Category Archive 'Facebook'
06 Oct 2018

Office Perqs are a Trap

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Simone Stolzoff visits Facebook and concludes that cushy office perks Silicon-Valley-style are a trap.

I was there to see the headquarters of one of the most influential technology companies in the world, and it looked like a Lego fortress. The campus was all primary colors and serrated edges, as if cut from card stock for an elementary-school bulletin board.

Street art hung from the walls. Bicycles and scooters were strewn like forgotten toys. The corporate name was decapitalized. (Something about trying to be cool.)

“We repurposed the sign from the old Sun Microsystems campus,” my greeter said when she met me at the campus’ entrance. “We leave it as a reminder to stay motivated.”

As we walked past the iconic thumbs up on the front of the sign, I turned around to see the faded “Sun” on the back of it.

“Welcome to Facebook.”

For a company built on openness and connectivity, the office felt like the walled garden Facebook itself has become. My greeter walked me to one of the complex’s main arteries from Hacker Way toward Main Street. “The campus was designed to be a cross between Disneyland and downtown Palo Alto.” I could tell. Thousands of employees filled the streets of Facebook’s downtown area, a Main Street USA in a Magic Kingdom partial to hoodies and t-shirts.

There was a barbershop, a dental office, a bike shop.

If I worked here, I would never have to leave.

The gilded offices of Silicon Valley have both the amenities and exclusivity of a country club. The need to keep the outside world locked out is understandable—tourists come from halfway around the world just to take pictures from Google’s driveway—but I worry that the locks go both ways.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history,” wrote media theorist Neil Postman. “As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

The office is also a technology, a tool used to help get work done. And though there is something special about a workplace where you can get your dry-cleaning done between meetings, the blurring of work and not work can also veer toward oppression.

There’s no such thing as a free cupcake, as Robert A. Heinlein could have told you. All the good stuff in corporate headquarters is there to make you not want to leave, so that you’ll happily put in all sorts of unpaid overtime.

05 Oct 2018

Facebook Erupts Over VP’s Friendship With Kavanaugh

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Joel Kaplan sat at the left, two rows back, during the Kavanaugh hearing.

The NY Times reports that a Facebook VP being a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s has led to outrage at the California company.

“I want to apologize,” the Facebook executive wrote last Friday in a note to staff. “I recognize this moment is a deeply painful one — internally and externally.”

The apology came from Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy. A day earlier, Mr. Kaplan had sat behind his friend, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, when the judge testified in Congress about allegations he had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in high school. Mr. Kaplan’s surprise appearance prompted anger and shock among many Facebook employees, some of whom said they took his action as a tacit show of support for Judge Kavanaugh — as if it were an endorsement from Facebook itself.

The unrest quickly spilled over onto Facebook’s internal message boards, where hundreds of workers have since posted about their concerns, according to current and former employees. To quell the hubbub, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, last Friday explained in a widely attended staff meeting that Mr. Kaplan was a close friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s and had broken no company rules, these people said.

Yet the disquiet within the company has not subsided. This week, Facebook employees kept flooding internal forums with comments about Mr. Kaplan’s appearance at the hearing. In a post on Wednesday, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook executive, appeared to dismiss the concerns when he wrote to employees that “it is your responsibility to choose a path, not that of the company you work for.” Facebook plans to hold another staff meeting on Friday to contain the damage, said the current and former employees. …

The internal turmoil at Facebook — described by six current and former employees and a review of internal posts — illustrates how divisions over Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court have cascaded into unexpected places and split one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

Mr. Kaplan’s show of support for Judge Kavanaugh hits a particularly sensitive spot for Facebook. It has been weathering claims from conservatives and Mr. Trump that Facebook is biased against right-wing websites and opinions. The company has denied this, saying it is a neutral platform that welcomes all perspectives. By showing up at Judge Kavanaugh’s side, Mr. Kaplan essentially appeared to choose a political side that goes against the views of Facebook’s largely liberal work force.

Many employees also viewed it as a statement: Mr. Kaplan believed Mr. Kavanaugh’s side of the story rather than Dr. Blasey’s testimony. That felt especially hurtful to Facebook employees who were also sexual assault survivors, many of whom began sharing their own #MeToo stories internally.

