Facebook, we need to have a chat

Time for a brief follow up to Misbehaving? This time it’s Facebook on the naughty step.

You may have heard about the evidence given by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who has been spilling the beans about what the social media monolith gets up to – apart from making a ton of money. As usual, the excellent Register is a fine source to explain what’s going on.  In this article it gives us “The five nastiest bits from recent leaks”. Facebook:

Knows that its algorithms lead users to extreme content and that it employs too few staff or contractors to curb such content, especially in languages other than English. Content glorifying violence and hate therefore spreads on Facebook – which really should know better by now after the The New York Times in 2018 reported that Myanmar’s military used Facebook to spread racist propaganda that led to mass violence against minority groups;

Enforces its rules selectively, allowing certain celebrities and websites to get away with behavior that would get others kicked off the platform. Inconsistent enforcement means users don’t get the protection from harmful content Facebook has so often promised, implying that it prioritises finding eyeballs for ads ahead of user safety;

Planned a special version of Instagram targeting teenagers, but cancelled it after Haugen revealed the site’s effects on some users – up to three per cent of teenage girls experience depression or anxiety, or self-harm, as a result of using the service;

Can’t accurately assess user numbers and may be missing users with multiple accounts. The Social Network™ may therefore have misrepresented its reach to advertisers, or made its advertising look more super-targeted than it really is – or both;

Just isn’t very good at spotting the kind of content it says has no place on its platform – like human trafficking – yes, that means selling human beings on Facebook. At one point Apple was so upset by the prevalence of Facebook posts of this sort it threatened to banish Zuckerberg’s software from the App Store.

That’s quite a catalog of misbehavior, to put it politely. It does seem that the company is out of control and the result causes serious damage to our society. Why is it allowed to continue?

I use Facebook. It’s a way of being kept up to date with family and friends from all over the world, and being a part of communities with common interests. If I were to protest its activities by deleting my account, that would have no effect. Maybe I should do it anyway as a matter of principle. But I cannot help feeling that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to sort out. But whose?

Beating them back with a carrot?

Carrot or stick? What works best depends on the situation. I happen to believe if that you reward bad behavior, that encourages more of the same. With that in mind, this Times of Israel headline did not fill me with an overwhelming sense of optimism about peace in our time.

[Click the image to go to the article.]

Why is Israel making goodwill gestures in response to the violence from Gaza?

One theory is that Joe Biden requested (ordered?) this. This would give Biden some clout with the Palestinians, but would only be of any value if he used it for something sensible. What might that be? Rewarding the Palestinians further by reopening the consulate in so-called ‘East Jerusalem’ would just be more carrot. What’s the end game?

Another theory is that it’s an experiment to see what happens – as other approaches have failed to make a lasting impact – and a (futile?) public relations exercise. For example, with the extended fishing limit, that could bring meaningful economic benefits to the fishermen. Would they then have any clout in holding back Hamas? Do Hamas care if the fishing limit is reduced? All very puzzling.

My pessimistic view is that this is all a waste of time. It’s not going to achieve anything. Peace? Don’t make me laugh. It’s certainly not going to bring back the soldiers’ remains or the Israelis held, presumably alive, in Gaza. All I can say is that if the captives were white former residents of Tel Aviv who had served in the IDF, the situation would not be as it is now. My guess – and, yes, it is a guess: more of the same. No real change.


The Dangers of Email

How dangerous is email?

The Register reports:

“Well, 91 per cent of all cyberattacks originate with email, according to Redmond.”

That’s a stunning statistic, especially if it’s accurate. And it partly explains why Microsoft is warning about “a widespread credential-phishing campaign” even although it claims its systems have a solid defense against it. Read the whole article here.

Reaping and Sowing

One of the common trends in the social media world we live in is the tendency among some to exaggerate a particular position or sometimes to simply outright lie. Occasionally, just occasionally, this doesn’t work as intended.

Maybe this illustrates the trend in action.

Journalist John Ware has prevailed in the first round of his proceedings for libel against two senior members of Jewish Voice for Labour.

