Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, by Robert C. Fellmeth

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Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, by Robert C. Fellmeth

Postby admin » Thu Oct 03, 2019 2:36 am

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg
by Robert C. Fellmeth
San Francisco Chronicle
Aug. 25, 2019

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Image
Mark Zuckerberg has the opportunity to change Facebook’s policy on how users must identify accurately who they are and attest to that identification when they post information.
Photo: Niall Carson / PA Wire


Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

Over the past several years, you have faced harsh criticism for some abuses emanating partly from the extraordinary market power of Facebook. You have shown some sensitivity to objections. I and others admire you on many levels. You have created a major engine of communications in the modern era and the positive ramifications of your creative innovations are many. Indeed, you represent one reason why we properly reject socialism, where the state owns and operates the means of production. You and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and many other private entrepreneurs have given all of us much.

You are now in a unique position to implement a corporate policy that can leave a yet enhanced legacy. It involves a simple rule that should be imposed on all of your subscribers. Its necessity is based on the current endangerment of our First Amendment. Certainly, our era of mass, immediate and costless communications promises free speech ascendancy. But an essential element is the right of the audience — the reader or listener — to know who is speaking to us. The First Amendment is not just about the speaker; it is not an exercise in bleating and belching. It is also about the audience choosing and learning. Certainly, the modern “village green” promises great free speech potential with our range of speakers and ability to compare and contrast. But the right to know who is talking is an essential part of that process. That information allows two free-speech-steeped necessities: (a) We can choose who we want to spend our limited time hearing or reading; and (b) We can judge the bias and expertise of the source.

What I would ask you to do is not to rely on your recent “hate speech” ban that puts you in the difficult position of censor. And it does not address the wider problem of not just hate messaging, but the mass dissemination of drivel and accusations for politically or commercially corrupt purposes. You do not yourself have to research or judge, because the recipient of the message can be relied upon to do that under free speech principles — but he or she needs to know who is talking to do that effectively. You cure a free speech defect by using the very power of that amendment in its fuller application. The ability to make anonymous messaging threatens real free speech and also your legacy.

We properly have the right to know who is originating, writing or posting a message — whether it is gossip from an alleged fellow student, or a purported news story, or intended for political effect. As noted, we not only have the right to choose how we use our time, but also the right to judge the credibility of those we have so chosen to hear and see. Indeed, that information about the source underlies our ability to discern likely truth — a basic purpose behind our First Amendment. These are our eyes and ears, ours and those of our children. We need to know if that message popping up on a device 8 inches from our faces is from a Russian bot or the Koch Brothers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or our favorite pizza place.

You can help to salvage an endangered First Amendment by a rule: Anyone posting anything on Facebook must identify accurately who they are, and attest to that identification. If it’s a person, corporation or other entity, it must identify up front its legal, ascertainable name and its general location — including the city, state and nation. If a subscriber fails to do that, his or her (or its) message will not be transmitted. If such a transmitter is deceptive in that identification, the relevant subscription will be canceled. If it is repeated through subterfuge, its source will be categorically banned from Facebook.


This is a reform you can lawfully impose. You are not the state. You have some ability to specify rules for those using your commercial services. This rule would not only be in the public interest, but it would set a precedent that others should properly emulate. If your effort is successful, you will earn the admiration and gratitude of many, including yours truly.

Robert C. Fellmeth is a Price Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, and the directorof the Center for Public Interest Law and the Children's Advocacy Institute.
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Re: Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, by Robert C. Fellmeth

Postby admin » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:03 am

Facebook Anonymity: Ralph Nader talks to Robert Fellmeth
RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EP 289 TRANSCRIPT
September 21, 2019

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Steve Skrovan: First up on the program today, we welcome back old friend Robert Fellmeth, the original Nader’s Raider. He is not only one of the leading, if not the leading child welfare advocates in the country, He has also been campaigning for quite some time now about the hazards of anonymity on the internet. In a recent open letter to the founder of Facebook, Robert Fellmeth wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, that: “We need to know if that message popping up on a device eight inches from our faces is from a Russian bot or the Koch Brothers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or our favorite pizza place.” A couple of years ago we spoke to Bob about this topic and Ralph wanted to know if there was a way to draw a line [to] protect whistleblowers and other speakers who criticize the powerful without fear of retaliation while also protecting the readers or the listeners’ right, to know who's speaking to them.

