April 16, 2016

Internal poll at Facebook: "What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?"

Via Gizmodo:



Note that it's a question about asking a question, not statement that there is a responsibility to stop Trump, but it's significant that the question was posed that way — what responsibility is there. For one thing, there's an unexamined premise that everyone already shares a political position — Trump shouldn't win — and that speaks of a lack of political diversity and pressure on dissenters within the organization to keep silent. For another thing, it omits any thought of a counter-responsibility to keep neutral politically, the idea that the highest duty is to the freedom of speech of those who use Facebook. (And yes, I know, Facebook is a private company and there's no constitutional freedom-of-speech right against it. This is a topic I've already discussed at great length on this blog, notably here and here.)

As the Gizmodo writer correctly observes, Facebook isn't like a newspaper or magazine that chooses to skew its presentation of the news:
[R]eaders of traditional media (including the web) can educate themselves about a media company’s political leanings. Media outlets often publish op-eds and editorials, and have a history of how they treat particular stories.... With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t know what the bias is or how that might be affecting how we see the world.

Facebook has toyed with skewing news in the past.... If Facebook decided to, it could gradually remove any pro-Trump stories or media off its site—devastating for a campaign that runs on memes and publicity. Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose it was doing this, and would be protected by the First Amendment.
It is true that Facebook would be protected by the First Amendment, even as it screwed with the freedom of speech of over a billion human beings. What's tremendously important here is to maintain pressure on Facebook to respect our freedom. We don't have a legal right to assert against Facebook, but that is absolutely not a reason to give up and let Facebook do what it wants to repress speech. We have moral, political, social, and economic power, and we should assert it. We assert it through — of all things — speech. It can be very effective... which is why we care about free speech in the first place. Even where you don't have a legal right, as long as you are still speaking, you have the power of speech, and the urge to repress it occurs because the speech is effective. The trick is to use speech to convince the would-be repressers not to repress speech.

And, in fact, the evening of the day Gizmodo published the above-linked story, Gizmodo had this: "Facebook has declared it will never use its product to influence how people on the platform vote."
“Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community. We encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues. We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”

62 comments:

Oso Negro said...

I have been generally disgusted with both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg for some years, but I applaud their open discussion of this matter for two reasons: first, that they are wearing their biases openly and not pretending to neutrality; second, that they understand that Trump is a menace. At Fox News, they are "all Trump, all the time" while pretending to neutrality. Megyn Kelly hasn't met privately with any other candidate to my knowledge. At least the Facebook people aren't pretending.

Humperdink said...

"We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”

That was yesterday. Wait 'til tomorrow.

Hagar said...

Associated Press, United Press International, Agence France, Reuters, McClatchy, and on it goes.

campy said...

"By Any Means Necessary" is not just a slogan. It's a way of life.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@Oso Negro

I doubt that poll was for public consumption. Obviously it was leaked, so no they are not "wearing their biases openly." And regardless of Trump's "menace" attempts by facebook to secretly shape public perceptions of political issues brings to mind the Ministry of Truth in 1984.

sane_voter said...

Zuckerberg wants unlimited H1Bs so he can save $millions vs. paying Americans for the jobs they would do at a reasonable salary.

Humperdink said...

Facebook employees: 12,700.

Registered voters: 146,000,000

0.0000869% influencing the masses.

Why it's less than the 1% everybody rails about.

(Note: For those who major in stats, I realize not all registered voters are on FB. But their circle of friend/family is littered with them.)

LarsPorsena said...

The Chinese fear Trump. Zuck is desperately trying to break into the Chinese market. So it goes without saying he will do anything to expand including a little kowtow.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

I understand the way this would be done is if I posted a link to a pro-Trump article on my page it would be visible to me, but not to others. This is purposefully misleading, leaving me with the impression others could see what I had linked. This is very different from having a open policy of "no Trump" where I could see my Trump post had been deleted. Could users sue FB? I would imagine if FB charged a fee you could since they would be failing to provide the expected service - on purpose. To me this is more about misrepresenting what a product(fb) offers than free speech.