The tensions add to a litany of other issues that have sapped employee morale. In the past few weeks alone, the company, based in Silicon Valley, has grappled with the departures of the co-founders of Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, plus the disclosure of its largest-ever data breach and continued scrutiny of disinformation across its network before the midterm elections.

“Our leadership team recognizes that they’ve made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we’re grateful for all the feedback from our employees,” Roberta Thomson, a Facebook spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday.

RTWT

Western Society has reached the interesting point at which fashionable class solidarity within capitalist organizations will punish ideological deviationism with as much alacrity as last century’s totalitarian regimes.

30 Aug 2018

Go Get Them, Donald!

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I’m almost never a fan of the government regulating what private companies can do, short of actual crime. However, what choice would there be if, for instance, the phone company possessing a de facto monopoly decided to block calls made by Republicans?

We have already extensive public accommodation law precedents, and the giant left-coast social media and search engines are currently getting away with unconscionable bias toward certain customers.

Zero Hedge agrees with Trump that these companies are treading on dangerous ground.

On Tuesday morning, President Trump lashed out at Google, with his remarks later broadening to include Twitter and Facebook, accusing it of “rigging” search results by presenting only results “from National Left-Wing Media” and accused “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good.”

Those companies “better be careful because you can’t do that to people,” Trump said later in the Oval Office. “I think that Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It is not fair to large portions of the population.”

Google immediately responded, condemning Trump’s charge, and claiming that “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

And yet, as so often happens, in Trump’s crude delivery, the politically incorrect truth was once again found.

According to a memo posted on Facebook’s internal message board titled “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity”, and which was published by the New York Times, senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige confirmed Trump’s allegation writing that “we are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views” and shockingly admitted that “we claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology. We throw labels that end in *obe and *ist at each other, attacking each other’s character rather than their ideas.”

The scathing indictment of Facebook’s liberal “mono-culture” continues:

    We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically.​ HR has told me that this is not a rare concern, and I’ve personally gotten over a hundred messages to that effect. Your colleagues are afraid because they know that they — not their ideas — will be attacked. They know that all the talk of “openness to different perspectives” does not apply to causes of “social justice,” immigration, “diversity”, and “equality.” On this issues, you can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.

“These are not fears without cause” Amerige writes, and continues the stunning disclosure of the company’s biased culture, “Because we tear down posters welcoming Trump supporters. We regularly propose removing Thiel from our board because he supported Trump. We’re quick to suggest firing people who turn out to be misunderstood, and even quicker to conclude our colleagues are bigots. We have made “All Lives Matter” a fireable offense. We put Palmer Luckey through a witch hunt because he paid for anti-Hillary ads. We write each other ad-hoc feedback in the PSC tool for having “offensive” ideas. We ask HR to investigate those who dare to criticize Islam’s human rights record for creating a “non inclusive environment.” And they called me a transphobe when I called out our corporate art for being politically radical.

RTWT

26 Jul 2018

What We Know

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A conservative on Facebook summarizes the facts of the Russian Collusion scandal.

…let’s talk about the facts as we know them.

German bank records prove the funding chain from the DNC and Hillary campaign through Perkins-Coie and managing partner Marc Elias to Fusion GPS and on to Chris Steele. And the Russians. And there were reporters on the payroll too.

So we have collaboration between the very top of the blues and Russians via a complex hidden funding scheme.

We know that the Michael Isikoff story on Yahoo News which was used as partial justification for the warrants was leaked to Isikoff by Chris Steele directly.

We know Steele hated Trump and made it his mission to ensure he wasn’t elected.

We know that Strzok and Page spoke of an insurance policy in case Trump was elected, and they spoke of it in Andrew McCabe’s office.

We know that the dossier and Yahoo News story plus a letter from Harry Reid that originated from the dossier were the basis of all the FISA warrant applications.

We know the FBI paid Steele directly also, in addition to what he got from Fusion.

We know the dossier was unverified, not obtained through U.S. intelligence activities, and paid for by the DNC and Hillary campaign. And that neither fact was disclosed to the Court. And that neither fact was disclosed to Trump as a candidate, as President-elect, or as President.

