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Does Facebook smoosh conservative posts? YES. But regulation is not the answer


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

ZUCKERBERG TESTIFIES BEFORE CONGRESS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you back to last week when Mark Zuckerberg, who is the founder and head of Facebook testified before members of the Senate on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he went before the House of Representatives.

There were several issues that were focused upon: the privacy issue, the censorship issue and whether or not there’s a monopoly in Facebook.  

DR. REEDER: Tom, this is obviously a story for multiple reasons. By the way, it seems as if our culture thinks it’s a story because the televised hearings where Mr. Zuckerberg was called to testify have had an astounding viewership.

WHY A HEARING? WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE?

Let’s remember that these hearings are valid. Congress has hearings because, historically, they were for the purpose of identifying issues or movements or situations in which they needed to examine to see if that affects public policy.

But now, with the presence of the media and their being televised, these hearings have taken on a new dynamic and, instead of what used to be pretty much a closed-door event in which they would ask questions to find out from the witness the information they want, now you can note very clearly that each of the Congressmen and women are vying to see who can make the best speech. Then, “Can I ask the question that is the true gotcha question so I will make the evening headline focus?” And, therefore, the benefit of these hearings gets lost.

We also begin to see Mr. Zuckerberg do what many do in these positions and what he has done, historically, whenever Facebook has been caught in a situation that is questionable or even illegal in what they are doing in order to enhance participation and number of users in Facebook. In fact, there’s a memo out there that actually says the No. 1 objective that you have as an employee of Facebook is to multiply viewers. It is not to protect the identity and information of the users, but to multiply users, even if it means that you expose some of their data, that’s an unwanted but may be a necessary casualty.

FACEBOOK HAS HISTORY OF EVASION OF WRONGDOING

Historically, he’s always said, “That was wrong. We’re going to put in new policies,” and does a mea culpa and then everything goes on and nothing really changes that much. This one seems to be a little bit different as he realizes that people may have a concern for stolen identity and people having access to their messages, to their data that they don’t want. You’re getting all kind of advertisements that clearly somebody has access to something you’ve communicated that you had no idea that they would have access to it.

And so now it’s should we regulate this and what should be the policies to regulate it? And the argument is, “Well, Facebook is a monopoly. They don’t really have a competitor.” The argument back to regulation is, “Hey, you don’t have to participate in Facebook. If you don’t want to, then don’t participate in Facebook. This is a matter of free speech, this is a matter of free enterprise and of the capitalistic system. They’re providing a service and you have to make a determination, ‘Am I willing to embrace their policies of operation? Am I willing to lose some of my security of my data that I put on Facebook, knowing that people are going to have access to it? Why should the government regulate what ought to be just the free exercise of business?’”

Well, the pushback is, “Well, they’re a monopoly.” Well, they don’t have to be a monopoly. It’s not like a utility that you can’t multiply infrastructure of utilities in a city and you’ve only got one and, therefore, it needs to be governed because the monopoly could have runaway costs so you don’t have a choice and you have no competition.

TIME FOR COMPETITION TO EMERGE, WITHOUT REGULATIONS

That’s not the case in Facebook. I would argue that you can have competition. To me, it’s very much like the news outlets going progressive/liberal/untrustworthy and then up comes Fox News and their mantra became “Fair and Balanced” — we show both sides. Now, I’m not arguing that they do or they don’t, but they came up and, all of a sudden, all of these so-called news outlets, the Big 3, before long, became the Shrinking 3 because of competition.

Well, I would suggest that the same thing can happen with Facebook, is that you can have competition. What I think the government does is make sure that competition is invited and make sure that those who would want to challenge it have an avenue to challenge it. That’s what I think ought to happen, not the regulation of Facebook and the reason why is because it’s just a matter of time if they regulate that, what else can they regulate in terms of free speech and free enterprise? And I believe that the marketplace is the best corrector of these practices.

Therefore, Tom, I think that’s the perspective that at least needs to be in the mind of those from a Christian world and life view. Now here’s the problem, Tom. Facebook, like most monopolies, when they begin to control something, what is clear is not only have they been careless with the security of their participants, but they have also governed the content of what they allow, and what they favor and what they promote in terms of communication on Facebook.

And they clearly have embraced liberal causes — I think it’s been documented that almost every single one of the leadership positions in Facebook have those who have demonstrated both by their donations and their public record a propensity toward the Progressive agenda, the Democratic Party and liberalism, specifically, and so that’s showing up in terms of how they are controlling the flow of information.

