Friday, September 4, 2015

Exactly How Does Facebook Define Community Standards?

Living in a democratic society, of course, entails the promotion, encouragement and defense of a diversity of views. With that I obviously have no quarrel. But, as the saying goes, with that freedom comes responsibility. it is the second part of this equation that some people refuse to accept.

When, for example, does freedom of expression cross the line into the promotion of hatred? I have a specific reason for asking that question, which I shall get to in a moment.

I have had a Facebook account for about seven years now; the reason that I joined goes back to our first visit to Costa Rica in 2009, where we met a group of hospitality students staying at the resort and joined them for a day's excursion. All of us were taking a lot of pictures, and when I inquired how I could see theirs online when they got home, they told me to join FB, where they would be posting them. Thus my social media experience began.

Nowadays I use it primarily to share political stories, people's blog posts, etc., as well as to receive various feeds from newspapers and political groups that interest me.

Because the following subject is one I find profoundly distasteful, I thought long and hard before writing this post, as I have no desire to give any kind of publicity or wider exposure to a group of xenophobes and racists, yet I am interested in getting feedback from readers. Yesterday the following appeared in my timeline:

Accompanying this were a variety of comments, a few of which I am reproducing here. Some of it is pretty vile.

... you crack me up. Sure there are Muslims who work. There are exceptions to every race. Believe it or not I've met a chinaman who doesn't like rice and black man who prefers heavy metal to rap music and doesn't play basketball. But the stereotypes exist for a reason. The fact of the matter is these Muslim refugees ARE costing us money for them to be here. We don't want them here, as a tax payer I have the right to not want to waste it on them. I'd rather use it to build a new park or maybe feed our homeless and let them have housing instead of these pieces of shit taking it all while our people starve on the streets.

... We as in WE THE PEOPLE. And of course they are refugees? But the wars and problems the middle East have is all a product of their own choice to follow such an evil ideology. Christian founded countries are the ones that have a greater quality of life and now they wanna come and take what we have after they ruined their own country. And yeah I would rather have a park over a Muslim parasite mooching 1 cent off our tax dollars. I'm happy that little boy drowned. Maybe the money Canada saves from not having to pay for them will be used to re-pave a street instead? And in case you didn't noticed WCAI is worldwide as in Worldwide Coalition Against Islam. We are just one person.

Well fortunately for me I live in a free Democratic country that isn't run by evil Islamic ideologies. It reminds me of 2 brothers that inherited a million dollars each. One brother invested his money right and is reaping the benefits while the other brother blew his money by making poor choices and is now trying to mooch off the other brother. This is no different. You reap what you sew.

...But all people of the islamic ideology are behind an evil ideology that promotes anti-semitism, rape, child molestation, beastiality, persecution, ridiculous law suits and wearing bed sheets and curtains for clothing. And if you think about it the similarities of the Islamic and Nazism ideologies are uncanny. The only difference is Hitler never bothered disguising the holocaust as a "peaceful religion"

In my mind, this is racism thinly disguised by 'economic concerns'. Interested in making a complaint about the group, I checked Facebook's reporting criteria. Under Encouraging Respectful Behaviour, this is what I found:
Hate Speech

Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their:

National origin,
Religious affiliation,
Sexual orientation,
Sex, gender, or gender identity, or
Serious disabilities or diseases.

Organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook. As with all of our standards, we rely on our community to report this content to us.
Feeling I was on pretty solid ground, I lodged a complaint. About two hours later I received this reply:
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards.
I am disappointed in Facebook's response, and it appears there was no effort made to read the comments accompanying the illustration.

So I am left with the question which is my post's title: Exactly how does Facebook define community standards?

I welcome, as always, your comments.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

UPDATED:A Shameful Indifference

By now we have all seen the terrible image of the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee on the shores near a Turkish resort. The juxtaposition couldn't be any more telling of desperation confronting world indifference.

What perhaps isn't as widely known is the fact that the boy, Aylan, and his bother and mother, Galip and Rehan Kurdin who also drowned, were rejected for emigration to Canada:
Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly told The Canadian Press that he had submitted a request on behalf on the boys’ aunt, Teema Kurdi, who had wanted to bring the family to Canada, but her request was turned down by Canadian immigration officials. Teema Kurdi, based in the Vancouver area, is the sister of the drowned boys’ father Abdullah, who survived.
Fin Donnelly, who is running for re-election in Port Moody-Coquitlam said he delivered a letter on behalf of Teema Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister, to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in March but that the sponsorship request was not approved.
Exactly what is our responsibility in an humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions?

In today's Star, Tony Burman ponders that very question, and asks why so little is being said about it during our current election campaign:
In recent weeks, the approach by Canada’s political class, led by its major political parties, seems to be based on a 21st-century notion about this country — that this worldwide refugee crisis really doesn’t involve Canada directly, and really doesn’t matter to Canadians.

With the crisis worsening by the day, it is time for this to end. We need to increase pressure on our politicians in this election campaign to push this issue aggressively to the fore.
Burman reminds us that historically, indifference has not been the Canadian way:
In recent decades, Canada’s doors were wide open to thousands of refugees. Since the 1970s, 6,000 Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin’s regime, 13,000 Chilean refugees escaping the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, 20,000 Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union, as well as 18,000 Iraqis, 3,300 Haitians and many, many others were all welcomed to Canada.