We know the warrants also named George Papadopoulos and the Trump Campaign in addition to Carter Page. We know that when Trump said that Obama was surveilling him at Trump Tower and the media laughed, that he was being surveilled.

We know that Rice and Power unmasked over a hundred people recorded in the surveillance.

We know that Lisa Page texted to Peter Strzok that “POTUS wants to know everything we’re doing.”

We know Obama knew all about Russian meddling, Trump had no idea, and Team Obama did nothing to stop it or tell anyone.

We know Comey pre-exonerated Hillary and granted immunity to five senior advisers and two IT staff who wiped her server.

We know Obama wrote to Hillary on her private server using an alias even though he claimed not to know about it.

We know the DNC via Bob Creamer staged every act of violence at Trump rallies.

We know the DNC rigged and stole the primary for Hillary.

We know there was a shredding party at State one weekend.

We know Comey leaked his classified notes to the New York Times.

We know that Comey did not tell Trump the truth about the dossier.

We know that the warrants were renewed multiple times without any updated information (i.e. surveillance yielded nothing).

We know McCabe leaked and lied about it and that he was compromised by the large donation from Hillary bagman Terry McAuliffe to his wife’s Democratic Virginia Senate campaign.

We know that Carter Page is not a spy as he was never charged and the surveillance ended.

We know Lynch and Bill Clinton met inappropriately in Phoenix two days before Comey exonerated Hillary. We know Lynch was lying when she said she did not know what Comey was going to say before he said it.

We know Lynch personally issued an extraordinary visa waiver to Putin Stoogette Natalia Veselnitskaya after she was denied a visa in Moscow so she could get in to attend the staged meeting at Trump Tower with the President’s son and son-in-law. And that shortly thereafter she was a front-row guest at a Congressional hearing, sitting next to Obama’s Ambassador to Russia.

We know piles of cash flowed to the Clintons after the sale of Uranium One. We know Bob Mueller had uncovered massive Russian corruption with regard to U. S. uranium BEFORE the sale, that Eric Holder knew about it and signed off anyway, and that the Maryland prosecutor who sat on the charges until the sale was complete was Rod Rosenstein.

We know that George Papadopoulos was baited and hooked by Alexander Downer, and invited to London to allow Downer to get him drunk and report it to the FBI, which is why Papadopoulos was named in the warrants, and that Downer had just overseen the Australian $11M donation to the Clinton Foundation.

We know Paul Manafort’s crimes date from 2006 and have zero to do with Russian collaboration OR Trump.

We know Flynn did not lie as there is no one who says he did. He pleaded guilty because the legal fight had bankrupted him. They still haven’t sentenced him.

We know Peter Strzok was personal friends with Judge Rudy Contreras, a FISA judge and the one who accepted the Flynn plea before he was recused without explanation. We know Lisa Page planned a fake dinner party so Peter and Rudy could talk without arousing suspicion.

We know Brennan and Clapper were part and parcel of the whole thing. Clapper’s starting to blame Obama now.

Let me know which Reds might be hit. I know of none and the 400 pages of FISA documents don’t provide any new names.”

13 Mar 2018

Spilling the Beans on Working for Big Tech Companies

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Google employees eat lubch in Kendall Square Cafeteria, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A long-time Google manager, at Marginal Revolution, describes life at Google, and critiques other major tech companies.

I joined Google [earlier]…as an Engineering Director. This was, as I understand it, soon after an event where Larry either suggested or tried to fire all of the managers, believing they didn’t do much that was productive. (I’d say it was apocryphal but it did get written up in a Doc that had a bunch of Google lore, so it got enough oversight that it was probably at least somewhat accurate.)

At that time people were hammering on the doors trying to get in and some reasonably large subset, carefully vetted with stringent “smart tests” were being let in. The official mantra was, “hire the smartest people and they’ll figure out the right thing to do.” People were generally allowed to sign up for any project that interested them (there was a database where engineers could literally add your name to a project that interested you) and there was quite a bit of encouragement for people to relocate to remote offices. Someone (not Eric, I think it probably was Sergey) proposed opening offices anyplace there were smart people so that we could vacuum them up. Almost anything would be considered as a new project unless it was considered to be “not ambitious enough.” The food was fabulous. Recruiters, reportedly, told people they could work on “anything they wanted to.” There were microkitchens stocked with fabulous treats every 500′ and the toilets were fancy Japanese…uh…auto cleaning and drying types.

