March 22, 2018

"This is the first time that I've suspected that a WaPo editorial was driven by the interests of its owner and it's own business model rather than a stance on the merits."

A comment at the Washington Post editorial "Let’s take a deep breath about Facebook’s ‘breach of trust.'" (The editorial ends: "Facebook and others are under enormous pressure to behave more as publishers responsible for their content than as neutral platforms. They should not resist. Facebook faces a related set of questions about manipulation of the platform in the 2016 campaign... All of this should be pursued in the spirit of perfecting rules of the road to keep social networks free and open. In the end, they should remain what they are, great sharing machines.")

The owner of WaPo is Jeff Bezos, so what's his connection to Facebook? He's an investor in Facebook. I saw a comment (which I can't find anymore) that he lost billions when Facebook stock slid this week. Trying to research that factoid, I found this article from yesterday: "Jeff Bezos Is Now $40 Billion Richer Than Anyone Else on Earth."
But since the start of 2018, Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth skyrocket compared to his billionaire peers.... At the close of the stock market on Tuesday, the index estimated Jeff Bezos’ net worth at a whopping $132 billion. That’s thanks to Amazon’s stock price, which has jumped roughly 40% so far in 2018.... That’s obviously enough to make Bezos the world’s richest person. What’s particularly astounding is that no one else is even in the same ballpark as Amazon’s founder.
What do you think? Is he so rich it's stupid to think he cares what slant the piddling Washington Post takes in its editorials or is the Washington Post central to his machinations and part of why Amazon is up 40% in 2018?

If you go to the editorial urging gentle treatment of Facebook, you'll see, at the bottom, a list of additional Facebook related articles in WaPo:
Anne Applebaum: Does Cambridge Analytica have my data? I have no idea. That’s the problem.

Sandy Parakilas: I worked at Facebook. I know how Cambridge Analytica could have happened.

Jennifer Rubin: If Facebook isn’t forthcoming, voters might opt to ‘unfriend’ the network

Karen Tumulty: Maybe we should be thanking Facebook

The Post’s View: China’s intrusive, ubiquitous, scary surveillance technology
Does that all sound like gentle treatment of Facebook? Well, yeah, it kind of does.... especially since it leaves out an ungentle treatment of Facebook that's also currently in WaPo, "Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook" by E.J. Dionne.

Dionne writes: "We must decide when Facebook and comparable companies should be held accountable as public utilities." Notice how closely that tracks the line from the editorial I quoted in the first paragraph of this post: "Facebook and others are under enormous pressure to behave more as publishers responsible for their content than as neutral platforms. They should not resist."

Dionne continues: "And when do they look more like publishers who bear responsibility for the veracity of the 'information' they spread around?" Well, if they are publishers, then they have freedom of speech, which means they have less responsibility and can lie and distort and pass along private information (subject to very few legal limits) just like the Washington Post.

More Dionne: "We also need to confront conflicts between the public interest and the ways that social media companies make their profits. Where do privacy rights come in? Are they unduly blocking transparency about how political campaigns are conducted and who is financing them? Were they indifferent to their manipulation by foreign powers?" The questions he forgets/declines to ask: What about the freedom of speech of users of Facebook? Is Facebook unduly censoring speech based on political viewpoint?

(By the way, I hope some of you remember how vehemently I took the position (back in 2011) that free speech on Facebook matters even though Facebook is a private company. I had a big email debate about it with Bob Wright (after a Bloggingheads discussion). You can read that here.)

65 comments:

bleh said...

With all the overlapping ownership interests it's almost like all the big tech companies are really just a single consortium or conglomerate. A cartel? One of those c-words.

Fernandinande said...

"Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook"

Thanks for the free advice, E.J. Dionne.

Scott Adams says "Here’s a funny article by David Wong of Cracked that talks about the dopamine high we sometimes get from outrage."

Dopamine disruption increases negotiation for cooperative interactions in a fish

An outraged fish is an uncooperative fish.

zipity said...