CONSERVATIVES, DON’T GET BEAT AT YOUR OWN GAME

The very group that ought to be protecting liberty of speech and free practice of business — the conservatives — tend to want to limit and govern and use regulations on Facebook because the conservative positions are those that are being isolated and marginalized by Facebook. I would just tell my conservative friends, from a Christian world and life view, you do not want to give up something that you’ve historically held to and that is free enterprise and free speech.

You do not want to impose regulations upon them. What you should do is promote competition with them because, once you set in place regulations to regulate Facebook, then those same regulations can be used to regulate you at a later date. You always have to look at the identification of a problem and realize the cure can produce a much bigger problem.

If the cure on Facebook’s careless practices and policies that tilt to the left are embraced by conservatives, then what you have done is betray your own conservative ideology. Trying to come at it from a Christian world and life view, I believe that liberty governed by essential law is the best route and what I think the government should do is simply enforce its present laws to protect the privacy and security of Facebook users, but not attempt to create new laws to regulate the content of Facebook — that ought to be a matter of competition in the marketplace.

SOCIAL MEDIA SERVES TO SPREAD GOSPEL THROUGH FREE SPEECH

And one of the reasons this is important to me, I am not a Facebook fan but I am on it because, for me, it’s one more means of communication and I certainly want access to be able to share Biblical truth and Gospel perspectives on Facebook or Twitter or any of these social media but I know that my avenue is not to regulate them to allow me to do speech over their privately owned business, one that other people could start a similar business because of accessibility to the internet and I don’t want them to be regulated.

I want to use them, but I’ve got to realize the cost of using them and be willing to pay that price. And then, if they want to regulate what I say, then what I would like is competition and that there would be other avenues to say it.

Therefore, Tom, I always love free speech and freedom to practice your business because I am grateful for my freedom to speak the truth of the Gospel and get the Good News out over any source that’s available. And I love the freedom for people to be able to create new media outlets without governmental overreach.

COMING UP TUESDAY: THE TRANSGENDER EFFECT CONTINUES

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Tuesday’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to revisit the transgender issue. There are a number of arenas in which this transgender issue is rearing its ugly head, including public policy and sports.

DR. REEDER: Very similar to today’s program — you have again, in the drive to the left, you have not only the issues of privacy, security and safety, but you also have the issue of chaos in the various arenas of life in which there is no clarity, no certainty and no boundaries and, as everyone knows, without boundaries, there is no playing field.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

16 mins ago

UAB graduate pursues UPS career after bout with childhood cancers

A two-time childhood cancer survivor, Rusty Duvall will graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with his bachelor’s degree in industrial distribution Saturday, Dec. 15, and start his dream job with the United Parcel Service in January.

When Duvall was 7 years old, physicians found a brain tumor that his parents knew would affect his life. At age 11, Duvall was diagnosed with a rare cancer in the bones of his eye socket.

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“Sometimes I feel like my childhood was ripped from me in the blink of an eye,” said Duvall, a senior in the UAB Collat School of Business from St. Clair County. “I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I didn’t get to grow up doing a lot of the things that I wanted to do. When I did get to go home, I was really weak and tired.”

Within the first four weeks of his brain tumor diagnosis, Duvall had four surgeries related to the brain tumor and a fifth surgery later that year. At one point, Duvall had fluid leaking from his brain and had to have emergency surgery to place a shunt in order to stop the drainage.

Duvall did not suffer any serious problems from brain surgery, but has felt the lifelong effects from the high dosage of chemotherapy and the surgeries that followed. Duvall has chronic periphial neuropathy, where the nerves in his right leg are dead, leaving him without muscle strength. He had several surgeries over the course of three and a half years to fix the nerve damage in his leg and eventually help him walk better in the future.

“I have a slight limp when I walk from the lack of muscle strength in my right leg,” Duvall said. “Unfortunately, they were never able to fully repair the nerves, but were able to prevent further damage. My legs and ankles are still very weak.”

The high dosage chemotherapy made Duvall very sick, lose his hair and extremely underweight. Because of the surgeries and chemotherapy, Duvall missed most of his second- and third-grade years in school. His teachers at Odenville Elementary School made sure he did not miss out on his education by working with his parents to allow him to complete assignments at home.

“School was always important to me, but it was hard to keep up with the work during this time,” Duvall said. “I would try my best to get up and go to school, but I was just physically too weak and sick to be there. Luckily, my teachers and my mom helped me through, and I passed both grades.”

Four years later, he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer near his eye that was unrelated to the brain tumor. Duvall was devastated to learn that he had cancer again and became depressed. The physicians at Children’s of Alabama did a biopsy on the bone cancer and determined that it was easily treatable. Duvall underwent two surgeries to remove the cancer and another year of chemotherapy and steroids.