And… infrastructure projects and unglamorous projects went wanting for people to work on them. They had a half day meeting to review file system projects because…it turns out that many, many top computer scientists evidently dream of writing their own file systems. The level of entitlement displayed around things like which treats were provided at the microkitchens was…intense. (Later, there was a tragicomic story of when they changed bus schedules so that people couldn’t exploit the kitchens by getting meals for themselves [and family…seen that with my own eyes!] “to go” and take them home with them on the Google Bus — someone actually complained in a company meeting that the new schedules…meant they couldn’t get their meals to go. And they changed the bus schedule back, even though their intent was to reduce the abuse of the free food.)

Now, most of all that came from two sources not exclusively related to the question at hand:

Google (largely Larry I think) was fearless about trying new things. There was a general notion that we were so smart we could figure out a new, better way to do anything. That was really awesome. I’d say, overall, that it mostly didn’t pan out…but it did once in a while and it may well be that just thinking that way made working there so much fun, that it did make an atmosphere where, overall, great things happened.

Google was awash in money and happy to spray it all over its employees. Also awesome, but not something you can generalize for all businesses. Amazon, of course, took a very different tack. (It’s pretty painful to hear the stories in The Everything Store or similar books about the relatively Spartan conditions Amazon maintained. I was the site lead for the Google [xxxx] office for a while and we hired a fair number of Amazon refugees. They were really happy to be in Google, generally…not necessarily to either of our benefit.)

19 Feb 2018

What’s Happened to Pryam Farll?

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He used to call himself “Arcangelo Corelli,” but Facebook started hassling him for using a pseudonym, so he changed over to “Pryam Farll.” Facebook evidently was satisfied at the time. Maybe he had ID.

Pryam claimed to be an Old Etonian, an American related to a variety of European royal houses (Britain, Norway, the Netherlands), to have graduated from the University of Colorado, to being a Lieutenant-General in the Marine Corps working in Intelligence, to being very rich, to reading Vladimir Putin’s mail regularly in his professional capacity, to having purchased recently a 17th Century townhouse in Talinn, Estonia and furnishing it with expensive antiques, to have stocked a wine cellar and hired a personal chef. He also claims to be 6′ 5″ tall, irresistible to the ladies, and 67 years old.

Pryam’s more sophisticated FB friends assumed his persona was an elaborate spoof, but found him amusing and entertaining. Pryam used to post profusely and daily on Facebook, taking colorful and reactionary positions, defending Christianity, and predicting WWIII imminently. He disappeared without explanation in late January and has been missing since.

Facebook jail? Assassination by Putin? Health problems or a personal crisis? No one knows.

But people are beginning to ask, on FB here, and in a major posting here by “Ragnar Musashi.”

In my travels through social media, I may have—by complete accident—stumbled upon one of the greatest cases of Stolen Valor I’ve ever seen. I found this guy in the comment threads of a fairly prominent history professor and author, making some rather outlandish claims about not just himself but the geopolitical landscape as a whole.

“Pryam Farll,” the name he uses (he used to go by “Arcangelo”), claims to have the highest of high security clearances and, get this, is a Lieutenant General (who is getting his third star just before retirement) in the United States Marine Corps. His Facebook posts are usually from “NATO HQ” in Brussels and filled with talks of simulated wargames with Russia because, true story, World War III is just around the corner.

Sounds obviously fake, right? So why even bother to write this up?

Two reasons:

One, the guy isn’t stupid. I have seen enough of his writings to realize he’s a sharp dude who has fairly extensive knowledge of the military. This leads me to question whether or not he’s actually in uniform and maybe an assistant to a real General Officer—something that could cause some major issues (more on this at the end, as it goes back to the title of the article).

Two, making this information public allows the magic of crowd-sourcing to happen. Someone in the military community may realize who this is and uncover a bigger problem (also more on this at the end).

So let’s go through his most repeated claims and what my research has shown, then I’ll offer a conclusion as to why this is important.

