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May 012013
 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Less than three weeks after Mark Zuckerberg officially launched his pro-immigration reform group, the billionaire technology mogul seems to be experiencing the Facebook equivalent of a liberal de-friending.

Progressive activists have been voicing their disapproval after two Zuckerberg-backed groups unveiled television ads last week that praised lawmakers for opposing Obamacare and supporting an expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The ads are meant to provide political cover for senators to cast politically risky votes in favor of immigration reform.

One of the ads, airing on behalf of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate’s bi-partisan “Gang of Eight,” features clips of the South Carolina Republican repeatedly disparaging President Obama. Another ad touts Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s work to open ANWR to drilling.

Those television commercials led the Sierra Club to post a message to the environmental group’s Facebook page on Monday urging Zuckerberg to “rethink his priorities.”

“Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is bankrolling political ads that push dangerous, dirty projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in America’s pristine Arctic Refuge,” says the message accompanying a thumbs-down graphic dripping with oil.

“Just last week, the Sierra Club announced our support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — so we know how important immigration reform is to the future of our country,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement to ABC News. “The way to achieve reform, however, isn’t by pushing dirty fuel schemes that threaten our future and our families. Mark Zuckerberg has made comments in the past recognizing that we need to pursue a clean energy future, and there is no reason he needs to trade those principles for a few political points.”

In addition to Graham and Begich, an off-shoot of Zuckerberg’s group, FWD.us, is financing a television commercial supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — the only one of the three ads that specifically mentions immigration reform.

FWD.us is funding two subsidiaries that are running the ads — the Republican-leaning Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Democratic-minded Council for American Job Growth.

Each group has a board of directors separate from FWD.us, which last week added the backing of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and its CEO Steve Ballmer as well as technology entrepreneur Sean Parker to an already impressive list of Silicon Valley leaders who have signed on as supporters.

Former New York Congressman Scott Murphy, former Clinton administration White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, and former Obama campaign official Alida Garcia are listed as board members for the Council for American Job Growth.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former George W. Bush administration official and Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan campaign adviser Dan Senor, and former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer sit on the Americans for a Conservative Direction board.

“Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum — separately — means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents,” FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said in a statement.

Although none of the ads imply that either Zuckeberg or FWD.us support policies like expanded oil drilling, detractors see little distinction between the group and its subsidiaries or between the group and Zuckerberg.

Their view that the ends (in this case, comprehensive immigration reform) do not justify the means (controversial political ads), has led at least two other groups — CREDO Action, the liberal arm of CREDO Mobile, a cellular phone company, and the “climate safety” organization, 350.org — to publicly lash out at Zuckerberg. A CREDO spokeswoman said 18,5000 people signed on an online petition condemning the ads and, along with 350.org, they are planning a protest outside Facebook headquarters in California on Wednesday.

Although FWD.us supporters include John Doerr, a prominent Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist; Reid Hoffman, executive chairman of LinkedIn; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix; and Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo!, so far the progressive ire has been focused almost exclusively on Zuckerberg.

Complicating matters are the Facebook founder’s somewhat mysterious political views. Zuckerberg and other technology leaders, for example, dined with President Obama in February 2011 and he hosted the president at a friendly town hall meeting two months later at Facebook’s offices.

But he also threw a fundraiser earlier this year for Gov. Chris Christie, the New Jersey Republican and potential 2016 presidential contender. (At the time CREDO Action organized a protest outside of Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto home.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg is registered to vote in Santa Clara County but did not state a party preference. Campaign finance records show he donated a total of $10,000 in 2011 and 2012 to Facebook’s political action committee.

In a Washington Post op-ed announcing his new advocacy group earlier this month, Zuckerberg expressed support for three major policy goals: “comprehensive immigration reform”; “higher standards and accountability in schools”; and “investment in breakthrough discoveries in scientific research.”

“We will work with members of Congress from both parties, the administration and state and local officials,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We will use online and offline advocacy tools to build support for policy changes, and we will strongly support those willing to take the tough stands necessary to promote these policies in Washington.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 102013
 

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(SEATTLE) — The parents of an Everett, Wash., middle school student are furious after they said a school administrator forced their daughter to log onto her Facebook page so he could investigate a cyber bullying case.

Samantha Negrete, a student at North Middle School, told her parents last Thursday she had been called to the front office and was ordered by her assistant principal to log on to her Facebook account so he could access her friends’ private pages.

“There was no right for anybody to come in and ask her to open up her personal information to obtain any information about anybody else.  That’s just something you cannot do,” said Samantha’s mother, Connie Becerra.

“He proceeded to sit down and go through students’ pages and opened up numerous kids’ Facebooks and was looking at pictures and postings,” she said.

A student was later called to the office and suspended for what the assistant principal saw, Samantha’s parents told ABC News’ Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV.

Everett Public Schools is investigating the incident, according to a district spokeswoman.

