe has a unique need or problem, then all of society must help pay for it, or life is unjust. Was a virus released into the water system of certain major cities.? What else can account for such abdications of personal responsibility being accepted as fair and reasonable?

Hey! Why doesn’t the government pay for my electric razor? Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Social Media, Sports

President Trump And Secretary Mnuchin Join In The Fun Of “Let’s Pretend The Constitution Doesn’t Count!” Month

The most pathetic episode in the recent fad of pretending the Constitution is a gossamer wisp that can be altered by a prayer was probably 97-year-old retired SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens  writing an op-ed re-litigating his minority dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller. That case held that the Second Amendment was an individual right (you know, like all the others in the Bill of Rights). In the process of making a wish for some future Leftist genie to grant, presumably along with banning “hate speech”  and the Republican Party (you get three wishes, remember) Stevens misrepresented the previous 1939 Supreme Court Second Amendment ruling, and appeared not to remember, or just be willing to leave his readers uninformed, that repealing the Second Amendment wouldn’t change any gun laws by itself.

It was kind of sad to watch anti-gun zealots on social media jump up and down with glee as old John Paul engaged in his nostalgia-fest. I had to wonder if the Times would have been similarly eager to publish a similar op-ed from one of the dissenters in Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges. Okay, no I didn’t. I understand and am used to the double standard: conservatives are expected to accept the Supreme Court’s rulings as the law of the land when it goes against their beliefs, but rulings that offend liberal agendas are to be considered temporary. Thus I look forward to Justice Ginsberg’s upcoming op-ed on why the 2000 Florida recount should be started up again, and to my left-leaning Facebook friends sharing it with the breathless exhortation, “Read this!”

Insisting that the Constitution doesn’t say what the Court has ruled it says is oodles of fun, so we also had the nauseating spectacle of President Trump and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin lobbying for  that failed nostrum from the Clinton years, the line-item veto. When Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending package on March 23, thus moving the United States one step closer to fiscal calamity, he said that it was the last time he would approve such bloated spending, “Trust me, I’ll never do it again” being such a reliable promise in the world of politics.

The President said, 

“To prevent the omnibus situation from ever happening again, I’m calling on Congress to give me a line-item veto for all government spending bills.”

Okay, I don’t expect the current President to be up to speed on Constitutional law, but somebody in the administration has to know that this horse has not only left the barn, it’s run in the Triple Crown, been put out to stud, and ended up in a can of Alpo. Yet here is the Secretary of the Treasury on Fox News Sunday: Continue reading

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Filed under Facebook, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/28/18: Ad-block, Rights-block, Deportation-block, and Stupid-block

Good Morning!

1 Different rights, same unethical tactics. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), whose very existence as a power in the Democratic Party is an indictment of the party’s integrity and trustworthiness, proved it again by proposing a bill that would require background checks for ammunition purchases. “You do not have the right to bear bullets,” she  proclaimed Monday at a news conference at the Pembroke Pines Police Department in Florida.

Progressives, honest observers, and the courts have rightly expressed disgust at various cynical efforts to circumvent other Constitutional rights by similar tactics. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, for example, decided on June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court held in a 5-3 majority that two provisions of a Texas law, one requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center,  places a substantial and unconstitutional obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, because they constituted an undue burden on abortion access.

I wrote at the time,

“Life would be so much simpler if our elected officials and activists employed an adaptation of the Golden Rule, and looked objectively at issues from the other side’s point of view. This is especially true in the realm of rights.  Second Amendment absolutists insist that virtually any laws regulating who can purchase guns… have the ultimate goal of  eliminating that right entirely, which, in many instances is the case, especially if you listen carefully to the rhetoric of the legislators proposing such measures. There is little difference from this and what anti-abortion advocates are attempting to do with laws like House Bill 2 (H. B. 2).”

In fact there was no difference at all, and now Wasserman-Schultz is using the same unethical tactic. (Imagine: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz using an unethical tactic!)  The ethical principle is the same in both matters: a right isn’t a right if legal obstacles make it difficult to exercise that right. Any regulation imposed on a constitutional right must not create “a substantial obstacle” and must be reasonably related to “a legitimate state interest.” Wasserman-Schultz’s statement—I know she’s an idiot, but she is also a member of Congress and is supposed to know something—directly contradicts settled and core Constitutional principles. There is indeed a “right to bear bullets,” because without ammunition, the right to bear arms is an illusion.
Continue reading

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Big Data Ethics: The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Affair

This is supposedly the big ethics story of the past ten days. There are ethics elements involved, but the main ethics stories are how the facts are being spun to try to make this yet another example of sinister doings by the Trump campaign, and how incredibly incompetent and naive social media users are.

In 2016, the Trump presidential campaign paid about $6 million to a firm called Cambridge Analytica to put together a voter database with profiles to allow targeted messaging. Global Science Research was hired by the firm, and reportedly paid Facebook to post a personality quiz and an app that 270,000 Facebook users ultimately consented to. The app allowed the firm to harvest personal likes, attitudes and preferences from 50 million Americans through access to the consenting users Facebook friends. Originally we were told that Cambridge Analytica had used all of that data to target voters during the 2016 presidential election, but that claim seems increasingly dubious. The Trump campaign ended its relationship with the firm well before the election.

Facebook claims it was lied to, and has now banned the firm, which could be fairly classified as misdirection. Facebook, as it has done before on its own, permitted its platform to be used to gather psychological profiles on its users without full disclosure regarding what the data would be used for.  Now Facebook stock is plunging in the U.S., Facebook advertisers are leaving, some users are leaving too, and Congress wants hearings.

What’s going on here?

  • If, in fact, Facebook was deceived into allowing the quiz, that was unethical. Gathering data through such means is not illegal, however, and the ethics of Big Data gathering and analytics are murky at best. The legal profession, for example, has no clear regulation of it or guidance from bar associations.

Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested, and that could violate laws in Britain and some  states.

  • The tenor of much of the news reporting and punditry, however, has been  pure fear-mongering and hyperbole. That Cambridge Analytica was evil is presumed, I gather, from the fact that Steve Bannon was one of the founders. The New York Times in various articles described the data gathering as an invasion of “private information,” which is an inflammatory and misleading description, and described “misuse” of the information, as if such use isn’t routine in 21st Century commercial marketing. Here’s the Times, for example,

“The researcher hired by Cambridge Analytica, Alexandr Kogan, told Facebook and his app’s users that he was collecting information for academic purposes, not for a political data firm owned by a wealthy conservative. Facebook did nothing to verify how the information was being used.”

Ah…if it’s for a firm owned by a wealthy conservative, that makes the data gathering sinister, I guess.

  • It is unethical not to let people know why their preferences are being requested, and how they might be used, except that a strong argument could be raised that anyone who didn’t know they were creating a Big Data-base for Facebook is too naive to be allowed on the web without a leash.  Facebook isn’t free: providing data is one of the ways users pay for it. There has certainly been plenty of publicity about this, and it’s not just Facebook. Google, Amazon, Twitter: this is what these companies do.

If it were possible to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg (it isn’t) one could conclude that the massive backlash he is receiving is contrived and unfair.

  • The episode is also being called a “breach,” as if there was hacking, or information was stolen.

There was no “breach.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society