Facebook Refuses Change


In America there is a view that capitalism fixes things. In Britain, government usually acts. The Lords select committee on democracy and digital technologies last week was correct to say it was a mistake to allow social media firms to grow unimpeded by regulation. This, the peers said, had “become acutely obvious in the current Covid-19 pandemic where online misinformation poses not only a real and present danger to our democracy but also to our lives”. Facebook cannot be allowed to remain beyond the restraints applied to the rest of society. This message has been received by the UK’s competition authority, which has proposed forcing Facebook to give consumers a choice over whether to accept targeted advertising and even suggested breaking it up.

From – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/05/the-guardian-view-on-facebook-and-democracy-real-and-present-danger

And so the Guardian pleads with us to act, to stop Facebook from being a real and present danger to our democracy and our lives. And it is essential that we act.

Certainly, capitalism is not going to solve this problem, Facebook makes money from conspiracy, hatred, misinformation and lies. The more the merrier, so to speak. When we ask them to change, we are asking them to change a business model that while subverting our government and our lives has made them many billions of dollars.

Members of the organization, Stop Hate for Profit, met with Zuckerberg on the 7th of July:

“#StopHateForProfit didn’t hear anything today to convince us that Zuckerberg and his colleagues are taking action. Instead of committing to a timeline to root out hate and disinformation on Facebook, the company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said in a statement.

https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-ad-boycott-organizers-meeting-with-zuckerberg-was-disappointing/

In the past I have expressed my doubts as to Facebook’s willingness to change, and as I predicted, confronted by serious critics with valid claims, he has nothing more to offer but empty platitudes.

And just in case, you have any doubts about Facebook’s inability to control and limit hate speech, you can now see a two year audit of the platform’s performance. Let me quote once again:

The report blistered with criticism of Facebook for prioritizing free expression over civil rights concerns such as equality and nondiscrimination. It raised concerns over the social network’s policy of treating speech by politicians as exempt from rules other users are required to follow.

“Elevating free expression is a good thing, but it should apply to everyone,” the report said. “When it means that powerful politicians do not have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, a hierarchy of speech is created that privileges certain voices over less powerful voices.”

https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-slammed-in-audit-for-heartbreaking-decisions-that-set-back-civil-rights/

It may very well not be possible to change Facebook by boycott or pubic activism. So what’s left?

The law — we change the legal environment so Facebook is penalized repeatedly and with serious monetary penalties for subverting our democracy and our lives.

For instance, if Facebook could be held liable for lives lost due to the COVID 19 misinformation on its platform, I would bet real money that content will disappear.

If appealing to Facebook’s better angels is unavailing, then what else is left but regulation and penalty to bring it into line with civilized behavior?

James Pilant

Can Facebook Find a Soul?


There’s an old joke about a man who sold a mule. The buyer harnessed the mule but no matter what he said or did, the mule wouldn’t go. So, he got the seller and he said, “What gives? You sold me a mule that doesn’t do anything.” The seller didn’t say a word. He picked up a great big board and wacked the mule right between the eyes. Then he said, “Now tell it what you want it to do.” The buyer said go and the mule went. The seller said, “It will do what you tell it to do, you just have to get its attention first.

And so it is with Facebook.

Facebook often features content that damages the nation, its people and their sanity. Here take a look at this article:

https://www.cnet.com/news/coronavirus-blm-protest-conspiracy-theories-collide-on-facebook-and-twitter/

Is this not just disgusting? Conspiracy mongering dimwits are spreading the idea that the virus is a hoax but not stopping there they want you to believe that the killing of George Floyd is a staged event to take away their freedoms. And this is just a temporary aspect of Facebook’s continuous flow of online sewage.

Facebook is the go to place for every kind of lie and nonsense. Hate speech clogs it from minute to minute, hour to hour and day by day. But all this hate speech and all this nonsense just serves to get Facebook more hits, more attention, and more money. But that money flow may no longer be that secure.

Here we see – Pepsi stopping its advertising on the platform – Starbucks ending its advertising – and today, Microsoft stopped its advertising on Facebook.