JSD said...

A 300 billion dollar media empire based on free content and paying advertisers. If somebody had told you this 20 years ago, nobody would believe it.

Oso Negro said...

@Ron Winkleheimer - Maybe, but once it appears on a company forum, it can be presumed to be public knowledge. Or it could be that a search is presently underway for the secret Trump supporter.

Michael K said...

I was warned I could be banned a year ago when I posted a comment that "Muslims do not make good immigrants."

I joined Facebook to post family photos that other family could see. I see lots of comments and "shares" of political topics but don't consider it anything but entertainment.

I must get 25 requests for "friends" a day but choose only family and very few true friends.

Chuck said...

This kerfuffle seems mild, compared to Facebook's actual lobbying and activism on a political issue like LGBTQ rights and privileges.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Maybe, but once it appears on a company forum, it can be presumed to be public knowledge.

Which brings up the point that a lot of people find it perfectly all right to use supposedly neutral positions to advance their point of view.They see nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Lois Lerner and the IRS comes to mind. Of course, this is nothing new, but with the democratization of media it is much harder to conceal. Which is why the PTB wish to reverse that democratization.

chickelit said...

LarsPorsena said...The Chinese fear Trump. Zuck is desperately trying to break into the Chinese market.

I thought Trump was considered a crackpot when it came to free markets and the Chinese. Is that an admission that he may be right?

pm317 said...

Well, if their CEO is a Obama footlicker and giving speeches against Trump, that is a good enough signal for their employees, no? I am appalled that these social media companies get involved in things like these. There should be a social conscience clause to who set up these companies and how they operate that they won't distort the national discourse.

chickelit said...

sane_voter said...Zuckerberg wants unlimited H1Bs so he can save $millions vs. paying Americans for the jobs they would do at a reasonable salary.

Oddly, that puts Zuckerberg squarely in the GOPe camp. Gotta wonder where Chuck and Cruz fit into that. Up until recently, Cruz was for ramping up H-1B's by 500% or so.

Barry Dauphin said...

Given the number of votes at the time, it looks like the biggest worry is figuring out ways to do anything you want but not get fired.

Chuck said...

chickelit - -

I just gotta ask; you know, don't you, that Melanija Knauss, a/k/a Melania Trump, was an H1B emigre to the U.S.? Not only that, but an emigre under a plan in which the Trump modeling agency was notoriously abusing the rules concerning expected incomes of the models?

And surely you know the saga of Trump's flipping his own position on the H1B program about five separate times, including three time in the space of about 24 hours, earlier in this campaign?

Uh, just sayin'.

Unknown said...

Sounds like an as yet to be discovered IRS situation to me. Yes we did discriminate but we didn't really mean to.

pm317 said...

I think the issue is that the government should be on the side of the people and control H1B visas when it is seen to take away jobs from local citizens. Trump as a business person used the rules. Now if he can get on the government's side, he would perhaps balance it all out in favor of jobs for the local citizens at least from what he is saying. On the other hand, Cruz and Obama kind of people are all sell outs to Zukerbergs that are out there.

pm317 said...

Trump is not flipping. He sees a problem with status quo that he wants to fix. Cruz needs money from Zuckerberg type and therefore, he sells out and there is no solution to status quo.

Mada Gasper said...

How the internet flips elections -

https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-internet-flips-elections-and-alters-our-thoughts?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

Scott Anderson said...

And yet, Ann Althouse will still vote for Hillary or Bernie in the general.

Bruce Hayden said...

I just gotta ask; you know, don't you, that Melanija Knauss, a/k/a Melania Trump, was an H1B emigre to the U.S.?

Overall, I don't have a big problem with H1B visas. They allow us to import the best and the brightest (and sometimes the most beautiful) into this country. When I was working for a large electronics company, maybe half of the PhDs I worked with as inventors were here on H1B visas (and that was almost 20 years ago). Still, we do have people coming out of engineering schools right now with advanced degrees who are having problems getting jobs. (And, I am sure, a lot of aspiring models too). Over those 20+ years, the program has helped keep us the center of technical innovation in the world.

