Sheryl Sandberg is shocked, shocked that there is bad behavior on Facebook

September 24, 2017 Comments off

This has been a bad few weeks for two out of the four members of the FANG cartel–Facebook and Google.  Their problems can all be summed up in a post by former Googler and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg–yes, that Sheryl Sandberg, who is a leading contender for beatification by the Congregation for the Causes of the Commercial Saints and former defendant in the Google shareholder derivative suit over Google’s violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

According to Ms. Sandberg:

Last week we temporarily disabled some of our ads tools following news reports that slurs or other offensive language could be used as targeting criteria for advertising. If someone self-identified as a ‘Jew-hater’ or said they studied ‘how to burn Jews’ in their profile, those terms showed up as potential targeting options for advertisers.

Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this.

Could the problem be that Facebook’s “systems” are designed to “allow this”?  Just like Google’s “systems” were designed and optimized to allow selling advertising keywords for pirated recordings derived from artist names?

Luke Sample

And as was demonstrated by the FBI and Department of Justice sting operation, Google perfected selling search terms for illegal drugs?  As Wired reported in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg is no stranger to the issue of state of the art “systems” mysteriously allowing bad acts:

At one point during a meeting with [then inmate and former online illegal drug impresario David] Whitaker and his lawyer, the Feds asked him how he had grown his online enterprise. Whitaker’s answer was immediate: He had used Google AdWords. In fact, he claimed, Google employees had actively helped him advertise his business, even though he had made no attempt to hide its illegal nature. It was reasonable to assume, Whitaker said, that Google was helping other rogue Internet pharmacies too.

If true, this would be a bombshell. This was Google, after all. Since its founding, the search giant had prided itself on being a different kind of corporation, the “don’t be evil” company. And for almost as long, its open-to-all-comers ad policy had come under scrutiny. Online pharmacies were a particular sticking point; in 2003, three separate congressional committees initiated inquiries into the matter.

On July 22, 2004, a month before Google went public [and she cashed out big time], Sheryl Sandberg—at the time Google vice president of global online sales and operations—testified before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Legislators had proposed two bills that would regulate online pharmaceutical sales, but Sandberg argued that the measures would be unduly burdensome. [Kind of like stopping child sex trafficking–too much trouble for elites in the Internet Associations membership.] She said that Google employed a third-party verification service to vet online pharmacies. She also described Google’s own automated monitoring system and the creation of a team of Google employees dedicated to enforcing all of the company’s pharmaceutical ad policies. “Google has taken strong voluntarily [sic] measures—going beyond existing legal requirements—to ensure that our advertising services protect our users by providing access to safe and reliable information,” she testified. Neither bill made it out of committee. (Sandberg, now Facebook’s chief operating officer, declined to comment or be interviewed for this story.) [I bet.]

However–at the same time that Ms. Sandberg’s people were crowing about their verification service, other Googlers were selling advertising keywords to criminals selling illegal drugs into the United States.  Google subsequently negotiated a non-prosecution agreement (kind of like a plea bargain) pursuant to which Google paid a $500,000,000 fine, evidently with the approval of Eric Holder, then Attorney General of the United States.  Google was represented in that deal by one Jamie Gorelick (Amazon board member and former Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, replaced by…Eric Holder.  Ms. Gorelick is employed by Washington DC swamp powerhouse law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale (former employer of Senator Elizabeth Warren).).

As Google (referred to as “the Company”) expressly acknowledged in the non prosecution agreement (which you can read here):

Non Prosecution Excerpt

So–Sheryl Sandberg has a very great deal of experience going back well over a decade with big rich Silicon Valley companies profiting from debased behavior.  Some might argue profits that she enjoyed herself in the form of stock awards, salaries and cash bonuses.

This is no doubt one reason why she was sued as a defendant in the stockholder derivative suit against Google (read the complaint here) that arose out of the $500,000,000 payment of the stockholders money to keep Google executives like her from being prosecuted criminally and potentially going to prison for facilitating the sale of illegal drugs to kids among other people.  (See also The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007, legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein and then-Senator now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)

Remember–there’s no public evidence that I can find (and I’ve looked) that any of this bad behavior ever cost her a penny of her own money.

Shareholder Suite

Whether it’s drugs, hate groups, human trafficking or the Russians, Sheryl Sandberg has made lots of money exploiting human misery if you ask me.  I don’t quite see how she couldn’t have.

Given her carefully sanitized checkered past, should we accept the wringing of hands, wailing and mourning and rending of garments by an unimaginably rich power player like Ms. Sandberg?

I think not.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a different law for the Silicon Valley elites than there is for the hoi polloi.  Trust me, Sheryl Sandberg will never be held to account and will be able to buy her way out of prosecution yet again probably using the stockholders’ money yet again.

@maureendowd: Will Mark Zuckerberg ‘Like’ This Column?

September 24, 2017 Comments off
Emporer zuck

“It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.

But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Read the post on The New York Times

Professor Goldman Puts His Finger on the Problem With the CDA Safe Harbor for Sex Trafficking

September 21, 2017 Comments off

The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings this week on amending the tech industry’s safe harbor in the Communications Decency Act that protects pimps and other human traffickers who use the Internet to facilitate child rape.  As became apparent in the hearing, the Internet Association (aka Google) is very much opposed to any change in its safe harbor protection.  (Big Tech’s main safe harbors (aside from having the money to beat the litigation bejesus out of anybody including governments) are Section 230 of the Orwellian Communications Decency Act and the safe harbors in Section 512 of the Copyright Act often called the “DMCA” or the faux “DMCA license.)

One less obvious issue of great importance in Senator Portman and Senator Blumenthal’s bill (S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, called “SESTA”) is amending CDA 230 to permit state prosecutors from bringing criminal complaints (and victims from bringing civil complaints) under the duly enacted laws of their states.  This gives Big Tech considerable pause because The Little People (aka their users who make them rich) might be more likely to have their day in state court for these bad acts.

Let’s be clear–even if this were a 51 jurisdiction issue, the state laws aren’t going to be that different or complex.  The state would prosecute Pimp X for selling Jane Doe into child sex slavery which is bad.  The state prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  On the civil side, a parent like Ms. Ambrose (who testified at the hearing) could bring a case because her child was trafficked and murdered.  She’d still have to win her case based on the applicable evidence standard, carry her burdens and overcome any affirmative defenses, as would living victims who sue for their harms.

These elements are unlikely to vary much from state to state.

Given the unimaginable number of these cases that occur every hour of every day and mostly online, it is just too vast a problem for federal prosecutors to shoulder alone.  Indeed, state prosecutors have a duty to bring cases under their state’s laws but perps can get away with their depraved oppression of young women and men by conducting their business online where prosecution is less likely to occur.  Courts block state law prosecutions because the federal law has been interpreted to pre-empt any state prosecutions.  The SESTA legislation would fix this loophole.

So why wouldn’t we want our children to have all the help they can get?  Why wouldn’t we want state prosecutors to be able to make these cases and why would we want the pimps to be able to hide in the shadows of the oxymoronic Communications Decency Act?

Thank goodness we have Professor Eric Goldman to enlighten us in this exchange (at about 1:42:00) with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV):





So glad he cleared that up.  The Internet hasn’t approved state laws against child rape, so the 50 state attorneys general who back the SESTA legislation can go pound sand.  You know who also didn’t get to approve either the state or federal laws against human trafficking?

Desiree Robinson, the daughter of witness Yvonne Ambrose.  She was 16 and she was  trafficked, raped and murdered. She never got to vote.

So forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for whether “the Internet” approves of laws that would call Desiree Robinson’s abusers to justice.

As her mother told the Committee:

Be the change you want to see in this world. Not only for justice for Desiree, but for all the countless Jane Does out here and the other little girls to come who don’t have a voice. We have to be the change now to protect our babies from websites like that open the door for predators without any accountability.

@KRSfow: Future of What Podcast on the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act

September 16, 2017 Comments off

Episode #94: Recently, a bill was introduced by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner which calls for the creation of a comprehensive database of compositions and recordings. The “Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act” claims to make things easier for coffee shops, bars and restaurants who want to license music to play in their establishments. To many in the music industry, the bill seems like a wolf in sheep’s clothing with the potential cause big problems. On this episode we dig deep into the bill with Future of Music Coalition’s Kevin Erickson and attorney Chris Castle.

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Google Sends in the Shills to Dodge Appearing at @SenRobPortman’s Hearing on Stopping Human Trafficking

September 14, 2017 Comments off

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a legislative hearing titled “S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017” (authored by Senator Rob Portman and Senator Richard Blumenthal).  The hearing will be at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19, 2017–but Google and Facebook won’t be there.

Why?  According to the committee website:

S. 1693, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and 27 additional cosponsors, proposes amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to create new legal liability for internet companies whose sites knowingly facilitate sex trafficking and other crimes through content hosted on their platforms. While it does not affect federal criminal liability, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was written to protect internet platforms from civil and state criminal liability for content created by others, including liability arising from the actions of others who post unlawful content or use the platform for unlawful behavior.

As MTP readers will recall, Google has a long history of supporting human trafficking sites like through Google surrogates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association.  Sending surrogates works best when the people you are trying to deceive don’t figure out that you’re doing it.  Senator Portman isn’t fooled by shillery.  As reported in Politico:

Kevin Smith, communications director for Sen. Rob Portman , told MT that was less than ideal. “Senator Portman has made clear that companies that oppose this bipartisan bill should defend their position publicly and testify,” Smith said. “It’s disappointing that they chose to send up a trade association instead.”

Professor Goldman, a reliable defender of  Section 230, is also testifying.  Professor Goldman teaches at Santa Clara University–which received $500,000 from the controversial Google Buzz class action settlement.  I doubt that this payment had any direct affect on Professor Goldman’s views, however.  To his credit, he does not appear in the current version of the Google Academics, Inc. database, the definitive resource for Google-funded academics.

The incomparable Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an op-ed about Google’s sex trafficking problem in the New York Times:

Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.

Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.

It will be interesting to see if either the Internet Association or Professor Goldman tries to take the line adopted by Google lawyer Kent Walker (at the Google annual shareholder meeting) and try to get the Congress to believe that the Congress “was striking a blow for Good Samaritan review by Internet platforms” with CDA 230.  In other words, the Congress wanted to help Good Samaritans that are “quietly helping….to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.”

We shall see.  Live video will be on the Commerce Committee website.  You can call your Senator to express your views on the legislation at (202) 224-3121.

@hneidig: Yelp accuses Google of violating FTC settlement

September 13, 2017 Comments off

Yelp is accusing Google of violating a 2012 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in which the internet search giant agreed to stop passing off third-party content as its own.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s vice president of public policy, sent a letter to acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen on Monday saying that Google has been scraping images from Yelp to include in search results for certain local businesses.

“Google should be held accountable and subject to remedies sufficient to ensure its anticompetitive conduct does not continue to harm competition and consumers,” Lowe wrote.

An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that the agency had received the letter and would study it carefully, but declined to comment further.

The letter, which was also sent to all 50 state attorneys general and Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Read the post on The Hill

Google Feels the Heat from Congress on Sex Trafficking–And Gaslights Public Opinion on @SenRobPortman’s and @RepAnnWagner’s Legislation

September 12, 2017 1 comment


I first called your attention to Dr. Robert Epstein in 2013.  Dr. Epstein’s work on Google’s power to throw elections by manipulating public opinion was startling to many, and I got the usual eye rolling about how mistrustful I was of Google.  (See “Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voting Preferences Substantially Without Voter Awareness”)  That doesn’t happen much after 2016.

But–the stakes don’t have to be as high as who controls the White House for the dominant global source of information to manipulate us.  Think not?  Who wants to live with the consequences of losing a bet on Google’s moral compass?

Senator Rob Portman and Rep. Ann Wagner are standing up to Google (and the Internet Association) with legislation to remove the law that allows the special people in the connected class to profit from human trafficking because they’re…well, special people.  Senator Portman’s bill is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) and has 27 cosponsors include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Rep. Ann Wagner’s corresponding bill in the House of Representatives is titled the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 has 111 co-sponsors. Both would amend the safe harbor in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (aka “CDA”).

