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What Is Facebook Up To?

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Earlier this month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, filed an official complaint against the Facebook corporation, for multiple violations of the federal Fair Housing Act. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York as well filed a statement of interest in conjunction with HUD, on behalf of private litigants who are challenging the prejudice of Facebook's advertising platform.

Evidently the social media website was selling privileged use of its data and controls to assorted leasing agencies and management companies, which in turn would use the information to exert bias over prospective tenants. To quote the HUD office's public statement on the matter:

HUD claims Facebook enables advertisers to control which users receive housing-related ads based upon the recipient's race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, and/or zip code. Facebook then invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected classes under the guise of 'targeted advertising.'

The statement goes on to cite examples of what Facebook permitted these third party businesses to do behind the scenes while users were otherwise distracted by photos of lunch plates and cleavage:

  • display housing ads either only to men or women;
  • not show ads to Facebook users interested in an "assistance dog," "mobility scooter," "accessibility" or "deaf culture";   
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in "child care" or "parenting," or show ads only to users with children above a specified age;
  • to display/not display ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in a particular place of worship, religion or tenet, such as the "Christian Church," "Sikhism," "Hinduism," or the "Bible."
  • not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in "Latin America," "Canada," "Southeast Asia," "China," "Honduras," or "Somalia."
  • draw a red line around zip codes and then not display ads to Facebook users who live in specific zip codes.

And therein lies the greater, graver concern. What Facebook is here charged with is manifestly what its business model has always been focused with. They collect information on their users, curating and cultivating data left and right, explicitly to sell to outside interests for harvesting just the right lucrative intent.

Furthermore, this is precisely the same, exact thing as what the in-progress Cambridge Analytica scandal concerns, in which billionaire Robert Mercer, who was the largest financial contributor to Donald Trump's Presidential campaign as well as owning the most shares of the confederate Breitbart media blog along with other ventures, used subsidiaries of his SCL Group to contract Facebook for the wide-scale manipulation of public information for the profit of right-wing and particularly far-right ideologies.

Just as corporate media in the United States continues to downplay the obviousness of these American business interests and these American business interests alone affecting something so inherently non-trivial as a Presidential election so effectively, so too has this official complaint from the HUD office also avoided unbiased coverage, or much mainstream coverage at all.

In all likelihood, the current US Secretary of HUD Ben Carson is only side-stepping the sanctioned narrative here out of desperation for a social win, following the embarrassing and arguably incriminating ordeal of his office already portly spending more than what many Americans earn in a year, on a dining set.

Regardless of claims to the contrary, Facebook is a virtual tool purposed entirely with weaponizing data-sets, for the highest bidder. And far more often than not, its paying customers are not only political factions funded without much transparency by America's wealthiest, but by the government directly, as MintPress News recently reported. And, as the current ruling political ideology is all at once Conservative, Neoliberal and decidedly right-wing, then so too are America's policies both foreign and domestic predominately Conservative, Neoliberal and decidedly right-wing. Meaning that Facebook is not profiting from leftist anti-Capitalists, who fundamentally lack either the wealth or power to enforce such a thing as warping so much of the public's perception with a simple paycheck to Mark Zuckerberg or his shareholders.

Such a declaration runs contrary to the official narrative, where the whims of billionaires are mistaken for "populism" when, going by Howard Zinn's textbook and by any dictionary authored prior to 5 minutes ago, real populism is and always has been the antithesis to Capitalism. Commercial media purports how conservative voices are the ones most actively being purged from Facebook itself right now, with nobody stopping to wonder at how the richest manipulators of weaponized data themselves might possibly be so easily victimized by weaponized data. Because they are not.

I've a theory that most of the purged accounts are bots, to make the numbers seem larger than they truly are, setting the stage for something else altogether to come from this, which the tech company CEOs and the investors of the current administration in DC are colluding towards, as BuzzFeed News recently innuendoes. It's a given that half the users on any of the social media networks are not actual persons, and while people hate to admit it, social media users comprise only a small percentage of the greater population. In spite of their mutual obsession they are merely the very vocal minority. And losing any living, breathing users decreases the toys with which Facebook might profit from.

The blockade IRL against The Empire Files, as but one example, is so much more damaging to actual journalism. While its host Abby Martin and her team inform the masses about Bernays, far-right voices like Alex Jones prattle on about crisis understudies. Truly left-leaning messages are ignored by mainstream media in these censorship purges, for their lacking either the means or resources to afford mainstream spotlighting. While manipulators of weaponized data insist it's largely right-leaning voices getting axed, I am convinced they are exceptions to the rule, just idiots willing to play scapegoat to create a red herring of making the other side of the aisle out as the villain, when the lime-lighting in the auditorium is so poor the general public cannot discern how there in no actual divide among the two parties, only among the competing billionaires paying them to sell out their constituents.

And Facebook will never prove their own case in these matters by ever publishing stats verifiable by nonpartisan outsiders. They will however, sell access over their users to the Chinese government, as USA Really correspondent Pradeep Banerjee has previously reported. They will sell access over their users to the business interests of the Israeli government, as the Electronic Intifada has previously reported. Facebook will sell access to domestic business interests, and to its own government, publicly dragging its knuckles while privately enjoying billions in federal grants, corporate subsidies and tax breaks. They will sell to anyone willing to pay for the virtual weapons of manipulative datum, yet they repeatedly refuse to show their inner workingsto the general public they proactively profiteer from. Their business model is literally at the expense of the general public.

Because, to put this as simply as possible, the general public, Facebook addicts and beyond, are as broke as the genuine leftists and populists genuinely representing them by putting the needs of others before their own desires or enrichment. They are unable to afford the privileged access that is stolen and accumulated through ideologies where asserting one's own desires before the needs of others invariably leads. With all social media users left non-figuratively staring in the windows, wishing they could get into the exclusively private club, as it seems to be the only place left free of misery and torment. But also because there's cleavage in there.

Author: Richard Caldwell