Monday, November 26, 2018

Report shows social-media giant has strengthened ties to right-wing goons, including Jeff Sessions, meaning our time in "Facebook Jail" might go beyond trolls





Legal Schnauzer is an unapologetically liberal blog, and we have been in "Facebook Jail" for more than a month, dating back to the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections. This marks roughly a dozen times in 2018 that the world's foremost social network has placed us in jail. We have tended to attribute our ongoing problems with Facebook to right-wing trolls -- pro-Trump, pro-law enforcement types --who file baseless complaints about our content. But a recent New York Times investigation suggests our problems -- and those of other progressive voices -- rest not with trolls, but with Facebook officials themselves.

The Times' report, published Nov. 14 (with a followup on Nov. 17), shows that -- even though tech companies have tended to align with Democrats -- Facebook is much more closely tied to right-wing forces than the public generally knows. That could explain our experiences with "Facebook Jail," along with those of other liberals on the social-media behemoth.

What exactly is "Facebook Jail"? In our case, it takes the form of notices that tell us posts from legalschnauzer.blogspot.com are "spam" and "violate community standards." That means any link from our blog will be blocked for an indefinite period of time. We can place an item on Facebook, letting followers know that the LS post exists, but we cannot provide a link that allows followers to easily click and go directly to the blog post. They have to do a Google search for "Legal Schnauzer" and take a roundabout trip to the post.

Our assignments to "Facebook Jail" have lasted from a few hours to a month or more. Messages to Facebook, informing them that our blog posts are not spam and do not violate community standards, tend to go unheard. Why is that? Well, let's consider what The New York Times teaches us about the company Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg made famous:


(1) Facebook hires right-wing attack dog to seek dirt on progressives, especially George Soros

Facebook used a Washington-based consulting firm called Definers Public Affairs to attack its perceived enemies. That includes George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party patron, who has called Facebook a "menace to society." Definers, it turns out, has close ties to conservative entities, including the George W. Bush administration and Breitbart News. From The Times' followup:

Facebook initially hired Definers to monitor news about the social network. It expanded its relationship with the firm in October 2017 when scrutiny of Facebook was increasing over how Russian agents had used the site to sow discord before the 2016 United States election.

Definers began doing some general communications work, such as running conference calls for Facebook. It also undertook more covert efforts to spread the blame for the rise of the Russian disinformation, pointing fingers at other companies like Google.

A key part of Definers’ strategy was NTK Network, a website that appeared to be a run-of-the-mill news aggregator with a right-wing slant. In fact, many of NTK Network’s stories were written by employees at Definers and America Rising, a sister firm, to criticize rivals of their clients, according to one former employee not allowed to speak about it publicly. The three outfits share some staff and offices in Arlington, Va.

(2) Facebook knew about Russia's use of the site to meddle in the 2016 presidential election much longer than it let on

Facebook officials largely have downplayed their knowledge of Russian meddling, but The Times' Nov. 14 report shows company insiders -- such as former security chief Alex Stamos -- were aware of suspicious activity on the platform roughly a year longer than the public generally understood:

In the final months of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Russian agents escalated a yearlong effort to hack and harass his Democratic opponents, culminating in the release of thousands of emails stolen from prominent Democrats and party officials.

Facebook had said nothing publicly about any problems on its own platform. But in the spring of 2016, a company expert on Russian cyberwarfare spotted something worrisome. He reached out to his boss, Mr. Stamos.

Mr. Stamos’s team discovered that Russian hackers appeared to be probing Facebook accounts for people connected to the presidential campaigns, said two employees. Months later, as Mr. Trump battled Hillary Clinton in the general election, the team also found Facebook accounts linked to Russian hackers who were messaging journalists to share information from the stolen emails.

Could Facebook face legal liability for failing to contain the Russian disinformation campaign? The answer appears to be "maybe." Does Facebook have motivation to stifle voices -- such as ours -- that speak out in support of the Robert Mueller investigation? The answer appears to be "yes."


(3) The Social Network, Jeff Sessions, and "Sweet Home Alabama"

Are we stretching to suggest Facebook might have motivations to stifle a blog with roots in Birmingham, AL? The New York Times investigation suggests the answer is "no."