BUT, companies like Facebook (Google, Intel, Microsoft, etc.) have seemingly made a devil's bargain with supporting comprehensive "Immigration Reform". They believe they need more H1B visas (they are capped every year), which is fine. But, that legislation tweaks the program in a bad way. Apparently, in the past, H1B visa holders could get another job in the US if they could find someone with their own H1B visa that they could use. Under the proposed legislation, apparently, they have to go home first. And, any pathway to citizenship has also been made more difficult - again, they apparently would have to go home first, etc. (And, yes, I knew a number of former H1B visa holders who were now citizens, or on the path to such). They are supposed to be paid the prevailing rate, when hired, but have little mobility here, so their wages tend to slide in comparison with their American colleagues. It is the citizenship side of it that bothers me the worst - someone with a STEM PhD can come here on an H1B visa and citizenship would be even more difficult. But, if they came here illegally, with a 3rd grade education, they would have a much easier pathway to citizenship. My view is that this is exactly backwards - the PhD (or international beauty) should have the easy time, and the people who haven't graduated from elementary school should have a much harder time, in gaining US Citizenship. The unholy marriage here is that both are thrown together with comprehensive immigration reform, with the Democrats refusing to allow them to be separated, because even though most of the illegals being allowed to gain citizenship are expected to vote Democrat, enough Republicans were willing to buy in to get the money from the H1B companies to increase the number of such visas, as well as further indenturing their H1B employees. Harry Reid was able to keep them together while Majority Leader (and Schumer is likely to follow), but Obama has had to veto some Republican legislation that had separated them to keep them together.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am maybe not as worried about Facebook here as some. If they are successful in nudging the election, there will be severe repercussions for the company. Michael K above mentioned that he only uses it for family. A lot of Republicans are likely to just quit. I would expect them to ultimately lose billions, through boycott, if this comes out. And, lose much credibility with GOP legislators whenever they come to the Hill to lobby. Goodbye comprehensive immigration reform. Etc.

How would they be able to nudge the election? My guess is to filter based on conservative content (or pushing a Republican candidate). How long do you think that will go before it is noticed? Not long, esp. since some conservative blogs (e.g. PowerLine) use Facebook to run their commenting sections. This is above and beyond any private political postings that disappear.

Birkel said...

Lawyers should be inspecting the SEC filings of these companies for exposure to derivative suits.

Macsen said...

No way on earth I'm voting for Trump, but my answer to their question remains: "none, you self-righteous bastards".

Birkel said...

pm317:

Quit pretending you are anything but a Hillary Shill.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me add the obvious to my H1B rant. The reason that it is so hard to move from H1B visa to citizenship is intentional. It keeps the salaries down that the companies have to pay to employ H1B visa holders. It is almost like indentured servitude. It could be done with the benefit of the country and the H1B visa holders being primary, but we have billions of dollars of salaries at stake here, which is why these companies were trying to buy even more favorable legislation. And, part of this is that once the people here on H1B visas get citizenship, or even become resident aliens, they can switch jobs with relative impunity.

rhhardin said...

I've never been able to read any link to facebook. Apparently you need an account, unlike Twitter, which lets you see stuff account or not.

rhhardin said...

This browser does not support video payback.

pm317 said...

@Bruce Hayden,

20 years ago it was a different world when India and China were still struggling and lots of best and the brightest tried to escape looking for challenge. Now both have a roaring IT based economy and the best people are not leaving the country (sidenote: as I and my hubby say, if India was like this 30 years ago, we would never have left). What you now find here on H1B STEM are not necessarily dregs but close. Also in the last 20 years, local Americans getting into STEM has increased but of course, the good ones are very expensive and the mediocre ones are competing with cheap H1Bs. I agree with your most recent comment. Getting a green card let alone citizenship for these techie H1Bs has become increasingly difficult. The big companies just want their cheap H1B forever. The irony is that the best ones who came here to go to good schools and earn a degree are competing for green card with their mediocre competitors from back home because of different categories and such.

cubanbob said...

