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MARK ZUCKERBERG REFUSES RESPONSIBILITY FOR FACEBOOK’S LATEST, GREATEST SCANDAL


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On a press call with reporters, the Facebook C.E.O. denied knowledge of the Republican oppo-research firm his company hired to handle its aggressive public-relations campaign.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg was unusually animated, his voice rising as he struggled to extricate himself from Facebook’s latest crisis. The original point of the call had been to discuss “content governance” on Facebook’s platform, and a new transparency memo regarding the social network’s community standards. Instead, the 34-year-old C.E.O. found himself fending off accusations that Facebook, at the height of the Russian interference and Cambridge Analytica scandals, had employed a Republican opposition-research firm to sway public opinion and smear its critics. Zuckerberg, famously stoic, even robotic in his mannerisms and emotions, sounded exasperated as he fielded almost all of the questions on the nearly 90-minute call, hardly any of which were related to content governance, transparency, or community standards.

The call was a reckoning more than two years in the making. Since the 2016 election, Facebook has been working to rehabilitate its public profile, culminating in an apology tour that took Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill in April. Addressing senators under oath, Zuckerberg had promised that he understood where Facebook had gone wrong, and described a good-faith effort to do better in the future. But as The New York Times reported Wednesday in a more than 5,000-word, five-byline bombshell, Facebook’s actual conduct had been far less responsive—and far more cynical. According to the Times, it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that Facebook was tipped off to Russian interference on its platform, leading the company’s chief security officer at the time, Alex Stamos, to investigate. When Stamos presented his findings to Zuckerberg, C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, and other top executives, Sandberg was furious. “Looking into the Russian activity without approval, she said, had left the company exposed legally,” the Times reports.

Sandberg and Zuckerberg asked Stamos to study the issue further, but a paper containing the findings was never released, following objections from Joel Kaplan,Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy, and other Facebook executives. Republicans, Kaplan said, would accuse the company of siding with Democrats regarding whether Russia had sought to elect Donald Trump. Sandberg reportedly agreed. Later, as evidence of Russian infiltration became more dire, Zuckerberg and Sandberg agreed to release some of the findings in a blog post. But after Stamos and his team drafted the post, the Times reports, Sandberg and her deputies pushed to make it less specific. Critical information about the legitimacy of the 2016 election may have been buried.

While Facebook publicly downplayed the severity of the Russian problem, Stamos was still grappling with how to fix it. In September 2017, when Stamos informed Sandberg that the issue still wasn’t under control, a ferocious boardroom interrogation of Sandberg ensued. “You threw us under the bus!” she reportedly yelled at Stamos, who she apparently believed had betrayed the company by revealing its security problem.

Meanwhile, according to the Times, Sandberg was aggressively building inroads in Washington, doing everything possible to lobby and pressure lawmakers to keep regulation at bay. After Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar introduced the Honest Ads Act, legislation that could compel social-media companies to say who bought ads on their sites, Facebook hired Luke Albee, Warner’s former chief of staff, to lobby against it, and tried to appeal to Klobuchar, who was featured on the Web site for Sandberg’s female-empowerment book Lean In. (Sandberg was notably absent during Thursday’s call with reporters.) In perhaps the ugliest and most revealing response to the mounting backlash, the Times reports that in October 2017, Facebook hired a political-consulting group called Definers Public Affairs, helmed in part by former Jeb Bush staffer and Crooked Media contributor Tim Miller, to ingratiate itself among conservatives and seed negative stories about its competitors:

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called [Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook] hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative outlets, including Breitbart.

Among the details that have been most inflammatory is the claim that Definers promoted conspiracy theories tying criticism of Facebook to Democratic mega-donor George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who has been vilified by the far right and anti-Semites, and who was recently the target of an attempted bombing.

A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast Mr. Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement.

He was a natural target. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, he had attacked Facebook and Google, describing them as a monopolist “menace” with “neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions.”

While Definers was encouraging reporters to investigate the financial ties between Soros’s family and groups critical of Facebook, it also played the other side, “lobbying a Jewish civil-rights group to cast some criticism of [Facebook] as anti-Semitic.” (On his call with reporters Thursday, Zuckerberg said he has “tremendous respect for George Soros.”)