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg
The Times makes clear that Facebook has worked to forge connections with former Trump attorney general and U.S.  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- and evidence strongly suggests the abuse directed at Mrs. Schnauzer and me (in Alabama and Missouri) has its foundation with Mr. Sessions and his allies. Reports The Times:

Then Donald J. Trump ran for president. He described Muslim immigrants and refugees as a danger to America, and in December 2015 posted a statement on Facebook calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States. Mr. Trump’s call to arms — widely condemned by Democrats and some prominent Republicans — was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, an illustration of the site’s power to spread racist sentiment. . . .

In the end, Mr. Trump’s statement and account remained on the site. When Mr. Trump won election the next fall, giving Republicans control of the White House as well as Congress, Mr. [Joel] Kaplan was empowered to plan accordingly. The company hired a former aide to Mr. Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, along with lobbying firms linked to Republican lawmakers who had jurisdiction over internet companies.

Who was the former Sessions aide that Facebook went out of its way to hire? It was Sandra Luff, as reported at al.com in May 2017:

A former aide to Alabama Senator turned U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been hired by Facebook.

Axios reported Sandra Luff, who served as Sessions' Legislative Director while he was in the Senate, will be Director of Executive Branch Public Policy at the social media company. She also worked with Trump's transition team.

"Sandy's experience and understanding of the political landscape will make her an invaluable asset to our team. We are excited to have her aboard," Facebook's vice president of U.S. public policy Greg Maurer said in a statement.

The move appears to be the latest efforts by Facebook to reach out to the Trump administration.

So, Facebook has been reaching out to Trump and Sessions flunkies, covering up its knowledge of Russian meddling, and hiring right-wing firms that deal in opposition research?

Is it any wonder Legal Schnauzer has spent much of 2018 in Facebook Jail -- and maybe it has nothing to do with trolls?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Facebook is in heavy damage control mode.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Zuckerberg and Sandberg aren't so smart after all.

Anonymous said...

Big mistake for Facebook not to report immediately signs of suspicious activity tied to Russia. That's where their problems started.

Anonymous said...

Looks like George Soros has been right all along. Facebook IS a "menace to society."

Anonymous said...

The geniuses at Facebook don't keep up with the news? They weren't aware of evidence that Trump was "elected" by a foreign adversary? They didn't think, "Hey, this guy's a fraud, we need to steer clear of him"?

legalschnauzer said...

Facebook's problems might just be beginning. The UK Parliament has obtained internal company documents:


https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/24/us/six4three-facebook-uk-parliament/index.html

Anonymous said...

Facebook supposedly has cut ties with Definers, but it was impossibly bad judgment to establish those ties in the first place.

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting section from CNN article re: docs obtained by Parliament:


The cache of documents, some of which may include correspondence between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and company executives, stem from a lawsuit in California that outlines a litany of allegations against Facebook. Among them: claims about the company's alleged disregard for user privacy, and the claim that Zuckerberg devised a plan that forced Facebook's rivals, or potential rivals, out of business.

"We allege that Facebook itself is the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry," Ted Kramer, the owner of Six4Three, the company suing Facebook, told CNN in an interview this summer.

legalschnauzer said...

Fascinating details about the Facebook documents that wound up in the hands of Parliament:


https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/11/26/facebook_dcms_document_cache_seized/



British MPs have made unprecedented use of Parliamentary powers to send a serjeant at arms to the hotel where the boss of a US software biz was staying to seize potentially damaging documents on Facebook.

The cache allegedly shows internal messages – including from Mark Zuckerberg – that demonstrate the social network actively exploited a loophole in its policies on access to users' friends' data that allowed Cambridge Analytica to walk away with info on 87 million people.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Facebook, you wanted to gain favor with Trump by hiring a Sessions underling? How is that working out for ya?

Anonymous said...

You think Trump, Sessions, and Facebook care about your little blog?

legalschnauzer said...

@10:47 --

I know Sessions and his allies care about my "little blog." If you don't believe it, I'd suggest you pull your head out of the sand and look at the evidence. How many U.S. journalists have been arrested and thrown in jail for blogging? I'm it, the only one. My reporting has struck a nerve, and those nerves are tied to Jeff Sessions.

