Showing posts with label Donald Trump Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Trump Related. Show all posts

22 April 2019

The O'Jays Take On The Trump Administration And Social Injustice On New Studio Album 'The Last Word'

The Last Word - album cover
The Last Word - album cover
Multi-platinum selling Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, The O'Jays (Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant), take on the Trump administration and social injustice with a message of love on their new album, The Last Word, released across all streaming platforms via S-CURVE RECORDS/BMG. 

  • The Last Word is the group's final studio album and their first in almost 20 years.
The group will appear on the Today Show performing their new single Stand Up (Show Love) on Tuesday, April 23rd.

With a remarkable career that has spanned 60-years and included hits like "Love Train," "For the Love of Money," "Use ta Be My Girl," "Back Stabbers," and many more, The O'Jays are an indelible part of pop culture. 

With the release of The Last Word the group is showing that they have not lost a beat, emoting the same hunger and vocal craftsmanship they have become known for while delivering socially conscious message music that makes you think while you dance.

The Last Word was produced by the Grammy nominated producers Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini and R&B legend Betty Wright (the trio behind Joss Stone's "Soul Sessions"), along with the songwriter and rock/pop mastermind Sam Hollander (Panic! at the Disco, Weezer, Neon Trees). The album includes standout tracks such as "Above the Law," "Stand Up (Show Love)," and the Bruno Mars and Patrick Monahan penned "Enjoy Yourself."

"I look at what is going on in the world and not much seems to have changed from when we first started doing this," said Eddie Levert. "We are still dealing with the same issues. On this album we addressed those issues as well as the intolerance we see coming out of the Trump Administration on a daily basis. We also offer a solution. That solution is to combat hatred with love and acceptance."
"I want to believe things will eventually change but we have a long way to go," said Walter Williams. "With this final album we are providing a soundtrack for those that are speaking truth to power and encouraging people to come together through love."
The 9-track album provides a critical look at the precarious state of social and criminal justice in America. As elder statesmen, the group has experienced much throughout their lives, from the civil rights movement to rising economic inequality and the erosion of democratic norms. On this album they are sharing their perspective on the state of the country as well as the world; offering up some words of wisdom for the next generation before exiting the stage.

In celebration of the release, the group will be performing a special show at the Apollo Theater on April 26th. Tickets can be purchased here.

The Last Word tracklist:

1. I Got You
2. Stand Up
3. Enjoy Yourself
4. Do You Really Know How I Feel
5. Above The Law
6. '68 Summer Nights
7. Start Stoppin'
8. Pressure
9. I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)

About The O'Jays:

With over 50 years of touring and some of music's most beloved hits under their belt, The O'Jays remain one of today's seminal music acts. The group scored their first number 1 in 1972 with "Backstabbers." Subsequently, they had other various chart-topping pop and R&B singles including "Love Train", "Put Your Hands Together", "For The Love of Money", "I Love Music", "Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)", "Livin' For The Weekend" and "Use Ta Be My Girl." 

  • This success propelled The O'Jays to be the first black vocal group to perform in arenas throughout America during the 70s and 80s.
Eddie Levert Sr. and Walter Williams Sr. as well as Eric Nolan Grant, who joined the group in 1995, continue to thrill fans today. Throughout their career The O'Jays have achieved 10 Gold albums, 9 Platinum albums and 10 #1 hits.

The O'Jays were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored with BET's Life Time Achievement Award in 2009. In 2013, they were inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame.

The O'Jays
The O'Jays (cr. Denise Truscello)


8 April 2019

Paul David Pope Decries on National Television the Political Direction National Enquirer Has Taken Since His Father Made It America's Most Influential Newspaper

Paul David Pope
Paul David Pope (image via
Paul David Pope was interviewed in a special "Headliners" report on tabloid journalism that aired nationally last night on MSNBC.

Citing the one-sided pro-Trump direction American Media Inc. has taken under Pecker's command, Pope said "My father would be turning over in his grave to see what his baby has become."