The Obama campaign was hailed as being genius for doing the exact same thing as Cambridge Analytica. A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign. Carol Davidson, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists. When Facebook found out what they were doing, they were “surprised,” she said. But she also claimed they didn’t stop them once they found out: “They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Davidson tweeted.

Clearly, the only reason Facebook is being targeted now is because the political rivals of the Democrats attempted to do the same thing. I'm afraid it is painfully obvious the Democrats and the LameStream Media© are displaying a stunning amount of hypocrisy in this instance.

Anonymous said...
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I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Bezos does not care about the WaPo. He cares about mining minerals on asteroids and about space travel. That is what he is using his wealth for.

Mike Sylwester said...

In regard to distributing private information, someone please remind me what the Washington Post's reason was for publishing transcripts of phone conversations between President Trump and the President of Mexico and the President of Australia.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dionne: "We must decide when Facebook and comparable companies should be held accountable as public utilities."

Be careful what you wish for there, Dionne. There are strong demands from the right that "Facebook and comparable companies" be declared public utilities, and with good reason.

WaPo commenter: "This is the first time that I've suspected that a WaPo editorial was driven by the interests of its owner and it's own business model rather than a stance on the merits."

That's so touching, in a pathetic sort of way.

Lucien said...

Did Facebook breach its terms of service or not? If it did it, then lots of people have causes of action against it for breach of contract, with very small damages (which is what class actions are for). It looks like Cambridge Analytica (or whoever passed information to it) may have breached its contract with Facebook, which is not Facebook’s fault.

At bottom the supposedly bad thing that happened is that a political campaign got information that helped it target advertising more cheaply and more effectively than it could have otherwise. That is exactly what it hired Cambridge Analytica to help with, and is completely legitimate.

AZ Bob said...

Still can't handle Trump? So now blame Facebook and start regulating it. When it comes to the First Amendment, I side with Althouse and Dershowitz.

Marty Keller said...

As is the case with so many things these days, the outrage is seriously mis-sourced. FB started as an innocuous collegiate social information-sharing platform. From the beginning, no one forced anyone to use it. It provided a pleasing service without charging people to use it, providing an easily-succumbed to addictive pleasure to its users.

Now that it's a many-headed hydra owned by soft democratic-socialist types, it's still a psychological sugar rush that no one is forced to use. Here's a simple solution to the challenge of FB (which almost no one will adopt): just say no.

cubanbob said...

WaPo commenter: "This is the first time that I've suspected that a WaPo editorial was driven by the interests of its owner and it's own business model rather than a stance on the merits."

The stupidity of the WaPo commenters is epic. Don't they realize Bezo's bought the paper to keep the antitrust division of the DoJ at bay?

Nonapod said...

We must decide when Facebook and comparable companies should be held accountable as public utilities.

We also need to confront conflicts between the public interest and the ways that social media companies make their profits.

Who's this "we" I keep hearing about? My first guess was the writer had a mouse in their pocket. But then I thought better and realized the writer was referring to our great, benevolent and wise overlords, the government. Yes, as history has shown, our government has never made mistakes or errors and is always fair and good.

cubanbob said...

WaPo commenter: "This is the first time that I've suspected that a WaPo editorial was driven by the interests of its owner and it's own business model rather than a stance on the merits."

The stupidity of the WaPo commenters is epic. Don't they realize Bezo's bought the paper to keep the antitrust division of the DoJ at bay?

Anonymous said...

It's a big laugh to me that all these "sophisticated" people who should have ( and most likely did) know how Facebook operates and makes its money are "shocked! shocked!" that this is how Facebook actually makes its money. If you want to have at least minimal protection of your privacy you stay off all social media sites. They are nothing, but a scheme to learn everything there is to know about you. The Gestapo would have been thrilled to be able to mine the data that companies like Facebook and Twitter, etc. collect.


Ann, this was one of the reason that I strongly objected to you introducing ads on your blog. They were, and are, essentially a means for some company - Facebook, Experian, et al. - to obtain data about your readers.

rehajm said...

Driven by the interests of its owner? Sometimes rich guys have large webs of financial interests. The existence of the potential shouldn't automatically equate to talking the book. I call no foul on this one.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Obama campaign had your data, and they were proud of it.

