Sunday, April 22, 2018

America Needs Congressmembers Like Ro Khanna And Kaniela Ing To Watch What Facebook Is Up To


If you watched the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee "grilling" Mark Zuckerberg a few weeks ago... well it wasn't as bad as when Alaska SenatorTed Stevens explaining net neutrality and the internet in terms of a series of tubes and big trucks just over a decade ago. But almost. They're old. And they have staffers who type for them.

Ro Khanna, the progressive congressman who represents Silicon Valley was dismayed-- "less" wrote Alex Nazaryan for Newsweek "because of what the Facebook co-founder and chairman did say-- for the most part, bromides about privacy, security and censorship-- than because of what the lawmakers arrayed before him didn’t." Ro is a calm and composed fella. One can only imagine if Hawaii state Rep-- and congressional candidate-- Kaniela Ing was sitting next to him.
“This was a missed opportunity,” Khanna lamented later that evening in a text message. “The hearing revealed a knowledge gap in Congress about technology.” Many of the men and women questioning Zuckerberg were about twice his age, and some were quite a bit older than that. They knew that adversaries like Russia had weaponized social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, but the particulars of the problem clearly eluded them. The 44 legislators who took turns quizzing Zuckerberg showed only a cursory understanding of data collection and encryption, and the lengthy hearing quickly devolved into the kind of exasperating technology tutorial one dreads having to give aging relatives.

It was an amusing day for the purveyors of humorous internet memes. But anyone anxious about the obviously uneasy marriage between democracy and digital technology would not have been reassured. Zuckerberg left Capitol Hill without having to explain in any appreciable detail the failure that brought him there in the first place: the improper use of data belonging to 87 million Facebook users by data research firm Cambridge Analytica, which was conducting microtargeting work for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He did offer apologies and reassurances, but these were vague enough to not be especially reassuring.

Only eight years older than Zuckerberg, Khanna has been called “Silicon Valley's ambassador to Middle America.” California’s 17th congressional district, which he has represented since 2017, is home to some of the most successful corporations in the world: Apple (market value: $892 billion, as of April 16), Intel ($245 billion), Yahoo (now part of Verizon, whose market capitalization stands at $197 billion) and Tesla ($50 billion). Alphabet ($726 billion), with its Googleplex, is one district over, as is Facebook ($480 billion), with its thumbs-up icon announcing its Menlo Park Headquarters, at 1 Hacker Way.

That address captures the mood of Silicon Valley a decade ago: whimsical, cheeky, maybe even hubristic. This was before anyone had ever heard of the Internet Research Agency, where Vladimir Putin’s minions were waging a new kind of war. Psychographic data, of the kind Cambridge Analytica supposedly collected, was not yet for sale to politicians looking for an edge. Trolls were the stuff of medieval legend. And coding savants could not have expected to be lectured by the likes of Senators Chuck Grassley and Dean Heller, as Zuckerberg was earlier this month. The thumb is still there, at 1 Hacker Way, but the joke is no longer funny.

“I believe representing Silicon Valley is one of the most important jobs in American politics,” Khanna says. To represent Silicon Valley is to speak and account for a techno elite given far more to self-celebration than introspection. Aware of the region’s surpassingly good fortunes, and of its closely related tendency to hubris, Khanna has tried to export the former while arguing that it is necessary to tame the latter. He believes that the success of the tech sector is replicable and could serve as economic balm for other parts of the nation, particularly those where mining or manufacturing can no longer vault blue-collar workers into the middle class. Despite troubling disclosures about Facebook and its peers, he believes that most any community would welcome Zuckerberg, along with his Cambridge Analytica problem.

The same week that Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi selected Khanna to draft an Internet Bill of Rights. It was a significant show of confidence in the House freshman by Pelosi, a veteran of the chamber renowned for her political acumen. Although it is impossible to say what an Internet Bill of Rights will look like, Khanna has long proposed such a measure to give Internet users clarity over the data they share as they click through Facebook photos or shop on Amazon.

The Internet Bill of Rights would, in turn, prove a major test of just how much regulation Silicon Valley is willing to countenance. Big Tech has been a remarkably cagey industry, in part because it knows it gives us what nobody else can. It knows that even as we complain about hegemony, we order diapers on Amazon, instead of walking to the corner store. World leaders spar on Twitter, while chefs who once wanted to impress critics now think about what will look good on Instagram. At the same time, Reddit trolls disseminate fake news, which Google algorithms uncritically promote, while terrorists talk freely on WhatsApp, protected by the messaging service’s encryption. Silicon Valley is becoming a victim of its own explosive growth, like the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks that failed in 2008, plunging the nation into a recession.