If they weren't so arrogant the Facebook crowd should ever so grateful for Citizens United.

Bruce Hayden: if Trump really wants to start a shit storm he could modify and expand his position on immigration by saying we need to put an end to all immigration (legal or otherwise) of anyone with an IQ of less than 115 and promote unlimited immigration of people with IQ's of 130 and above.

rhhardin said...

IQ is a test of how quickly you can believe things, Vicki Hearne suggested, in response to essay comprehension questions.

pm317 said...

Well, much of planned import of immigrant workers was based on education and skill set (doctor shortage in the 60s-70s, engineers in the 70-80s and even now). I am sure all these people had high IQs.

Bruce Hayden said...

@cubanbob - agreed. Heck, I would maybe even be happy if they cut off with college degrees, but no citizenship to immigrants, legal or not, who didn't at least have a high school equivalency, regardless of how many anchor babies they have had. Think about it - how can someone truly participate in our society without at least a high school equivalency? How can they contribute? On the left, it really never is about how the immigrants can contribute, but rather, on how many votes they can buy with handouts forcibly expropriated from the rest of us. And, esp. if the immigrants don't speak English. Worse, some of those coming here right now apparently are from parts of Mexico that don't really even speak Spanish. Someone with an average or above IQ (and enough education) can probably learn English, and to contribute to our society (I remember the Vietnamese 40 years ago in DC who ran all the 7/11s, with multiple generations of family there, all working on their English as they ran the stores). Those who don't are mostly going to spend their lives on welfare.

And, it would be the type of thing that he could maybe get away with doing. It is outrageous enough that it could change the debate, a debate that should be changed. Why are we subsidizing and allowing the illegal immigration of millions of people who are not going to be capable of contributing positively to our society? I think that Trump could change that debate, as he has others.

Hagar said...

H1B, etc., appear to be a bunch of band-aids on a thoroughly dysfunctional immigration system. I can see why lobbyists love them, it is less obvious why the corporations do, but, whatever, they are not in the national interest.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, much of planned import of immigrant workers was based on education and skill set (doctor shortage in the 60s-70s, engineers in the 70-80s and even now). I am sure all these people had high IQs.

AS we have discussed before, the average IQ of holders of most doctorate degrees is roughly one standard deviation above the mean (according to The Bell Curve). I worked with a bunch of H1B engineers, many of whom had PhDs, and they were almost uniformly above that in IQ. Interestingly, we also had development centers in other countries around the world, and the H1B visa holders seemed to be a half notch above their counterparts back home. Except for the Russians - we had hired a bunch of PhDs from the Russian (formerly Soviet) Academy of Science. They were scary bright, but had a hard time translating their scientific breakthroughs to something concrete and practical that I could patent. In any case, their brains and discipline in getting advanced degrees, then getting hired here on an H1B visa, would most often mean that they would make quite welcome additions to our society and our gene pool.

pm317 said...

On the other hand, the Honduran guy who takes care of my lawn and garden is also very smart and given the right opportunity of a good education, he would do very well also but that may never happen to him because the odds are so stacked against him. Before him, there was a black guy doing that job (for the builder whom I inherited) and his work was shoddy and he would sit on the porch after the work was done and loudly call my name out. I hated that. I could not wait to replace him.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why do the big companies somewhat like H1B visas? Because they can better control their top talent. They can keep salaries lower, because these employees cannot really switch companies to get better pay (which happens a lot in these companies). The high cost of acquiring H1B visas is apparently typically paid for by savings in salaries over US hires. Plus, it is an advantage to know that they aren't going anywhere (until the end of their visas). And, it is the way it has been for quite some time (I noted above that I dealt with a lot of H1B engineers 20 years ago). We have been able to keep our lead in much of technology by hiring the best and the brightest from around the world to do our engineering.