AZ Bob said...

Zuckerberg Says He’s Open to Government Regulating Facebook. “‘I’m actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,’ the Facebook CEO told CNN.” --Instapundit

Sad.

Temujin said...

Stop the news. Bozo is dead.

Nonapod said...

“‘I’m actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,’ the Facebook CEO told CNN.”

Oh, he's seeking forgiveness for his horrific trespasses now?! Fine! First, he must give all his ill gotten wealth away. Then he needs drag a great stone through the streets of DC while committing self flagellation. The maybe he'll be allowed back into the right dinner parties and showered with adulation again.

brylun said...

Facebook, Twitter and the like should be regulated to assure viewpoint neutrality.

Curious George said...

"What do you think? Is he so rich it's stupid to think he cares what slant the piddling Washington Post takes in its editorials or is the Washington Post central to his machinations and part of why Amazon is up 40% in 2018?"

Neither. Welcome to the Barack Obama World of False Choices. Please enjoy your stay.

Sebastian said...

"Anne Applebaum: Does Cambridge Analytica have my data? I have no idea. That’s the problem."

"My data"?

She wrote a good book, but my God, these sophisticates can be stupid.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

FAcebook and Twitter, right now, are platforms for leftists only.
Why are they complaining?

Koot Katmandu said...

One of the first times I agree with the washington post. I think the outrage at FB is way over the top. Anyone that did not see what was happening via privacy was not paying attention.

Should they tighten up privacy sure but the outrage is down right silly. This is just another excuse for the never trumpers and the left to claim Trump did not get a legitiment win. It is BS. It is also a way for the traditional gate keepers of news to try and shut down alternative sources. That is why it surprising to me the WP took this stance.

I also think the vast majority of FB users are fully capable of telling when they are reading fake or biased news when then they want to. Nothing on FB could change my world view and how I vote, at best it could reinforce my views and maybe in some small why make it more likely I would vote or act.

Nonapod said...

Why are they complaining?

Because the bad orange man stole the datas. That cannot be allowed.

Mike Sylwester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

Mark at 9:58 AM
Grand Jury testimony is secret and cannot be released.

OK.

Except for the grand jury transcripts, all the Special Counsel's memoranda, summaries, notes and other documents related to grand jury hearings are declassified and released to the public, effective immediately.

rhhardin said...

The problem is responding to mob actions with other than ridicule.

Anonymous said...

"Facebook and others are under enormous pressure to behave more as publishers responsible for their content than as neutral platforms. They should not resist"

That would be awesome! Google, Twitter, and Facebook get a bunch of DMCA protections that require them to be neutral platforms. As they aren't actually neutral platforms (Facebook gave the Obama Campaign significant support in 2012, with no complaints from left wing rags like the WaPo or NYT), it's time to remove all their DMCA protections, and open the floodgates to tons of lawsuits.

Of, and I look forward to the day when Anne Applebaum "worries" about FB giving her data to a Democrat campagin. but I'm not holding my breath

Anonymous said...

Lucien said...
Did Facebook breach its terms of service or not? If it did it, then lots of people have causes of action against it for breach of contract, with very small damages (which is what class actions are for). It looks like Cambridge Analytica (or whoever passed information to it) may have breached its contract with Facebook, which is not Facebook’s fault.

1st lawsuit needs to be against Facebook for explicitly allowing the Obama Campaign exceptional access to user's data:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5520303/Obama-campaign-director-reveals-Facebook-ALLOWED-data.html

Carol Davidsen, who worked as the media director at Obama for America and has spoken about this in the past, explained on Twitter that she and her team were able to ingest massive amounts of information from the social network after getting permission from Facebook users to access their list of friends.

'Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn't stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,' wrote Davidsen.

She wrote that, not only did Facebook not try to stop them, but the company said they'd made a special exception for them.

'They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn't have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,' she tweeted.


So, by all means, let's let the lawsuits fly

cubanbob said...

Subject social media to the Fairness Doctrine. I'm sure the snowflakes will be all for that.

Unknown said...

> Dionne: "We must decide when Facebook and comparable companies should be held accountable as public utilities."

