February 23, 2020

The WaPo tells us that Facebook decided to not take down disinformation after the 2016 election for fear of alienating conservatives:

“This is what they know about Republicans: Tell them ‘yes’ or they will hurt us.”

Facebook created “Project P” (P for propaganda) —after the 2016 Goat Rodeo— to identify pages that had spread fake news reports during the 2016 election that helped the Russian Usurper’s improbably win. They found dozens of pages, mostly coming from overseas and all coming from the hard-right.

Joel Kaplan (VP of global public policy) argued that the pages shouldn’t be deleted:

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives.”

You don’t say?

Kaplan said that conservatives didn’t regard fake news as fake news, and there would be a backlash if they removed those pages. Because when it is fake in conservatives’ favor it is good news, I guess?

So you can see how this could snowball. To keep the peace with Possum Hollar and allow the lies to remain (and reproduce like bunnies in clover) brought us to where we are today: Facebook is the platform preferred by our Rage Uncles where they can promote their favorite conspiracy theories and where politicians pay Faceberg a lot of Ameros to lie to Possum Hollar.

Not surprisingly, other media outlets sensing both the power of Facebook and how they are hoovering up the disinformation dollar (and presumably these media outlets cannot) are starting to squeal:

In a newly released interview, AT&T President and COO John Stankey says he’s “really concerned about the concentration of economic power” in big tech companies and how they approach their “platforms’ influence on society.”

Stankey, who also serves as the CEO of WarnerMedia, urged Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take some responsibility for information posted on the platform, saying that the site requires “editorial integrity” whether or not Zuckerberg considers it a media company.

“If that’s where people are consuming facts and information and if you’re aggregating and producing that to move out, then you probably need to think about what the editorial integrity of your platform is,” he says…

“Why did editorial integrity show up in media companies?” Stankey adds. “Editorial integrity and editors arrived because people needed to make sure that their source of information was, in fact, doing that ethical and fair reporting that we just talked about. And so I don’t think you can sit here and say, well, just because I’m not a media company, I shouldn’t need editors.”

Facebook is absolutely a media company (despite Faceberg saying that they are a technology company) and they must be regulated as such. Right now, Facebook is an unaccountable version of Fox News (which, you know, is unaccountable in a different way).

Published with permission from Mock Paper Scissors.

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