Ralph Nader: And among other things you've done, you are a prosecuting attorney; you've written a ton of books and reports, so we call you Fellmethean. Whenever somebody writes a long book, we say that was a Fellmethean performance. Welcome again, Robert Fellmeth.

Now, I think our position against anonymity on the internet is a minority position. The people who want anonymity and want to develop their most aggressive statements without attaching their name to it, of course oppose what you're about to say. There are civil liberties people, some of them in Public Citizen where you're on the board, who thinks that anonymity protects whistleblowers, protects minorities, protects people for example, in the South during the civil rights struggle in speaking out, and you have taken a more nuanced position.

After collecting the identities of some of the chief Rapeutationists, it is clear that if you were to judge the value of their criticism, you can consider their past achievements, which are relatively few. Among those lawyers who are experienced, Paul Levy leads the pack, having spent his entire life working at one firm, Public Citizen Litigation Group, where he rules the roost and has hijacked the agenda to pursue his bete noir, making the world safe for nasty people with nothing better to do than sling shit on websites. I've heard of being hard up for clients, but that takes the flinkin' cake!

-- The Rapeutationists, by Charles Carreon


In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook who controls Facebook as any dictator would control a country. He has the majority of voting stock. Other stock is non-voting and he controls the board of directors with an iron fist, which is why you laid your demand on him. But before we discuss your demand on him, which was published on August 25th in the San Francisco Chronicle, “An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg” by Robert Fellmeth, tell us your argument on anonymity.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I understand the benefits of whistleblowing and there are situations where undoubtedly, there is an advantage in anonymity for someone who’s blowing the whistle, where they're likely to receive some kind of horrible reprisal for doing that, but we have anti-SLAPP laws in many states that kind of perform some of that function. But more important than that is the fact that the First Amendment is not just a question of talk; it's also listening. The audience has rights too under the First Amendment as I see it. You have the right to decide who you want to listen to and hear and see. You have the right to judge credibility and judge expertise.

In this day and age, it's particularly important that you have information about who is communicating with you or trying to communicate with you so you can exercise those audience rights and functions. And that's especially true with the internet and with people able to communicate really in a costless basis to a million or two million or ten million people instantly. That means the audience really has to know who's talking. Is that a Russian bot? Is it the Koch Brothers? Who is talking to me? Who was trying to reach me? Who should I listen to? Who should I hear? And that's a right people should have.


Ralph Nader: And if you look at it daily, the viciousness that comes on the wings of anonymity all over the world, massive volume, is basically destroying the whole concept of credibility and truth. Who are you going to believe? And I once talked to a newspaper editor and I said, “You know, I've never read a letter to the editor in your newspaper that doesn't have a name attached to it.” He said, “You're right.” I said, “Well, how come you allow all kinds of slanderous, defamatory and crazy prevarication by anonymous feeders into your website?” He says, “Because we want to generate a lot of clicks.” Your reaction.

Robert Fellmeth: [laughter] Well, I think that what's happening is we're diluting the value of communications. When it reaches the point where all sorts of self-interested groups and the hate mongering groups and so forth; when they can, with impunity, communicate and massively without any check at all, you have a problem. I mean, the First Amendment is not just bleating and belching. It's information. It's truth. You've got to be able to ascertain the truth. The audience has to know that. You know, when I first started looking at this and I thought to myself, you know, Ralph Nader criticizes people all the time. I've never heard him do anything anonymously. He always says, yes, it is I. I am talking. You can believe me or not. You know who I am. And that's important. You've always been that way and I think that should be the standard.