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/504940-pepsi-joining-facebook-advertising-boycott-report

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53214291

So, have all these advertisers gotten Facebook’s attention and convinced them there is a problem? Yesterday, Facebook agreed to an audit of its hate speech controls. There is supposed to an online announcement to advertisers this morning.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-ads-boycott/facebook-agrees-to-audit-its-hate-speech-controls-idUSKBN2412CR

In America, we use the corporate model indiscriminately. We try to run schools, colleges, social services, etc. like some kind of profit making scheme. But it is not always appropriate. In the case of Facebook, there’s nothing wrong with Facebook profiting from running some kinds of ads. But there is a lot wrong with indiscriminate practices in content and advertising.

An online service that provides sharing and commentary has to be regulated. You can’t let Nigeria use it for scams, Russia to disrupt elections and lunatics to smear and subvert.

The corporate model of Facebook has no soul. That’s pretty obvious but is there enough leadership to make the necessary changes?

That we will see.

James Pilant

June 21 – 27: Business Ethics Roundup


https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cyclone-amphan-electricity-microgrids-solar_n_5ef2fa8dc5b6aa825ac903f9

In a week of a dramatically increasing rate of infection and federal government inaction and incompetence, I want to start with positive story.

A community in India was hit by a powerful cyclone, yet unlike the other cities hit, it kept its power on. How? The community had invested and continues to invest in solar power and the micro-grids used to store energy were still able to function in spite of the storm.

Apparently solar power uses smaller and more diverse grids that store power independently. Hurricanes and other storms as well as sabotage can knock modern grids down totally across hundreds of thousand or maybe even millions of residents and businesses.

But a more modern grid based on solar and wind power is more resilient and more immune to these kinds of shut downs and attacks. This could end much of our power grid’s vulnerabilities.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/loreal-to-remove-words-like-whitening-from-skincare-products

As anti-racism action happens all over the world in one corporate board room after another. The legendary European cosmetics firm, L’Oreal, is removing the word, whitening and many of its adjectives from all of its products.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53207649

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/princeton-renaming-school-woodrow-wilson_n_5ef79875c5b612083c4e5888

Woodrow Wilson’s name will be removed from the Princeton University building where it stood.

There is a lot to like about Woodrow Wilson. He is one of the greater American speakers of his era and I often find his writing delightful.

On the other hand, he brought the “Jim Crow” system to the federal government and he was an unapologetic racist.

That’s hard to forgive.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rich-people-own-rivers-new-mexico_n_5ed90a4fc5b63cce95110234

In New Mexico, a rich person can take possession of mile of river and own it. He can then barb wire the whole thing and deny entry to everyone except his friends or people willing to pay him.

The public powers of the state used to enhance the ownership abilities of rich private citizens.

Gonna’ have to go with probably more organized theft than anything else. I could see a state lease for environmental purposes but outright possession is a huge power grab from citizens of the state.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/covering-racist-tattoos_n_5ef4b36dc5b615e5cd3a23cb

I always want to include at least one example a week of positive business ethics. Doing more than what is legally required because of a moral or ethical stance — and here is a good one.

This tattoo shop will cover racist tattoos for free. People often make mistakes when they are young and many of those mistakes are tattoos. The little firm will help you solve that problem. Wonderful!

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53196487

Facebook reacting to widely developing boycott throws a band aid on the problem. Not enough. Facebook is the home of conspiracy theories, flat earthers and anti-vaxers. Why? Because the company has a product that was supposed to enable families and friends to share experiences but is now basically a giant outrage machine where every kind of vicious libel and nonsense has a home. With just a little bad luck, in time Facebook may end this nation’s experiment in democracy.

So, Facebook – take some real action to fix your problems. Anything else is compromising with evil.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53174260

The Stop Hate for Profit movement is building steam as more advertisers quit Facebook. Good for them, they are on the side of the angels.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53204072

And here, Coca Cola, joins the boycott. Let’s see what Facebook does now.

Conclusion

There were some positive ethical actions in week but they pale in significance with our rising rate of infection here in the United States. This is could have all been avoided if the federal government had taken effective early action and it did not – and because it did not, thousands are going to die.

My kind readers, please stay safe, wear a mask when you got out, and remember to do the right thing – not because it’s rewarding – not because someone might see you do something wrong – not because you might be rewarded — but just because it is right.

God Bless.

