Will Charges of Int’l Slavery Land Facebook’s Zuckerberg in Jail???

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Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, in Washington. From complaints whistleblower Haugen has filed with the SEC, along with redacted internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, the picture of the mighty Facebook that emerges is of a troubled, internally conflicted company, where data on the harms it causes is abundant, but solutions are halting at best. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Edited by: TJVNews.com

The social media giant, Facebook, is once again dominating headlines for the growing controversy that it finds itself embroiled in because of the damning testimony of former Facebook employee and whistleblower, Frances Haugen. On Monday, a rather substantial number of articles appeared in a veritable panoply of media outlets that were predicated on a trove of internal documents that were released about the internal affairs at Facebook.

These documents have assumed the moniker of “The Facebook Papers” and while they may have been previously shrouded in mystery, they are now property of the public domain thanks to the tenacious efforts of 17 American news organizations, including The Associated Press. The AP reported that journalists from a variety of newsrooms, large and small, worked to gain access to the revealing documents.

The AP has reported that a separate consortium of European news outlets had access to the same set of documents, and members of both groups began publishing content related to their analysis of the materials at 7 a.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 25. That date and time was set by the partner news organizations to give everyone in the consortium an opportunity to fully analyze the documents, report out relevant details, and to give Facebook’s public relations staff ample time to respond to questions and inquiries raised by that reporting.

In this Nov. 15, 2018 file photo, the icons of Facebook and WhatsApp are pictured on an iPhone, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Each member of the consortium pursued its own independent reporting on the document contents and their significance. Every member also had the opportunity to attend group briefings to gain information and context about the documents.

The launch of The Facebook Papers project follows similar reporting by The Wall Street Journal, sourced from the same documents, as well as Haugen’s appearance on the CBS television show “60 Minutes” and her Oct. 5 Capitol Hill testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, as was reported by the AP.

The papers themselves are redacted versions of disclosures that Haugen has made over several months to the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging Facebook was prioritizing profits over safety and hiding its own research from investors and the public.

AP reported that these complaints cover a range of topics, from its efforts to continue growing its audience, to how its platforms might harm children, to its alleged role in inciting political violence. The same redacted versions of those filings are being provided to members of Congress as part of its investigation. And that process continues as Haugen’s legal team goes through the process of redacting the SEC filings by removing the names of Facebook users and lower-level employees and turns them over to Congress.

The Facebook Papers consortium will continue to report on these documents as more become available in the coming days and weeks.

“AP regularly teams up with other news organizations to bring important journalism to the world,” said Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor. “The Facebook Papers project is in keeping with that mission. In all collaborations, AP maintains its editorial independence.”

Because increasing evidence over the years have led many to conclude that Facebook holds strong biases against right-wing, conservative politics and the organizations, personalities and media outlets that represent them, more concrete proof has surfaced that this policy of silencing political opponents has indeed prevailed at Facebook.

According to a scathing report in the Wall Street Journal, the tech giant’s employees have consistently pushed to suppress or de-platform right-wing outlets such as Breitbart, despite objections from managers trying to avoid political blowback.

The internal debates — captured in message-board conversations reviewed by the publication — fuel new concerns that the platform is treating news outlets differently based on political slant, as was reported by Fox News.

In this May 1, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, called in a sharply worded letter Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, for Facebook founder, Zuckerberg, to testify before the panel on Instagram’s effects on children. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Of special focus in the report was Breitbart, which employees have targeted to remove from the News Tab function, especially amid protests following George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police last year.

Fox News reported that after a staffer asked about removing Breitbart, a senior researcher responded, “I can also tell you that we saw drops in trust in CNN 2 years ago: would we take the same approach for them too?” he wrote.

By 2020, Facebook had begun keeping track of “strikes” for content deemed false by third-party fact-checkers, as was reported by Fox News. Repeat offenders could be suspended from posting. Escalations came more frequently against conservative outlets, according to the report.

Moreover, the Jewish Voice has previously reported on a multitude of occasions that it has been targeted by Facebook with a process known as “shadow banning.” This nefarious algorithm that Facebook has manufactured in order to silence their political opponents is being used to severely limit the numbers of people who engage with the Jewish Voice. David Ben Hooren, the publisher of the Jewish Voice said that since 2018, the number of people joining the Jewish Voice Facebook page has essentially frozen. “Prior to 2018, the Jewish Voice saw a monumental growth in the number of people joining our page and actively engaging with us. We had anywhere from a half a million to a million people that we were disseminating the news to when suddenly the thought police at Facebook decided to try to shut us down through preventing people from joining, “ he said.

Ben Hooren added that, “Over the years, we’ve written dozens of searing articles in which we warned readers about the unethical practices of Facebook. Thus far, we have not received any comment, feedback or reply from Facebook, so we will leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusion about Facebook’s egregious form of censorship that violates our constitutional right of free speech.”

The report is the latest in a series of bombshell revelations from whistleblowers about the social media colossus’ craving for profits over the needs of its users. Employees were told in recent days to brace for more disclosures, according to the Fox News report.

