FACEBOOK FIRST RESPONDED PLATFORM DELIVERED NO PROPAGANDA
Let’s dial back in the not-so-way-back-machine to the time last Fall just after Donald Trump won the election for President of the United States. The fallout and confusion over this perceived unlikely outcome left everyone scrambling for answers. One of those answers was initially understood to be highly targeted ads via Facebook as a platform which misinformed voters, acted as wedge memes, kept voters at home, among other strategic impacts at very local levels. Facebook’s CEO and franchise face Mark Zuckerberg immediately claimed that the platform had absolutely no impact whatsoever on the election’s outcome. He even said that, “the idea that fake news on Facebook… influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” Facebook fact checking ensued.
DESPITE ASSURANCES, FACEBOOK KEPT INVESTIGATING
Yet for some reason Facebook continued to act, taking some steps to slow down the dissemination of misinformation. On aspect of that effort was crating partnerships with several news media and fact-checking organizations. The AP, Politifacts and Snopes all started working with Facebook to identify and flag fake or news stories that were disputable at best. More recently, Facebook has been transparent with the American public about Russian supported and subsidized trolls and Facebook ads which may have reached up to 126 million American voters with election propaganda. Zuckerberg understandably has had to show regret for his initial comments.
SHAM, SHAME, FACEBOOK FACT CHECKING EFFORTS JUST PR STUNT
But despite this positive growth in recognizing reality and the efforts to do better to prevent the dissemination of fake propaganda news, it’s becoming very clear that Facebook still is in a poor position to prevent this from happening again, both now and in the future. In just the last month, we are learning that fact-checkers have started expressing their disappointment with the process publicly, saying they’ve been provided no feedback from Facebook about their work’s impact and calling the entire endeavor a sham on Facebook’s part. According to one reporter’s experience speaking to TheBlot:
“I don’t feel like it’s working at all. The fake information is still going viral and spreading rapidly. It’s really difficult to hold [Facebook] accountable. They think of us as doing their work for them. They have a big problem, and they are leaning on other organizations to clean up after them.”
ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS STILL AT RISK WITH FACEBOOK DISINFORMATION
That doesn’t sound good for the elections coming up in the United States, especially in 2020. As the sources speaking to TheBlot can’t be identified as their contracts don’t allow them to speak publicly, there have been quite a number willing to speak off the record to get this news out, both that their efforts are a complete failure and that they increasingly are convinced that their work is just a PR campaign for Facebook. Essentially the Facebook fact checking effort is a sham, a bamboozle and a fraud. That’s not good news. One source was quoted saying, “They are basically buying good PR by paying us.”
AN ARMY OF STAFF NEEDS TO BE HIRED TO FIGHT PROPAGANDA
TheBlot’s sources are making it clear that the scale of effort needed far surpasses the work they are able to do. “They should be hiring armies of moderators and their own fact-checkers,” one source said in an interview. “The relationship they have with Facebook fact checking organizations is way too little and way too late.” So the summary of Facebook’s efforts, commentary and reaction to date seems to be comparable to a confidence game. Deny, confirm and lament, show public effort to reform, but really change nothing. We will see in the coming weeks if the follow up reporting includes how Facebook essentially tells us how it’s too complicated to explain to the lay public, but that we should trust them. Again. Rinse, repeat.