Ralph Nader: Well, it also has terrible repercussions. I mean, anonymity in circles of teenagers, for example, has produced suicides, have produced severe depression, has produced drug addiction. In other words, it moves from vicious words in a torrent day after day into physical disasters. That's one. And the second is it destroys other people's right to speak out because they're intimidated. They're fearful. If I speak out, if I write this letter to the editor, I'm going to get a torrent of anonymous slanders. So, you want to go into that further arena and comment on it?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, your mention of the child aspect is important because we did contest a Facebook settlement. They actually included, in a national settlement applicable to adults for invasion of privacy, a subclass of children who were subscribers. Children 13 to 18 can subscribe to Facebook. As a part of the settlement, they actually achieved the agreement of an attorney getting $4 million for it to them, including a provision in the terms and conditions that nobody ever reads, that anything posted by the child can be copied, edited, and retransmitted by Facebook to whomever they choose without prior approval of the parent and without prior notice to either the parent or the child. And you're talking about suicide and so forth. Well, if you send something to, you know, to your best friend or to your three friends on Facebook and Facebook can grab it and send it to other parties; it can be just other people at your school. Maybe they're trying to mar… not necessarily venal, they just may be trying to market something, market a product, and they see a relationship there with all of the research they do on correlations. And there you are with your kid sister, that photograph you took of her falling down in the bathroom, ha-ha-ha, or a comment about the captain of the football team or whatever, and all of a sudden, you're humiliated at school. That's the kind of thing that I'm worried about.

Ralph Nader: Well, you're known for your solutions. Whenever you point out a problem, an abuse, especially in the arena of children, which is your expertise; I've called you the leading child advocate in the United States. You've gotten all kinds of legislation through in California. You've won court cases in California that could be a model all over the United States and in other foreign countries. In your open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, you proposed a solution. Describe it in detail to our listeners and to Steve and David.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, Zuckerberg is not the state and he can do things in terms of the commercial enterprise he runs. And one of the things he can do is to say, if you want to post something on my communications media here, tell us who you are. So, give us your name and the city or state you're from and if you don't do it, we're not posting it. And if you do it inaccurately, we're banning you. So that change right there simply says, everybody who's talking, you all will know who it is; you can choose to read it or not read it. You have rights too, audience. And Zuckerberg can do that and if he does it, I think it will catch on with the other media; the other media will do it as well. And we'll have a new standard here where people will…and if you want to criticize someone, say who you are and stand up for yourself. Don't be a coward. And if you're the audience, you have the right to choose who you want to listen to and the credibility you're going to give the speaker.

Ralph Nader: Well, how about that protected zone of people who fear reprisals, they want to blow the whistle--civil rights, civil liberties, corporate crime. How do you deal with that if you don't allow anybody to put anything on Facebook without attaching their name?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, you have anti-SLAPP laws in some states including California, where if someone goes after you, because you said something, because as you say, hey, it's a lie; you lied to me, how dare you? How dare you? How dare you? And that kind of thing does happen. We have laws which allow the person who made the whistleblowing statement to collect their own attorney's fees if it's not liable, if it is truthful. And if in fact that's the case, fine, you're not going to be injured because you're going to be defended and even the cost of your counsel are going to be paid for. That is the way to handle that. And by the way, if you have a special circumstance, maybe you can define as special circumstance where someone who legitimately fears death or something and is talking about a prospective nuclear weapon or something about to explode. I mean, there may be circumstances where you want to allow an exception but it should not be the rule.

Ralph Nader: Well, let me propose a subsolution, because you got to deal with this issue of people who have legitimate information to share, legitimate experiences, but they fear reprisals the way African-Americans did in the civil rights movement in the South--real reprisals. What about a corner of Facebook that would basically be considered a whistleblowing corner so that there could be an exception for the small number of people who really deserve anonymity if they're going to alert millions of people to a toxic hazard or to a government corruption or corporate crime or local police abuse?

Robert Fellmeth: I don't have any problem with that at all because you're making a choice as the audience to look at it or not look at it. If you're saying, I'm not even gonna bother looking at anything from someone…on the other hand, if someone says, hey, someone's just posted something that has a lot of documentation as a part of it and it really makes sense. I don't know who the author is, but it speaks for itself. Go to that corner and look at it. I have no problem with that.

Ralph Nader: Okay. The other thing you said--because Zuckerberg is not the state, he's got the power to do that--might've puzzled some of our listeners, Professor Fellmeth. I think what you meant was if your proposal was put to the state of California or to the federal government, it would be seen as an infringement on free speech--violation of First Amendment. Is that correct?


Robert Fellmeth: Yes, I think it would be and that there is some doubt about exactly where the line is now drawn on the role of the state in identifying speakers. Some anonymity is certainly a part of the First Amendment and the problem I have is we're not just talking about the village green; we're talking about someone able to communicate to ten million people at a device eight inches from their face. It's a different kind of environment we have now and I think we have to recognize that.