I didn't ask for the distinction of being arrested for blogging. It was bestowed on me by Alabama's toxic political culture, which Jeff Sessions and his gang largely created. I've been involved with Alabama journalism for 35-plus years, so I have a pretty good idea how the place operates.

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting reaction on Facebook from Jill Simpson about this post. Jill's had encounters with many of the same right-wing thugs who have abused us, and she knows much of it tracks back to allies of Jeff Sessions:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10213149026180363&set=a.3677764462812&type=3&theater


Roger Shuler has a terrific article up about how he has been targeted by Facebook and how he believes it leads back to Sessions office folks now working for Zuckerberg's facebook. I know when I went to California to school in 2010 I started getting followed by the National Blogger Club folks in California and all the sudden heard they were doing some crazy film over at Breitbart about Anonymous and Occupy and folks were claiming all kinds of crazy off the wall crap about me and Kimberlin that was not true and as I pulled the strings it lead to one crazy bunch which included Bannon, Breitbart, Aaron Barr, Patterico, AW who ran Draw Mohammed site under initials and Peter Thiel and a group called Endgame which were all as I looked deeper tied to Sessions and called Team Themis which was started to stop us from outing their corruption. Plus I might this bunch of Nut's also tied to Pope Hat, Ali Akbar, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and the Stacy McCain the kook that warned Jim not to marry me as bad things would happen along with his buddy Ali writing threats about me at Stacy's blog.

(Continued below)


legalschnauzer said...

Here is the rest of Jill Simpson's comment:


What is sad is Peter Thiel is tied at the hip with Zuckerberg due to being an early investor in Facebook and when Jim and I were tracking Bannon's deal with Mercer's, Sessions and Cambridge Analytica that led to San Antonio and then to Ukraine and Cryprus and then to Russia Internet Research Agency we realized it was Thiel's Palantir FEMA Program with Facebook Plug ins that they were using to steal the election with Weapon Grade Propaganda Machine. So if anyone really with any sense questions Zuckerberg he is screwed right along with Thiel as is Facebook. What is sad is Zuckerberg had a window of opportunity and failed to tell on Thiel. Folks often say how did you folks track this and well here is the deal my dad always said Assholes always advertise they are assholes. When they first started following in 2010 I was doing zero wrong just studying women spirituality and studying with a leading cultural Historian how to create social movements next thing I know these kooks show up start following me . Someone tells me to get a waitress to get their name off a credit card when the followed me to a restaurant and I did. A few days later some says did you see this email dump and when I looked oh my Anonymous had dumped his emails and it was all about them following us and trying to chart what the nuts thought was a Soros group of activist. Next thing I know I am told they are doing a film on us. However shortly after Breitbart has a heart attack after calling folks and screaming at them. Then the bloggers wars begin. Over the years I watch these crazy folks and we outline their entire Network of freaks that is why it was easy for me to track Trump's gangof freaks as I was in blogger war with them from 2010 until 2016 which at the end of election I was hired to show what they had done. It is a sick sad joke on Republicans that these folks are ain't swamp as they are the exact same group of GOP operatives as always. Take Bannon he has been an operative since Reagan Days, Stone and Manafort and Karl Operatives since Nixon and Ford. You GOP folks who say they are draining the swamp are idiots they are the swamp. As for Zuck he got sucked in by Thiel and the sooner he admits what Thiel did the better off he will be. Eventually it is going to ding ding on folks Zuck's early key investor Thiel was the Russian Election Joker that caused all the problems. I might add looking back I know I would never have been able to track these folks but for the fact they just kept following and harassing all my friends. I will never forget when Roger was arrested they the National Blogger club gleefully yapped about him going to jailandgot so bold as to tell my husband they would do the same thing to me and he should not marry me. I might add they kept mentioning their good group lawyer Baron Coleman and it is my hope someday folks arrest that guy for all the criminal activity he has been involved in I might add his law office buddy who is now at the Alabama bar did all kinds of meanness to me for Sessions gang and until he is gone no one is safe.

Anonymous said...