Khanna is aware of souring public opinion and has tried to both acknowledge it and reshape it. “You can’t be an island of success,” he says of the district he represents. “We have to answer the nation’s call.” If Silicon Valley can answer that call with “humility,” Khanna says, the tech behemoths can avoid the kind of onerous regulation other liberal legislators are calling for, such as the General Data Protection Regulation that will go into effect in Europe in 2018.

Khanna’s indefatigable optimism has positioned him as a potential leader in a Democratic Party unable to reconcile its progressive and centrist elements and desperate for new faces. As a member of the Progressive Caucus, Khanna has advocated for liberal policies such as expansion of the earned-income tax credit. But his corporate past—- and corporate constituency—- keep him from veering too far into the sort of political fantasy for which Northern California is sometimes known. He may be just what the party needs, a moderate by temperament but by no means a centrist.

“You can have a bold progressive vision coming from Silicon Valley, rooted in patriotism,” Khanna says. “And I guess the case study is they elected me.”

..."This is a huge opportunity for tech leaders to work with Congress,” Khanna says. Otherwise, he warns, the regulatory power will fall to “a bunch of bureaucrats who, frankly, don't know much about tech,” intellectual siblings of the senators who haplessly interrogated Zuckerberg. If regulation is inevitable, better that regulation be informed by the industry in question.

Back to Kaniela for a moment. He's already taken on Zuckerberg... and won. Kate Arnoff, writing for In These Times explained how in 2014, "Zuckerberg purchased 700 acres of beachfront property on land Native Hawaiians have gathering rights to. Then he built a wall around it, and sued local families to keep them out. Ing helped lead the charge from the state legislature for Native Hawaiians to reclaim their rights to that land, and Zuckerberg eventually dropped the lawsuits. Now, Ing, a Native Hawaiian, is running to represent Hawaii’s first congressional district, with a critique of Facebook and other corporations that extends well beyond their CEOs’ real estate investments. In Washington, Ing hopes to curtail corporate power, and regulate Facebook and other major tech firms like utilities." Kaniela:
We know what it’s like to be up against oligarchy in Hawaii. We’ve lived in a feudal society and a really unequal capitalist society throughout history. Now we’re seeing that repeat. We have three men in American who hold more wealth than the bottom half-- than 50 percent of the entire nation. And 82 percent of new wealth generated in 2017 went to the top 1 percent. It’s more stark than ever. Mark Zuckerberg is one of today’s oligarchs, just like on the mainland with Standard Oil and some of the other oligarchs in the past. Except now these guys have control over commerce, like Amazon, and communications, like Facebook. And that’s where it gets really dangerous for a democracy. It’s important that Congress act now and not rely on self-regulation by these monopolists.

Goal Thermometer...Zuckerberg calls Facebook a social utility. And if he’s admitting it’s a utility he should agree that it should be treated like one. The same goes for the internet in general, not just social networks but broadband connection. It’s a necessity now in the modern world, the way electricity was almost a century ago. There was way too much control by a few corporations that actually didn’t benefit the majority of the public. So the government took over lines and-- at the very least-- heavily regulated these monopolies to make sure that everybody had equal access to electricity. We’re going to have to do that for broadband generally, and we’re going to have to do that for social networks. Right now there’s nothing stopping someone like Zuckerberg from adjusting their algorithms to punish people with certain political views or certain companies. Arguably it’s already happening. A lot of independent news sources don’t have the same ability to reach their own followers that more corporate news sources do. That’s unfair.
If you'd like to help Kaniela win his race-- against 3 conservative barely Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- please click on the thermometer above and contribute what you can to his campaign. You want to see real change in Congress? There's no one who's out to do that, and ready to do that, like Kaniela.

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At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khanna and Ing may (or may not) watch what FB is up to.

But they are democraps, so the only thing they and their party will ever do is make zuckerberg pay big bribes in order to stay out of FB's way.

Cheap subterfuge by DWT. They know that the 'craps are only ever going to extract bribe money, and the bigger the concern, the bigger the bribe.

fascism pretending to be democracy only works when voters are as stupid as us/US.


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