By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams | August 13, 2018

During a closed-door and off-the-record meeting last week, top Facebook executive Campbell Brown reportedly warned news publishers that refusal to cooperate with the tech behemoth’s efforts to “revitalize journalism” will leave media outlets dying “like in a hospice.”

Reported first by The Australian under a headline which read “Work With Facebook or Die: Zuckerberg,” the social media giant has insisted the comments were taken out of context, even as five individuals who attended the four-hour meeting corroborated what Brown had stated.

“Mark doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes,” Brown reportedly said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “We will help you revitalize journalism… in a few years the reverse looks like I’ll be holding hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”

As The Guardian reported on Monday, Facebook is “vehemently” denying the veracity of the comments as reported by The Australian, referring to its own transcript of the meeting. However, Facebook is refusing to release its transcript and tape of the gathering.

Brown’s warning about the dire prospects for news outlets that don’t get on board with a future in which corporate giants like Facebook are the arbiters of what is and isn’t trustworthy news comes as progressives are raising alarm that Facebook’s entrance into the world of journalism poses a major threat to non-corporate and left-wing news outlets.

As Common Dreams reported in July, progressives’ fears were partly confirmed after Facebook unveiled its first slate of news “segments” as part of its Facebook Watch initiative.

While Facebook claims its initiative is part of an effort to combat “misinformation,” its first series of segments were dominated by such corporate outlets as Fox News and CNN.

Reacting to Brown’s reported assertion that Zuckerberg “doesn’t care about publishers,” Judd Legum, who writes the Popular Information newsletter,argued, “Anyone who does care about news needs to understand Facebook as a fundamental threat.”

“In addition to disputed quote, there are also Facebook’s actions, which are fully consistent with the quote,” Legum added. “We desperately need to develop alternative delivery mechanisms to Facebook.”


Contributed by Jake Johnson of CommonDreams.org

Common Dreams has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 1997. We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.


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By Mac Slavo | SHTFplan | August 7, 2018

Social media giant Facebook, which has been embroiled in privacy scandals lately now wants banks to give them your financial information in exchange for their users’ data. Not only have they asked for your nude photos to protect you, they are now asking you to trust them with your banking information.

Facebook has asked the larger United States banks to share detailed financial information about customers as it seeks to boost user engagement and enhance the Messanger app. According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook increasingly seeks to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, in addition to connecting with friends. Over the past year, the social media giant has asked JPMorgan Chase,  Wells Fargo, Citigroup,  and U.S. Bancorp to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger.

Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, said people familiar with the matter. It has also pitched fraud alerts, some of the people have said.

These talks are taking place as Facebook faces several investigations over its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which accessed data on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent. One large U.S. bank pulled away from talks due to privacy concerns, some of the people said. The ploy is to get people to spend more time on Facebook Messenger.

The company is trying to deepen user engagement as investors shaved more than $120 billion from its market value in one day last month after it said its growth is starting to slow. Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties.

“We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit card companies for ads,” said spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana. “We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships, or contracts with banks or credit-card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.”


Contributed by Mac Slavo of SHTFplan.com


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By Mac Slavo | SHTFplan | July 30, 2018

The TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) has a secret program called “Quiet Skies.”  This program is tracking normal everyday Americans and surveilling them without their knowledge or consent – and without the ordinary travelers being accused of a crime or being on any watchlist of any kind.

“Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior,” reports Jana Winter, a Boston Globe Spotlight fellow.  The program has been criticized by the Air Marshalls who are tasked with carrying it out because they have been commanded to follow around Americans who pose no threat. Many see it as a waste of time and resources.

As first reported in the Boston Globe, the “Quiet Skies” program uses a computer algorithm to spot flyers (including ordinary and everyday American citizens) whose travel and activities match with current threat intelligence. Those flyers are reviewed by a human team that vets the information. If the human team decides something in the flyer’s background raises concerns, that flyer will be surveilled by Federal Air Marshals.

Although the Air Marshals still followed the orders to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens, they have expressed some concerns. Some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Boston Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat. One example is a “businesswoman who happened to have traveled through [Turkey] … a Southwest Airlines flight attendant [who was on duty] … a fellow federal law enforcement officer.” One air marshal’s message to another read: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”

The TSA said in a statement to CBS News the program’s primary purpose is to “ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel,” adding that it doesn’t take race and religion into account and “is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans with routine reviews and active management via legal, privacy and civil rights and liberties offices, it is a practical method of keeping another act of terrorism from occurring at 30,000 feet.”

Most Americans should know better than to accept that answer, however.  It’s a massive expansion of government intrusion into the lives of everyone.