Ralph Nader: Well, let me ask you an associated question here, which is, you know, as they used to say in the old days, “the cat's out of the bag”. It's uncontrollable globally. If Facebook does this, something else will crop up to be specializing in vicious anonymous commentary. If Facebook is broken up, you lose the full impact if Zuckerberg adopts your proposal and says nobody can use Facebook without attaching their name to it unless they go into the whistleblowing corner. So, you I think would like to break up Google and Facebook, I suppose under the antitrust laws. You're an antitrust expert. How do you deal with alternatives that would evade you and Zuckerberg agreeing on the solution that you just described?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, here's the thing about it that I count on. I think it's a competitive advantage to do this. I think that if you're a consumer or not, consumers listening to this show, will, I think confirm this, that I would prefer to know who was talking. I prefer to get that information. And if I have a choice between some kind of media service that's going to provide them, some that’s not, it's going to just flood my phone or my TV or whatever with nothing but anonymous messages or a lot of anonymous messages, I'm going to choose the other because I think it's a competitive advantage. So, I'm not too worried. Once Zuckerberg does it, I think the others are going to have to in order to maintain their market share and yes, I'd like to trust bust everybody. You know, I'm a prosecutor. I've got Teddy Roosevelt in my blood.

Ralph Nader: We're talking with professor of law, Robert Fellmeth at the University of San Diego School of Law. This open letter to Mark Zuckerberg was delivered in late August. Have you received a response from Facebook or Zuckerberg?

Robert Fellmeth: No, but I have now sent it to the members of the board of Facebook. So, we'll see if that spawns anything. I'm sure he knows about it.

Ralph Nader: Yes, because it was in the San Francisco Chronicle near where he works. Yes, of course.

Robert Fellmeth: Yes, near where he works.

Ralph Nader: Now let's say you're nothing, if you're not persistent. In fact, that's your middle name--Robert Persistence Fellmeth. Let's say the board doesn't respond, next step?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, we just keep on going. I mean, if someone else other than Facebook does it, I think Facebook may be required to do it because I really think that it's a competitive advantage that will drive others to do it once one does it. It's kind of a conspiracy of silence now not to do it, which is the only reason it exists, because obviously you're going to have a higher market share if you have an advantageous program.

Ralph Nader: Well, before I push Robert Fellmeth even further listeners, I want to point out that his assertion that the audience has First Amendment rights is grounded in judicial decisions. The famous Red Lion decision that said: You who look at television, you have a First Amendment right, not just the people who are on television speaking or the owners of the television station. And I know the Red Lion decision has been frittered away by subsequent Supreme Court cases, but the essential point, I think is well-taken and well-grounded, that the audience has a freedom of speech right. And that's very important to your argument because I've talked to a lot of people who now have shut up; they're afraid to talk because of all of these anonymous slanders that are coming in on them. They're withdrawing from the village square. They're not showing up on town meetings because although they confront people they know in town meetings in New England, they don't know what's coming on the local newspaper website or the local radio and TV station website. So, having said that, is there any state and federal agency that has any jurisdiction to push Facebook to do what you're asking it to do?

Robert Fellmeth: I don't think so. I would like to see that happen. There is an issue of unfair, unlawful competition that little FTC acts are in all the states. California has a strong one. So, there's someone that does something that's unlawful or unfair in terms of competition, you can maybe hit it and that is an interesting theory. Is it unfair to flood somebody with messages without letting them know that it may be a commercial-only inspired message trying to get their business or it may be a foreign nation trying to influence you or whatever. That's an interesting issue. Is it unfair to have a competitive environment or competitive tactic that involves that? That's an open question and it's something that might be appropriate for litigation.

Ralph Nader: I think some of our listeners would want me to ask you this question and that is, is there a way, in any instances, where you can locate the author of the anonymous vicious defamation?

Robert Fellmeth: If you're law enforcement, you have ways. I mean, you can look for the source in terms of the ID of the transmitter and so forth. You can even go and get, I guess, photos or videos of the person buying the phone or whatever.

Ralph Nader: Is there any app that could help out these people who do it as a repeated practice day after day?

Robert Fellmeth: I think there are apps that will filter out things and I'm not sure exactly whether or not they're able to get the anonymous thing. The problem with the anonymous thing is that you fake being somebody you're not. It's not just the question of saying, I'm Joe Blow who doesn't exist obviously; it's calling yourself Ralph Nader and putting that in the message and you don't know who it is and a lot of people are assuming fake identities. That's another problem.


