Show Details for the week of Augusts 18th, 2014

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Was Ferguson a ‘Sundown Town’? An interview with Jim Loewen
  • Facebook’s abusive privacy practices – An interview with Evan Greer

More about this week’s guests:

Jim Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism in which he describes “Sundown Towns” as predominantly white communities in which people of color are not welcome. They are described as such because some of them posted signs at their city limits reading, typically, “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In ___.” He is also the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong.
Quote: “I think Ferguson was a sundown town, based on a statement in the published history of its neighbor, Kinloch, a majority-black town, but I have not confirmed Ferguson for sure. Often former sundown suburbs, when they do ‘break,’ rapidly go majority black. Their white residents, having lived for years under the ideology that African Americans are bad and must be wholly kept from town, have an ideological reason to leave, once their town becomes interracial. All too often they sell at distressed prices to real estate intermediaries. In turn these agents can sell the homes to black families looking to buy in newly available ‘integrated’ areas for a premium.

The white families then move to a sundown suburb farther out and carry with them the contagion that ‘blacks wreck property values,’ since they sold for less than market value. Ferguson meanwhile shows symptoms of what we call ‘second generation sundown town problems,’ such as an overwhelmingly white police force that (probably) formerly employed driving-while-black-style stops.

Every former (and current) sundown town and suburb in the U.S. needs to give up the practice, explicitly and openly. That will relieve the black housing pressure so interracial towns will no longer tend to go all-black. It will also clear the air about our recent racist past, allowing locales all across the U.S. to move forward.”

Loewen is blogging at History News Network and tweeting @JamesWLoewen

Evan Greer is campaign manager for Fight For the Future and joined their team after years traveling internationally as a social justice musician and workshop facilitator. She’s been organizing creative campaigns and fighting “the Man” since high school, recently with Free Tarek and Rising Tide.

From the press release:
MENLO PARK, CA — Just one week after media reports that Facebook is facing a class action lawsuit that has already attracted more than 25,000 plaintiffs, activists from the digital rights group Fight for the Future showed up at Facebook’s corporate offices in California yesterday to hand deliver a box containing tens of thousands of petition signatures protesting the company’s abusive practices of tracking Internet users even when they are not on Facebook and conducting psychological experiments without consent.

More than 135,000 people demanded that Facebook remove them from the new tracking system, which was revealed in June. Fight for the Future called upon the company to heed their customer’s wishes and remove the signatories from the tracking system in question. The group also issued the following demands to Facebook in a cover letter included with the signatures:

We demand that Facebook:

  • End its intrusive tracking system that taps into the web activity of Internet users worldwide.
  • Inform the people affected by the psychological experiment that they were participants.
  • Refrain from conducting any similar studies and make it clear in the terms of service, data use policy, and privacy policy that these types of experiments are prohibited without informed consent.
  • Disclose if any other similar experiments have been or are being conducted.

Fight for the Future delivers 135,000 signatures to Facebook demanding an end to abusive privacy practices

Fight for the Future Director of Code Activism Jeff Lyon hand delivering the signatures to Facebook.

More than 135,000 Internet users call on Facebook to end intrusive tracking, data collection, and psychological experiments that violate users’ basic rights.

“With everything we’ve learned in the past year about the ways those in power have been abusing the Internet to invade our privacy, it’s no wonder that Facebook users are speaking out in droves demanding more transparency and accountability from a company that holds such a massive amount of personal information,” said Evan Greer, of Fight for the Future. “The public has spoken, companies that ignore the growing cry for privacy should only expect user protests to intensify. We are heartened to hear that Facebook is facing a class action lawsuit for their practices — the signatures that we are delivering today should be seen as further evidence of this company’s lack of concern for its users basic rights.”

The petitions that Fight for the Future delivered were launched in June in response to news reports exposing the extent of Facebook’s abusive practices. The signatures are a rejection of Facebook’s ad network expansion of their tracking system to collect web history and app data from all Internet users inside and outside Facebook. In addition, the privacy advocates also point to the June public announcement of psychological experiments conducted on 700,000 Facebook users without their informed consent. Facebook’s experiments were also revealed by Forbes to have breached its own user agreement, which was only changed to include the right to conduct research experiments four months after they were completed.

This is not the first time Facebook has run into trouble for its expansive corporate surveillance.  In 2011, the FTC ruled against the company for deceiving its users about what data it was sharing with the public, third party applications, and advertisers.

“Everyone should have the ability to use the Internet to express themselves freely. It’s not only a human rights issue but it’s fundamental for democracy and freedom of press,” added Greer, “overly invasive corporate practices like Facebook’s tracking system undermine the privacy of the web, and have a chilling effect on free speech. Facebook needs to do the right thing and start listening to their users — and in the meantime anyone concerned with privacy should move away from centralized services and toward services that are built to respect users’ human rights”


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