Strange that there seems to be very little information about Sandy Luff on the Web. I can't even find a picture of her.

legalschnauzer said...

For those not familiar with Peter Thiel, referenced in Jill Simpson's FB post, here is link to info about him. He was co-founder of PayPal. He also helped fund Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Thiel


https://www.wired.com/2016/08/peter-thiel-just-got-wish-gawker-shutting/

Anonymous said...

So many of these folks from Alabama are alumni of the University of Alabama School of Law, Dem or Repub, doesn't matter, they are all of the same ilk. They have controlled Alabama politics for generations, the party affiliation isn't important.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:43 --

Good point. My experience has been that Cumberland School of Law at Samford produces a lot of sketchy characters, such as Doug Jones (a Democrat) and Republican sleazebag Bill Swatek.

legalschnauzer said...

Some powerful stuff from Jill Simpson's Facebook post, explains how these swamp creatures are connected through an international Web of sleaze. Also, suggests Facebook could wind up in deep doo-doo over its ties to Peter Thiel and his underhanded activities:


"As I pulled the strings it lead to one crazy bunch which included Bannon, Breitbart, Aaron Barr, Patterico, AW who ran Draw Mohammed site under initials and Peter Thiel and a group called Endgame which were all as I looked deeper tied to Sessions and called Team Themis which was started to stop us from outing their corruption. Plus I might this bunch of Nut's also tied to Pope Hat, Ali Akbar, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and the Stacy McCain the kook that warned Jim not to marry me as bad things would happen along with his buddy Ali writing threats about me at Stacy's blog. What is sad is Peter Thiel is tied at the hip with Zuckerberg due to being an early investor in Facebook and when Jim and I were tracking Bannon's deal with Mercer's, Sessions and Cambridge Analytica that led to San Antonio and then to Ukraine and Cryprus and then to Russia Internet Research Agency we realized it was Thiel's Palantir FEMA Program with Facebook Plug ins that they were using to steal the election with Weapon Grade Propaganda Machine. So if anyone really with any sense questions Zuckerberg he is screwed right along with Thiel as is Facebook. What is sad is Zuckerberg had a window of opportunity and failed to tell on Thiel."

Anonymous said...

Congrats to NYT for some big-time journalism. It certainly changes the way I look at Facebook.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Mueller is looking into Facebook.

Anonymous said...

That you've been in Facebook Jail for so long, and for so many times this year, makes me think this is not the work of trolls, but of Facebook insiders.

e.a.f. said...

OF course Facebook "loves" Trump. He gave them all that lovely big tax cut. What is there not to like. Its always about the money.

I'd suggest you are in facebook jail, not just that you are "progressive" but rather that you don't like some of those republicans. Many Canadian blogs are on facebook with no problem and they are way further left than you will ever be. You're about fighting government corruption and that is never popular with government or big busiess.

Zukerberg, in my opinion, is still stuck with his college mentality and with that goes, its all about me. He and his company have failed to be good corporate citizens and a corporation run by a person who may have the mentality of a teenage computer geek isn't going to change.

I'm old enough to remember when the American government broke up AT & T because it had gotten too big and there wasn't enough competition. too bad there is a government in office now who was interested in freedom of speech or providing a competitive environment for start ups.

Never got onto Face book. Always considered it a corporation who was mining personal information to make them rich. My life is fine with out it. About a decade ago there was a report that Facebook was able to gather enough information from your Facebook account that it could predict 6 months in advance that your marriage was going to break up.

The world will still turn on its axis and the sun will still rise if you get off of facebook. the sooner congress brings it under control the better.

What I have noticed recently is that blogs, all progressive, which have Goggle or name and annnonymous have taken on a recaptcha are getting very hard to post comments on, especially if you are NOT using goggle. what is the problem. It is happening in Canada and the U.S.A.

legalschnauzer said...

e.a.f. --

Lots of good points, as always. Re: posting comments on blogs, I use a recaptcha at times to filter out the high volume of spam and trolls that I receive. I don't like using the recaptcha, and I take it off at times, but I wind up deleting the same garbage over and over, and that gets tiresome. I'm not sure how other blogs deal with that issue, but that's what happens with me.