Why not make the Washington Post a public utility?

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Because the bad orange man stole the datas. That cannot be allowed.

& the Russians!


And Hillary must be avenged. All data belongs to one side, the good side.

Yancey Ward said...

Kevin, in a previous thread wrote:

"If FB really wanted to clean up its act, it would discuss how its people and data have been used in political campaigns before and would put in place strict safeguards to ensure it never happens again.

This would include requiring as a condition of employment their employees not work with political campaigns given the sensitive nature of the data it holds."


And, of course, he is correct. The complaint here about Facebook isn't that this data was used in a political campaign- it is that Trump's campaign used it and won the election. The goal going forward is going to be to find a legal way to prevent the Republican candidate from using social media in political campaigns while preserving the option for the companies to aid the Democrats.

Browndog said...

Althouse also wrote a blog post about how free speech is much, much more than just a 1st Amendment protection. I've tried twice in earnest to find it, but the 'free speech' tags are endless.

Eleanor said...

There's no requirement you fill out any of the profile data on FB. You can set up a dummy email address you only give to FB. You don't have to participate in any of the silly quizzes. You can refrain from "liking" business pages. You don't have to use FB to shop. You don't have to participate in politics there. You can use FB to keep in touch with old friends and family without revealing much information. If you put your personal information anywhere on the internet, there are people who can find it. Information is a valuable commodity.

rhhardin said...

I don't care if it's used in political campaigns.

Everything's a mob crime these days.

rhhardin said...

Stormy Daniels is the only one getting any mileage out of mob action these days, help for her day job.

rhhardin said...

She passed a lay detector test, too.

rhhardin said...

I don't see why Trump can't be a role model here.

rhhardin said...

Imus says, from his days hanging out with Trump in the 80s, that Trump was a very funny Don Rickles comedian in his side remarks.

The question would be how come he married women with no sense of humor.

Maybe his large gold plated decor taste goes with big tits or something. Better judgment momentarily suspended.

Bruce Hayden said...

“Did Facebook breach its terms of service or not? If it did it, then lots of people have causes of action against it for breach of contract, with very small damages (which is what class actions are for). It looks like Cambridge Analytica (or whoever passed information to it) may have breached its contract with Facebook, which is not Facebook’s fault.”

Likely not. But even experienced attorneys have a hard time understanding these agreements. It is somewhat akin to lying by omission - you don’t see what they are prevented from doing by their user agreements if you don’t fully understand how the whole system works, and few outside the company do.

What seems to have happened at some point was that Cambridge got legal access to maybe 30k profiles, and then they went somewhat viral, via friend networks, accessing friends of friends (of friends, etc) that weren’t properly secured and locked down. You can always limit access to just first level friends, but many don’t. I think the key here is realizing that opening things to 2nd order friends essentially opens things to 10th level friends, which means opening them to the world. Being professionally paranoid, I, of course, locked everything down to just first level friends. Not that I fully understood the ramifications (despite having written and negotiated EULAs), but figured that it was safer if I didn’t, to be cautious. Few have my background (I was one of the first attys to tell MSFT attys that their EULA had antitrust implications, several months before DoJ brought suit against them for just that - antitrust). And, yet, I could read their license agreement and not see all the ramifications of users choosing or defaulting to allowing 2nd level friend access to their data.

What must be kept in mind was the point made by several pundits over the last couple days, and that is that Facebook (Google,etc) users are not the customers. They are the product, or rather their eyeballs are the product. Advertisers are the customers. That and anyone willing to pay for detailed demographic data. Which is the way that you need to read their TOS agreements, with the realization that anything that they don’t say that they won’t do, they probably will do, or allow one of their real customers to do.

Inga...Allie Oop said...

“Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook".

And don’t forget to be outraged about Hillary and Biden too! What would a day without your outrage fix be?

Inga...Allie Oop said...

“Ann, this was one of the reason that I strongly objected to you introducing ads on your blog. They were, and are, essentially a means for some company - Facebook, Experian, et al. - to obtain data about your readers.”

I always thought this blog wasn’t all that different from Facebook.

