Linked List: July 13, 2020

Mark Zuckerberg’s Butcher Shop 

Kara Swisher, in her column at The New York Times:

This week, I finally settled on a simpler comparison: Think about Facebook as a seller of meat products.

Most of the meat is produced by others, and some of the cuts are delicious and uncontaminated. But tainted meat — say, Trump steaks — also gets out the door in ever increasing amounts and without regulatory oversight.

The argument from the head butcher is this: People should be free to eat rotten hamburger, even if it wreaks havoc on their gastrointestinal tract, and the seller of the meat should not be the one to tell them which meat is good and which is bad (even though the butcher can tell in most cases).

Basically, the message is that you should find the truth through vomiting and — so sorry — maybe even death.


Rashad Robinson on Facebook’s Response to Civil Rights Audit: ‘Come On’ 

Charlie Warzel, writing for The New York Times:

Facebook’s long-awaited civil rights audit is now public and it isn’t flattering. The 100-plus-page report laid bare many of the issues facing the platform — that Facebook does not fully understand how its algorithms drive hate, that anti-Muslim speech is “rampant,” that Facebook’s reforms never fix the problem — and warned the company may be “driving people toward self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism.”

Warzel interviewed Rashad Robinson, the head of the civil rights group Color of Change, who met with Mark Zuckerberg regarding the audit and its conclusions:

Warzel: You met with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook over Zoom on Tuesday and told my Times colleagues, “They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance. Attending alone is not enough.” Do you think Facebook actually understands this problem?

Robinson: It’s so frustrating. We are doing a lot of work for a multibillion-dollar company and it’s just always dispiriting we have to do this for them because they won’t do it for themselves.

Mark was talking about how much hate they’re catching and throwing this number out: 89 percent [that the company catches 89 percent of hate speech before it is reported by users]. And I was like, “Come on. Even I see this stuff on my feed and my algorithms are pretty trained around progressive stuff.” And I tell you that to say that what they’re doing is gaslighting. You’re in these meetings and you’re listening to them explain their rationale and thinking, “Nope, that’s not how this works.” And you’re left with this choice: Do I argue with the very premise that they don’t seem to understand the actual problem of their platform? Or do I argue with the number — that catching only 89 percent of hate isn’t something to be happy with?

Robinson speaks with clarity and concision. His criticisms of Facebook are clear, bracing, and obviously true.

Anti-Pseudoscience Advocate Anne Borden King Has Cancer, and Now Her Facebook Feed Is Full of Pseudoscience Cancer ‘Alternative Care’ Ads 

Anne Borden King, writing at The New York Times:

Last week, I posted about my breast cancer diagnosis on Facebook. Since then, my Facebook feed has featured ads for “alternative cancer care.” The ads, which were new to my timeline, promote everything from cumin seeds to colloidal silver as cancer treatments. Some ads promise luxury clinics — or even “nontoxic cancer therapies” on a beach in Mexico.

There’s a reason I’ll never fall for these ads: I’m an advocate against pseudoscience. As a consultant for the watchdog group Bad Science Watch and the founder of the Campaign Against Phony Autism Cures, I’ve learned to recognize the hallmarks of pseudoscience marketing: unproven and sometimes dangerous treatments, promising simplistic solutions and support. Things like “bleach cures” that promise to treat everything from Covid-19 to autism.

When I saw the ads, I knew that Facebook had probably tagged me to receive them. Interestingly, I haven’t seen any legitimate cancer care ads in my newsfeed, just pseudoscience. This may be because pseudoscience companies rely on social media in a way that other forms of health care don’t.

“May be” is too kind, as is “social media” in general as opposed to Facebook in particular. Scammers and fraudsters of all sorts, from alternative “medicine” quacks to financial investment grifters, have found a welcoming home advertising and promoting their rackets on Facebook.

They don’t advertise on legitimate media because legitimate media won’t have them, and because Facebook makes it affordable by doing all the hard work of targeting for them. Facebook is a criminal enterprise fully and knowingly complicit in all of this — from the spread of bigotry to the spread of pseudoscience.

Conversely, legitimate advertisers are abandoning Facebook because they want nothing to do with any of this. To remain on Facebook is to be complicit by association.

Gun-Toting St. Louis Jerks Mark and Patricia McCloskey Are Lifelong Jackasses 

You know that St. Louis husband-and-wife duo who threatened Black Lives Matter protesters like a couple of card-carrying Brooks Brothers Rewards Program Yosemite Sams? Jeremy Kohler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the backstory on them, and it’s a doozy:

Mark McCloskey’s first taste of ownership may have been on his 20th birthday, in 1976. A card from his parents, Bruce and Lois “Carol” McCloskey, would much later become an exhibit in a lawsuit against his father and his father’s trust. The card said: “You are now the sole & only owner of 5 acres of the Phelps County Farm. Papers to follow. This is on the river — Luck! Happy Birthday! Mom + Dad.” […]

In March 2013, in Phelps County, Mark McCloskey sued his father and his father’s trust over the gift. The birthday card and earth, he claimed, were sufficient title because they met the legal definition of “livery of seisin,” a ceremony performed in medieval England for the conveyance of land.

In 2016, a special judge ruled against him, writing that “Exhibit 1 attached to the petition is a birthday card, not a deed” and that it was too late to claim ownership of part of the farm. The archaic legal claim, the judge ruled “does not operate as a matter of law to transfer title to real property.”

“This is a birthday card, not a deed” is the best real-life version of “Sir, this is a Wendy’s drive-through” I’ve ever heard.

‘Carl Reiner, Perfect’ 

Steve Martin:

I’ve known only two perfect people in my life. One is that son of a bitch Martin Short; the other is Carl Reiner.

Change the Twenty: The Harriet Tubman Twenty Dollar Bill 

My thanks to Dave Pell’s NextDraft for sponsoring DF last week to promote Change the Twenty:

One of the Trump administration’s first moves was to delay the release of the approved Harriet Tubman Twenty Dollar Bill. Yes, it’s only a symbol, but as we’ve seen in 2020, symbols matter. And the bill is overdue. For every $20 shirt purchased, we will donate $20 to a Donors Choose K-12 program focused on Black history, literature, equality, and/or racial justice.

You pay $20 for a great t-shirt, $20 goes to Donors Choose, and we all raise awareness for a righteous cause.