weekly yikes report for jan 28-feb 3

I’ll preface this week’s Yikes by saying there’s a lot of genuine WTF stories. 2019 has really hit the ground running!

Two incidents were reported on Tuesday that, in a better world, would absolutely not be happening. But they both expose larger endemic issues we have not properly dealt with and will only get worse in the current climate.

A young mother died after falling down the flight of stairs at a NYC subway station. I can picture everyone ignoring Malaysia, a black woman, struggling down the steep, old steps while carrying her daughter (who luckily survived). NYC subway stations are notoriously inaccessible, and only a quarter of the nearly 500 subway stations have elevators. Considering the volume of people who are traveling along the MTA subways every day, ensuring these stops are ADA compliant and fucking safe should be the top of the agency’s priorities.

One of the common threads I try to amplify in Yikes is how poorly we treat black women in this society. This incident breaks my heart because it’s just another example of our failure, our lack of compassion. Do people ever consider our reactions to a black mother struggling versus a white mother? Will there suddenly be an initiative to get accessible entrances to more subway stops now?

The actor Jussie Smollett, most notably of Empire, has been hospitalized following a hate crime attack in Chicago. Two men wearing ski masks forced a noose around his neck, yelled racist and homophobic slurs, assaulted Jussie physically and with some unknown substance. Luckily Smollett was able to get himself to the hospital, where he’s in good condition.

This essay in elle discusses the problem with the way we talk about incidences like this: “racially charged“, “racially tinged“. We care more about white people and their fear of being called straight-out racist than having honest discussions. If we can’t even grapple with the proper language, how can we move forward as a society? I can only imagine what queer black folks in this country are dealing with, hearing about an incident that is literally domestic terrorism.

Civil forfeiture is a fucked up practice that doesn’t get enough attention with all the other injustices competing for space in our brains daily. This article details just how awful the practice has become in South Carolina. Naturally there is a big racist element to the police seizing property from citizens, black people are stopped at an exceedingly high considering the state is 69% white. The civil forfeiture law was used by a city to try and take away a woman’s home, because she wasn’t doing enough to stop crime on the sidewalk. A system that was meant to seize items from big time drug lords and criminal masterminds is being used on everyday citizens who have done nothing more than switch lanes without signalling. The abuse of power, and the lack of a check on that power, is appalling.

ProPublica and others recently discovered their Facebook ad transparency tools have stopped working. Facebook’s response was that they regularly make tweaks to comply with their Terms of Service, and it certainly wasn’t directed at tools showing users exactly how their data is sold. 🙄 It’s very clear that Facebook does not want the public to have this kind of access. Luckily outlets like ProPublica are great at making noise over these issues. Support them if you can!

Meanwhile, Facebook’s own ad archive is only available in 3 countries and doesn’t include all the political ads in the US, and leaves out important targeting data.

Facebook has also been paying teenagers to install a VPN to find out what they are doing with their screen time when not on FB.

Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. 

via TechCrunch

Not only is the data-hungry company exploiting teens, they are acclimating them to the notion that every corporation should have access to people’s sensitive information as long as they pay for it. Facebook’s statement about having their research app pulled from the app store shows they feel completely within their rights to gather sensitive info, and I have no doubt they will just rename the app and try again.

Facebook’s earnings report is, unfortunately, incentive for them to keep doing exactly this. Despite all the negative press surrounding hacks and shitty tactics, the company is making more money and, somehow, more people in the US and Canada are using the app. Even after a recent plateauing of users and a strong #DeleteFacebook sentiment, the overall sense is that most people just don’t care about data privacy. People are happy to give Facebook access to whatever, it means ads they might actually click on, and they get to go comment on the college BFFs photo albums or whatever. Will Oremus of Slate discusses the idea that the media is perhaps more invested in user privacy than the average person is. It seems doubtful that this latest scandal will make a dent in public perception either.

The Human Rights Campaign’s national press secretary Sarah McBride was viciously harassed during a meeting Wednesday. HRC’s Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council and members of Congress were meeting to discuss the Equality Act when two TERFs barged right in. They purposefully misgender Sarah and claim she is promoting an agenda of violence against women. A video of the harassment was streamed live on Facebook.

Parker Molloy made an excellent point in stating that we should have the same outrage for this incident that we did for the MAGA teens harassing a Native American. The problem is, people seem much more accepting/willing to play down transphobic behavior than other public harassment incidents. If we don’t stand up for the marginalized in our society, the TERFs and the racists and bigots will steamroll their way to mainstream. The fact that these extremists feel empowered enough to burst into these important meetings in order to center their narrative is destructive enough. But if us cis allies don’t stand up and fight back, we will be hearing many more of these terrible stories.

ICE is force-feeding detainees who are on hunger strike. This kind of violence on people SEEKING ASYLUM is not surprising considering that two children have died in their custody and a trans woman was beaten to death. People seeking asylum should not be treated this way. It seems like each week there’s a new Yikes story from ICE or Border Patrol. America has become so militarized that the thought of abolishing ICE seems radical, but it shouldn’t be.

I don’t care about football or the superbowl at all, but I do love New Orleans and all the Saints fans having a Very NOLA™ protest party. Never change.