Just like Google loves them some DMCA, Google especially loves them some CDA 230 safe harbor that Google and their shills argue protects them from liability for letting pimps advertise on their platforms among other vileness.  (Which makes their fascination with forcing songwriters and artists to maintain a “global rights database” for Google’s protection ring even hollower.)  Taken together the DMCA and CDA safe harbors give Google so much crony capitalist protection that they rival other connected class sacred cows like farm subsidies and the oil depletion allowance.

Why should Google get these even safer harbors?  The answer is obvious.  Because the Internet.

But after Google’s several high profile losses in the post-Obama era, it looks like Google is about to lose on the CDA safe harbor.  We know this because it appears that Google is manipulating search results to affect public opinion on Google’s ability to profit from human trafficking.

According to Consumer Watchdog, which is about the only consumer group that is challenging Google’s stranglehold on the Congress not to mention reality, Google is manipulating search results to promote Google’s point of view on Section 230 reform.

This is a close analog to what Google was fined $2.7 billion for doing in Europe with commercial goods.  There’s no question that they do it, the only question is whether they are doing it to you all the time without your knowing it.

And since you are the product for Google, it should not be surprising that they are doing it to promote their legislative agenda.

Consumer Watchdog says:

Internet giant Google appears to be manipulating its search engine results to favor opposition to bipartisan efforts seeking to amend a key Internet law so websites like Backpage that facilitate online sex trafficking can be held accountable, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Three of the top four links returned under the news tab for the search term “Section 230” were to articles from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch opponent of amending the Internet law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Consumer Watchdog found.

Searches for news results for “Section 230” on competing search engines Bing and DuckDuckGo gave links to articles presenting all sides of the issue.  View screenshots of the results from the three search engines here:

“Google is supposed to be an unbiased gatekeeper to information,” said John M. Simpson Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “Instead they appear to be stacking the deck to favor their own purposes. You can forget their motto; this is evil.”

Google is leading Tech industry efforts to block any amendment to Section 230, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties on their sites. The companies and other defenders of Section 230 claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet, but a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report shows that sites like Backpage aid and abet under-age sex traffickers using the blanket protection of the Act.  By one count 73% of child trafficking reports in the United States involve

Needless to say, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a frequent recipient of Google’s largesse and was disclosed by Google in the Oracle case (on what came to be known as the “Google Shill List“) as a long-time beneficiary.

Here’s a video of Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson confronting Eric Schmidt about human trafficking and Google’s Backpage connection at the Google annual shareholder meeting (which is about the only place anyone can actually question Google’s top executives directly).  Schmidt appears to swallow his tongue, but was saved by his lawyer, Kent Walker (who was slated to give the keynote at the Recording Academy’s Entertainment Law Initiative a few years ago):

So much for don’t be evil.

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an op-ed about Google’s sex trafficking problem in the New York Times:

Sex traffickers in America have the police and prosecutors pursuing them, but they do have one crucial (if secret) ally: Google.

Google’s motto has long been “Don’t be evil,” and I admire lots about the company. But organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping, the odious website where most American victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.

Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.

Not only is Google using its lobbying power to protect its profits by manipulating the Congress, it is also using its control over information to manipulate public opinion against Sen. Portman’s and Rep. Wagner’s bills.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention and it certainly would come as no surprise to Dr. Epstein (for more detail, read his paper co-written with Dr. Ronald Robertson on “search engine manipulation effect” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Why?  Because as Google lawyer Kent Walker says in the video above, the Congress “was striking a blow for Good Samaritan review by Internet platforms” with CDA 230.  In other words, the Congress wanted to help Good Samaritans that are “quietly helping….to battle lawsuits from children sold there for sex.”  And Google likes their CDA just fine the way it is.

And no doubt they’ll produce some kind of survey results showing that the public thinks so, too–after Google apparently manipulates its search results for a while using its secret algorithm.

Here’s the really sick part–somebody in Google’s engineering team knows exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it in secret, in the dark, where no one can see, with deniability.  Gaslighting on steroids.  You know–just following orders.

But then, the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

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