In a memo released on Saturday and obtained by Axios, Nick Clegg, the vice president of global affairs for Facebook told employees that “we need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

A girl looks at the face book page of Rashtriya Swayamevak Sangh or RSS, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. Facebook in India has been selective in curbing hate speech, misinformation and inflammatory posts, particularly anti-Muslim content, according to leaked documents obtained by The Associated Press, even as the internet giant’s own employees cast doubt over the motivations and interests. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Fox News reported that on Friday a new whistleblower had told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Facebook routinely dismissed concerns about hate speech and the spread of misinformation over fears it would hinder the company’s growth. Having testified under oath to the SEC in 2017, the whistleblower (who remains anonymous) said that Facebook executives had discouraged attempts to combat misinformation and hate speech during the Trump administration because it would stunt the company’s growth and because they were afraid of the consequence from the president and his allies, as was reported by Fox News.

Referring to the bevy of bad press that Facebook’s Nick Clegg was referring to that would appear in the next few days, on Monday CNN reported that for years Facebook has struggled to crack down on content related to what it calls domestic servitude: “a form of trafficking of people for the purpose of working inside private homes through the use of force, fraud, coercion or deception,” according to internal Facebook documents reviewed by CNN.

According to the CNN report, the company has known about human traffickers using its platforms in this way since at least 2018, the documents show. AP has reported that two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast.

After publicly promising to crack down, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press that it was “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity” that saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store, as was reported by the AP.

But Facebook’s crackdown seems to have had a limited effect. Even today, a quick search for “khadima,” or “maids” in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images. That’s even as the Philippines government has a team of workers that do nothing but scour Facebook posts each day to try and protect desperate job seekers from criminal gangs and unscrupulous recruiters using the site, according to the AP report.

CNN reported that while Facebook managed to assuage Apple’s concerns at the time and avoid removal from the app store, issues persist. The stakes are significant: Facebook documents describe women trafficked in this way being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, being deprived of food and pay, and having their travel documents confiscated so they can’t escape. CNN also reported that earlier this year, an internal Facebook report noted that “gaps still exist in our detection of on-platform entities engaged in domestic servitude” and detailed how the company’s platforms are used to recruit, buy and sell what Facebook’s documents call “domestic servants.”

“In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent,” one Facebook document read, according to the AP report, “In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable.”

The report added: “We also found recruitment agencies dismissing more serious crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, rather than helping domestic workers.”

In a statement to the AP, Facebook said it took the problem seriously, despite the continued spread of ads exploiting foreign workers in the Mideast.

In their own defense, Facebook said, “We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms. We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”

AP reported that taken as a whole, the collection of documents offer a clear illustration that Facebook’s daunting size and user base around the world — a key factor in its rapid ascent and near trillion-dollar valuation — also proves to be its greatest weakness in trying to police illicit activity, such as the sale of drugs, and suspected human rights and labor abuses on its site.

Activists say Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, has both an obligation and likely the means to fully crack down on the abuses their services facilitate as it earns tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue, as was reported by the AP.

Speaking to the AP, Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, which studies migrant labor said, “While Facebook is a private company, when you have billions of users, you are effectively like a state and therefore you have social responsibilities de facto, whether you like it or not.”

He added that: “These workers are being recruited and going to places to work like the Gulf, the Middle East, where there is practically no proper regulation of how they’re recruited and how they’re treated when they end up in the places where they work. So when you put those two things together, really, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Also speaking to the AP was Mary Ann Abunda, who works with a nongovernmental Filipino workers’ welfare group called Sandigan in Kuwait. She similarly warned of the danger that Facebook poses.

A screen shot of the Jewish Voice’s Facebook page. The Jewish Voice is one of the many targets of Facebook censors and algorithm manipulators

“Facebook really has two faces now,” Abunda said, according to the AP report. “Yes, as it advertises, it’s connecting people, but it has also become a haven of sinister people and syndicates who wait for your weak moment to pounce on you.”

The AP reported that Facebook, like human rights activists and others worried about labor across the Mideast, pointed to the so-called “kafala” system prevalent across much of the region’s countries. Under this system, which allowed nations to import cheap foreign labor from Africa and South Asia as oil money swelled their economies beginning in the 1950s, workers find their residency bound directly to their employer, their sponsor or “kafeel.”

While workers can find employment in these arrangements that allow them to send money back home, unscrupulous sponsors can exploit their laborers who often have no other legal recourse. The AP reported that stories of workers having their passports seized, working nonstop without breaks, and not being properly paid long have shadowed major construction projects, whether Dubai’s Expo 2020 or Qatar’s upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup.

While Gulf Arab states like the UAE and Qatar insist they’ve improved working conditions, others like Saudi Arabia still require employers to approve their workers leaving the country, as was reported by the AP. Meanwhile, maids and domestic workers can find themselves even more at risk by living alone with families in private homes.

In a statement to the AP, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said the kingdom “stands firmly against all types of illegal practices in the labor market” and that all labor contracts must be approved by authorities. While keeping in contact with the Philippines and other nations on labor issues, the ministry said Facebook had never been in touch with it about the problem, as was reported by the AP.

“Obviously illegal ads posted on social media platforms make it harder to track and investigate,” the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia plans “a major public awareness campaign” soon as well on illegal recruitment practices, the ministry added.

(Sources: AP, CNN, Fox News – Additional repDonatebalance of natureorting by Fern Sidman)