There was also, of course, the dramatic response by Canadians in 1979-80 to the flood of refugees trying to escape communist Vietnam.

The government’s initial commitment was to settle 500 Vietnamese, but through the actions of private sponsors, community and civic groups, that number eventually grew to more than 60,000.
Contrast that with our current regime:
In spite of promises to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years, the Canadian government has been criticized by refugee groups as being laggard in what it actually delivers. In the past three years, only 1,300 Syrian refugees have been admitted. According to the UN, Canada has dropped from the fifth-highest refugee recipient in 2000 to the ranking of 15th last year.
Defending and spinning the indefensible has become the only remaining skill-set of the once promising Chris Alexander, our Citizenship and Immigration minister, who, during his appearance on Power and Politics yesterday, was effectively eviscerated by host Rosie Barton, especially near the end of the panel:

If you don't have time to watch the video, BuzzFeed has a summary of the dustup.

It is easy, and perhaps only human nature, to regard this crisis as something occurring 'over there.' Many of us may find it difficult to get emotionally involved in the plight of people we do not know or do not identify with. But that's ultimately beside the point. Whether we acknowledge in our hearts or only in our minds, there is but one conclusion to be drawn: each country, including ours, has a moral and ethical responsibility to help these unfortunate people who, by virtue of the birth lottery, were not born into the advantages that we enjoy but have in no way earned.

UPDATE: it appears that Chris Alexander has entered into damage-control mode:
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander dropped campaign plans Thursday to rush to Ottawa and deal with the fallout of Canada’s rejection of a request to take in the Syrian family whose mother and two young sons drowned this week trying to get to Europe.

“I am meeting with officials to ascertain both the facts of the case of the Kurdi family and to receive an update on the migrant crisis,” Alexander said in an emailed statement.
Too little, too late, some might say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Some Compelling Reasons To Vote

H/t Memorial March for the Victims of Harperism

H/t David Suzuki Foundation

If anyone you know is not certain whether he or she is registered to vote, checking out one's status is easy by a visit to Elections Canada Online.

Meanwhile, the truly disenfranchised are getting some help in Halifax through something called the Identification Clinic.
The Identification Clinic is a volunteer group that aims to put IDs in the hands of the homeless and the disadvantaged.
One of the group's founders, Darren Greer,
found his first clients by walking up to people on the street, and asking if they needed help. They replied with an immediate and enthusiastic yes.

"A lot of them have had ID before and have lost it," said Greer. "They are so often asked for it, and refused services because of it, that they understand probably better than a lot of us what these IDs mean."
Not only will this project facilitate access to social services, but also to the voting booth, as the necessary identification will have been obtained.

God knows, in the election we all have a vital part to play.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

UPDATED: Something For The Harper Base To Ponder

Unless they want to add complete hypocrisy to their many other shortcomings, members of the Harper base have much to consider these days, not least of which is their leader's contemptuous treatment of military veterans. The group Harper has been quite fond of using for propaganda purposes knows only too well how shabbily they have been treated upon their return from risky, some would say foolhardy, engagements abroad. Finally, if the veterans have their way, a day of reckoning is at hand.

Two veterans with combined service of 52 years, Tom Beaver and Ron Clarke, write that the upcoming election is the perfect opportunity for those who claim to support our vets to make their outrage felt. And they have much reason to feel outrage.
[We] did not come home to peace but to another battle, this time with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Their shameful record of failure to properly support veterans in the last decade is well-documented.

Within weeks of entering office the Conservatives brought into law a bill which stripped from disabled soldiers the right to a lifetime pension. This was replaced by a woefully inadequate one-time lump-sum payment.

When veterans sought justice in the courts, the Conservatives spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to oppose us — saying there was no special obligation by government to its military personnel.

Despite documented evidence of increasingly longer waiting times, the Conservatives proceeded to kill 900 jobs, slash budgets and close nine veterans offices. Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs managers collected more than $500,000 in reward money for cutting costs.

More of us took our own lives than were killed in the entire Afghanistan War. The number of soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder has more than doubled. Yet getting timely help is very tough.
The veterans discovered they were dealing with a new enemy well-versed in a different kind of warfare:
When veterans protested the cutbacks and the loss of meaningful pensions, the government tried to smear the courageous soldiers who were standing up. The government was caught circulating private medical records to politicians to discredit the veterans involved.

Between 2006 and 2014, the Conservative government clawed-back more than $1 billion from money budgeted to take care of returning veterans.
Both Beaver and Clarke, however, are hopeful that redress is near:
The most recent poll by Insights West shows a startling 73 per cent of Canadians are dissatisfied with how the Conservative government has treated veterans. More surprising is that 64 per cent of Conservative voters in the 2011 election are dissatisfied, with 25 per cent of Conservative voters very dissatisfied.

One-third of Conservative voters go one step further and say the lack of support of veterans is a “reason to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives” in this year’s federal election.