“My parents and I couldn’t believe that we had to go through this again,” Duvall said. “The treatments made me very sick, and I was out of school for most of my sixth-grade year, too.”

Duvall’s teachers worked with him to help him finish the school year on time. On Aug. 18, 2008, he received his last chemotherapy treatment just in time to start seventh grade. He had 13 surgeries related to the two cancer diagnoses, with the last surgery taking place when he was a senior in high school.

“Cancer has changed me and made me a better person,” Duvall said. “Every day is a new day, and each day is a chance to get better and improve myself.”

In 2005, Duvall started attending Camp Smile-A-Mile, an organization that provides year-round programming that serves children and their families from diagnosis throughout the years of treatment. Taylor Lawrence was his camp counselor from 2010-2014 and is a UAB Collat School of Business alumni. Lawrence and Duvall discussed his future and what he wanted to do. Lawrence would tell Duvall what college classes were like and the career opportunities that could follow graduation.

“I knew I wanted to go to UAB to pursue my degree and secure my future,” Duvall said. “But college was not looking like an option because of financial constraints. My parents worked hard to provide for me and my siblings, but college just seemed far-fetched.”

After graduating from St. Clair County High School in 2014, Duvall continued to pursue his dreams of higher education by applying for The Smith Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships to deserving Alabama students who have served their communities and have also faced adversity throughout their lives.

“Rusty is the type of person we should all want to be: kind, considerate and dedicated,” said Ahrian Dudley, executive director of the The Smith Scholarship Foundation. “He achieves through perseverance and grit. Securing his degree and job was not easy. Rusty learned to adapt both academically and professionally by maturely dealing with obstacles. He combined his hard work and support systems in place at UAB, the foundation and community to succeed. He has accomplished more than he dreamed possible when he first set foot on campus. We are so proud of him and the positive impact he has already made on so many people.”

During Duvall’s high school years, he had volunteered and served his community for more than 300 hours. His ability to overcome his challenges, alongside giving back to his community, led to his selection as a Smith Scholar. The scholarship and support programs enabled him to attend UAB and complete his degree.

In fall 2014, Duvall started UAB in pursuit of a nursing degree. He had been in and out of hospitals so much as a young child, and thought this was his calling. After speaking with his mentor, Lawrence, he learned about the UAB Collat School of Business’s Industrial Distribution program. During Duvall’s junior year, he switched his major looking to find a career in the business industry.

Duvall received an internship with UPS before his junior year at UAB, where he learned the inner workings of industrial engineering at the Memphis distribution center. Duvall was invited back to intern with UPS before his senior year at the Birmingham distribution center. Upon graduation, Duvall will work at UPS full time as an industrial engineer supervisor.

“The experience I received at UPS really proved that I had taken the right career path,” Duvall said. “When they offered me a job, I couldn’t believe that I achieved my dreams amid all of the challenges I faced as a child.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club breaks ground on $7.2 million clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex

A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is building a $7.2 million Walter Howlett Jr. Clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex, but if history is any indication, it’s also building future leaders. Leaders like Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who is a self-proclaimed “club kid” having grown up in Boys & Girls Clubs.

“I can personally speak to the power of the Boys & Girls Club,” Woodfin said. “I spent some formative years here as a club kid.”

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Woodfin said it was on the sports practice fields in downtown Birmingham where he learned the value of teamwork.

“The greatest lesson I learned from the club … is the importance of teamwork in this city,” he said. “I learned that no matter how great the individual players were as part of the club or on the team, it’s the unity that ensures victory.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State and Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice has made mentoring and youth programs like Boys & Girls Club a pet project nationally. She praised the possibilities the new clubhouse in Birmingham holds.

“This great, new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is just going to be full of possibilities,” she said. “It’s not just programs that they deliver on. They deliver on caring and compassion for our young people.”

Rice co-chaired the campaign to build a new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club along with Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III and Regions Financial Corp.Chairman Grayson Hall.

She said those who contributed to the new clubhouse initiative have demonstrated they make children a priority.

“This is about the possibilities when a community comes together,” Rice said. “It’s absolutely the case that when the corporate community and private citizens like the McWanes and people from across the city come together and say, ‘We’re going to do something special for our kids,’ something magnificent happens.”

Frank Adams, CEO of A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, said the new facility will include a new gym, a music room, a game room, a new café able to serve hot meals and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math) labs. The two-story facility will have a floor dedicated to teens and will be able to serve twice as many children as the Kirkwood R. Balton facility it is replacing.

Adams said the clubhouse will be a great addition to the CrossPlex campus.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help revitalize this area while serving our kids at a higher level,” he said.