Pope said Pecker has "weaponized" the National Enquirer to go after Trump detractors and advance the President's political agenda, whereas once the newspaper had a blind eye and just went after compelling stories regardless whom they involved or who won or lost.

AMI's flagship publication, the National Enquirer "made its name by breaking the rules and being unconventional," said Pope.

"My father told reporters to do whatever you have to do to get the story" like once taking a picture of Elvis Presley in his coffin or publishing a photo of Senator Gary Hart with his alleged girlfriend Donna Rice that ended his Presidential campaign.

Pope said his father redefined the landscape of American journalism just as his grandfather Generoso Pope Jr's Il Progresso newspaper changed how Italian American Immigrants were viewed in New York and helped to bring them into the mainstream of American culture.

According to Pope, his father invented a different kind of hard-hitting journalism resorting to methods to get the story frowned upon by mainstream media.

Under his leadership, it would never become the promotional arm of any one political candidate or leader as Pecker has taken the once super dominant National Enquirer.

  • Pope is planning a podcast on this and other subjects on behalf of a cause he is espousing called "Saving America," about which there will be more information forthcoming.

Pope recently retained the international public relations firm TransMedia Group to publicize the impact he and his family have had on journalism by creating the most influential publication in the history of the United States.

Pope cites the wealthiest man in America, Jeff Bezos, having to announce publicly "I am having an affair and I am being extorted" as evidence of how low the National Enquirer has sunk..

SOURCE: Paul David Pope

12 March 2019

Brexit Britain's Weakness Exposed in US Trade Deal Documents

Theresa May and Donald Trump
Taking a tough stance. (EPA/Peter Foley)
The US has published its objectives for a proposed trade agreement with the UK – and its thinking highlights just how weak Britain’s bargaining position will be in the post-Brexit global economy.

The US trade representative outlines many of the usual ways to increase trade between the two countries – namely, reducing tariffs and ensuring both sides share the same standards and regulations. But the emphasis is very much on the UK aligning itself with US standards. This will have major implications. It will move the UK away from the EU standards it currently has, which will harm trade with its most important trading partner and generate potential hurdles in a future trade deal with the EU.

The US is taking a tough line from the outset on a number of issues. With a population of 66m and GDP of roughly US$3 trillion, the UK is dwarfed by the bloc it is leaving – the EU’s population is 500m and has a combined GDP of US$20 trillion. Plus, the UK has a transparent need to both replace existing EU trade agreements and create new ones.
In Britain, concerns over food safety have been at the heart of debate over a potential US-UK trade agreement. The expectation of American chlorine-washed chicken entering British markets as part of a deal quickly became politically contentious, splitting Theresa May’s cabinet twice in 2017.
Read more: Chlorine-washed chicken Q&A: food safety expert explains why US poultry is banned in the EU
But the quandary facing the British government extends well beyond concerns over the consumer safety implications of US mass production methods. With US agricultural imports would also come US agricultural and sanitary and phytosanitary standards, which are in place to protect against diseases. This will create hurdles for British agricultural exports heading to the EU, as it will no longer meet EU standards.

For British farmers, the wholesale removal of trade barriers with the US may also come at a time when the industry is particularly vulnerable. Following Brexit, British agriculture will lose access to the EU subsidies it receives through the Common Agricultural Policy. While the UK government has promised to replace these, questions about its ability to fund its many post-Brexit promises remain.

Beyond agriculture

British manufacturers face the same demands to harmonise their regulations from the US trade representative, creating similar difficulties for exporters targeting the EU. Then, when it comes to services, US demands are much more dramatic.

