We know how Facebook was used by a variety of less than totally scrupulous campaign groups to spread disinformation during several recent election campaigns: while that concentrated upon by lawmakers Stateside is the 2016 Presidential contest, the one whose result has had the most profound effect on the UK is the same year’s referendum on membership of the EU. So what did Facebook do to prevent a recurrence?
An unequal contest: Zuck gets dismantled ...
The sad reality is that not only is Facebook apparently not doing a great deal to prevent a recurrence of Vote Leave putting out serious amounts of targeted disinformation - the “Turkey about to join EU” and “Britain’s border will now be with Syria and Iraq” whoppers being prime examples - but that the platform is now actively encouraging far-right participation. And, as so often, our media establishment is keeping schtum.
... by a focused and determined AOC
You read that right: Judd Legum, who writes the newsletter Popular Information, has spelled it out: “Facebook’s new section of ‘trusted’ news sources will include Breitbart, a website that featured a section on ‘black crime’ and laundered white nationalist talking points”. Breitbart? Trusted? And this is not an isolated example.
When Mark Zuckerberg was questioned last week before the House Financial Services Committee, he was subjected to significant discomfort by Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th District (see the video HERE). She revealed that another supposedly “trusted” site was the Daily Caller, which has white supremacist connections.
Meanwhile, media strategist Jason Kint noted “Based on Zuckerberg answers to [AOC] yesterday, we now know people on his leadership team knew about Cambridge Analytica scraping personal data prior to Dec 2015 Guardian report but we’re also supposed to believe Zuckerberg did NOT know until March 2018”. No comment.
AOC added her thoughts to that: “There are several aspects to Zuckerberg’s answers on Cambridge Analytica, paid disinformation ads, & Facebook’s ties to the far-right that aren’t adding up. There may be a deeper story here, and we need to get to the bottom of it - the integrity of our elections are at stake”. Our elections, too.
Looking on was the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, whose piece was sub-headed “The New York politician [AOC] has exposed [Facebook’s] shameless disregard for the truth”. She later added “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up...always, always, always. This week [AOC] brought the [fire]. And here’s why I think there’s trouble ahead for Zuck. This isn’t the end of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s the beginning”.
AOC added her own thoughts to that. “Here’s what we know: - Zuckerberg ‘doesn’t know’ when he/FB discovered the Cambridge Analytica scandal. That is hard to believe - After Zuck privately met w/ Trump & far-right, he’s now allowing paid disinformation ads - He didn’t tell the whole truth [about] his ‘fact checkers’”. And her conclusion?
“Zuckerberg has been justifying Facebook’s increasingly disturbing decisions by acting like the company is some innocent, neutral bystander. But as we discover more info, that is getting harder to believe. They are making active & aggressive decisions that imperil our elections”. Facebook is not only not being open and honest about past misbehaviour involving its platform, it’s enabling the far-right as well. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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