Walter Howlett Jr. was a prominent member of the business community in Birmingham and served as the chairman of the board at A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club for more than 20 years. Adams said it’s a worthy tribute to name the new facility after him.

The CrossPlex campus and the new facility are in Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt’s district. He said the new clubhouse will be a welcomed addition.

“Today is very much about an orchestrated optimism and the future of our young people,” he said. “This new club is a symbol of hope.”

Rice said that hope has been realized again and again through Boys & Girls Clubs.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs talk about building great futures,” she said. “Well, you can only get a great future if you have a great start and that is what this is really all about.

“The best in us believes that every life is worthy, and every life is worthy of greatness,” she added.

Who knows, maybe the next mayor or the next secretary of state will come from there.

“I believe in the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club because I know it’s power,” Woodfin said. “It’s a training ground to guide our young people in the right direction. It’s where they will make lasting friendships, make community connections and acquire life lessons that will serve them well when they become the next leaders of our city.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Exceptional Foundation carolers bring holiday spirit to Alabama businesses

What the Exceptional Foundation carolers may lack in perfect pitch and rhythm they more than make up for with enthusiasm and sheer joy.

The result is exactly what is intended: delivering the Christmas spirit to businesses around Birmingham.

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That delivery is clear by the smiles produced among the audiences.

This is the fifth year the Exceptional Foundation carolers have visited corporations to thank them for their support. CEO Tricia Kirk said the number of performances has grown from less than a handful of businesses in the first season to five or six a day this year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Alabama Power works to save threatened snails on Coosa River

While many property owners used this fall’s Coosa River drawdown to make repairs to boathouses, piers and other structures along the water’s edge, Alabama Power biologists were on another mission.

APC Environmental Affairs employees worked with members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to protect rare snails on Lay and Mitchell lakes.

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The first step involved surveying threatened species — literally by counting the number of snails in a given area.

Two species of freshwater aquatic snails listed under the Endangered Species Act, the rough hornsnail and Tulotoma snail, call the Coosa River home. Both are native to Alabama and are found nowhere else in the world.

“We do a manual count, which gives you an estimate of the number of that species within a certain area,” said Jason Carlee, APC Environmental Affairs supervisor. “You can then multiply that number by the area of the lake bottom affected by the drawdown to estimate how much of the population is affected.”

The work wasn’t limited to surveying. The biologists were also charged with saving snails affected by the drawdown. Snails that might have had trouble navigating to the lower lake levels were picked up along the riverbank and returned to the water.

“The primary objectives at Lay Lake and Lake Mitchell were surveying known populations of Tulotoma and rough hornsnail, searching for new populations of the species and relocating species to suitable habitat in deeper water,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power.

The snails live anywhere from one to 30 feet below the shoreline but prefer to live just below the water’s edge, according to Carlee.

“The lowering of the water forces the snails to follow the water and, as they move, they can get trapped by vegetation or stuck behind a log or rock,” Carlee said. “Our priority is to identify new populations and to salvage as many snails as we can.”

The teams focused on areas with known populations and salvaged snails when the water was at its lowest level to make the most significant positive impact. A previous survey and salvage effort was conducted during the 2013 drawdown, and additional snail surveys were done in 2009 and 2012.

“Part of our week was spent searching for new populations of rough hornsnails, and we found them,” said Fitch. “Before this week, the species was only known to occur in four different locations on Mitchell Reservoir, but we found them in three other creeks this week as well as along the shorelines in the main channel.”

Several other steps have been taken to protect the snails. For example, the timing and frequency of the fall drawdowns have been adjusted to benefit the species.

“Historically for Lay and Mitchell, there were drawdowns every year. Then they went to every other year. Since the discovery of rough hornsnails at Lake Mitchell and at Yellowleaf Creek on Lay Reservoir, drawdowns are conducted every five years to decrease impacts to the snails,” Fitch said.

Tracks left by the snails leading from the riverbank to the water indicate that the species can adjust to water level fluctuations. Lake levels are now lowered very slowly over a three-day period, to give snails more time to follow the dropping water.

Alabama Power works with USFWS and ADCNR to find ways to protect and improve habitat conditions for snails and other aquatic species as part of its license to operate dams issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All the hard work is paying off. The Tulotoma snail was downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2011 as populations below Coosa River dams increased. It was the first time a freshwater species of mollusks, which includes clams, mussels and slugs, was downlisted. New populations of rough hornsnail provide hope for its recovery.

Results from this year’s snail survey will help regulators determine the impact of water level fluctuations on species like these snails and help provide guidance concerning future drawdowns.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.