He claims JVL defamed his reputation as a professional journalist over the BBC Panorama programme that investigated anti-Semitism within Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

The day after transmission JVL’s media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissii told the Jeremy Vine show’s 1.4 million listeners on BBC Radio 2 that Ware had “ a terrible record of Islamophobia, far right politics, he’s been disciplined at – BBC has had to apologise.”

At a hearing to decide the ordinary meaning of her words, Wimborne- Idrissi argued they were just “honest opinion.”

However, Mrs Justice Steyn has ruled that reasonable listeners would have understood they were assertions of fact that Ware had “engaged in Islamophobia and extreme, far right politics, as a consequence of which the BBC has had to apologise for his conduct.” Listeners would also have understood that Wimborne-Idrissi was saying there were “reasonable grounds to suspect” that Ware “has an extensive record of Islamophobia and of involvement in extreme, far right politics.”

Ware says he has never been disciplined for anything by the BBC, is not an Islamophobe and has never engaged in “far right politics.”

The case will now proceed to trial, and Wimborne-Idrissi will have to try to prove that what she said was true. Ware is adamant that it is not.

The Jewish Chronicle has the story here.


Third’s the charm

Earlier today, I had my third vaccination. As with the previous vaccinations, the process was efficient and hardly took any time at all. The only delay as such was the fifteen minutes after the jag that they ask you to spend at the clinic to see if you suffer serious side effects. I’ve been very fortunate in that I have had no problems with any of the jags; not even a sore arm.

Although I have been vaccinated, I’m trying to keep away from places where the risk of infection might be high. For example, I could go to shul – with a mask – and be exposed to all the kids running around who are likely to be unvaccinated and may be carrying the virus. Instead, if I want to go to shul, I’ll attend the outdoors minyan that’s less than 100 meters from our building. It might not be as comfortable, especially in the heat, but it’s surely less of a risk.

Meantime, I’ve been trying and failing to get my head round why anybody in their right mind would not want to be vaccinated. It simply doesn’t make sense. These people shout about their rights but ignore their responsibilities. I’m all in favor of the so-called Green Passport so that the unvaccinated will be excluded from certain locations. That’s presumably the limit as to what can be done to encourage doubters to take the plunge and get vaccinated.


Don’t you just love the naivety and earnest effort of the young? They seem so convinced they are right. For example, people like these:

What offends me about these daydreamers is that they bang on about what they see as the problem, but do bugger-all about proposing solutions. They are happy – not to say ecstatic – to criticize Israel, but there endeth the effort.

It’s also interesting to see how casually they discard the safety of me and the other citizens of Israel. This is from the ‘Our Message’ part of their website:

“Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is a system of violence and discrimination that infringes Palestinians’ freedom, dignity and human rights. For whole generations of Palestinians, occupation has meant a life of petty humiliations, gross injustices and all-pervading fear. For Israelis, it has meant enforcing an oppression which requires brutality, dehumanisation and a disregard for democratic ideals. The occupation is not just immoral and illegal, but is an affront to fundamental Jewish values of equality and human dignity, despite being conducted under the guise of Jewish safety. No Palestinian or Israeli deserves the status quo, yet it will continue and worsen until Israel’s military rule over Palestinians is brought to an end.”

The guise of Jewish safety? I guess I must have imagined all those terrorist attacks. No, you couldn’t make it up: a fragment of text is their fig-leaf cover for assaults on the Jewish State.

As part of their online activities, they attack Israel in all sorts of ways. For example, you may not be surprised to hear that they don’t like the IHRA definition of antisemitism. And so, here comes a tweet from their lofty perch.

According to them, the IHRA definition has been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone criticizing Israel stop just because they have been accused – often justly – of antisemitism. I’ve never heard of anyone being silenced because they were accused of antisemitism. But maybe my experience is limited. So, I thought I’d ask the experts.

So far, no response.

I’m waiting.

I’ll do a follow up if they deign to reply. Don’t hold your breath.


