Facebook Playing Duck-and-Cover, Distraction, and Delay

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Nashville     Quit Facebook?  How can we?  There are countries ACORN works where Facebook and the internet are synonymous.  We have learned how to use Facebook as an organizing tool in England in recruiting members to the ACORN Tenant Union.  We use it as a communications tool in many of our organizing drives and campaigns.  Facebook is a substitute website for many of our efforts.  We use its calling service between some of our offices because it is better than Skype.  In places like Honduras and many countries in Europe, WhatsApp is as important, and often more useful, than knowing someone’s mobile phone number.  My own family shares information on a separate WhatsApp group for just the four of us.

So, just because we can’t quit, doesn’t mean we like Facebook.  On, no, don’t make that mistake.

Of course, there’s the privacy thing, but we’re fighting guided missiles with toothpicks whether it’s Facebook, Google, Amazon, or the rest of the tech terrors. Unless you’re whispering, forget about it.

Facebook is increasingly standing at the front of the line as the face of the evil empire.  The steady dripping and dropping of bad news about the company and their foot dragging and lame ass excuses for their irresponsible and dissembling conduct is even causing their stock price to drop which may get their attention because it seems to be about the only thing that CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his number 2 partner Sheryl Sandberg really care about in addition to the profit-and-loss statement.

Now with new revelations in a deeply reported story in the New York Times, about the internal machinations of the company and its efforts to avoid scrutiny, evade responsibility, deflect and harm competitors, and resist regulation, our distrust of the company and its leadership is on steroids.  They hired a Republican, rightwing opposition research company to try to hurt their competitors when they were under attack.  They tried to claim that protestors angry at Facebook’s antics and mismanagement were being paid by George Soros.  They leveraged contributions to defamation groups to claim that protest actions singling out Zuckerberg and Sandberg were anti-Semitic because of their religion rather than their irresponsibility.  They cashiered their security chief for investigating the Russian exploitation of their platform and telling board members the truth about the inadequacy of their effort to stop it.  Sandberg, as supervisor of their political efforts, hired Republican lobbyists and tried to manipulate key Senators and Congressman on both sides of the aisle by shifting positions on certain bills, hiring their staff, and direct contributions and threats.  New York Senator Chuck Schumer was compromised and enlisted in this effort with a child working for Facebook.  Perhaps worse, according to company insiders, Sandberg and Zuckerberg were so concerned about their “brands,” their legacy, and their own personal interests, projects, and ambitions, that they let their self-interest trump the public interest of all of their users.  This is not just mismanagement this is plain and simple terrible and unaccountable leadership.

Need I say, that’s not all.

The long call for grownups in the room is a misdirection pass.  With 2.2 billion users, Facebook is a global force.

For all of our sakes here and around the world, we need to get a grip and regulate this company so that it does no more harm.  We need to see management change and rules put in place, and we need to see it done now.

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Organizations and Unions Looking for New Methods in Belgium

Role playing negotiations

Brussels   Language is a funny thing.  Even when we think we are totally in synch, we are easily sidetracked.  Examples abound.  This morning the directions to the airport train took me to the Metro station which I only sorted out once I had paid two euros ten for a subway ticket.  500 meters and nine euros later I was on the way, no problem.  Directions thanks to a Starbucks barista, since English is required at the counter!

Yesterday, was even funnier.  In spare minutes in-between our second day of training we were doing for organizations that wanted to expand their notions of what might be possible by learning some of the techniques of community organization, I asked my colleague, Adrien Roux, about the meeting we had with some union folks scheduled for later in that day.  Wasn’t it at 5pm?  No, a little later, he would answer.  But, on their Facebook page they seem to have an action scheduled for 7pm, I would say.  How can they have enough time to really meet with us?  He would shrug and say, no problem, and away we would go.  I explained how one could construct a campaign, using Facebook as an example.  He led role playing on negotiations to the great excitement of the folks.  Merrily, we went along.

Finally, we met our two union friends near 630 at a small restaurant near the center of town.  They keep looking at the clock, and they started saying the word that in Belgium may end up being my new trigger word: “debate.”  As Adrien and I had passed like the proverbial two ships in the night, it turned out that within minutes we were due at a union meeting hall nearby for a “debate” or panel discussion, as I’ll call it, about how community organizing might offer new methods for union organizing.  The posting that I thought was for an action because it had a picture of flying flags at a demonstration was the advertisement for our debate.  Wow!  How exciting would that be?  And, how prepared was I? Whoops!

Luckily, this was a subject I know as well as my name, so the crowd of almost one-hundred union staff and activists and representatives of other organizations was, hopefully, none the wiser.  I shared information on ACORN and its work, especially with unions, and the principles that guided it.  Adrien threw in some examples from France and other campaigns in Africa, and then the questions began.  This was a serious crowd, and the questions reflected real concerns that many had about the state of the labor movement in Belgium.

the debate

Unions are huge there.  The one that organized the panel has 1.7 million members.  The second largest had way, way over 1 million.  Interestingly, a huge number of those members were unemployed and the union was the paymaster for their social benefits.  I need to understand more about all of that.  At the same time, the last year was the first in which the largest union had actually lost members, about 3%.  This was a wakeup call and the stimulus for the interest in our panel.

Great people.  Great opportunity.  A great discussion.  Time to head back home, but I’ll look forward to the next time I get to work with the Belgians!  I have a lot to learn, and we all have a lot to share.

the crowd ready for the debate

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