Inga...Allie Oop said...

“That’s obviously enough to make Bezos the world’s richest person. What’s particularly astounding is that no one else is even in the same ballpark as Amazon’s founder.”

Make sure to drop into the Althouse Amazon portal on your way out, thank you for your patronage.

Bruce Hayden said...

“One of the first times I agree with the washington post. I think the outrage at FB is way over the top. Anyone that did not see what was happening via privacy was not paying attention.”

I disagree. Most people in this country have little understanding of privacy in the electronic era. The audience here is self selected, and, no doubt, knows much more than most.

“Should they tighten up privacy sure but the outrage is down right silly. This is just another excuse for the never trumpers and the left to claim Trump did not get a legitiment win. It is BS. It is also a way for the traditional gate keepers of news to try and shut down alternative sources. That is why it surprising to me the WP took this stance.”

Not sure I fully agree about the outrage. Yes, it is highly political. But too many are far too trusting of these giagantic online companies, that have created so many billionaires, by selling your eyeballs or demographics to their real customers.

n.n said...

WaPo has a globalist interest. NYT has a Mexican flavor. Both are in the business of influencing our perceptions and elections.

buwaya said...

"Facebook gave the Obama Campaign significant support in 2012"

As of now, we don't know how much help they gave the HRC campaign in 2016.
I suspect there was significant participation by several of these players in the politics of 2016. They certainly have been putting their thumbs on the scale post-election, notably in shutting down right wing political speech.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse also wrote a blog post about how free speech is much, much more than just a 1st Amendment protection. I've tried twice in earnest to find it, but the 'free speech' tags are endless."

I linked to the one place where I believe I talked about it the most (and that post links to an earlier post), but I'll try to collect links to other posts. It's a standard topic with me and has been for many years.

It will take me a little while, but within the next day.

buwaya said...

On my one browser Google is letting Bloomberg Law try to get my attention.
Their AI is not doing so well today.

My other browser on the desktop is Brave, which does a good job of stopping ads. It does speed things up by keeping ad-load time down.

Yancey Ward said...

buwaya wrote:

"As of now, we don't know how much help they gave the HRC campaign in 2016.
I suspect there was significant participation by several of these players in the politics of 2016."


You can be certain that Hillary's campaign was more intensive in its use of social media, and no doubt got lots of cooperation from the social media companies themselves. Had Shelob won the election, today's stories would have been of the sort lauding all the ways in which stupid Trump's campaign didn't realize how easy it was to marshal social media's power in politics, and how the brilliant Hillary campaign ran circles around the floundering Trump people because they were smarter and savvier about the new world of online information. That was Trump's real sin- preventing the writing of such stories.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Another day of outrage at the Russians! for stealing it away from poor poor Hillary!

Charlie Currie said...

Anne Applebaum: Does Cambridge Analytica have my data? I have no idea. That’s the problem.

Anne, you have no idea WHO has your data. That's the problem.

Earnest Prole said...

You've overlooked Bezos' main primary financial interest in defending Facebook. It's not because he owns its stock; it's because Facebook, like Amazon (and Google), has grown to the point where it has no effective competition, violates American anti-trust laws, and should be broken up like AT&T.

John henry said...

I think it is way cool that Jeff Bezos got $40 billion richer under President Trump and paid less than $3 million in taxes. (about a 0.00007% tax rate?)

It is the American way!

And no, I am not trying to be facetious. I really do celebrate it and thank him for all the things he has made possible in my life:

Financing Althouse
Createspace publishing
Kindle
Prime
Endless catalog
Prime video
Recommendations

I am a huge Amazon fan and I hope he increases his wealth by another $40bn in 2018. He will have earned it.

John Henry

John henry said...

BTW: Another reason I am a fan of Amazon and even moreso of Walmart is what they are doing to American manufacturing.

They are forcing it to be efficient. Getting from complacency to being efficient is a painful process and some companies can't do it. But we, the US, are much better off overall for it.

Here's a fun fact about Amazon that you will probably never see.

In 2016 I was working with a large company helping improve part of their manufacturing process. This company sold about 40% through Walmart ( many companies are more dependent on Walmart)and had the typical pressures. But, they told me, Amazon is a bigger part of our business every year and even tougher than Walmart.

Walmart specifies shipping lead times in days. Usually not very many. Amazon specifies shipping lead times in hours. In 2016 their contract with Amazon called for shipment within 36 hours of receipt of order. In 2017 it reduced to 33 hours.

That is 33 hours to pull the raw materials, make the product, pack it and put it on a truck. It would not surprise me if the cycle time 15 years ago for this company was 20-30 days from order to ship. They have 800+ products so making to inventory is impractical.

Now they are doing 33 hours? That's amazing and enormously beneficial to the US. And something the Chinese can never compete with because of physical distance if nothing else.

I also like Amazon because they make me money. I was there to help this company get to 33 hours. So it is not like I am a disinterested bystander.

John Henry

Jim at said...

I'm afraid it is painfully obvious the Democrats and the LameStream Media© are displaying a stunning amount of hypocrisy in this instance.

Stunning? No.
Entirely predictable.

Martin said...

I don't know about what is behind WaPo's editorial, but Bezos has a LOT of interest in the FB situation, because Amazon, too, collects, keeps, and uses (for its profit) a wealth of data about its users. Any restrictions on that would hit Bezos and Amazon almost as hard as FB. Google, too.

Many people recognized this as a problem several years ago, but for a variety of reasons (cough, cough, Eric Schmidt and Hillary Clinton, cough cough) nothing was done and the questions were repeatedly buried. Now, suddenly Congress seems motivated because of one relatively small but hi-profile manifestation of this very large problem, and based on their record we should anticipate that if anything gets enacted, it will be stupid and even counter-productive. But Bezos, Zuckerberg, Page and Brin should be greatly concerned.

Aussie Pundit said...

(By the way, I hope some of you remember how vehemently I took the position (back in 2011) that free speech on Facebook matters even though Facebook is a private company.

Free speech of Facebook matters more than free speech on Facebook. They are not a public utility. They are an entertainment and recreational website.

It is entirely possible for me to set up a social network site for a few hundred bucks using open source tools and invite people to join it. How small must a social network be before its actions don't constitute infringement on free speech?

Aussie Pundit said...

The questions he forgets/declines to ask: What about the freedom of speech of users of Facebook?

Right back at ya: What about it?

If, say, Mark Zuckerberg bans someone from using Facebook and doesn't explain why, what in your opinion should the Feds do about that? Well, their hands are tied currently, so what laws would you like to see changed, or new laws introduced, so that they can take action?

Freedom of speech is not, as you wrongly assume, Ann, some kind of cultural value that must be nurtured. The only point of "freedom of speech" is to limit the power of government, and to prevent tyranny. It's not about respecting people's opinions, nor is it about having to listen to people who don't agree with you. It really is purely and simply about restricting the power of the state over its citizens.

PB said...

The actions of the WaPo editors and staff may be similar to the actions of Comey and the FBI traitors. Why would you willingly jeopardize your job/future by pissing off your current or future boss?

Moneyrunner said...

There is very little practical difference between being silenced by the government or by a private individual who holds the power to silence dissent.

By accident of technology, the public square now consists of a few places: TV, Facebook, Twitter, MSM. They, along with Google (which dominates data gathering) and Academia (which molds developing minds) is in the process of defining “reality” for most people.
These all have one thing in common: they are dominated by the Left. Everything else – including Ms. Althouse - is samizdat.

Mike Sigman said...

Things haven't changed since the 1960's when William Safire basically said that the Washington Post was crooked and always did slanted coverage. Why be surprised that the WaPo gives favorable coverage to Bezos ... it's what the WaPo does.

SDN said...

"It looks like Cambridge Analytica (or whoever passed information to it) may have breached its contract with Facebook, which is not Facebook’s fault."

No, but what IS Facebook's fault is the different treatment meted out to the Obama crew who did EXACTLY the same thing. "Equal treatment under the TOS is simply a requirement for a company that claqims it's a common carrier when it wants to avoid lawsuits.