Zeaun Zarrieff from Amerihub Technologies is someone who is highly experienced with Facebook advertising and the algorithm by which the social media giant handles what posts people see. Zeaun and several of his peers have, after seeing the way Facebook has changed over the years, become suspicious of the way in which the site censors certain posts and topics.
As someone who is concerned about protecting people’s privacy and their right to free speech on Facebook, Zeaun answered some questions for us about what privacy risks there are and how people can protect their rights to their data.
Hi Zeaun, what are your concerns about the privacy of your data on Facebook?
As an avid, and long-paying Facebook user (I happily engage in certain professional business transactions with Facebook, and have for years), I began to notice a sharp and visible erosion in apparent access and functionality within their branded “Apps” across multiple platforms, with Apple’s iPhone being the “worst” (in terms of apparent user experience erosion) of the assortment of devices tested, which included Apple iPad Retina devices, Android devices of Chinese origin (intended to test the user experience differences presented to offshore-made devices, and “Safely” purchased via Amazon.com’s Prime service) and more.
What this manner of comparative testing and analysis, coupled with my long-standing membership in Facebook’s developers.facebook.com community, and with Amerihub’s deep understanding and experience with advertising on Facebook, led to be a series of stark realizations.
- I realized that the apparent accelerating erosion of access to one’s own data within Facebook (via various “Apps”, including HTML [HyperText Markup Language]) could not be unique to myself. I asked others to test. I received reports indicating the same.
- Facebook itself is rife with credible reports from Black Americans (my own community, whom I speak to right now, even via this interview, with your assistance, for which I am grateful) regarding “Censorship” and “Lack of Free Speech”. I also have experienced much of what these very credible reports describe.
- If I, as technical professional was not able to reliably and repeatably access certain bits of my data, what else may be “Hidden”? Who else may be affected?
Are there any ways to use Facebook without putting your data at risk?
In order to know how to approach your question, we would first need to see a Public Audit of Facebook occur, or to receive credible and verifiable results from a Private Audit by a Third Party with the trust of America – and I doubt either of those fit within Facebook’s near-term, or even long-term plans.
The prior is why I have adopted the #auditFacebook (“hashtag Audit Facebook”) tag as my rallying cry for Black America, and America by extension, to hold Facebook and other Social Media platform owners accountable.
Not the techs. The Owners.
What is the ‘Facebook Audit’ and what its significance for users to use it?
#auditFacebook (“hashtag Audit Facebook”) is a fundamental mindset shift for America. You have every right to access every piece of data a social media provider collects from you. In a fair and just world you would even be able to audit the raw database tables your data is stored within, and the operating system, servers, network infrastructure, and more involved – but I am concerned that America may have dipped too far toward totalitarianism to even consider the promise of a nation where businesses are the ones held most accountable, and where citizens have the means to verify the same.
What makes you believe that Facebook deliberately censors posts by Black Americans?
First and foremost, my own personal experience. I have been in “Facebook Jail” more times than I can count – and I play by the rules – almost “religiously”, which forces me to learn the rules extremely well in order to be effective on Facebook.
This has led me, as any Black American reading or listening to this may expect, to “hit a brick wall” again and again regarding many posts relating to Black History, American atrocities against Black People, Modern Slavery (which Cambridge defines as, “The condition of being forced by threats or violence to work for little or no pay, and of having no power to control what work you do or where you do it…”, a definition which I believe that any reasonable person could easily correlate with what occurs to Black Americans in American prisons, to this very day), censorship, herbal and alternative health, and much more.
In short, we have been, up until 2020 (Ramadan 1441, to be specific), “wearing an AI muffle” on social media. I am sounding the alarm that the time is up and encouraging others to join me in doing so.
What types of posts are most commonly censored?
Do this: Ask any black person you like to go to Facebook via their normal means, preferably alongside a white person from a different neighbourhood (this can be done safely online during near-worldwide Social Distancing measures, laws, and statutes) and let them compare the results for any search term, or for any hashtag, or with regard to being able to post identical content from the following list:
- Black History
- American Slavery (especially with photographs and videos)
- Mainstream medicine and healthcare
- Alternative Healthcare and “Health Cures”
- So-called “Conspiracy Theories”
Also, please ask the same, or different, sets of colleagues to attempt to buy paid advertising on Facebook or to compare the user experience presented to each within the Facebook app on similar devices.
I suspect, in advance, that certain differences will become rapidly apparent to all involved. This is the power of Collective Verification – a core component to my “Faith”, which gives me what some have called ‘courage to speak out’.
I think of it as necessity, but whatever helps to motivate them to act.
Are there any ways for people to avoid having their posts censored while still raising important issues?
By auditing Facebook as private citizens. When a massive-enough number of Black Americans adopt the #auditFacebook (“hashtag Audit Facebook”) methodology, and iterate upon it, America, and the world, will be forced to take notice.
What should people do about it?
View the videos and documents on my official social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and more) relating to the #auditFacebook (“hashtag Audit Facebook”) hashtag, and those of others connected to me on those platforms.
Within that growing body of work Facebook users within Black America, and across America as a whole, may come to understand an approach and methodology which would empower America to hold social media platforms accountable for transparency and privacy at last.
It has become clear that there is no United States Government Agency which intends to break down the barriers on social media for black people in America, so we have to now do it for ourselves.
America, as a whole, should support this effort. When Citizens win, a Nation wins.
What’s next for your plans?
(Zeaun laughs briefly), to “Solve World Hunger” before purchasing a national landmass for Black America, or did you not see that Press Release (which has “Jazakallah”’s [The pious Arabic equivalent of “Thanks”] already arriving).
On Facebook. Public. Verifiable. On Record.
Thank you Zeaun for your time!
You can follow up with Zeaun Zarrieff at https://www.instagram.com/zeaun/
Fergus Murray is the lead editor for Business News Ledger. Fergus has been working as a freelance journalist for nearly a decade having published stories in the New York Times, The Plain Dealer, The Daily Mail and many others. Fergus is based in Detroit and covers issues affecting his city and New York State. When he is not busy writing, Fergus enjoys jogging.