The New Global Regulators

By Natasha Tusikov, author of Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans, which ends today. Search our blog for #ASC2016 to find other blog posts from our authors related to the ASC conference.  

In another disturbing example of pervasive corporate surveillance, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report in mid-October that showed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram facilitated surveillance against Black Lives Matter activists. These Internet companies allowed a Chicago-based social-media monitoring firm, Geofeedia, to access their users’ information, which it then sold to law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia’s information, which provides real-time data on social media users, enabled police to track protests and monitor activists. Following outrage from civil-society groups and Black Lives Matter activists, the companies have ceased operation with Geofeedia. Serious concerns, however, remain about the vast amounts of information social media platforms – and Internet firms more generally – gather on their users. What’s also interesting about the Geofeedia case is that it highlights the growing, but often murky role of mostly large, U.S.-based Internet firms as global regulators.

Tusikov.ChokepointsA key reason that these Internet firms, like Google, PayPal, Facebook and Twitter, are powerful global regulators is because they operate what security analyst Bruce Schneier calls surveillance-based business models in which they comprehensively track their users. The firms’ regulatory capacity derives in part from their provision of essential services, such as search, web hosting, or payment services, but also from their global platforms, significant market share, and sophisticated enforcement programs. Internet firms’ legal authority for setting and enforcing rules comes from their contracts with their users – the lengthy, (often unread) terms-of-use agreements that spell out users’ responsibilities and rights. Through these contractual agreements, Internet firms can set and enforce rules that govern hundreds of millions of people who use their services and monitor their platforms for illegal content. And they can do so without court orders.

The U.S. government has recognized Internet firms’ capacity to target online wrongdoing and have increasingly delegated responsibility to them to address social problems such as child pornography, illegal gambling, copyright infringement, and counterfeit goods. We may cheer corporate efforts to rid the web of child sexual abuse images and to deter fraud. But we should do so with caution. These companies have significant discretion to determine the legality of certain types of content, such as the kinds of images that constitute child pornography or copyright infringement. How comfortable are we with Facebook determining what images constitute illegal pornography, or with Google deciding what information should be defined as terrorism? While these companies have considerable power to determine all manner of wrongdoing on their platforms, governments have generally neglected to require oversight or accountability measures on Internet firms. The resulting regulation is largely opaque, unaccountable, and prone to error. Consequences of mistakes are serious as people may have funds frozen, be placed on ‘blacklists’ as criminals, or come under police investigation.

Who regulates the Internet and how are vitally important questions given its centrality to economic, social, and political life. We need debate in both the public and political arenas to consider how rules governing the Internet are made and enforced, by whom, and in whose interests.


NatashaTusikovphotoNatasha Tusikov a visiting fellow with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University, and a former strategic criminal intelligence analyst with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa, Canada. She holds a PhD in sociology from the Australian National University.


Genocide: From Armenia to Darfur

This post is published in advance of the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Montreal, Quebec from November 10 – 13 and in advance of American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16 – 19. #NWSA2016 #ASC2016 #Election2016 

Joachim J. Savelsberg presented insights from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to affected groups on several occasions. After a speech in Yerevan, Armenia, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Savelsberg more recently addressed and exchanged ideas with refugees from Darfur and other troubled regions in the Middle East.

Savelsberg-RepresentingMassViolenceOne opportunity was offered by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, participant in a movement among French universities that offer refugees a path back into higher education. In this context, Savelsberg lectured and discussed with a group of Sudanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugee-students. His lecture evoked much interest and intense discussions. Students primarily wanted to know what actions could put an end to the continuing and newly intensifying mass atrocities in Darfur. Why does the West not intervene with military force? Why does it not arm rebel groups who fight the Sudanese government? Why have peace negotiations not succeeded? Why have indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not resulted in arrests? While not all answers could satisfy all members of the group, students took some comfort from the observation that UN and ICC interventions had advanced an international perception of the mass atrocities as a form of criminal violence. They shared the author’s hope that this trend will, in the long run, further delegitimize mass atrocities and challenge those political and military actors who bear responsibility. American institutions of higher education might, it seems, learn from French universities and their initiatives, which stand in sharp contrast to closed doors rhetoric (and policy) and to the rise of right-wing populist movements that enhance exclusion and risk advancing political-religious radicalization and criminalization.

Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group's Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.
Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group’s Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.