Ralph Nader: How do you deal with that? If somebody fakes a name, let's say Zuckerberg reasonably imposes the system you're proposing, but they start faking names.

Finally, as a longtime member of Public Citizen and major contributor to Ralph Nader's last presidential bid, I am utterly disgusted to see the organization he founded leaping to the defense of someone who is in league with a person who has harnessed the lowest impulses of puerile, vituperative Internet youth to generate a Charitable Fund that has been used to bribe two major charities into tacitly endorsing a campaign that is utterly devoid of charitable purpose, and is a mere cover for a hate campaign.

Apparently Public Citizen is now a proponent of charitable fraud and misrepresentation, and feels that misogynistic hate speech trumps a lawyer's right to keep control of his trademarked image in the field of legal services, where a lawyer's name is everything.

The membership news I regularly receive from Public Citizen about mislabeled drugs and health care fraud is apparently a mere cloak for some absurd agenda being dictated by pointy-headed Internet mavens with no concern for the public good and a vested interest in legitimizing Netwar and digital lynching.

Please forward this email to the Director and the Board of Public Citizen, and to Ralph Nader and let them know what you are up to, because you are up to your eyeballs in foolishness.

-- Letter from Charles Carreon to Paul Alan Levy, 6/23/12


Robert Fellmeth: Well, I think when my article, this op ed on this, the letter to him basically asked him to try to enforce it and if you find out that someone is doing it because only they'll be doing it over and over and over again, you ban them. You ban the source where it's coming from--I'm sorry, you no longer get access. And there are ways they can do that. They can do that and the government can do that. But the average citizen really cannot.

Ralph Nader: Well, people all over the country get anonymous violent threats to them and they can report that to the police can’t they, and would the police go after and try to identify the anonymous threat purveyor?

Robert Fellmeth: Yes, increasingly, they are. The DA's office here in San Diego and in LA and in other places is very active in the area of cybercrime and cyber threats, very active and it's getting more active all the time. It's a serious problem.


Ralph Nader: All right. Let's say Zuckerberg doesn't reply; the board of directors do not reply. The vice presidents of Facebook do not reply. There's no federal or state government you can ask to force Facebook to do this. What are your next steps before surrender, which you don't know the meaning of?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, the first thing I do is I call Ralph Nader and ask him for ideas.

Ralph Nader: [laughter] That's a cop out. California is your realm, your realm. Go ahead. Would you ask Governor Newsom to help you? Would you ask the legislature to use their legislative stature or what would you do? Would you have committee hearings in Sacramento?

Robert Fellmeth: I think legislation is a possibility and I think in California, an initiative is a possibility too, because I think the position we're discussing here I think is widely held and I think if you had an initiative in California that involved some kind of the right to know who is talking, you know, it would be in the California Constitution. You’d still have perhaps a conflict with the U.S. Constitution, maybe or maybe not, but you can draw some lines in the direction of audience knowledge, I think without offending the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, and I think you can do that by initiative or by statutory enactment, either way.

Ralph Nader: Do you think you can go after Facebook's charter? Explain that.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I mean Facebook, theoretically, it's headquartered, you know, Menlo Park right here in California and it is required to obey California law and it's admitted that in the case we filed. We intervened against the settlement that they did affecting children, which I mentioned earlier. They conceded that they must comply with California law. So, if California law changes, they're going to have to comply with it.

Ralph Nader: What are your next steps going to be as a practical matter?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I think the next step is to find out, first of all, what he's going to do. He is responding to some extent. I mean, he has done some things on the term and condition I mentioned that indicates to me he's concerned about it; he's concerned about the impact. There's been an initiative proposed here by Alastair Mactaggart that would have impeded Facebook's abuses enormously, particularly on invasion of privacy side. And the legislature responded by enacting a California Consumer Privacy Act, which takes effect on January 2020 and Facebook gave in to it because they saw that the initiative was much harsher on them. In order to avoid the initiative, they agreed to the statute and the statute is now subject to attack and amendment right now, as we're sitting here; the deadline is this Friday. In any event until January 2020, they're gonna have to abide by some new, at least privacy provisions, but I'd like to see the disclosure part I'm talking about also a part of the state law.