Another Inconvenient Fact

Assuming this post by the Elder of Ziyon is accurate, it appears that the people occupying and claiming ownership of the currently disputed property in Sheikh Jarrah do not have the proverbial leg to stand on.

In summary:

  • In 1956, Jordan and UNRWA allowed Palestinian refugee families to live in newly constructed property
  • In exchange, the families gave up their refugee ration cards, but not their status as refugees according to UNWRA
  • The lease provided that if they returned to their original homes they had to return the property to Jordan
  • The lease ran for three years and three months after which it could be renewed  on the same conditions for 30 more years, after which they could renew it for another 33 years
  • Payment under the lease was nominal
  • There is NOTHING that gives the families any ownership right

Note that if they renewed the lease, they are tenants until 2022. However, it’s unclear if they did or even could renew the lease. Also, as I understand it, they have refused to pay any rent – peppercorn or otherwise – which undermines the rights they might have had as sitting tenants. But, the key aspect of this factual information is that it comprehensively demolishes the occupiers’ claims of ownership. False, false, false.

Damn these facts sure are tricky. They just don’t seem to stack up the way Israel’s critics would like. (Which is why such people ignore facts and promote emotional propaganda.)  But it would have been nice if the usual suspects in the media made a token attempt to mention the facts when stirring up their anti-Israel supporters.

Sheikh Jarrah in 1900 – Source: Wikimedia Commons

To close, let me make it crystal clear that I am not jumping for joy that anybody might be turfed out of what they see as their home because of the current eviction action. But by the same token, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. As a general rule, people shouldn’t live rent free and certainly shouldn’t expect to live rent free.

Apple and the Register

I know it’s old news, but on browsing a Register article about the fruity company’s new plans to scan iPhones for child pornography, I came across this article: Inside our three-month effort to attend Apple’s iPhone 7 launch party.

It’s well worth reading in full, if only to see how companies can twist words to avoid telling the truth.

This is the enduring takeaway.

“The truth though is that large tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, often use access to their events and their executives as a way to force positive coverage of themselves. If you write one bad thing about them, they threaten to stop talking to you. If you ignore the warnings, they blacklist you.

Unsurprisingly, The Register is not all that flexible when it comes to tech companies trying to intimidate us into writing nothing but positive press coverage. The question you should be asking yourself is: does that mean that everyone who is invited to Apple’s events can be relied upon to self-censor any negative comments? (Quick clue: the answer’s yes.)”

Bear that quote in mind the next time you see somebody reporting on an Apple press conference.

Glad That’s Over

We have a new government, finally. Yes, they are strange bedfellows. Yes, they do not have the strongest backing. Yes, the odds are stacked against them. But they do have much in common. And if they can focus on the key issues that are for the benefit of the whole country and make progress bit by bit, who knows how far they might get.

It will be good to have a government that tries to pass a budget and tries to govern instead of trying to hang on to power so as to free Bibi from the troublesome nuisance of three criminal trials.

I confess to being entertained by the haredi parties screaming about the end of Judaism in Israel. Losing power (and money) was never going to come easy to them. Bibi’s criticism about Bennett’s (alleged) inability is unsurprising. But Bibi forgets he too had to start somewhere and he too was grossly underestimated.

I confess to being particularly happy for Yair Lapid. He has gone from strength to strength displaying qualities of perseverance, endeavor, honesty, self-sacrifice, and leadership. If he does become Prime Minister, he will deserve it more than anyone else in the current Knesset.

As for Bennett, I wish him luck. I want him to succeed, to make a difference and show what we can achieve if we work together, to be inclusive for the benefit of all instead of exclusive for the good of the few.

The rockets with no owners

This, from who else but the Guardian, is another example of their drip, drip, drip bias and demonization of Israel.

The rocket fire screwed up the hopes of a ceasefire all on its own! Nobody fired them. They were autonomous rockets…

Oh, come on Guardian. There was room for “by Hamas” in that title. But you deliberately chose not to blame your terrorist friends. Shame on you.

(An informed reader might know it was Hamas. But I wonder how many uninformed or lazy readers will read that headline and subconsciously at least blame Israel.)