More recently, Savelsberg spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions in Minneapolis, MN and, in Washington, DC, at the 2016 Women and Genocide conference, organized by the Darfur Women Action Group (DAWG), with support from the Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University, and the Genocide Prevention Program, George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His lecture followed reports in which women from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Nigeria spoke to their experiences in the context of mass atrocities. Like in Paris, careful scholarly analysis of the effects of new international institutions encounter impatience among those who are directly affected. Some scholars reinforce that impatience also at the DAWG event, as they focus on the weaknesses of new institutions. Savelsberg instead highlighted the historical novelty of international criminal justice, and alternative transitional justice institutions, urging patience in the exploration of the degree to which – paraphrasing Justice Robert Jackson – reason and some degree of the rule of law may eventually supplement the pure use of power in international relations. The experiment began only in the 20th century. It is a novelty in human history, initial malfunctions are expected and no reasons for dismissal. Representing Mass Violence documents how it may advance cultural change and promote hope.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.


Trump and Homosexuality: Differences in Public Opinion

By Amy Adamczyk, author of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016

Like many academics, I was surprised at how well Donald Trump did early in the presidential election, securing the Republican nomination and at times rivaling Hillary Clinton in the polls. Part of the reason I was so surprised is because almost everyone I know and spend time with is a staunch democrat, socialist, or even communist. For many academics most of our friends are very liberal left-leaning highly educated people. For me it is even more extreme because I am childless and live in Manhattan. So the thought of millions of Trump enthusiasts has been hard to fathom.

Adamczyk-CrossNationalThat a social scientist like myself, trained to avoid generalizing from personal experience, is nonetheless taken aback by the Trump phenomenon is a testament to the power of context. Simply put, those with whom we interact have a powerful role in shaping our views. And our friendship groups tend not to be very diverse, so it’s easy to find ourselves in an echo chamber soundproofed from the voices of the outside world. This is especially true for people at opposite ends of the educational spectrum, whose friendship networks tend to be particularly homogeneous.

The media coverage of the presidential election provides repeated reminders of the deep cultural divides within our country. When we regularly see our fellow citizens cheering on a candidate who we find outrageous or worse, it is easy to forget all the subjects on which most of us agree, and how this agreement is fostered by the cultural and structural context we share as residents of the United States. For example, the issue of gay rights, a wedge issue in past elections, has faded from view in the current election. Opposition to same-sex marriage has narrowed over the last two decades and this year Republicans nominated someone who appears only now to oppose same-sex marriage out of political expediency. Meanwhile, there are nations where a person can be put to death for being gay. As great as the cultural differences among our fellow citizens, the differences between nations are vaster still, especially on key issues like gay rights.

In my forthcoming book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe, I show just how vast the differences are across nations on this important issue. What accounts for such dramatic differences across nations? The book shows that much of the variation in attitudes about homosexuality can be traced back to differences in the degree of economic development, democratic governance and religious fervor. The book also shows how these factors interact in complex ways with a nation’s unique history and geographic location to produce divergent cultural and structural climates.

The interesting thing about contextual forces, whether they are operating within friendship groups, regions, or nations, is that we often do not know they are there. It takes something like a divisive national election or stories about the denial of civil rights to remind us of the different worlds in which we live.


Adamczyk.Amy-PhotoAmy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.


How Donald Trump’s “Locker-Room Talk” Perpetuates Sexual Violence Against Women

By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016

Recently, a video of presidential candidate Donald Trump making sexist, lewd, and offensive comments about women flooded media coverage. In the video, Trump can be heard saying, “I just start kissing them [women]. Just kiss—I don’t even wait. And when you are a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. Whatever you want.” A reporter laughed aloud at these statements.

“Locker-Room Talk”

After the release of this video a slew of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Trump. Even more problematic is that videos and quotes have also emerged. With this new information the resounding theme of the hyper-sexualization of women, the use of sexist language and the objectification of women’s bodies are exceedingly clear. In response, Trump apologized and referred to this type of language as “locker-room talk.” He also affirmed that he holds the utmost respect for women. Despite these statements, Mr. Trump’s discussion of women reflects the larger hyper-sexualization of women in a patriarchal society that largely ignores this type of sexual misconduct. There is no place where this is more painfully apparent than in the narratives of marginalized young women (especially women of color) featured in my book Caught Up.

Flores.CaughtUp

Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Those We Trust

In this book, I address how the schools and detention centers in Southern California are collectively punishing young Latina girls in new and dynamic ways. For this project, I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork. The ubiquitous sexual abuse of young women was the largest and most pervasive theme I heard during my two years of research. Interview after interview, I heard young women recount instances of this type of abuse at the hands of immediate and distant family, neighbors, students at school, current and ex-romantic partners, institutional actors, priests, human traffickers or by complete strangers.

Another major theme in my research was the relative impunity with which these men continually victimized the young people in my study. From stories of gang sexual assault at the hands of boys told by “Feliz” or stories of being molested by multiple neighbors over the course of various years like “Ray,” sexual violence was ubiquitous in the lives of young women.