It is very encouraging that the poll shows so much support for better treatment for veterans, but there is only one survey that really counts for Canada’s veterans and that’s on Oct. 19.

On that day our organization, Canadian Veterans — Anyone But Conservative — Campaign 2015, is asking Canadians to support fair treatment and respect for veterans by voting for the candidate in your riding who has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate.

For the sake of our country and our veterans, please join us and let’s work together to defeat Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.
There are many reasons to get behind this movement. The gross mistreatment of veterans is one of them.

UPDATE: Read veteran Harry Smith's thoughts on the Harper regime's mistreatment of veterans here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pulling Strings

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," bellowed the 'mighty' Oz as Dorothy and her companions were discovering the secret of his power.

Similarly, Stephen Harper would divert us from his machinations through manipulations and muzzling. Star letter-writers, however, are not so easily fooled:
Conservatives seeking happy vets for TV ads, Aug. 28

Perhaps veterans need to remember the conflict the military had with the Conservative government regarding repatriation of our fallen soldiers. General Rick Hillier had to stand firm against the Harper government in order to have the proper respect shown to the fallen members of our military.

More respect should be shown to all veterans; they are not here to be puppets for the Conservative dog and pony show.

Maureen Spinney, Caledonia

Re: Don't muzzle candidates, Editorial Aug. 28

As a master puppeteer Stephen Harper wants to personally control all aspects and activities of his party and its members and it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t want his candidates (people who supposedly want to be our representatives) taking part in all-candidates’ debates or press interviews where they might say something off-script.

Nor is it surprising that he will only speak before sympathetic supporters at campaign events and has progressed from limiting questions from the press to avoiding them all together.

He appears to have an obsessive need to micromanage every aspect of his party’s activities, with the one exception of his having not been at all interested in the details of Mike Duffy’s repayment of bogus expense claims despite the risk of those details undoing his government, his personal reputation and his re-election.

What a curious oversight!

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

Your editorial argues that the “informal edict” not to participate in candidates’ debates and media interviews is not in democracy’s interest, so we must infer that it is in the party’s interest. Candidates would have to defend the indefensible in debates and the media. The Tories know they could only look worse, so they’re not taking any risks and counting on their loyal base to win again, even if Canadians want a change.

By parroting lines and refusing to debate, the Conservatives are avoiding critical scrutiny. They’re betting their political lives on fear of instability rather than hope for better government. What are we betting on?

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

The decision by the Harper Tory leadership to muzzle their candidates is a direct assault on the freedoms that define our Canadian parliamentary democracy. Public debate and participation of the press are among the essential democratic checks and balances that assure those freedoms.

That includes freedom to: learn and be better informed as candidates debate varying priorities and approaches; gather as citizens and publicly declare our own concerns and priorities; assess the commitment of candidates, their integrity of person and their response to pressure and argument; assess a candidate’s responsiveness to reason and discourse beyond the partisan line; publicly challenge the candidates on how truly representative of their constituencies they are rather than being slaves to a party line; challenge the party lines; hear informed challenges to purported statements of fact; and freedom of access.

What’s more, limiting the democratic freedom of its candidates provides suspicious evidence of an insidious readiness by the Harper Tories to limit the democratic freedoms of Canadian citizens.

As the Canadian electorate, we should be very worried about this action of the Harper Tories. Restriction to democratic freedoms is an ominous step backwards for progressive, democratic society and conjures up images of devastatingly dark periods in human history, past and present.

We must say no to their muzzling directive. We must say no to the Harper Tories. We must declare a passionate yes for parliament, for democracy, for freedoms that have been won at such sore cost and which bear the light of hope for so many.

James McKnight, St. Catharines

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Looking Back

Although it was made in 2013, the following 22 Minutes' video has lost none of its relevance:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Olivia Chow's Video About Bill C-51

Given yesterday's post on the growing worldwide governmental repression of civil society groups and NGOs, as well as the disturbing information included in my update, a video by Olivia Chow attacking the Liberal position on Bill C-51 seems especially pertinent.
The NDP is launching a national attack on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over their support for Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism law.

The “T minus 51” blitz — 51 days from Saturday until the Oct. 19 election — will see dozens of NDP candidates in targeted ridings from coast to coast go door-to-door with special brochures attacking the Liberals on Bill C-51.

The weekend blitz will focus on ridings with incumbent Liberals who voted for the Conservatives’ “spy bill,” NDP sources say, including Toronto MPs Adam Vaughan and Chrystia Freeland.

Olivia Chow, the former MP and failed Toronto mayoral candidate, has gone a step further and created an online attack ad accusing Trudeau and Vaughan, her opponent in the new downtown riding of Spadina-Fort York, of “betraying” constituents by voting for a “dangerous and anti-democratic” law.

NDP leaders hope C-51, which they brand a threat to the civil liberties of peaceful protesters, journalists and anyone else who opposes the government, will be the wedge issue that convinces Canadians they are the real alternative to Harper’s Conservatives.

Liberals “said they were going to Ottawa to stand up to Stephen Harper and they didn’t,” an NDP organizer in Ottawa said on background Friday.