Britain’s service sector brings in a substantial trade surplus – something the US will be loath to add to its growing trade deficit. Central to US plans will be to privatise and deregulate British services, such as healthcare provision or utilities and infrastructure, to enable easy market access for internationally-engaged American enterprises. These same corporations are actively engaged in the trade agreement process on the US side.
There’s a lot more than just chickens at stake in a US-UK trade deal.
There’s a lot more than just chickens at stake in a US-UK trade deal.(Shutterstock)
American ambitions for bringing UK regulations in line with its own also extends to trade of digital goods and services, potentially causing a tremendous shift away from EU regulations, which concern everything from intellectual property rights to data protection and digital privacy.

Beyond trade

As part of the deep integration objectives, the US-UK trade agreement will cover additional non-trade issues. These include labour standards, environmental protection and anti-corruption measures – all areas where the UK arguably is currently tougher than the US.

It is telling that the wording of the US objectives focuses explicitly on the UK obligations in upholding these kinds of standards. In contrast, US objectives for negotiations with Japan refer to both “parties”, rather than specifically Japanese obligations.

Perhaps the differences in wording is a result of different teams writing the documents. But it could also reveal the extent to which the UK is viewed by the US team as the weaker party to their deal, which will likely have extensive effects on the concessions the UK negotiating team can manage to extract from the US opening position.

Relinquishing control, not taking it back

Rather than taking back control, the starting point for US-UK trade negotiations is one where the British government cedes sovereignty over a wide range of issues. Britain’s size and detachment from the EU single market limits its bargaining power with large trade partners, whose governments will have no concern for the effects on the British public.

While harmonising standards with the US will pose a barrier to future trade with the EU, the deal could also increase limitations on British foreign policy more broadly. The US is also pursuing a clause that allows it to withdraw from a US-UK agreement if the UK agrees to an agreement with certain countries such as China. Similar terms are included in the US-Japan trade agreement objectives, as the Trump administration tries to limit China’s economic influence across the globe. There is also a section in the US objectives that is designed to limit Britain’s independence over its Middle East foreign policy.

The hard line taken by the US, along with the wide range of concessions demanded of the UK clearly point to the UK’s weakened bargaining position outside the EU. And the US is not the only trading partner seeking significant concessions in exchange for a deal. India, Japan, and South Korea have all signalled similar expectations in preparations for their own deals. All of this sits in stark contrast to the Brexit campaign’s promise to “take back control”.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Michael Plouffe, Lecturer in International Political Economy, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

3 February 2019

Disasters And Disagreements: Climate Change Collides With Trump's Border Wall

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump is seen visiting the California town of Paradise that was devastated by forest fires. Trump has threatened to use funds allocated for disaster relief to pay for his border wall. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Recent news surrounding climate change and its consequences has been grim lately.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body tasked with providing governments with the most accurate and up-to-date scientific information upon which they can frame their policy-making, released a special report in October 2018. It called for a rapid net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

This means there are fewer than 12 years remaining for these changes to be accomplished globally.

Compounding these dire warnings are the potential consequences for severe catastrophic events as they unfold in a turbulent global environment, both physically and politically.

The Trump administration’s recent release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment demonstrates just how costly climate change and catastrophic events will be for the United States in the future.

Yet the administration and even President Donald Trump himself deny the existence and effects of climate change, including during increasingly severe events.
But others are taking the consequences of climate change seriously, including the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which has been actively increasing its resilience. The DoD views climate change as a “threat multiplier” and has been working to integrate adaptation measures into its plans, operations and training both internally and in conjunction with external partners.

Within this context, Trump’s recent government shutdown and the intractable disagreement over the border wall is misguided in the most charitable of terms.

Funding the wall with disaster relief money

While the crisis over the shutdown appears to be over, at least for now, Trump has threatened to fund his border wall by taking money allocated for disaster relief and reconstruction. This includes $2.4 billion for California in the aftermath of its devastating wildfires and $2.5 billion to assist Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Trump’s rhetoric around the allocation of disaster relief funds, along with other disaster-related subjects, including death tolls, reveals just how easily disasters are politicized. They’re used for political gain almost always at the expense of those most vulnerable.
Read more: Politics and paper towels: Disputing disaster death tolls
That’s because politicians make politically expedient choices — in this case over funding a border wall — ahead of those that actually protect the security and safety of citizens in ongoing and future disasters.