“Big Brother is watching you.”  –George Orwell, 1984


Contributed by Mac Slavo of SHTFplan.com


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By Mac Slavo | SHTFplan | June 25, 2018

Social media giant Facebook continues to ramp up the creepy factor. According to a recently filed patent, Facebook wants to spy on you by hiding inaudible messages in TV ads.

Facebook has filed a patent for a system that hides audio clips in TV commercials. These sounds would be so high-pitched that they are inaudible to human beings. They would then trigger your phone to record all the background noises in your home. The patent application is called “broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording.”

According to The Daily Mail, these secret messages would force your phone to record the audio of the private conversations you have without you even knowing. According to a patent application by the social media platform, clips taken of your background conversations and your movements across a room would help advertisers determine whether or not you are watching their promotions.

According to the patent, originally discovered by Metro, the system would use “a non-human hearable digital sound” to activate your phone’s microphone. This noise, which could be a sound so high-pitched that humans cannot hear it, would contain a “machine recognizable” set of Morse code-style beeps. Once your phone “hears” or recognizes the trigger, it would begin to record the “ambient noise” in the home, such as the sound of your air conditioning unit, plumbing noises from your pipes, and even your movements from one room to another. Your phone would even listen in on “distant human speech” and “creaks from thermal contraction”, according to the patent.

Facebook is currently working on the controversial software too, said a patent application published on June 14 this year. If you’re like the rest of us, you might think this sounds like an Orwellian nightmare technology which will let Big Zucker intrude upon the lives of millions of unsuspecting people in unprecedentedly terrifying ways.

The tech is going to be used to monitor what people watch on their “broadcasting device” so that the adverts they are shown on Facebook are likely to appeal to them. This would also allow companies to get an accurate sense of the size of the audience which has viewed their promotion. That’s what Facebook says in its patent, however, there is absolutely no mention of spying on our private lives, invading our privacy, recording our intimate conversations, and forcing advertising into the heart of our homes whatsoever.


Contributed by Mac Slavo of SHTFplan.com, where this article was originally published.


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By Ron Paul | RPI | May 7, 2018

One of the few positive things in the ill-named USA FREEDOM Act, enacted in 2015 after the Snowden revelations on NSA domestic spying, is that it required the Director of National Intelligence to regularly report on its domestic surveillance activities. On Friday, the latest report was released on just how much our own government is spying on us. The news is not good at all if you value freedom over tyranny.

According to the annual report, named the Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities, the US government intercepted and stored information from more than a half-billion of our telephone calls and text messages in 2017. That is a 300 percent increase from 2016. All of these intercepts were “legal” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is ironic because FISA was enacted to curtail the Nixon-era abuse of surveillance on American citizens.

Has the US government intercepted your phone calls and/or text messages? You don’t know, which is why the surveillance state is so evil. Instead of assuming your privacy is protected by the US Constitution, you must assume that the US government is listening in to your communications. The difference between these is the difference between freedom and tyranny. The ultimate triumph of totalitarian states was not to punish citizens for opposing its tyranny, but to successfully cause them to censor themselves before even expressing “subversive” thoughts.

We cannot celebrate our freedom or call ourselves an exceptional nation as long as we are under control of the kind of surveillance that would have turned the East German Stasi green with envy. We know the East German secret police relied on millions of informants, eager to ingratiate themselves with their totalitarian rulers by reporting on their friends, neighbors, even relatives. It was a messy system but it served the purpose of preventing any “unwelcome” political views from taking hold. No one was allowed to criticize the policies of the government without facing reprisals.

Sadly, that is where we are headed.

Our advanced technological age provides opportunities for surveillance that even the most enthusiastic East German intelligence operative could not have dreamed of. No longer does the government need to rely on nosy neighbors as informants. The NSA has cut out the middleman, intercepting our communications – our very thoughts – at the source. No one who calls himself an American patriot can be happy about this development.

Not even the President is safe from the surveillance state he presides over! According to a news report last week, federal investigators monitored the phone lines of President Trump‘s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, even when he was speaking to his client – the president!

An all-powerful state that intercepts its citizens’ communications and stores them indefinitely to use against them in the future does not deserve to be called the leader of the free world. It is more the high-tech equivalent of a Third World despotism, where we all exist subject to the whim of those currently in political power.

Edward Snowden did us all an enormous favor by risking it all to let us know that our government had come to view us as the enemy to be spied on and monitored. If we are to regain the liberty that our Founders recognized was granted to us not by government, but by our Creator, we must redouble our efforts to fight against the surveillance state!


Contributed by Ron Paul via ronpaulinstitute.org

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity is a project of Dr. Paul’s Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (F.R.E.E.), founded in the 1970s as an educational organization. The Institute continues and expands Dr. Paul’s lifetime of public advocacy for a peaceful foreign policy and the protection of civil liberties at home.


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