Still, I suspect that these companies could easily reconcile themselves to an immigration system that allows, say, unlimited immigration for people with IQs over, maybe 130 and advanced degrees (in useful subjects like STEM). My guess is that the changes to the H1B program were more in the realm of a wish list, and that what they were really interested in was a higher H1B visa cap (my memory is that some years, the national quota could be used by March). But, Pelosi and Reid weren't interested, unless they could get millions of Dem voters, so the legislation mutated, into a Christmas tree.

pm317 said...

Anybody who leaves there country for another and makes success out of it has special IQ and genes. It is not easy to establish yourself and succeed in a foreign culture and country let alone assimilate enough to think one. We came here with two suitcases in the mid 80s and now are millionaires. That is not an anomalous story but pretty mainstream among all the immigrants I know.

pm317 said...

*their

Theranter said...

"We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”

A ha ha. Too funny. And the Pope will not have 12 Muslim refugees and zero Christian refugees from Lesbos on the Papal plane flying home with him to live at the Vatican.

Hagar said...

There is no accepted definiton of what constitutes intelligence, nor on the validity of the so-called "IQ tests" to measure it, even if if they knew what it was they were measuring.

Anyway, while any country has the right to set its own rules for accepting immigrants, I do not think - or rather feel, but I have learned to trust my feelings more than my thinking - that an IQ test is the way to go. I have known lots of people who were very intelligent, but had little common sense and so created more in the way of unnecessary difficulties than benefits.

rcocean said...

Zuckerprick is greedy billionaire who hates America and American workers. He and Facebook can suck my dick.

cubanbob said...

Hagar while you are right that wisdom and intelligence track they are not the same and having a high IQ doesn't necessarily mean that one has common sense nevertheless IQ is testable and is desirable and overall preferable to lower intelligence.

Hagar said...

My big sister was not nearly as smart as I am, but she was never wrong, and I frequently am.

cubanbob said...

Pm317 in the example you mentioned between the Honduran and the Black is simply that the Honduran didn't have the welfare state to fall back on.

As for your stating in how those who immigrate successfully have higher IQ's that is a given. As for using yourself and husband as an example that proves the point; a number of my relatives have also been successful in this country after coming here with nothing. Life is hard and harder if you are stupid.

Hagar said...

I think I have read that the apple industry in Wenatchee Valley was largely Scandinavian, but is now almost all Mexican. Apparently the offspring of the squareheads have moved out to Seattle and other places where they can get a decent latte, and the orchards have been taken over by Mexicans who, or their parents or grandfathers, came up as braceros to pick the apples for the Scandihoovians or in the fields for the Green Giant Co., or whatever.
Making a living off an apple orchard takes some "intelligence," but is probably more about willingness to work under harsh and chancy conditions and using common sense than "intelligence" as measured by "IQ tests."
And I get apples I can buy at my local supermarket for a reasonable price.

cubanbob said...

Bruce Hayden on reflection the problem my scheme of having The Donald propose unlimited immigration for the 130 and over IQ has is that it will upset a lot of Elite Rice Bowels. When the market in social sciences and humanities chicanery and other lefty scams is flooded by as good or better grifters, people's incomes are going to be affected. The pigs also need to eat and eat well.

cubanbob said...

Hagar said...
I think I have read that the apple industry in Wenatchee Valley was largely Scandinavian, but is now almost all Mexican. Apparently the offspring of the squareheads have moved out to Seattle and other places where they can get a decent latte, and the orchards have been taken over by Mexicans who, or their parents or grandfathers, came up as braceros to pick the apples for the Scandihoovians or in the fields for the Green Giant Co., or whatever.
Making a living off an apple orchard takes some "intelligence," but is probably more about willingness to work under harsh and chancy conditions and using common sense than "intelligence" as measured by "IQ tests."
And I get apples I can buy at my local supermarket for a reasonable price.