Facebook’s lengthy statement in response to the Times story lists a “number of inaccuracies,” and the company denies it knew about Russian activity as early as spring of 2016. But the statement itself doesn’t contradict the Times’s reporting. Facebook’s board of directors also issued a statement that acknowledges it pushed Zuckerberg and Sandberg to move faster once it spotted Russian interference, but characterized the idea that they “knew about Russian interference, and either tried to ignore it or prevent investigations,” as “grossly unfair.”

Facebook’s contract with Definers may be more complicated. On Wednesday, Facebook terminated its relationship with the political consultancy, and on his call with reporters, Zuckerberg was adamant that he had never even heard of the company. “This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with,” Zuckerberg said at one point. At another, he said, “I learned about this relationship when I read the New York Times piece yesterday.” When the question was posed a third time, he shrugged it off. “Someone on our comms team must have hired them.”

Journalists covering the story were incredulous. Definers is a well-known oppo firm, and prior to the end of its business relationship with Facebook, sent reporters myriad messages and e-mails in support of Facebook and decrying the company’s critics. It seems highly unlikely that Zuckerberg would not have been aware of its involvement in his company’s external public-relations campaigns. What’s more, Definers’ work was only one component of a broader P.R. effort led by Zuckerberg’s top deputies. According to the Times, Sandberg and Kaplan pressured members of the intelligence community not to criticize Facebook’s response to Russian interference. They also worked to cultivate Republican supporters in Congress to shore up Facebook’s political position. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in March, Kaplan promoted Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman who also served in the Bush administration, to lead Facebook’s U.S. lobbying. As part of this effort, the Times reports, Facebook broke ranks with much of Silicon Valley to support a sex-trafficking bill that holds Internet companies liable for sex-trafficking ads on their Web sites—a way to curry bipartisan favor on the Hill.

On one level, it is shocking that the Times story was reported at all. Facebook is a famously secretive organization, particularly within its upper ranks. That multiple executives vented their frustrations to the Times is evidence that the once-impenetrable social-media juggernaut has sprung a few leaks. But it is equally shocking, if not surprising, how Facebook appears to have closed ranks. At the moment, it’s not clear who, if anyone, will answer for the company’s P.R. skulduggery surrounding the 2016 election. Zuckerberg did not directly answer questions about whether any heads would roll during Thursday’s call, and signaled his steadfast support for Sandberg, his top lieutenant since 2008. “Sheryl is doing great work for the company,” Zuckerberg said. “She is leading a lot of the efforts to improve our systems. While these are big issues, we’re making a lot of progress, and a lot of that is because of the work she’s doing.”

Will this latest crisis be the one that finally turns public sentiment decisively against the company, or will it only scandalize the media? Facebook, after all, has weathered several storms that would knock out a smaller company with a less viable public-relations muscle. Congress may yet become a pain point, especially given the bipartisan desire to see Zuckerberg in the stockades and new regulations imposed. But Democrats and Republicans still disagree in their aims, and remain equally clueless when it comes to specifics. At least for now, the party that seems most injured by the Times bombshell is Definers, which lost a lucrative partnership and saw its name become radioactive. Facebook, despite deserving far worse, sails on.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/11/mark-zuckerberg-refuses-responsibility-for-facebooks-latest-greatest-scandal

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    • Joshua 2 ---> 1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. 10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it. 12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, 13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; 15 Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord's servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising. 16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.
    • 6 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. 3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord. 7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord. 8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the Lord, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. 11 So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp. 12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the Lord, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days. 15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord. 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. 26 And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. 27 So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.
    • As referenced in the Bible Book of Joshua
    • 19 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: 13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. 14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. 15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. 16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. 17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. 18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: 19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: 20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. 21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. 22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. 26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: 28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt. 30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
    • 3 Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. 2 And he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom. 4 And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool. 5 But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel. 7 And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses. 8 And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom. 9 So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them. 10 And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab! 11 But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. 12 And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. 13 And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab. 14 And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. 15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. 16 And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. 17 For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. 18 And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand. 19 And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. 20 And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. 21 And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. 22 And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: 23 And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. 24 And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country. 25 And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. 26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.
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