James Alan Pilant

June 14th – 20th: Business Ethics Roundup


Let us begin with two truly epic business ethics failures. One the most important businesses in the United States is getting people elected. The various campaign firms, polling sites, think tanks and advertising bureaus spend billions each year.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/trump-video-twitter-manipulated-media/index.html

  1. We have the Trump campaign taking a heartwarming demonstration of cross racial friendship, and turning it into just the opposite with the bizarre claim that if you look at it without any previous knowledge, you would find it funny. The epic leap into poor taste demonstrates a total lack of ethics. It is difficult to conceive what kind of human being would do something like this.

https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/6/18/21295226/facebook-trump-campaign-nazi-symbol-antifa

2. Once again, we have the Trump Campaign. That’s right. Not content with altering heart warming videos of children, the Trump campaign thought that using Nazi imagery would be a good idea. They issued 88 ads. Do I need to tell you the significance of 88 in right wing circles? It symbolizes “Heil Hitler.” These 88 ads featured the Nazi concentration camp symbol of the upside down red triangle used to denote communists or social democrats.

I bet that if we ask the Trump campaign, they will claim it is a coincidence and we had a sense of humor, we would find it funny.

I don’t find it funny or a coincidence.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/tech/north-face-facebook-ads/index.html

3. The North Face, the outdoor apparel brand, joined the boycott of Facebook over its repeated failures to regulate hate speech and misinformation.

Whether this leads to more companies joining the boycott or Facebook finding a soul or a sense of morality remains to be seen.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/gm-lordstown-ohio-tax-breaks/index.html

4. GM closes Lordstown plant after taking 60 million dollars in tax breaks to keep it open. They were supposed to keep it open until at least 2028 and they took the money.

They lied and they want to keep the money. A simple direct failure of business ethics.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/tech/zoom-end-to-end-encryption-video/index.html

5. Zoom will offer encryption to its users. This is a great move for privacy and should allay the fears of many users about the risks of using the service.

Ethically, this is just marvelous. We have a company here acting to make its users more protected. This is positive business ethics – doing what’s right when no one is making you.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53116593

6. It may well be that we hire health care workers to care for those suffering trauma or illness. In this case, however, they were running a betting pool on the blood alcohol level of indigenous admissions to the emergency room.

Unethical, discriminatory and pathetically stupid. Let us have a lot of dismissals.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52968716

7. As energy sources go, coal is disastrous, dirty and outmoded. If you read a lot, the signs of its obsolescence have been clear for some time.

And this is absolutely a business ethics issues. Why use this environmentally destructive source of energy when we have better choices? It is very obvious. The people that own these coal reserves have no intent of going quietly into that good night. Their lobbyists and their campaign contributions speak loudly. They talk of “clean coal,” an obvious oxymoron.

We, in this current generation, have an opportunity to make better choices for our descendants and our planet.

James Alan Pilant

June 7-13, Business Ethics Roundup


It would be hard to find a week of greater business ethics activity.

  1. The operators of Facebook are very upset with the President’s use of their platform. However, that does not mean that they are planning on doing anything. Concern without action – a business ethics fail.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/tech/zuckerberg-chan-trump-facebook-posts-intl-hnk/index.html

2. Tucker Carlson is losing advertisers. Whether this is due to his stated belief that in regard to Black Lives Matter: “Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.” Or it could be his attacks on Sesame Street. Either way his show is suffering some exodus of advertisers.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/media/tucker-carlson-ad-boycott/index.html

3. Jobs are lost for insensitive or racist talk or posts.

Greg Glassman

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/business/greg-glassman-crossfit-resignation/index.html

Nancy Lublin

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/tech/crisis-text-line-ceo-terminated/index.html

Adam Rapoport

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/media/bon-appetit-adam-rapoport-resigns/index.html

4. On a normal week, that Ford Motor Company was recalling two million cars because the doors could open while the vehicle was in motion would have been front page news but against the Black Lives Matter headlines and corporate America’s reactions, it’s just a minor item.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/12/business/ford-recall-faulty-door-latch/index.html

5. Ben and Jerry’s goes full anti-racism demanding change. During this eventful week many businesses issued statements of support for Black Live Matter and against racism. But very, very few of these can rival “Ben and Jerry’s” for its dramatic and direct content.

https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/dismantle-white-supremacy

6. The confederate flag is banned at NASCAR and in both the Marines and Navy. This is something I never thought I would see in my life time and absolutely not during the term of the current President.

NASCAR

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/10/us/nascar-bans-confederate-flag-spt-trnd/index.html

The United States Marines and the United States Navy

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/politics/us-navy-ban-confederate-flag/index.html

I’m Alive


About three weeks ago, I came down with the flu. Considering the symptoms which included chest pain, light headedness – and other symptoms of the Coronavirus, I’m pretty confident that is what I had.