Most importantly, Trump’s threats illustrate why our discourse surrounding climate change and catastrophic events matters, and why it needs to change in order to reduce the impact of future disasters.
Mainstream narratives of disasters present them as isolated events in both space and time, distinct from our everyday relationship with nature, and possessing a definite beginning, middle and end. These narratives generally focus on the physical hazard itself as opposed to the preconditions that actually result in disaster.

‘Just a temporary crisis’

When the flood or hurricane or forest fire is over, the thinking goes, our normal relationship with nature resumes until the next crisis occurs.

This framing of disasters, and the policy prescriptions that follow from it, was first identified by Kenneth Hewitt in his 1983 work Interpretations of Calamity from the Viewpoint of Human Ecology.

Hewitt’s observations about this mainstream framing — he called it the “dominant view” of disasters — was pivotal in the field of disaster studies.

Scholars in the field, including Hewitt himself, started to argue for an expansive understanding of disasters that recognized the underlying aspects that determine the vulnerability of a community to specific hazards and risks, whether they’re natural or technological.

Disasters are deeply connected to the economic, political and social factors that make people particularly vulnerable to them. While it’s convenient, for the purposes of media coverage or politicians, to understand them as having definitive beginnings, middles,, and ends, scholars have pointed out that viewing them this way is extremely problematic.

Demetres Fair holds a towel over his daughter, Damouri Fair, as they are rescued following Hurricane Harvey
In this August 2017 photo, Demetres Fair holds a towel over his daughter, Damouri Fair, as they are rescued following Hurricane Harvey. The impact of disasters are economic, political and social. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Trump’s threat to raid funds allocated in the aftermath of 2018’s devastating disasters is part of these narratives. It must be understood as an explicitly political choice that negatively impedes the recovery of those communities for whom the funds were originally allocated. Making this choice would ultimately increase the vulnerability of those communities to future disasters.

Understanding the consequences of Trump’s threats to reallocate funding to his border wall makes the political aspects of disasters more visible, especially when framed by the effects of climate change and its consequences.

Disasters are not isolated and distinct events but rather ongoing processes. A better understanding of the relationship between disasters and their underlying causes encourages politicians to take steps to reduce vulnerability, both through the better allocation of funds for disaster mitigation, as well as by supporting social and economic development programs for vulnerable populations.

In my own work, I have called for an explicit understanding of disasters as a form of violence, and recent events have helped exemplify the necessity to reframe our understanding of disasters in an intentionally political way.

Trump’s threats to the citizens of California and Puerto Rico over his wall make the plight of the vulnerable visible and the political nature of disasters explicit. By challenging how we perceive and understand disasters, we can change the discussions surrounding them and pressure politicians to move away from making politically expedient choices at the expense of the vulnerable.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Korey Pasch, PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

16 December 2018

The Importance Of Thoughtful Resistance In The Age Of Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen here arguing with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office of the White House, who are off-camera
U.S. President Donald Trump is seen here arguing with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office of the White House, who are off-camera. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
As resistance to Donald Trump’s presidency continues to dominate American political life, it’s worth asking the question: what exactly is being resisted?
Answers can range from Trump’s reckless and erratic behaviour to his racist and xenophobic views and the outright corruption of his administration, to name just a few.
This means what people resist and also the way they resist can be varied, although outrage is often its dominant emotion.
Read more: Resistance is a long game
Despite the legitimate need for resistance, however, resisting Trump angrily feeds into his victim complex, strengthening his appeal to his base.

Given this reality, those resisting need to be aware of whether their acts of resistance offer real alternatives to Trumpism or rather play into the president’s hands by further amplifying anger and division.

To make resistance more effective, it is important to rediscover contemplative forms of activism. This type of activism has played a prominent role in the history of social change but has been less popular in the age of Trump.