4/16/16, 12:29 PM"

Imagine if those who are healthy and able-bodied and on welfare were obligated to do those jobs instead of getting other people's tax money redistributed to them.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

First comment at Gizmodo:

LJ909>Michael Nunez
4/15/16 5:27pm
This is a time for unprecedented measures to stop someone with such a following and mindset like Trump from getting into the White House. And if that means we have to sway some people from doing the right thing then so be it.


This, my friends, is what we call being well and truly fucked.

Free and open society was fun while it lasted.

Ends, means, some assembly required.

pm317 said...

the Honduran didn't have the welfare state

Actually the Honduran is much better than that. He will refuse welfare in exchange for hard labor. I have great respect and appreciation for this individual. In fact, he deserves better and I think with his attitude will go farther than most and I hope he gets the opportunities needed.

cubanbob said...

Blogger pm317 said...
the Honduran didn't have the welfare state

Actually the Honduran is much better than that. He will refuse welfare in exchange for hard labor. I have great respect and appreciation for this individual. In fact, he deserves better and I think with his attitude will go farther than most and I hope he gets the opportunities needed.

4/16/16, 1:33 PM"

That's nice. My former (legal) Honduran landscapers had no problem taking whatever government benefits they could get.

Hagar said...

It takes some really smart people to create a full-scale national crisis.

Hagar said...

That we should keep the "good paying" jobs for our own best and brightest also seems to be a good selfish argument, and the unselfish is of course that we should not be draining the "third world" countries of their best and brightest, who are badly needed to improve matters at home.
And it is kind of the American way that the poor ones come over, work on the Erie Canal, or do landscaping, etc., to make enough money to marry, raise children and send them off to college so that they don't have to wear themselves out dgging ditches, which then leaves room for the next wave, and so on.

So the Mexicans in Wenatchee may sell the orchards to Syrian refugees in their turn perhaps?

Michael K said...

"But, if they came here illegally, with a 3rd grade education, they would have a much easier pathway to citizenship."

I sent years reviewing workers comp claims in California. I would estimate that abbots 25% are workers with Spanish surnames. Of those about 1/3 or more are illiterate in Spanish, let alone English. The Mexicans coming in now are from Indian provinces who don't even speak Spanish fluently.

For example, "Oaxaca, with 1,165,186 indigenous language speakers, accounting for 34.2% of the state's population." is the source of a lot of recent Mexican immigrants and 34% of the population don't speak Spanish.

The ones who are "literate" claim a second grade education in Mexico.

Michael K said...

Goddam autocorrect. "about 25% are..."

Hagar said...

I have read that up until WWII the daily speech in "Little Norway," which I think is the belt west of Chicago, was Scandinavian, and the Anglo businessmen in the area had to learn to speak a kind of Scandinavian pidgin to get along.

Unknown said...

This is relevant for all social networks. We already know that manipulation of search results can change people's voting preferences. Check this out, especially the section on the 2016 election: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_manipulation_effect

Why wouldn't they take it upon themselves to make sure Dems get elected? Is it even illegal?

richardsson said...

I'm late to this discussion, but I'm have a very strong opinion about Facebook. I joined it sometime in 2012 I think mostly because of high school friends. During the 2012 election I posted some thoughts about the role Gloria Allred played in that election trying to knock Romney out of the race with "scandal." My comments were posted as written but the thumbnail picture that was the link to article was changed from a picture of Allred to a picture of Rupert Murdock. I felt my post had been hijacked and instead of saying what I wanted to say unmolested, some overage juvenile at Facebook had altered it to say "Pay no attention, this is the evil FOX empire. I fumed for a week and then looked up on line how to quit Facebook. I was warned that all my friends would get a thumbs down Unlike message from me. That's dastardly, but all the more reason to quit. So, I'm not surprised by ANY of this. I knew this would happen.

I remember back in the 1970's what was then considered a high flying tech stock was run by an idealistic liberal man who wanted to "change" the world. His company bragged about all the good things they were doing. The problem was that he and the others weren't minding the store. They thought the business would run itself. Suddenly, their stock crashed and the founder died. The company is still around but its brief shining moment of sex appeal is long gone.