The flu itself last for two weeks, fourteen days. There were days when I did not think it likely I would emerge.

But I have.

So, now what. I have been given a gift few experience, a life threatening event and survival.

What now? I’ve been writing this blog with varying degrees of intensity since 2006. Sometimes, I used to write four or five times a week and more lately a few times a year.

Now, I want to write about twice a week and this time I want to write about the basics of business ethics. What they mean and what they are about.

I read about a book some years ago about the French Existentialists. Many of them participated in the Resistance. And when Paris was liberated they celebrated madly and believed with all their hearts and souls that the world was going to be different. But in the days that followed they resumed their routines of drinking and the delights of the opposite sex – and their new world never materialized.

It takes a great deal of commitment to actually change. We’ll have to see if I have what it takes.

James Pilant

Falling Upward


The same old story over and over again!

Once again, it is demonstrated that for certain members of the business class, failure is simply not possible. I call the phenomenon, “Falling Upward.” White males of the upper class are simply unstoppable. It does not matter the size of the disaster, the width of the incompetence or the cries of the dead. They prosper. We tired business ethics experts will be studying and explaining this horrifying series of disasters to new generations of students. They will ask who paid for the mistakes of the CEO. And I will tell them, “Everyone but the people responsible, passengers died, the company and its community suffered but the CEO got a golden parachute of an incredible size and magnitude.” And that will be the story.

What in the name of God, are we doing? Shouldn’t abject failure have a punishment? There are hundreds of dead people and hundreds of aircraft sitting on the ground unflyable.

How did all this happen? That’s an interesting story. Boeing was presented with the choice of building a new aircraft or heavily modifying an old one. They opted for the latter. There were financial incentives for not having any new training. So, they added new engines to the chassis and told their buyers that the only new training necessary could be done a laptop or even an I-pad. The weight had shifted forward and that made flying the plane tricky, so they added a computer program that threw the nose down when a single sensor was triggered. And for an unknown reason decided to put it on a cycle where it repeated every few seconds. So, the pilot was flying a plane that should the sole sensor malfunction repeatedly tried to fly into the ground.

Now you may have noticed that the decision to not design a new aircraft was based on money, and in fact that was the key decision making at all points in the development of this modified chassis. The company decided to make an aircraft not on the basis of engineering judgment but on how much money they could save. And they took an aircraft with a very fine safety record and designed a more lethal version.

The CEO went in the direction of the numbers guys, their judgement, their calls. And when you do that and take it away from the engineers, bad things happen. Numbers guys are basically fools. I admit they are useful fools. You see them in every part of modern corporate decision making – television shows, movies, companies of all sorts – and they mess up all the time. Why, because numbers are only one aspect of decision making. Planes require people expert in the science of engineering to fly and keep aircraft safe.

In my strange world, experts particularly scientists should make as many decisions as possible but we don’t live in that world. We live in the one were the bean counters rule and people die because bean counting is only one part of decision making.

James Pilant

Boeing Fires CEO


Boeing fires CEO.

Shouldn’t they have done that after the two crashes? I mean letting the numbers guys determine the design of a “new” plane was a stroke of anti-genius that will be studied in the annals of both business ethics and engineering.

I’m just an old fashioned guy who thinks that giant airliners that transport millions of human being should be designed by engineers, you know, people who love the miracle of flight and have respect for the dangers.

But no!! We live in the modern age when any business graduate can be paid immense salaries to squeeze every last dime out of design while overruling experts in their field (and the can also outsource all the computer programming to people working for 8 dollars an hour).

The idea that our business graduates can work in any field, govern in any endeavor, and impose their judgement over experience and skill is probably the most pernicious of this new century.

James Pilant

Myths and Nonsense


Myths and Nonsense
When I was a little boy in the evangelical church, they would show us articles about Noah’s Ark being found. Sometimes, it was explorers, sometimes U.S. Air Force reconnaissance – but the story always had the same purpose validating literal interpretation as a way of viewing the Bible.

It was all nonsense of course, just a useful myth to give the kiddies a theological push in the right direction. I am sure the adults who pushed this stuff never thought they were doing any harm.
But teaching children nonsense is wrong and unwise. At the very least when we grow up and find that we’ve been mislead, we might be angry and resentful.