Contemplative activism

What I mean here by “contemplative activism” are forms of social action that emphasize critical, first-person inquiry. In this way, our internal thoughts and emotions are linked to creating positive change in the outer world. Numerous examples exist in human history, such as Mohandas K. Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaign in the Indian independence struggle and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s pacifist approach to civil rights.

In the same vein as Gandhi and King, a lesser-known figure in American contemplative activism is Thomas Merton. Merton, a Trappist monk, prolific writer and social justice advocate, involved himself wholeheartedly in the pressing issues of his time, including civil rights, the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation.

Thomas Merton, who died in 1968, was a social justice advocate.
Thomas Merton, who died in 1968, was a social justice advocate. (John Howard Griffin/Flickr, CC BY)
So significant was Merton’s impact that Pope Francis, during his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, mentioned Merton as a notable American and source of inspiration for many.

How might the work of Merton and other contemplative activists be relevant in the age of Trump? Specifically, Merton does not shy away from addressing our own individual complicity in the creation of the violence and despair around us.

Delving into the horrors of his own time in the essay Is the world a problem?, Merton writes:
The world is …a complex of responsibilities and options made out of the loves, the hates, the fears, the joys, the hopes, the greed, the cruelty, the kindness, the faith, the trust, the suspicion of all. In the last analysis, if there is a stupid war in Vietnam because nobody trusts anybody, this is in part because I myself am defensive, suspicious, untrusting…
In addition, the contemplative activism of Merton helps us more clearly see the underlying realities of complex social problems, such as the enduring persistence of fear and greed.

Trump is not an anomaly

This type of contemplative clarity can help us understand how Trump is not an anomaly in American history. While he may behave differently than many modern U.S. presidents, this difference is based more on style than substance.

For instance, Trump’s policies are largely within the Republican mainstream, and he represents some basic and ugly truths about American history (all which far predate him), whether it’s white rage and resentment, delusions about America’s greatness or the savage effects of inequality in a predatory capitalist system.

Trump speaks during a meeting with Democratic leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 11, 2018.
Trump speaks during a meeting with Democratic leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In essence, Trump represents the stereotypical ugly American that many U.S. citizens have played a role in creating. Trump unmasks the ugliness of the United States and lays it bare for all to see.

With this realization, Americans must reflect on what resistance means when the “enemy” is its own history and its own collective ugliness. Instead of seeing this situation as debilitating, it can be seen as liberating, as it frees people to resist and create alternatives to Trump in a less reactive way.

So while many of Trump’s policies need to be challenged and resisted, Trump is more a symbol and symptom of a larger dysfunction, rather than its root cause.

We are the problem and the solution

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death. His call to fight injustice through a clear-eyed assessment of our collective social condition and critical self-examination is needed now more than ever.

It’s time to move beyond seeing Trump as the defining problem, by both contextualizing his place in the American social fabric and understanding how our actions can either alleviate or worsen toxic political climates in the United States and around the world.

Beyond resistance, it is more powerful to work for an inspiring vision of change. In the effort to defeat Trumpism and movements like it, we can be either part of the problem or the solution.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Ajit Pyati, Associate Professor of Information and Media Studies, Western University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

More Donald Trump Related Stories:

Click here for more Donald Trump related stories...
Click here for more Donald Trump related stories... 

7 December 2018

CAIR Opposes Nomination of U.N. Ambassador Nominee Heather Nauert

Heather Nauert
Heather Nauert
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on the Trump administration to withdraw its nomination of Heather Nauert for the position of U.N. ambassador, saying she is "Unqualified and Islamophobic."
Early next year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Nauert. CAIR is urging the Senate and members of the Foreign Relations Committee to oppose and vote "NO" on Nauert's nomination for the position of U.N. ambassador.

CAIR said Nauert promoted Islamophobic smears while employed as a Fox News anchor.
In 2013, she criticized special swim classes for a group of Somali-American girls, describing the classes as the "minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything."
In a 2009 Fox special on "stealth jihad," she interviewed Islamophobic panelists, including notorious Islamophobes like Robert SpencerFrank Gaffney and Nonie Darwish, who claims that "Islam should be feared, and should be fought, and should be conquered, and defeated, and annihilated." Nauert has also defended Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.
SEE: Trump's New State Department Spokesperson Spread Anti-Muslim Hate as Fox News Anchor 

Nauert previously bashed refugee students in Pennsylvania for wanting "an even better" public education and falsely claimed that child migrants from Central America were "an illegal health risk."
Other than her current position as State Department spokesperson, Nauert has no apparent diplomatic or government experience or expertise.
"Heather Nauert does not represent our nation's diversity or its commitment to treating all Americans with equality and respect," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"Such an important post should not be occupied by someone who is clearly unqualified and Islamophobic," said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. "There are many other individuals who do have the knowledge and background necessary for this post. Ms. Nauert's nomination should be withdrawn."
In June, CAIR applauded the decision by members of the United Nation's International Organization for Migration (IOM) to reject President Trump's nominee for the position of director general to lead the organization, a post held by Americans since 1951.
It was reported that members of the IMO rejected Isaacs's nomination due to his past Islamophobic statements and in response to Trump administration policies such as the Muslim ban and migrant family separations.
SEE: CAIR Welcomes Rejection of Trump's Islamophobic Nominee for U.N. Migration Post 

CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims, immigrants and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president. The Washington-based civil rights organization has also repeatedly expressed concern about Islamophobic and racist Trump administration policies and appointments.
The Washington-based organization's recently-released 2018 Civil Rights Report, "Targeted," showed a 17 percent increase in bias-motivated incidents against American Muslims from 2016 to 2017, and a 15 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in that same time period. Preliminary data for 2018 indicate that there have been 927 hate incidents targeting American Muslims.
"Targeted" - CAIR’s 2018 civil rights report
"Targeted" - CAIR’s 2018 civil rights report (image via
New CAIR Report: Trump's Muslim Bans Increased Anti-Muslim Discrimination, Violence

3 Ways Facebook And Other Social Media Companies Could Clean Up Their Acts – If They Wanted To

Mark Zuckerberg - under fire, but not without options.
Mark Zuckerberg - under fire, but not without options. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Facebook is in crisis mode, but the company can take major steps to fix itself – and the global community it says it wants to promote. Facebook founder, CEO and majority shareholder Mark Zuckerberg need not wait for governments to impose regulations. If he and other industry leaders wanted to, they could make meaningful changes fairly quickly.

It wouldn’t be painless, but Facebook in particular is in a world of hurt already, facing criticism for contributing to civil unrest and sectarian turmoil around the world, delayed responses to disinformation campaigns, misleading users about data-handling policies, and efforts to discredit critics – not to mention a budding employee revolt.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media companies are causing society-wide damage. But they tend to describe the problems as much smaller, resulting from rogue individuals and groups hijacking their systems for nefarious purposes. Our research into how social media can be exploited by manipulative political operatives, conducted with Joan Donovan at the Data & Society research institute, suggests the real problem is much larger than these companies admit.

We believe the roots lie in their extremely profitable advertising systems, which need a major overhaul. We have identified some key changes that these giant powerhouses could make right away. These moves could reduce opportunities for political manipulation and limit the harm to democratic societies around the world.

Users’ minds in the crosshairs
Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media companies have built an enormous digital influence machine powered by user tracking, targeting, testing and automated decision-making to make advertising more effective and efficient. While building this supercharged surveillance system, companies have promised users and regulators that targeted advertising is mutually beneficial for both consumers and advertisers.

In this bargain, users are supposed to receive more relevant ads. Facebook, for instance, explains that its “interest-based advertising” serves users who “want to see ads that relate to things they care about.” It’s true that these methods can identify ads that connect with users’ actual interests. But the very same data-driven techniques that tell a surfer about a new board design can also identify strategic points where people are most vulnerable to influence.