Consequences

Additionally, while local, state and federal governments always seemed to have the resources to punish young women, they often lacked the ability to provide resources to help youth cope with their prior and current sexual assault. As a person who is concerned with the well being of these young women, my wife, mother, cousins, and all women, I wonder how Trump’s type of “locker-room talk” emboldens and perpetuates the ongoing assault and abuse of young women, and rape culture as a whole. I also wonder what message it sends to men of all ages when they hear how Mr. Trump has allegedly victimized so many women and gotten away with it. This is even more shocking since Donald Trump is a presidential candidate that has the support of large segments of the U.S. population.

As an academic, feminist and victim of childhood sexual assault, I hope that we as a society can find a way to stop the continued attack on women and more broadly on all marginalized and oppressed groups. I also hope that we come to our senses and realize that a person who preys on the weak and exploits their privilege to do so is not someone we want as our president.


Flores.author.photo-croppedJerry Flores is a Ford Foundation Fellow, University of California President’s Postdoc, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.


Beyond Mass Incarceration: The Cognitive Legacy of the Clinton Era

By Michela Soyer, author of A Dream Denied: Incarceration, Recidivism, and Young Minority Men in America 

SoyerheadshotWhen Bill Clinton signed the federal “Three Strikes Bill” in 1994, most of the teenagers I interviewed between 2010 and 2013 were barely a year old. Some of my interviewees were not even been born yet. For several of those young men, the upcoming presidential election will be the first one in which they are able to cast their vote. One of their likely choices will be the woman whose husband’s political choices in the mid-1990s have wrecked havoc in their communities. Twenty years later, Hillary Clinton works hard to put a distance between herself and her husband’s legacy; on her campaign website, she calls for an end of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

For the teenagers whose lives I describe in A Dream Denied, Clinton’s promise to undo some of her husband’s damage comes too late. Five of the young men I portray in my book won’t be allowed to vote in the upcoming election; they are either serving time in a state prison or are on parole for a felony. The others may have escaped the tragic cycle of incarceration and recidivism, but their formative teenagers years were nevertheless stunted. Their life trajectories have been shaped by a juvenile justice system unable to fill the void Clinton’s welfare reform has created. Their middle class counterparts may face anxieties about their lack of self-fulfillment and financial insecurities. The young men in my study learned early on that their basic freedom is nothing they should take for granted.

In June 2013, I conducted my final interview for the book. The young man I spoke with had just suffered through a string of family tragedies. His cousin and his aunt had been killed. “Why does this s*** keep happening to me and my family?” he asked. I didn’t know how to respond, and I still believe that there was nothing I could have said to ease his pain. His experience of incarceration, recidivism, fosSoyer.ADreamDeniedter care and death are deeply personal. On the other hand, the seeds for his troubled teenage years were laid around the time of his birth, when the Clinton administration ended “welfare as we know it.”

These young men grew up with the double disadvantage of a defunct welfare system and a racially biased highly punitive criminal justice system. Astonishingly, these young men still believed in a bright future. If Hillary Clinton were to meet with them, they probably would not confront her like a protestor did recently in South Carolina. Most of the young minority men whose lives I describe blamed themselves. They pointed to their lack of self-control, their laziness, or inability to listen to the adults in their lives. In that sense, they are true children of the Clinton years. They did not expect the government to help their families. Some even believe their punishment was justified. Worse than the time many young men have lost in the juvenile or criminal justice system, however, is that they were never able to develop any concept that they deserve better. This cognitive burden may be the most tragic legacy of the Clinton years, and it will shape the life trajectories of the young men in my study well beyond the presidential election this fall.


Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.


Decoding Albanian Organized Crime wins the DIC / ASC 2015 Outstanding Book Award

We’re pleased to announce that Jana Arsovska’s book, Decoding Albanian Organized Crime: Culture, Politics, and Globalization, is the winner of the 2015 Outstanding Book Award from the Division on International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.

Decoding Albanian Organized Crime: Culture, Politics, and Globalization
Decoding Albanian Organized Crime: Culture, Politics, and Globalization

The Outstanding Book Award is awarded based upon the criteria of quality of writing, use of theory and prior literature, research and methodology, and a book’s  contribution and originality in international or comparative crime or justice. Based on more than a decade of research, including interviews with victims, offenders, and law enforcement across ten countries, as well as court files and confidential intelligence reports, Decoding Albanian Organized Crime presents a comprehensive overview of the causes, codes of conduct, activities, migration, and structure of Albanian organized crime groups in the Balkans, Western Europe, and the United States.

The award will be presented at the ASC Meetings, which will be held in Washington, DC, this November.

Congratulations, Jana!