The article below talks about the myth of the black confederate soldier. I wish that it would finally exterminate the vile idea that Black men fought against the Union. But I don’t think it will have that effect.

There’s an old joke in business that if your job depends on believe nonsense, you’re going to believe nonsense. For many the idea that the South fought a noble cause is part of their self image. It’s hard to face the fact that slavery was the motivating cause that resulted in the deaths of 625,000 Americans.

The rise of the myth of the Black confederate soldier is part of the fascist and neo-fascist revival we are seeing on social media and on the streets of some of our cities. Fascism is a disease of the mind. For many people are unable to develop their own significance. Doing a good deed, analytical thinking and having strong experiences, the three gateways to self development is beyond them. So, they grasp the final empty straw of racial superiority and it must feel wonderful. You rise in the morning and the task of proving yourself and your value is done. You look in the mirror and see yourself as the end result of history, perfect in every way. It must be intoxicating.

These kinds of myths have long life spans and go away only after centuries. When the Normans conquered England it too centuries for the idea of Norma superiority to gradually merge into the idea of equality between the resident Anglo-Saxons and the Normans became the rule.
And so it will be here. We have some centuries to go. But one day, our descendants should we manage the job before of us of saving our planet, will be one race and one people.

James Pilant

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/13/black-confederates-civil-war-myth-kevin-levin

Claims of “White Privilege”


Claims of “White Privilege”

My title is taken from the article below which has a longer title: “Felicity Huffman’s two-week jail sentence triggers claims of “white privilege.” I just cut a little piece out for my title.

You see, my eyes bugged out at the word, “claim.” Being not afraid to call a spade a spade, I’m going to say that is white privilege thrown directly in your face. This is an overt example of privilege mashed and gooey all over your newsfeed. All over the internet, this fraud is being compared to minor crimes resulting in years of punishment for women of color.

She paid thousands of dollars in bribes to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores. That’s right and when someone gets a coveted slot at a major university, someone else doesn’t.

We’re supposed to live in a meritocracy. This often seems comedic given the incredible effects of money and birth but the idea of a fair playing field keeps the lower classes in check and makes the remnants of our democratic system more palatable.

One of the elements of our enduring meritocracy are standardized tests. These keep the unworthy out of the good schools. Of course, the unworthy strangely enough come almost entirely from the lower classes. Having a stimulating home environment with two parents, more and more an upper middle-class phenomenon as salaries have collapsed over the last forty years, is a critical factor in later success. Two working parents barely able to make ends meet or not quite making it creates a stressful upbringing without the benefits of summer camps and special classes for the young.

But they believe.

Many of these parents encourage their children to read, to study – to work hard. They read countless books, buy test prep books by the dozens and take college courses while still in high school. And sometimes, their children get into a good school.

But the upper classes do not believe in merit. They believe in money and connections. For in the real world, we all know that who you were born to and who you know are the major elements of success. And the treadmill of study and test prep is just a diversion to keep the masses in check with the idea that there is some element of fairness.

So, when the children of the privileged are mediocre and incompetent, it is simply of money and the right people to call. Underachievers suddenly find themselves long term participants in sports. Special test sessions can be arranged and most commonly and most easily large sums are donated to the appropriate schools. The spreadsheets of the parental donations are carefully examined by the admitting bodies of many significant schools.

This is called corruption and along with legacy admissions and other treats for the already wealthy diminishes opportunity and stultifies real talent. The destruction of the best chances of the tens of thousands of the poor but talented is the great crime here. For in our society, it has been decreed that the old payola beats talent every time.

Wait, you say, you saw on the web some minority child gets admitted to a half dozen ivy league schools and, of course, that means the system is fair. Back in the 19th century, hucksters would sell sealed bars of soap on the street for a dollar each. A plant in the crowd would produce a ten dollar bill or a twenty or whatever amount was best considering crowd size – and the suckers would line up. Now, obviously this child is real and is actually going to one of the schools, but it is the exception that proves the rule. And when I read about these children, the sacrifices they made and the often incredible work they did, I have to wonder how much of a childhood did they have.

I think their sacrifices to play this awful rigged game show just awful it is.

This is America, the land of opportunity. Every child should have a fair chance at a good school and not be shunted into second choices based on accident of birth and an unfair game they can’t win save in rarest of circumstances.

James Alan Pilant Felicity Huffman’s two-week jail sentence triggers claims of ‘white privilege’