Claims:

-to be a 2 star general officer in the Marine Corps who personally knows GEN James Mattis “like a brother” (and served with Mattis in Vietnam—despite my inability to find record of GEN Mattis serving in Vietnam).

-to speak and read several languages at a high level of fluency (to include Russian).

-to read the emails of high-level Russian officials (including Putin).

-to regularly hang out with the King of Belgium, Pope Emeritus Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger), and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

-to have multiple PhDs (plus is a graduate of seminary).

-to be 6’ 5” tall, an undergraduate of University of Colorado, and is currently 65 years old (as of 30 December 2016).

All of these are “facts” (among others) that he has dropped during numerous conversations on social media while continuing his largest claims that World War III is just around the corner—something he says he knows because he regularly reads the emails of Russian officials—and that it will involve collusion between Russians and Chinese forces. In a comment thread he mentioned that China was one of the top issues facing the United States. When asked why, he responded, “Because they’ve decided with Russia on WW3…. which is why Mattis got this job [of SECDEF]. I read their mail. Every day.”

When asked why he was saying this on Facebook and whether or not it was classified, he responded by saying that “it isn’t classified to say it’s classified.”

RTWT

10 Sep 2017

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To Free Speech

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The Onion:

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts. “Unfortunately, late Monday evening, a major failure in our news feed program allowed a significant number of users to come into contact with concepts unfamiliar to them,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg, appearing contrite as he emphasized to reporters that the issue had been resolved and that it was now safe to visit the social media site again without fear of encountering any opinions, notions, or perspectives not aligning with one’s existing worldview. “To those who were forced to read a headline they did not agree with when they visited Facebook yesterday, we are deeply sorry. It’s an inexcusable failing on our part if your viewpoints were not reinforced by what you saw onscreen. I want all Facebook users to know that you’ll never again encounter any ideas on our site that are in any way novel or ideologically challenging to you—that’s my personal promise.”

HT: Karen L. Myers.

17 Aug 2017

Scary

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The Washington Post reports that many of the key companies providing social networking, financial transfer, and even web-site registration have now decided to take it upon themselves to decide just who is, and who is not, worthy of Internet services and access.

Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all.

The new moves go beyond censoring individual stories or posts. Tech companies such as Google, GoDaddy and PayPal are now reversing their hands-off approach about content supported by their services and making it much more difficult for alt-right organizations to reach mass audiences.

But the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of free speech in America. …

The censorship of hate speech by companies passes constitutional muster, according to First Amendment experts. But they said there is a downside of thrusting corporations into that role.

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal responsibility, they added. The companies have limited experience handling these issues. They must answer to shareholders and demonstrate growth in users or profits — weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.

These platforms are also so massive — Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base; GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites — it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.

Still, tech companies are forging ahead. On Wednesday, Facebook said it canceled the page of white nationalist Christopher Cantwell, who was connected to the Charlottesville rally. The company has shut down eight other pages in recent days, citing violations of the company’s hate speech policies. Twitter has suspended several extremist accounts, including @Millennial_Matt, a Nazi-obsessed social media personality.

On Monday, GoDaddy delisted the Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi site, after its founder celebrated the death of a woman killed in Charlottesville. The Daily Stormer then transferred its registration to Google, which also cut off the site. The site has since retreated to the “dark Web,” making it inaccessible to most Internet users.

PayPal late Tuesday said it would bar nearly three dozen users from accepting donations on its online payment platform following revelations that the company played a key role in raising money for the white supremacist rally.

In a lengthy blog post, PayPal outlined its long-standing policy of not allowing its services to be used to accept payments or donations to organizations that advocate racist views.

You won’t however find any mention of ANTIFA, the CPUSA, or any group on the Left receiving this kind of attention.

RTWT

22 Jun 2017

Tattletales Went Sneaking to Prigs at Harvard

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The Tab has examples of the naughty jokes posted in a private Facebook group that led to ten students admitted to the Harvard Class of 2021 having their admissions rescinded.

We learn, too, that the authorities at Harvard found out about the offending postings in the first place because a number of fellow future Harvard classmates tattled to the Admissions Office.

