Social media maelstrom
Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg finally stepped out yesterday to try to stanch the bleeding that has his empire under full-scale assault after revelations that information on 50 million users was improperly harvested and used by the political data firm Cambridge Analytica in its work on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
He vowed to investigate the use of third-party apps on the site that utilize quizzes to gather all sorts of information from users — the method by which the UK firm obtained the mother lode of data on Facebook users.
Social media can quickly giveth — and taketh away. A #DeleteFacebook movement, which is urging people to close their accounts, is just one sign of what the New York Times calls “Facebook’s worst crisis since it was founded by Mr. Zuckerberg and others in 2004.”
The social media privacy issue has now landed in the Massachusetts Legislature, and it is exposing an uncomfortable tension between privacy rights and heightened concerns about bias among law enforcement officers.
Sen. Cynthia Creem has filed legislation that would ban employers and educational institutions from demanding access to applicants’ social media accounts. The measure unanimously passed the Senate this month and seems like a reasonable privacy guardrail.
But it is drawing sharp opposition from the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, which says scouring social media accounts is crucial to screening out would-be law enforcement officers who have posted racist, homophobic, or other messages that would “tarnish the badge.”
Earlier this month a state trooper was suspended indefinitely without pay as officials investigate whether he is the person behind social media posts under the screen name “Big Irish” that disparaged minorities. Last year, a Boston police officer was suspended for six months without pay and had other sanctions imposed for posting what the Herald calls a “racially charged video.”
Yesterday, Creem defended her bill. “It is important we have the ability to have our social media account be private and to get a job or go to a school to not have that school or employer say we have to give them our private information,” she told the Herald. “We don’t have people looking through our homes and mail. There is a certain level of privacy people expect.”
Social media posts, however, occupy a new kind of gray area. They aren’t private letters sent to an individual, but neither are they fully public speech, especially when made on platforms where users have the ability to limit access to their posts to a particular circle of people.
“We strongly believe that the integrity of police organizations across this Commonwealth outweighs privacy implications under certain circumstances,” Chelsea police Chief Brian Kyes, legislative chairman of the chiefs’ association, told the Herald.
Some lawmakers say even that goes too far in invading privacy rights. The police chiefs say it doesn’t go far enough and that level of access would be too late.
Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland said she has the votes to become Senate president. (CommonWealth)
A tough 2014 Massachusetts gun law has had little impact on gun violence, according to a report required by the law itself. (WGBH)
An Eagle-Tribune editorial called for passage of legislation regulating short-term rentals.
The state’s district attorneys are backing a $5 million budget request to fund a program aimed at helping released convicts not recidivate. (Boston Herald)
State Rep. Michelle DuBois’ move to rid the State House of the “General Hooker Entrance” sign because, well, you know, is now receiving national derision, with the National Review calling it a “stupid complaint” and Reason magazine saying it’s the “ultimate in futile, fainting-couch feminism.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pulls back his proposed regulatory framework for short-term rentals, saying it needs more work. (CommonWealth)
The Quincy City Council, looking to stem criminal activity, is looking to eliminate “no-tell motels” by requiring a government ID when checking in and prohibiting cash-only payments. (Patriot Ledger)
Boston’s remarkable renaissance over the last 40 years will be jeopardized if the region does not tackle income inequality, housing affordability, and the need for a robust transit system, says Boston Foundation president Paul Grogan. (Boston Globe)
The New York Times pieces together surveillance footage showing the last days of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas gunman, including video showing him hauling bags of weapons to his room as if they were luggage. What the paper can’t find and the video doesn’t reveal is why he did it.
A Herald editorial says Massachusetts incumbent officials need more challengers, including in primary elections.
The new tariffs President Trump is imposing on imported steel and aluminum could spell trouble for the state’s $70 million cranberry industry, which may now face a 25 percent tariff from European countries. (Boston Globe)
Tow truck drivers turn out in droves in North Andover to honor Daniel Coady Jr., a 41-year-old father of two who was killed when a vehicle crashed into him as he was hooking up a disabled vehicle on I-495. (Gloucester Times) The tribute caused a huge traffic jam. (Eagle-Tribune)
The just-announced rate hike by the Federal Reserve was expected by analysts with the growth of the economy and job market but experts say the language of new Chairman Jerome Powell indicates a new aggressiveness by the central bank with more regular interest rate hikes in the future. (U.S. News & World Report)
Springfield police arrest three teens over three days for threatening violence at a school on social media. (MassLive)
The new superintendent-receiver of the Southbridge schools wants to cut at least 30 jobs. (Telegram & Gazette)
Marianne Busteed was named permanent head of Lowell High School, ending a long, controversial search process. (Lowell Sun)
The Dennis-Yarmouth School Committee rejected a proposal that would cut all social workers positions and instead approved a budget with a 3.9 percent increase. The spending plan must still get the approval of voters and selectmen in both towns. (Cape Cod Times)
Students and parents at Algonquin High School, which serves Northborough and Southborough, are lobbying for a later start time because buses have to pick up and drop off so early in the morning. (MetroWest Daily News)
Scientists led by a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have identified a new gene associated with ALS that may help the effort to identify more ways to treat the disease. (Boston Herald)
Women who enter training programs in surgery and have children find it difficult to balance the training demands and motherhood, according to a new survey by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Boston Globe)
The Berkshire Flyer, seasonal rail service between Pittsfield and New York City, was dropped from the state rail plan. (Berkshire Eagle)
Registry of Motor Vehicles officials, who have made big strides in recent years to reduce notoriously long wait times at RMV offices in part by getting more people to renew drivers licenses online, are bracing for a deluge at branch offices as the state begins issuing more thoroughly vetted Real IDs, which require drivers who want the new licenses, which will be required starting in 2020 to board domestic fights to enter federal buildings, to apply in person. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth reported longer wait times were ahead on Monday.
The Steamship Authority’s rough winter continued as the newly refurbished Martha’s Vineyard ferry was knocked out of service for the second time in four days by a power failure caused by a faulty generator. The ferry also ran aground in the Vineyard last week. (Cape Cod Times)
Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter is proposing eliminating the medical marijuana overlay district in a small area on the city’s west side and allow dispensaries to operate in all the commercial zones. The plan would also limit recreational sales to the downtown area. (The Enterprise)
Both the Bourne Board of Selectmen and the town’s Finance Committee declined to support two Special Town Meeting articles that would ban recreational marijuana. (Cape Cod Times)
A federal judge canceled the corruption trial of two Boston City Hall aides, a prelude to the expected dismissal of the case which prosecutors said would be impossible to win under the judge’s instructions that they must prove the defendants personally benefited from actions to ensure union workers were hired for a city-sponsored music festival. (Boston Herald)
Law enforcement experts say big steps need to be taken to restore accountability in the problem-plagued State Police. (Boston Globe)
Methuen Mayor James Jajuga sued Valley Patriot publisher Thomas Duggan for defamation after Duggan wrote, among other things, that Jajuga was a former heroin addict, a “crooked cop,” and a “crooked politician.” (Eagle-Tribune)MassLive reports on how the State Police overtime scandal came to light, in part because of public records requests by WCVB.
Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Money are for sale. (New York Times)