“What we do know is the bullying took place and the technicalities of how that was uncovered are part of the investigative process,” spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it will also conduct an investigation to determine whether Negrete’s rights were violated.

“Schools can’t search students’ private belongings or their private communication.  That student’s private communication is private,” an ACLU spokesperson said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 252013
 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A trio of lawmakers representing Newtown, Conn., where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, wrote a letter to Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to complain on behalf of families and victims who say they may have been exploited for their loss by bad actors on the popular social media site.

Since the tragedy Dec. 14, Facebook users have created hundreds of unofficial tribute pages dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook, including more than 100 tribute pages for first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who is hailed as a hero for shielding her students as she was gunned down in the shooting in which Adam Lanza allegedly killed 26 students and teachers.

But not all of the people behind some of the tribute pages have good intentions.

The letter, which is signed by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, asks Zuckerberg to remove Facebook pages cited in complaints submitted by Donna Soto, Victoria’s mother, and Kaitlin Roig, a Sandy Hook teacher who survived the shooting, “for violating the above terms of service.”

“Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims. Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud,” the trio wrote. “Pages providing platforms for people to violate the privacy of families as they grieve, or seek financial gain through soliciting donations under false pretenses, or generating Facebook ‘likes’ for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community.”

The lawmakers note that shady tributes violate several of Facebook’s terms of service, such as providing false personal information on Facebook, creating an account for someone else without permission and bullying, intimidation and harassment.

“If you do not believe these pages violate your terms of service, please detail in a written response why,” the letter reads. “If Facebook is already looking into this matter, please detail what you have done thus far to address the take-down requests from Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig.”

Esty’s office did not immediately provide a copy of the Soto/Roig take-down request, but the congressional offices pledged to work with Facebook to address their constituents’ grievances.

“We recognize that Facebook receives a large volume of reports and requests each day, but this issue deserves and needs priority enforcement of your own well-established policies,” the letter concludes. “We trust you will do the right thing.”

A Facebook spokesperson who asked not to be identified said the company “has been working closely” with families and a foundation representing Sandy Hook victims “to identify, review, and take action” on content posted to Facebook “in line with our terms.” The source said Facebook has also created a “dedicated staff” to address concerns related to the Sandy Hook shooting, and Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on its efforts.

“Hours after the tragedy, we reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance. We are continuing to work closely with the families and the foundation representing the victims of Sandy Hook to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to concerns,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “For the past few months, our rapid response team has acted swiftly to remove inappropriate materials flagged by the foundation and the families. We will continue to be vigilant.”

The spokesperson did not comment directly on the Soto/Roig take-down request.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 172013
 

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — Closing arguments are set to begin this week in the trial of a California teenager who allegedly lured his victim, an up and coming boxer, using a bogus Facebook profile and then fatally shot him.

Prosecutors say Manuel Edmundo Guzman Jr., 19, was the man hiding behind a phony Facebook profile of a fictional woman he named Rebecca Santhiago.

Guzman, who was 17 at the time Eddie Leal was gunned down, used photos of an East Coast Internet model in the profile in attempts to lure young men, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

His motive, prosecutors say, was simply to kill for a thrill.

On May 30, 2011, Leal, 23, a professional bantamweight boxer, went to meet Rebecca Santhiago, the sultry single he had been Facebook messaging with, at a San Jacinto park, according to prosecutors.

But first, Santhiago had asked Leal to pick her up a Four Loko drink, according to the Press-Enterprise in Riverside. She advised Leal to pick up her brother, who would guide him to a liquor store, the newspaper reported.

Instead, prosecutors say Leal met Guzman, who shot him multiple times.

Authorities found Leal shot to death in the driver’s seat of his Toyota Corolla, which they said hit a parked car during the ambush.

The Facebook profile was traced to a computer at Guzman’s mother’s house, where he lived, prosecutors said.

Guzman’s defense attorney, however, has argued that the case is circumstantial and said there is no evidence the teenager fired a gun.

If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jan 272013
 

ABC News(NEW YORK) — How does Chris Hughes, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and Facebook Co-founder, feel about Mark Zuckerberg hosting a fundraiser for Republican Governor Chris Christie?  Hughes joined ABC News in a web exclusive to discuss viewer questions from Facebook before the “This Week” roundtable on Sunday.

This week, Hughes launched a redesign of The New Republic, kicking off with a dynamic interview with President Obama.  Before ABC News’ Abby Phillip asked Hughes about the sit-down with Obama, she broached the topic of the Christie/ Zuckerberg alliance.

“I, for one, have a lot of questions about Chris Christie, particularly because less than a year ago he vetoed a marriage equality bill in the New Jersey state legislature,” Hughes said. “Which for me personally —  I got married to my husband last June —  was just really personally frustrating. I mean, there are tens of thousands of couples in New Jersey that can’t share their love and be recognized under the law because of that decision. I’m not a single issue voter, and I think most people aren’t either, but for me personally, it would raise serious concerns about supporting someone like him.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio