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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

FCC Proposal: Limit Burden on Families From $1.2B Prison Phone Biz

FCC Proposal: Limit Burden on Families From $1.2B Prison Phone Biz

On December 28th, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules that could result in lower phone rates for prisoners and their friends and family members. The proposed rules would expand regulation of a roughly $1.2 billion market dominated by just two companies.

The agency unveiled the proposed rules to seek comment to establish interstate rate benchmarks, caps on rates and the end of exclusivity agreements with prisons.

In a report released in September 2012 FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that in some states one fifteen-minute interstate phone call from a prison can cost $17.

In the latest update, Clyburn said those rates aren’t helping prisoners keep family ties.

“With seven hundred thousand individuals released every year from these institutions, it is crucial that we do whatever we can to strengthen family ties before these individuals return home,” Clyburn said in a statement posted on the FCC’s website. “One sure way to realize this is through the provisioning of affordable phone service. The overall costs of not doing so are too great, for those who re-offend place a substantially higher economic burden on taxpayers than any lost proceeds that would result from lower prison phone rates.”

Rebecca J. Rosen adds more context to the story at The Atlantic:

Nearly 10 years passed with no answer from the Commission, but on Christmas Eve a hopeful sign was produced: a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” (pdf) the official declaration of a the opening of a period for comment before handing down a decision.

As plain as the injustice of these rates may be, the question of how to address them is not straightforward. How do you decide what constitutes a fair price outside of a market system? How do you then achieve that price? The Commission’s Notice lays out nearly 20 separate concerns related to just the rate-cap proposal, and then floats several other potential tools for bringing costs down (such as requiring some amount of free calls, with higher rates going into effect after the free minutes are exhausted), all with their own additional set of questions. The Commission asks for comments and data on each point.

“This is a first, but very important, step in addressing an issue that slowly made its way onto the national media’s radar over the past several months,” said Jamilah King, who’s written extensively about prison phone rates for Colorlines.com. “This is in large part thanks to the work of advocates, inmates, and their families who’ve said loud and clear: people behind bars are already doing their time, and their families shouldn’t be saddled with extra costs — especially when family contact is so crucial to rehabilitation.”

NAACP Checks Iowa on Felony Disenfranchisement Credit Check Rule

The NAACP made progress on the felony disenfranchisement front when it convinced Iowa’s governor Terry Brandstad to lighten up his requirements for voting rights restoration for the formerly incarcerated.

Iowa is one of three states that permanently removes voting rights from people formerly incarcerated for felonies. Each has a process for restoring rights to citizens returning from prison, but Iowa’s credit check provision — where former inmates must submit a credit history report for restoration consideration — was one of the most forbidding policies of any state’s restoration requirements.

After meeting with NAACP leaders late last year, Gov. Brandstad has agreed to streamline the restoration process, including removing the credit check policy. Brandstad also committed to simplifying restoration instructions and streamlining the application process.

“We are pleased that Governor Brandstad has responded to our request and the and the requests of his constituency to review the policy and make the necessary changes, ” said Arnold Woods, President of the NAACP Iowa and Nebraska State Conference.

“A streamlined application is a good first step. We will continue fighting for every Iowan’s right to vote to be fully respected,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP. “Any American who has committed a crime and served their time behind bars should be allowed to vote upon their release. It is a step in the right direction for them, and for our country.”

The NAACP is still pushing for automatic voting rights restoration for those released from prison, as it is in Virginia and Florida. But Iowa still isn’t hearing that right now.

“When an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines,” said Gov. Branstad. “Iowa has a good and fair policy on the restoration of rights for convicted felons, and to automatically restore the right to vote without requiring the completion of the responsibilities associated with the criminal conviction would damage the balance between the rights and responsibility of citizens.”

Al Jazeera Acquires Current TV; Time Warner Cable Drops Network

Al Jazeera Acquires Current TV; Time Warner Cable Drops Network

Current TV, the struggling cable news network co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, has been sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The sale is reportedly valued at close to $500 million.

“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

Al Jazeera said it will shutter Current and create a New York-based network. Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, said it plans to expand its presence in the U.S., opening new bureaus and doubling its staff to 300 employees.

As HuffPo’s Michael Calderone reported:

Joel Hyatt, who co-founded Current TV with former Vice President Al Gore, told staff in a Wednesday night memo that Time Warner Cable “did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera.”

“Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC,” Hyatt wrote. “This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.”

“Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service,” TWC said in a statement. “We are removing the service as quickly as possible.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes other operators are said to be exploring options to drop the channel.

The new channel dubbed Al Jazeera America will soon be available in 40 million households. The network could have reached an additional 12 million homes with the Time Warner Cable.

Yes, ‘All My Babies’ Mamas’ Looks Awful — But That’s Not the Whole Point

Yes, 'All My Babies' Mamas' Looks Awful -- But That's Not the Whole Point

Just in case you needed a new reality TV show to loathe, there’s this: Oxygen Network’s “All My Babies’ Mamas.” The show is set to debut later this spring and stars the rapper Shawty Lo (of ‘Laffy Taffy’ fame) and his encounters with the various mothers of ten children. Folks are pissed — and now there’s an online petition aimed to stopping the show before it starts.

An online petition started by Change.org has gathered close to 4,000 signatures. According to Sabrina Lamb, the petition’s author, the effort’s focus is clear: “By pushing these degrading images, your company seeks to profit from the humiliation of girls and women and the blatant stereotyping of African-Americans,” Lamb writes in the petition.

“We think Oxygen and the show’s creators and producers have gone too far and if this show is aired, we will, without hesitation, boycott any and all companies that advertise during this minstrel show.”

Controversy over the show has been swirling in recent weeks. Some of the most damning criticism came just after the New Year from Nick Chiles over at My Brown Baby:

It must be so easy, sitting in a cushy office somewhere in Los Angeles or Manhattan, to glibly nod yes on the decision to profit off the exploitation of the ignorance that poverty and oppression produced. Of course it’s even easier when it’s some unfortunate black wretches, whose lives are so far from the good-white-folks gentility of these producers, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and the executive Cori Abraham. So far away, so grotesque, so different, so damn entertaining—and if it happens to once again proffer to the world the handy image of black pathology as entertainment? Oh well.

New White House Rule Will Cut Extended Separations of Immigrant Families

New White House Rule Will Cut Extended Separations of Immigrant Families

The Obama administration kicked off the new year with new rules for undocumented immigrants applying for green cards. The updated rules, which don’t offer any new benefits to undocumented immigrants, are nonetheless expected to significantly cut down on the long-term separation of immigrant families.

Starting on March 4, undocumented immigrants applying for visas who can prove that separation from their U.S.-based family would cause “extreme hardship” can apply for a waiver to a three and ten-year re-entry ban and start their application process without leaving the country.

Prior to the announcement of the new Department of Homeland Security rules, undocumented immigrants applying for legal status who entered the country without inspection—migrants from Latin America who crossed the border into the U.S. without going through a checkpoint, for instance—had to leave the U.S. in order to take care of their visa application, and such trips would trigger a three and ten-year re-entry ban. Only after they had left the U.S. and were back in their home country applicants could apply for a waiver to those re-entry bans, but they would have to wait, outside the U.S. and away from their families, for that waiver to be approved. The waits could last over a year, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

With the new changes, which will only apply to the spouses or parents of U.S. citizens, or, separately, minor children, applicants can begin their visa application process from within the U.S. Applicants returning to their home countries to finish their visa application process will be able to leave the U.S. without risking long-term separation from their U.S.-based family.

The move, praised by immigrant communities and those who advocate for immigrant rights, could affect some 1 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported. The updates were first announced last spring but were made official Wednesday.

Meet The Funeral Director Who Says He Can Make Your Worst Moments ‘Extremely Happy’

Meet The Funeral Director Who Says He Can Make Your Worst Moments 'Extremely Happy'

TLC is unveiling a new unscripted show this coming Sunday that follows a Dallas funeral home director that takes “home-goings” to a different level. The network will premiere the pilot episode of “Best Funeral Ever” this week and if the ratings are good they’ll order more episodes and turn it in to a regular series.

Entertainment Weekly has a description of the show:

At the Golden Gate Funeral Home, Dallas-based funeral director John Beckwith, Jr.works with the families to create a central theme for a memorial and then throws a wild party.

Examples include a Christmas-inspired funeral complete with reindeer, elves and snow, and a singer known for his famous rib sauce jingle remembered at a BBQ-themed funeral — including live pigs, praise dancers, and a BBQ sauce fountain where loved ones dip a ceremonious rib to say goodbye. “We’re going to make these families extremely happy at the worst moments of their lives,” Beckman says.

One of the show’s producers told the L.A. Times the show is on brand with other TLC series that peek into religious cults, enormous families, unusual pastimes and examine little-known subcultures throughout the country. The network is home to other unscripted shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Breaking Amish” and “Sister Wives.”

“We’re documenting what they do, and what they do so well is throw amazing home-going ceremonies,” Mike Kane, a TLC executive producer told the Times. “We love the fact that they’re bringing closure to these families. We don’t think there’s anything morbid about it.”

TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever” was originally scheduled to air on December 26, 2012 month but the network re-scheduled the broadcast in wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The special will now air on January 6th, 2013.

Meet One of The First Same Sex Couples to Get Married in Baltimore

Meet One of The First Same Sex Couples to Get Married in Baltimore

Darcia Anthony, right center, and Dani Williams, right, of Baltimore, MD laugh together before they and six other same-sex couples became some of the first to be married in the state of Maryland at Baltimore City Hall on Tuesday January 01, 2013 in Baltimore, MD. Baltimore City District Court Judge Christopher Panos performed the ceremony. (Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Native American Flash Mob Round Dance Takes Over Mall of America

Native American Flash Mob Round Dance Takes Over Mall of America

Organizers from Idle No More held a flash mob round dance early Saturday evening at the Mall of America to raise awareness of their movement that calls on all people “to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.”

The flash mob was part of a series of actions to call attention to a recent bill (C45) passed by the Canadian Parliament that Idle No More says rescinds environmental protections across Canada, including the land base of First Nations.

“More than a thousand Native American people filled the eastern rotunda at the Mall of America, dancing in a circle as the sound of drums filled the area,” Sheila Regan reported for the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

The flash mob round dance was also organized in support of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence who’s currently on a hunger strike.

Her hunger strike stretched into Day 23 on Wednesday, with Spence vowing to survive on nothing more than fish broth and herbal tea until the Canadian Prime Minister meets with her and other Indigenous leaders.

In attendance at the Mall of America flash dance was the founder and international director of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Clyde Bellecourt.

“We have to look out for our own - what happens in Canada happens here and what happens here happens in Canada,” Bellecourt told the local CBS affiliate.

Canadian tribes have shut down two highways and closed a railroad going through a reservation in order to bring attention to Harper’s policies, according to CBS News.

USPS Unveils Stamp to Mark 150 Years of the Emancipation Proclamation

USPS2013.jpgThe Emancipation Proclamation turned 150 years old yesterday, and the United States Postal Service has issued a new stamp for folks to commemorate the landmark document issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln proclaimed in the midst of the Civil War that all slaves held in Confederate states would be “forever free” once the army had taken control. The Emancipation Proclamation is often credited as the document which freed the slaves. It didn’t exactly do that, as it only applied to ten Confederate states, and neither outlawed slavery nor made newly freedman citizens. And yet, the Emancipation Proclamation holds tremendous symbolic value as a document which changed the character of the war.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, quoting historian Eric Foner, notes the significance of the proclmation: >

Nonetheless, the proclamation marked a dramatic transformation in the nature of the Civil War and in Lincoln’s own approach to the problem of slavery. No longer did he seek the consent of slave holders. The proclamation was immediate, not gradual, contained no mention of compensation for owners, and made no reference to colonization.

Rose Parade Trip for Salvadoran Marching Band Reunites Families

Rose Parade Trip for Salvadoran Marching Band Reunites Families

The Banda El Salvador youth marching band traveled from Central America to California by bus to march in the Rose Parade. The group was unable to fundraise enough money to take the 5-hour flight and instead traveled by land for almost one hundred hours to Pasadena.

The more than 200 members of the band left El Salvador before Christmas and spent the day far away from their families. At midnight on Christmas eve the buses pulled over at a gas station in Mexico so band members could hug and celebrate the holiday.

While most members of the band left their parents and siblings back home in Juayúa and Sonsonate El Salvador there others who would reunite with family upon arriving in Los Angeles.

Watch Samuel L. Jackson Try to Get a Reporter to Say the N-Word

Watch Samuel L. Jackson Try to Get a Reporter to Say the N-Word

Emmy winner Jake Hamilton, 24, hosts the film review segment Jake’s Takes, produced by KRIV-TV (FOX Houston.)

“Django” earned $30.6 million across 3,010 theaters this past weekend, taking the number two spot at the box office.

After ‘Django’, Tarantino Eyes Thriller About Black WWII Soldiers

After 'Django', Tarantino Eyes Thriller About Black WWII Soldiers

It’s no surprise that director Quentin Tarantino’s slavery themed revenge film “Django Unchained” is doing well at the box office. In an interview with The Root, the director reveals his plans for a new film about a regiment of black WWII soldiers seeking vengeance after being wronged by their commanding officers.

Here’s more:

“My original idea for Inglourious Basterds way back when was that this [would be] a huge story that included the [smaller] story that you saw in the film, but also followed a bunch of black troops, and they had been f*ked over by the American military and kind of go apesht. They basically — the way Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt) and the Basterds are having an ‘Apache resistance’ — [the] black troops go on an Apache warpath and kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland.”

According to Tarantino, the script is “ready to go; I just have to write the second half of it.”

“Django Unchained” has sparked controversy about Tarantino’s portrayal of slavery, and the director has long faced criticism over his character’s use of the n-word. Spike Lee, a well-known critic of Tarantino’s work, recently called Tarantino’s work “disrespectful.” Lee also wrote on Twitter, ” American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”


Colorlines Needs Your Help Changing the News

From Jeremy Lin to Gabby Douglas, the DREAMers to Trayvon Martin, Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to a re-elected President Obama, 2012 was a long, full year of highs and lows. Jorge Rivas has captured it all in the year in review video below—2012, in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

The coming year will no doubt be just as full—the fiscal cliff, state budget fights, immigration reform. Not to mention the ways in which culture, from Hollywood to YouTube, will impact our politics. Colorlines.com will once again be there each day, not just reporting the news but explaining the context in which it’s happening.

As we’ve learned time and again, as long as we’re ignoring race, we’re not building a world with racial justice. So at Colorlines, we both keep pace with the news cycle and seek to alter its focus. That’s a big job—and it costs a lot of money.

If a Colorlines story helped you speak up and impact a conversation this year—whether it was in social media or over dinner, as you plotted your own activism or shared ideas with family—please donate today! Our publisher, the Applied Research Center, turned 30 this year. We seek to raise $30K in 30 days to seed the next 30 years of racial justice innovation at ARC, and we’re almost there! Your donation of any amount will help us meet the goal.

Thanks so much for joining and supporting our community at Colorlines. From all of us, we wish you a joyful, healthy and revolutionary 2013.

TAGS: housekeeping

Racist ‘Screaming Savage’ Image Makes Its Return to Baseball in Atlanta

Racist 'Screaming Savage' Image Makes Its Return to Baseball in Atlanta

Racist images have long been a sad tradition in American sports. But instead of distancing itself from it, it seems like some pro sports leagues are once again embracing the troubling legacy. That includes the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which will once again embrace its “screaming savage” logo in practice next season. The logo features a caricature of what’s supposed to be a Native American.

Kevin Kaduck over at the Yahoo Sports blog Big League Stew had this to say back in February:

It’s a wonder that anyone ever thought the image was OK. The logo strips Native Americans of any humanity and turns them into a one-dimensional character devoid of any sympathy or tribute. It honestly might be the only defense that the few defenders of Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo have left. (“Well, it’s not as bad as what Atlanta used to have.”)

Here’s more from Yahoo Sports.

Researchers Worry That the Census May Still Falter on Questions of Race

Researchers Worry That the Census May Still Falter on Questions of Race

The Census Bureau is considering possible revisions for its 2020 survey, and the proposed changes have raised concerns among some communities of color who fear that they’ll be undercounted. Corey Dade reports at NPR about just what’s at stake: “Race data collected in the census are used for many purposes, including enforcement of civil rights laws and monitoring of racial disparities in education, health and other areas,” not to mention redrawing legislative districts.

Here at Colorlines, Kai Wright notes the real threat to undercounting people of color and some more profound reasons than “electoral clout” for why that undercount matters.

When the bureau began measuring across all races and ethnicities in 1990, it found blacks,  Latinos and Native Americans were all undercounted at more than double the national rate.

As a result, the nation’s largest metro areas have also been consistently shorted in the decennial Census. The bureau keeps a list of characteristics that make it tough to enumerate a given tract: lots of renters, low household incomes, new immigrant communities, single-parent families and large populations of people of color, among others. The list informs a ranking of “hard-to-count areas” that’s essentially a big-city roll call—Los Angeles County, Brooklyn, Chicago’s Cook County and Houston’s Harris County fill the top four spots this year.

[snip]

The consequences of undercounting stretch far past mapping Congressional districts. Decennial Census numbers are used to plan things ranging from city council seats to airports and to divvy up hundreds of billions of dollars in federal support for state and local initiatives every year. In 2000 Census monitors analyzed how the undercount that year would affect funding for just eight federal programs. New York City was predicted to lose a collective $847 million. Harris County looked to miss out on roughly $240 million. This loss is amplified by the fact that undercounted communities are often those most in need of government programs—Medicaid, Head Start and special education, for example—whose funds are determined by Census data.


Read more here.
TAGS: census

The World Didn’t End, So Did All the Attention Help or Hurt The Maya?

It’s been about a week since December 21, the day that the world was supposed to end. That was according to a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. The hysteria led some people to spend thousands of dollars on bomb shelters and led others to visit Maya sites. NPR has a pretty good piece on what’s left for those in Mexico and Central America now that the tourists are gone: stubbornly high rates of poverty and ongoing dependence on migration. Here’s more:

There are about 5 million Maya living in Mexico and Central America. Migration to the U.S. only began in the 1970s.

University of California, San Diego professor Wayne Cornelius, who studies the Maya of Tunkas, says many came after a devastating hurricane hit the region.

“On balance most people who have migrated from this town have benefited,” Cornelius says. “They have clearly raised their standard of living. They have diversified their sources of income, but the migrants have acquired some major health problems.”

Cornelius says those living in the U.S. are twice as likely to be obese and suffer from hypertension. For the relatives left behind, depression is a major health problem. The No. 1 prescription in Tunkas is for anti-depressants.

This is a fascinating case, Cornelius says. “We have an ancient civilization being slammed up against 20th century America.”

Read and listen to more over at NPR.

One of California’s Biggest Colleges Takes Major Steps to Stay in Business

One of California's Biggest Colleges Takes Major Steps to Stay in Business

2012 has been a rough year for the City College of San Francisco. Over the summer news surfaced that the institution, which enrolls nearly 90,0000 students, was facing closure because of mismanagement and administrative chaos. The accrediting board gave the school until March to fall in line with a host of proposed changes and cost cutting measures. And so far, things aren’t looking terrible.

The college is taking major steps toward institutional change, including using data driven approaches to determine which courses to teach and collecting late fees from students. Some changes, of course, are more controversial than others. Like many other institutions, the college has narrowed its mission statement to focus on job preparation and university preparation and losing some of its emphasis on “lifelong learning”, programs meant to appeal to older students.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov has been following the story and sums it up this way: “All sides say they’ve managed to change…since July, when college leaders, faculty and students were stunned to learn that their future depends on running the huge college in a more productive, businesslike way. Nobody says the work is done and nobody is happy about every change.”

Indeed, just before the holidays students and faculty publicly protested some of the changes. Next month, the school will layoff 30 full-time clerical employees and dozens of part-time faculty and counselors. And many students and faculty are worried that academic programs in ethnic studies will suffer from being lumped together under a newly created school with the odd title of “Behavioral Science/Social Science/Multicultural Studies.”

Read more over at the San Francisco Chronicle.

CCSF is one of California’s largest community colleges. As Julianne Hing and Hatty Lee illustrated earlier this year, students of color rely heavily on community colleges. Here’s more.

Samuel L. Jackson Says MLK Would Appreciate ‘Django Unchained’

Samuel L. Jackson Says MLK Would Appreciate 'Django Unchained'

Quentin Tarantino’s controversial film about American slavery is set to hit theaters this Christmas. One of the film’s star’s, Samuel L. Jackson, sat down with the Grio and said that he’s proud of the work, and that America’s Civil Rights Movement heros would be, too.

From The Grio:

“Quentin just has this affinity for writing things that intersperse dramatic events with humorous occasions,” Jackson said. “He’s not making fun of the atrocity of slavery, he’s attacking it head-on. It’s not going to be offensive, it should be informative.”

When asked what he thought Martin Luther King Jr.’s impression of Django Unchained would be if he were alive to see the film, Jackson said, “He would probably appreciate the honest interpretation of how horrific slavery was, and the honest interpretation of having a black hero.”

Django Unchained hits theaters on December 25, 2012.

Tarantino has been the target of criticism for bringing is brash and comical style of filmmaking to a dense subject like slavery. Earlier this week, the director made news after comparing the War on Drugs to the institution of slavery. Not everyone was impressed by the comparison.

TAGS: Django Films

Prosecutor Drops Case Against Los Angeles Activist Alex Sanchez

Prosecutor Drops Case Against Los Angeles Activist Alex Sanchez

After years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced this week that it is moving to dismiss charges against longtime anti-gang activist Alex Sanchez. One of the most respected gang intervention leaders in the country, Sanchez was arrested in 2010 on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Key evidence presented to a grand jury in the 2009 indictment of Alex Sanchez, executive director of Homies Unidos, contained “errors” that made it necessary to dismiss the charges, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Monday. Although neither the prosecution nor the defense would specify what the errors were, court documents outline a case built heavily on recorded telephone conversations in which participants referred to each other by nicknames.

Federal authorities said that Sanchez was recorded as he helped leaders of the gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, plot the 2006 killing, and that he used the gang name Rebelde or Rebel.

Prosecutors filed the motion to dismiss Monday, and asked that the charges be dropped without prejudice, leaving the door open for them to file charges again in the future. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said it was likely that new charges would be filed against Sanchez.

Sandra Hernandez points out in a Los Angeles Times op-ed this morning that Sanchez isn’t out of the woods quite yet. He’s scheduled for a hearing next month, at which prosecutors have suggested that they will refile new charges. 

Does Your Social Media Use Put Your Community At Risk? Instagram in Context

Does Your Social Media Use Put Your Community At Risk? Instagram in Context

There’s been plenty of uproar this week about Instagram’s proposed privacy changes. Even the Kardashians are outraged. The social media app, which was purchased by Facebook in 2011, announced that starting January 16, users’ photos would basically be up for grabs for advertisers. In trying to address people’s widespread concern, the company released an updated statement admitting that “from the start, Instagram was created to become a business” and that “advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become self-sustaining.”

Instagram’s admission of its intentions underscores an important point: users are products. On Thursday, the Center for Media Justice’s Amalia Deloney posted an insightful piece about her own reasons for leaving Instagram, and why concerns around privacy go far beyond just one company. Deloney explained that her reasons had more to do with the safety of those around her:

In the 2 years I had an account, I’d posted nearly 400 photos.  Most of the photos were innocuous—shots of buildings, traveling, food or architecture.  However, there were also dozens of photos of friends, family and community.  It’s here-among the photos of the people I most care about-that I realized the real privacy rights and standards that are needed across social media platforms. A tweet, an update, a posted pic or ‘friending’ could be dangerous—even life threatening.  Why do I say this? Because amidst my 400 photos, I found the following:

  • Many photos of minors—mainly nieces and nephews
  • 8 photos of individuals currently on parole
  • 6 photos of community members with mixed immigration status
  • 1 photo of a woman who has an active Order for Protection against her husband
  • 1 photo of a woman who is living in Transitional Housing while pursuing a VAWA asylum case
  • 4 photos of children who have CPS workers or Guardians Ad Litem involved in their families
  • 2 photos of individuals who attend services at “surveilled” religious institutions

These people are not strangers-they’re my family, my friends and members of my community! Some are organizers or political activists, most are not.  Most are regular people who had their picture taken and posted as part of a virtual archive of happy times and important memories- snapshots of our everyday lives, specific moments in time.

Read the entire post here.

The point isn’t to eliminate social media use altogether, but perhaps to think more intentionally about the fact that our online community may be a lot bigger than we think.
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