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Fed up with Facebook, activists find new ways to defend their movements

Fed up with Facebook, activists find new ways to defend their movements
From TechCrunch - April 10, 2018

In the wake of revelations that the personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users was used by data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica in 2016 for political purposes, reports indicate Facebookwill contribute raw, anonymized data to a new Social Data Initiative via what is described as an independent, transparent and peerreviewed process.

Will greater data sharing place the information of communities of color at greater risk? Or will making aggregated user data available data better inform our understanding of social medias impact on society? Caught between these questions are activists of color and the vulnerable communities they represent.

Activists of color werent surprised by the Cambridge Analyticarevelations. This scandal is only the latest in a string of worrisome disclosures about the use of social media by third parties, from foreign governments and electoral candidates to law enforcement agencies, to spy on the activities of usersespecially immigrant, Black and other vulnerable communities.

With half of all U.S. adults already in police facial recognition databases and the 2018 midterm election season upon us, the issue of political data mining feels urgent to Black activists. We are tracked by data mining companies that have contracts with law enforcement that profile and criminalize us. This works in tandem with designations like Black Identity Extremism, a made up term by the FBI to attack Black organizers, said Janaya Khan, a Black Lives Matter activist and organizer with the national civil rights group Color of Change.

A supporter of a handful of protesters from the activist group the Raging Nannies who gathered outside of Facebook to demand greater data protection, Electronic Frontier FoundationOrganizer Nathan Sheard, also raised concerns, Facebook has a responsibility to its users. He goes on to note that, By default their [user] info should be kept secure. Yet user information on Facebook remains extraordinarily vulnerable and far too available to third parties, without the consent of Facebook users.

Congress has joined the chorus of voices seeking answers. Mark Zuckerberg,Facebook Founder and CEO will testify at a joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees on Tuesday, April 10 at 2:15 pm Eastern time. Hell be back on Capitol Hill the following day for another hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, April 11, at 10 am ET.

Congress failure to protect the data of vulnerable users has created real world fears for immigrant rights activists working tirelessly to protect undocumented families facing a wave of deportation under President Trump. Co-founder and Executive Director of United We Dream, Cristina Jimenez explains, Our movement is led by undocumented immigrants and people of color, and under Trump weve seen our members targeted in phishing attacks online and chased by white supremacists out in the streets.

These conditions have prompted some to delete Facebook, which must be done skillfully to ensure all personal data has actually been removed. Given that twothirds of Americans get their news from platforms like Facebook, the likelihood that users will delete the social media giant is low. For others, the call to action is for Congress to pass laws that require greater data protection in order for Facebook to operate in the U.S.which can take time.

Activists from the movements for Black lives, immigrant rights, Muslim freedom, and others protesting to save their lives, protect their families, or defend their environment and land cant wait for data protection. These activists and the technologists who support them have come together to create a resource for keeping their accounts secure and to protect their critical work: defendourmovements.org.

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