Wow! Maybe having one’s admission rescinded and not attending college for four years with certain sanctimonious little shits isn’t such a misfortune after all. Me, if I were running that Admissions Office, I’d have rescinded the admissions of all the little sneaks who ratted out their classmates.

Wyatt Hurt, another member of the Class of 2021, said: “I wasn’t surprised by the actions of the administration and I thought that they were the right actions to take. Other students I’ve talked to, from Harvard and otherwise, all generally agree that it was the right action as well.

“Harvard is one of the schools that is shaping the leaders of the future – it’s absolutely a privilege to attend, and when those students posted such hateful material it became clear that they weren’t honoring that privilege.

“As far as how administration found out, I know that a few other admitted students sent screenshots to the admissions office.”

———————

Apart from our contemporary era’s loss of consciousness of the sense of loyalty and group solidarity that, in the past, would have regarded informing on a fellow classmate as contemptible and dishonorable, reading all this caused me to reflect once again that the Great Big Brains running our most illustrious Establishment institutions are not only fascist prigs, they are just plain stupid.

The people running the Harvard Admissions Office demonstrably not only lack senses of humor, they clearly do not understand how humor works.

To regard posting memes based upon transgressive humor as a punishable offense, you would have to be taking the joke literally, as an authentic statement of a real proposition or opinion, which is, of course, absurd. Humor works in a variety of ways. One pretty well-known kind of humor is the genre of transgressive humor, a category that would include the “dirty joke.” There is no mystery here. Everyone ought to recognize the kind of jokes I am referring to. Minority and Gay and Left-wing comedians all make very much a specialty of using jokes which cross taboo lines, jokes which violate propriety and conventional bourgeois sensibilities.

This is actually perfectly natural in comedy. One basic way that humor works is by the reversal of the audience’s expectation, what Gilbert & Sullivan, who in their comic operettas amused audiences by having respectable principals humorously disclose the basest and most cynical motivations in song, referred to a Topsy-Turvy-dom. There are all sorts of ways of reversing the audience’s expectation to get a laugh. One can have a cartoon cat chase the dog, the rabbit defeat the hunter, the roadrunner best the coyote again and again. And, another standard technique of humor is to deliberately cross the boundaries of proper language, sexual reference, or propriety. In our own age, in which political correctness is a potent force, violating PC by mocking or expressing negative attitudes toward minority sacred cows is obviously a potential gold mine for improper humor.

When a person tells a travelling salesman joke, it actually does not mean that he literally despises farmers and their daughters, or that he really thinks farmer’s daughters are readily seducible. When someone repeats an ethnic or racial joke, it does not mean that the person literally believes its contents to be true, or that he is a bigot or a racist.

Indulging in improper, off-color humor can be a way of letting of steam, or a way of expressing momentary boredom with the obligations of propriety. It can even be a way of reinforcing group solidarity, by causing members of a group (a bunch of the men at a party or some group of soon-to-be-entering Harvard freshmen) to collaborate in mischievously and covertly violating social norms. This, of course, is why, a few years ago, the DKE initiation at Yale had pledges stand outside the Feminist Center and chant: “No means yes!”

When adult authorities at places like Yale and Harvard routinely mistake mildly rambunctious adolescent speech in obviously humorous contexts for authentic forms of thought crime, I would contend, it demonstrates that levels of both mutton-headed stupidity and sanctimonious self-righteousness on the part of the people running things in those places have risen to intolerable levels.

09 Jun 2017

Ooops! Harvard Offed the Daughter of a Major Donor

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Whipping a heretic.

Boston.com reports that at least one of the students who had their admissions to Harvard rescinded over private jokes on Facebook is closely related to somebody Harvard does not want to be messing with.

The daughter of a major donor to Harvard University was among the accepted students whose offer of admission was rescinded following the revelation that some incoming freshman were posting obscene and offensive memes in a private Facebook group chat, The Boston Globe reports.

At least 10 students lost their place at the university, according to The Harvard Crimson, which first reported the story on Sunday. Students in the chat allegedly shared offensive memes targeting minorities and mocking child abuse, sexual assault, and the Holocaust.

According to the Globe, after someone notified the admissions office about the posts, school administrators contacted students who posted the material in the spring and asked them to explain their actions.

Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor emeritus, called the school’s actions “dangerous” and a “serious mistake.”

“These actions are not consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment,” he told the Globe. Dershowitz told the paper he had not seen the posts and had no first-hand knowledge of the situation.

That little girl should get Daddy to hire Alan Dershowitz to sue Harvard and to sue personally the University bureaucrats who violated her privacy and trampled her free speech rights. Her father ought to ask his attorney to represent the other nine victims as well.

06 Jun 2017

So Much For Privacy and Free Speech

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At The Game in 2004, Yalies tricked Harvard fans into holding up signs creating this message.”

The Crimson reports:

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups [i.e., Jokes] in a private Facebook group chat.

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvard’s decision to rescind a student’s offer is final. …

The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.

“A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” Jessica Zhang ’21, an incoming freshman who joined both chats, wrote in an email. “Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”

Messages shared in the original group were mostly “lighthearted,” wrote Zhang, who said she did not post in the splitoff meme group and that her admission offer was not rescinded. But some members soon suggested forming “a more R-rated” meme chat, according to Cassandra Luca ’21, who joined the first meme group but not the second, and who also said her offer was not revoked.

Luca said the founders of the “dark” group chat demanded that students post provocative memes in the larger messaging group before allowing them to join the splinter group.

“They were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,’” Luca said. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”

Employees in the Admissions Office emailed students who posted offensive memes in mid-April asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group, according to one member of the chat whose admission offer was revoked. The student spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified with the messages.

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics,” reads a copy of the Admissions Office’s email obtained by The Crimson. “As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee.”

“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email reads.

The anonymous student also said that administrators informed implicated students that their admissions status was under review and instructed them not to come to Visitas, Harvard’s annual weekend of programming for prospective freshmen held at the end of April. Roughly a week later, at least ten members of the group chat received letters informing them that their offers of admission had been withdrawn.

The description for the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, set up and maintained by the Admissions Office, disclaims all administrative responsibility for “unofficial groups” and warns members their admissions offers can be rescinded under specific circumstances.

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character,” the description reads.

Luca said she had mixed feelings about the administration’s move to revoke admissions offers. She said she was “going back and forth” on the matter.

“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” Luca said. “I don’t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasn’t Harvard-affiliated, it was people doing stupid stuff.”

She added, though, that if memes sent over the chat posed any kind of threat to members’ lives or well-being, then she believed administrators’ actions were justified.

Other members of the Class of 2021 said they strongly supported the Admissions Office’s decision. Zhang wrote that she thought the students’ actions were indefensible, and that the administration was correct in choosing to penalize those who posted obscene images.

“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang wrote. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”

“I do not know how those offensive images could be defended,” she added.

Wyatt Hurt ’21, who said he did not participate in either meme chat, agreed and said he was glad administrators took action.

“I haven’t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice and I think that as an incoming student—we all have our group chats and everything like that going on—we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision,” he said.

Hurt added that he recently attended several scholarship conferences and that students he met at those events—many of whom he said planned to matriculate at Ivy League schools—also agreed that “rescinding was definitely the way to go.”

This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat, prompting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 to issue a joint statement condemning the students’ actions.

“Harvard College and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid were troubled and disappointed to see a conversation that included graphics with offensive themes,” Khurana and Fitzsimmons wrote in their statement, which they posted on the Class of 2020’s Facebook page.

But administrators chose not to discipline members of the Class of 2020 who authored the messages. Then-Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said in an interview at the time that the individuals in question were “not matriculated students at this point.

RTWT

Where does Harvard get off investigating the content of teenage admittees’ jokes in a private group on social media?

This country needs a federal law absolutely protecting the privacy of all electronic communication, including both email and social media. Beyond that, email services and social media companies ought to be held liable when private communications are intruded upon with resulting injury to their owners.

One is inclined to advise those wronged ten students that they ought to consider themselves lucky that Fate has saved them from becoming members of that community of prigs and Pharisees in Cambridge. In a properly-run world, the president of Yale would respond by ordering letters of admission sent to each of those ten kids.

22 Feb 2017

Richard Fernandez Observes

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