In particular, the leading social media advertising systems let political operatives experiment with different ads to see which are the most effective. They can use these tools not only to see if certain issues resonate with particular targets but also test for fears or prejudices that can be invoked to influence political behavior.

This misleading ad impersonated racial justice activists to urge black Americans not to vote for Hillary Clinton.( U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Intelligence – Democrats)

One key way to do this is to make people feel that someone else represents an emotionally charged threat to their identity. In 2016, for instance, Russia-linked operatives bought thousands of Facebook ads targeted to specific audiences suggesting Hillary Clinton had insulted their group’s dignity or threatened their safety. Some ads alleged Clinton espoused disrespect for specific occupations, like coal miners, or racial groups, like African-Americans. Others claimed she would confiscate guns or supported radical political movements seeking to overturn familiar ways of life.

Targeting political ads is not unique to online advertising, but the tools of digital ad systems are vastly more powerful than traditional mass media. Advertisers can try out several versions of an ad simultaneously and receive almost instant feedback on which ones most effectively drive specific audiences to share, like or comment on them. This digital feedback loop helps political operatives refine their tactics, probing for just the right images, words and emotions to influence very specific subgroups of citizens.

Move fast and fix things
Members of Congress and even some key Silicon Valley figures have begun discussing the need for tighter government oversight and greater accountability in digital advertising. Change need not wait for politics.

Based on our analysis, here are some steps companies could take right away – on their own. These moves may hurt the firms’ finances, but would demonstrate serious and lasting commitment to limiting their platforms’ usefulness in political manipulation campaigns.

As their first move, social media companies could stop allowing their ad services to be used as freewheeling experimental laboratories for examining their users’ psyches. Just as marketers and academic researchers must obtain permission from their test subjects, political advertisers that run online ad experiments could get informed consent in advance from every user who is involved. Companies should ask for users’ consent in specific notifications about ad experiments and not penalize users for opting out by limiting their access to services. We suspect many users would opt out of these tests if given the choice, but in any case this policy would help draw public attention to the hidden manipulation tools that platforms offer to their real customers: the political and commercial advertisers who pay the bills.

Make targeted political advertising transparent
To increase transparency and limit the ability of special interests to secretly influence politics, social media companies could refuse to work with so-called dark money groups. All political advertisers should be required to disclose their major donors in a format users can easily access.

A new policy banning dark money ads would respond to evidence that political operatives have used impersonation and manipulative ad tactics to stir in-fighting or sow division among coalitions of their adversaries. Impersonation clearly work best when ad sponsors are able to hide their identities and motives. Anonymous ads are also more likely to violate ethical standards simply because no one fears being held responsible for them.

Make platforms more democratic
A more significant change social media companies could make would be to introduce democratic oversight of how they collect and use people’s data.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg recently took an initial step in this direction, announcing that he will create independent review panels to handle users’ appeals against the company’s removal of content it judges inappropriate. He explained that he wanted to ensure “these decisions are made in the best interests of our community and not for commercial reasons.”

Whatever you think about this plan – and it has been greeted with plenty of skepticism – Zuckerberg’s reasoning acknowledges that because social platforms have become so central to democratic life, their own policies and design decisions require democratic accountability.

A more ambitious vision would let independent ethics panels representing diverse communities of users set enforceable policies for ethical political advertising. Similar sorts of groups are common in medicine and are emerging in artificial intelligence, among other fields. The details of how such committees operate will be critical to their success. If these committees are set up in partnership with nonprofit organizations with proven records of advocating for democratic communication and campaign finance transparency, perhaps they could help social media companies earn greater public trust by prioritizing democracy over maximizing their profits.The Conversation

About Today's Contributors:
Anthony M. Nadler, Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College and Matthew Crain, Assistant Professor of Media, Journalism and Film, Miami University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Related Stories:

You Might Also Like