Ralph Nader: What if people have ideas on how you can get Zuckerberg to respond? How do they contact you?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I mean, my email is cpil@SanDiego.edu; cpil@SanDiego.edu is my personal email. I'm happy to entertain any thoughts or ideas or tactics that anybody might offer.

Ralph Nader: What if they urge you to stand up at a shareholders meeting after you’ve bought a couple of shares and challenge them directly?

Robert Fellmeth: I have to buy Facebook. [laughter] Is that… I guess to have standing. Okay.

Ralph Nader: What about another open letter where you list all the steps you're going to take to get an answer if he doesn't answer you?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, okay. Oh, that's a possibility. Although what I'd like to do maybe is find somebody who will do it. I mean it doesn't necessarily have to be Zuckerberg. If you find it, it can be you know, LinkedIn or you know any of the other, Myspace or any of the other people who are engaged in this kind of activity. I guess my next step would probably be to get someone to do it--to ask all around.

Ralph Nader: This is a rhetorical question. Why wouldn't the giant WhatsApp or Instagram do it?

Robert Fellmeth: I think that's a good idea also.

Ralph Nader: Well, that's because they're owned by Facebook.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I know, but I mean, I mean there are applications that aren't owned by Facebook, but Facebook definitely needs to be broken up as does Google. But the fact is that there are some competitors out there and we could maybe get them on the ball. I mean, if a competitor comes in with something that solves this problem, I think they'll achieve a lot of market.

Ralph Nader: Well, what if WhatsApp and Instagram are subsidiary corporations. Wouldn't they have a board of directors you could appeal to, and a president or CEO?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, they would, but if they’re subsidiaries, they're going to be under the control of the parent.

Ralph Nader: Just another irritation to get his attention.

Robert Fellmeth: Yeah, sure. I think what’ll get his attention is if LinkedIn and one of the others does it, then that'll get his attention big. So that would be my first option, would be to do that and then to go after/try to appeal to them in other ways. And maybe even ideally through statute or as you mentioned, through initiative or statute, that would get anybody's attention.

Ralph Nader: Well, what about a Facebook user’s group? Could you organize a Facebook user’s group? Facebook sued to stop a Facebook user’s group a couple of years ago from using the name Facebook, but what about a Facebook user’s group?

Robert Fellmeth: Called FB, a Zuckerberg friend’s group. [laughter]

Ralph Nader: I want to bring in Steve Skrovan and David Feldman. They're known for their imagination and they never use anonymous commentary. They put their John Hancock behind their comments. What do you want Bob Fellmeth to do?

Steve Skrovan: I don't want to interrupt the brainstorming session here, but how Bob… do you… you know, Facebook has hundreds of millions of users--hundreds of millions of users.

Ralph Nader: Billions of users.

Steve Skrovan: Over a billion. Just like McDonald's hamburgers. How do you verify a billion people's identities and wouldn't that even exacerbate the privacy problem?

Robert Fellmeth: No. You have the standard and presumably, if someone it doesn't exist and they're making something up, someone calls them on it and Facebook has a procedure and will have a process for verifying and there's a possible verification process that you can, you know that you can engage in and you can have. It may be possible to evade it in some way, shape or form. It may be possible to have a false identity, but you could make it really hard.

Steve Skrovan: So, you're saying that it's not everybody is pre-verified. It's only when somebody raises a complaint and then you try to verify that person's identity.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I think, no, I think you want people to basically begin with an identification process that is required as a pre-condition of posting. They’re attesting to their identification; that's the term.

Steve Skrovan: Right. But how do you practically do that? Do you have to send us your passport or you have them send you a letter at your snail mail address or how do they verify all of those identities?

Robert Fellmeth: No. I don't want it to be a bureaucracy here. I don't want to have anything like that. I'm saying that you have an initial requirement to disclose who you are with some initial information about name and location and so forth and then maybe a few more facts perhaps, but not much. And then if someone says, wait a second, I don't think that's that person, then you do an inquiry; the Facebook will do an inquiry and then you would say, demonstrate who you are, give us the following, you know, or we would at some point cut you off. And if they do it, fine and if they don't, fine. I mean, that's the system. I'm not saying this system will achieve a hundred percent compliance, but it will be probably a much higher compliance than we have now. Instead of getting huge numbers of anonymous communications, there'll be a few here and there maybe, but there'll be an incentive not to do it and there'll be a system to clamp down on it when it happens in extremis.

Ralph Nader: David?

David Feldman: Yeah. I'm just wondering how much longer Facebook itself has, in terms of the market. I hate to sound like a republican, but could the market just take care of this where people get so disgusted by Facebook, they stopped using it?

Robert Fellmeth: In lieu of what?

David Feldman: Well, is it that we're convinced that Facebook is essential? We can't live without it, but we did ten years ago. How integral is Facebook to our existence? Do we really need Facebook and are people gonna somehow lose interest in this kind of social media?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, that could happen, but when you've got a market, a service market that involves communications and it has a billion users, you've got a very critical, large, huge market that dominates a large share of our communications. And there it is. You can say, well, you can always say, stop using Facebook. You really don't need it; you can use something else. But the fact is people, you know, enter something like that and they develop reliance. They have friends, they communicate regularly that choose a barrier to entry for anyone else to come in and do it, in fact, because I've got 25 friends on Facebook. I communicate with them all the time; we share photographs; we do this, we do that. Once you've got that market established, you've got a lot of market power. And to say, well, you can always leave Facebook, that's really not realistic.

Ralph Nader: Called transaction cost. Listen, before we conclude, tell us about the Children’s Advocacy Institute over the years and its marvelous accomplishments. I don't know any public interest group with such a small budget that's accomplished so much. So, it does encourage people who get a little discouraged about changing things. Give our listeners some panorama of some of the things you've achieved out of that San Diego Law School enclave.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, we have an office in Sacramento and we have an office in DC and we have very good lobbyists and we have students who work very hard. We have lots of graduates now, alumni. We've been doing this for 30 years and on the child side and we have the statute that provides a safety swimming pools in California is our statue. They just did a study just about three months ago, which found that that statute had achieved halving of child deaths by drowning, half as many attributed to the statute, which is very rewarding to us. We have a Kids-N-Cars statute. We have a playground safety statute. We have a child support collection statute. We have child welfare statutes, about 20 of those involving the child welfare system--from reporting child abuse deaths to all sorts of inspection issues and so forth and child care and so forth. So, you know, we've done some a hundred plus statutes, about 10 or 12 major court appellate decisions, some of them federal, some of them state. And we're very active. And the reason we're able to do that of course is because we have students. I mean, it's kind of utopian. Not only do you have students who are very intelligent and very bright, but you don't have to pay them. They pay you.[laughter]

Ralph Nader: Well, they also get incredible experience for their life's work. How would people get access to your annual report? So, they see in great detail what you've been doing. Children's Advocacy Institute.

Robert Fellmeth: Well, we have a website, http://www.caichildlaw, cai child law, all one word. CAI is the acronym for Children's Advocacy Institute, caichildlaw.org and you can see in there kind of what we're doing, our pleadings. We have two cases underway right now--one involving the extraction of children at the border by our immigration agencies. We have a FOIA [Freedom Of Information Act] case there going on right now. We have a case in Indiana, a pilot case there, trying to establish the right of children in foster care children to counsel, the constitutional right to counsel; that's underway right now. We're getting help from Morrison & Foerster in that case, which is very helpful. And from Sheppard Mullin in the FOIA case. So, we are able to draw upon sometimes former students of ours who are in these large law firms that have pro bono entities and they do some very, very fine work.

Ralph Nader: One way you multiply your efforts. Before we leave, how do people get access to your seminal article in the British Journal of American Legislative Studies on “Cartel Control of Attorney Licensure and the Public Interest”?

Robert Fellmeth: Well, I think it'll be published imminently, very soon and it'll be out from the British Journal and you'll be able to get it from the British Journal any moment now.

Ralph Nader: And you'll post the link on your own website?

Robert Fellmeth: Yes. That website is on http://www.cpil.org. CPIL stands for Center for Public Interest Law. http://www.cpil.org is the site where we have that posted so you can see it. You know, you can get the link to it on that site.

Ralph Nader: Well, thank you very much professor of law, Robert Fellmeth, citizen advocate for children extraordinaire. To be continued. Thank you very much for your work, Robert and those of your associates and the valiant students who you're training for the next generation.

Robert Fellmeth: Thanks, Ralph.

Steve Skrovan: We've been speaking with Robert Fellmeth. We will link to his work at ralphnaderradiohour.com.
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