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Facebook Communications Digital The Internet Politics Technology

How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Under fire for Facebook Inc.'s role as a platform for political propaganda, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has punched back, saying his mission is above partisanship. "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg wrote in September after President Donald Trump accused Facebook of bias. Zuckerberg's social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn't said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition -- sometimes with the aid of "troll armies" that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.

The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that's neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power. The unit is led from Washington by Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign. Since Facebook hired Harbath three years later, her team has traveled the globe helping political clients use the company's powerful digital tools. In some of the world's biggest democracies -- from India and Brazil to Germany and the U.K. -- the unit's employees have become de facto campaign workers. And once a candidate is elected, the company in some instances goes on to train government employees or provide technical assistance for live streams at official state events.

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How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda

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  • by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @03:42PM (#55785459) Homepage
    His mission is "above partisanship" because, simply put, his "mission" is to make heaps and gobs of money by any and every means possible.
    • by Glock9mm ( 4961835 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @03:52PM (#55785537)
      His mission is for power and wealth first, but ultimately he wants to push his ideas of what you should think, believe and do. His track record of extreme political bias and invasion of your privacy speaks for itself.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Net neutrality has been a big issue lately. But the problem is that the 2015 approach to "net neutrality" that is being promoted is limited to only the bottom 3 of the 7 layers of the OSI model [wikipedia.org]. That's only about 43% of the layers!

      So while neutrality is being forced on the providers of the physical telecom infrastructure, those organizations offering communication services on top of this physical infrastructure resist the idea of themselves having to act in a neutral manner regarding the comments, submissio

      • What we need is 100% net neutrality that extends from layer 1 of the OSI model up to layer 7.

        That means there would be neutrality at the Network layer, when it comes to packets. It would also mean that there'd be neutrality at the Application layer, as well, where we classify social media platforms.

        I classify all social media platforms equally just fine now. They're nothing more than portals that feed the look-at-me generation of social media junkies addicted to narcissism. I wouldn't dare consider them a "news" outlet by any means. Intelligent people understand this, and do not need more regulation.

        Besides, only 0.001% of society would even be able to grasp what the fuck you're talking about as you petition for "Application-layer Net Neutrality". Championing that would fall on deaf and dumb ears.

      • Are social networks as much as a necessity as ISPs? Would this also be a requirement for social networks designed for specific political groups? For small,forums of 30 people?

        • Are social networks as much as a necessity as ISPs?

          As necessary, no. But are you saying that opting out doesn't impose costs, both social and professional?

          Are social networks as much as a necessity as ISPs?

          I think the NN rules required 50k or 100k users to be effected.

          • I believe that government should guarantee our health and communication needs, not our online social needs. Regarding professional, I admit that i live in a country where you can get a good job without fb. I heard it is different in the US.

            • Yeah, FB seems to have (in the US) moved more into the communication than social bucket. As in, some people only communicate via FB (not even by the fucking phone they have in their hand they use to check FB).

              At any rate, the US government clearly disagrees, so I'm looking forward to the health care system imploding now that Obamacare is set to go away in 2019.

              • I am curious, why do you think FB has become so dominant in the US? In Israel FB is considered something for communication between friends, the only people who use it professionally are artists and professional content writers. When I spent some time in Berlin I saw that they use it even less, using facebook mostly for publishing events and photos of themselves, communicating via whatsapp or phones. Can you explain what makes the US special in this regard?

                • Well, as a corollary to your Berlin experience: thanks to unlimited texting, WhatsApp has almost 0 penetration in the US.

                  As to why people in the US use FB... I actually have no idea. I suppose partly its that it started here? And also that news media pushes FB/Twitter involvement (now Instagram as well) as a way to seem cool and hip. Which in turn makes it cool and hip. (I mean, the "Twitter Revolution" is what they called the democracy rallies in Iran, and I think post analysis showed only like 10-20 p

  • How may reasons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 21, 2017 @03:50PM (#55785529)

    How many reasons and examples do we need to see that FB is an out of control behemoth of global control and influence?
    Do we need anymore reasons to see that FB is wrong on so many levels.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @03:56PM (#55785581)
    So....Facebook basically offers a service to organizations that will guide and train them to use features of Facebook. Don't a lot of large companies offer training services to users of their product(s)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 )

      So....Facebook basically offers a service to organizations that will guide and train them to use features of Facebook. Don't a lot of large companies offer training services to users of their product(s)?

      (Customer) "How does your product work?"

      (Facebook) "Your advertising will be seen by 2 billion idiots daily, the largest in the known universe. We specialize in viral manipulation of the masses. Fact-checking is optional."

      (Customer) "I believe a blank check is too slow. Here's my bank routing number, account number, and password. Take whatever you need."

      Evil is subjective, but when revenue is all that matters, ethics goes out the fucking window.

    • Yes, there is a lot of "some" and "sometimes" in the article. In other words, they try to stay neutral. Sometimes their users are morally questionable. Since Jesus isn't on Earth anymore, we have to assume that means all of the users are morally questionable.
    • Yes, and its best selling product, besides its moonshots and occasional forays into hardware and social work, is its users. Just like that other big ad company that we use to find those Face-less other things on the Net.
  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @04:03PM (#55785625)

    the unit's employees have become de facto campaign workers. And once a candidate is elected, the company in some instances goes on to train government employees or provide technical assistance for live streams at official state events.

    Any communications company, be it Facebook or TimeWarner or even printing companies that have to act as service agents for the campaign (here's how you get the message on our system) are going to become de-facto campaign workers. Broadcast companies in the US do this to a certain extent as well as part of advertising campaigns but that's a little fuzzier when they're both reporting the news of the candidate on one hand and taking the money from the political candidate with the other. Which is why there are laws about how those relationships work. Is Facebook considered a :"news generator" though that they'd breach that line? Sure they curate the news to a certain extent but is that the same thing?

    The latter statement doesn't seem to be a major issue at all. Unless facebook refuses to train government employees if the opposition won... That seems to me just part of doing business.

    • Any communications company, be it Facebook or TimeWarner or even...

      **gasp** /.

      I've rarely had a need to say anything disparaging about our beloved Slashdot, but was interested when I couldn't tag a story with the word 'fascism'.

  • "The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that's neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power."

    Translation: We're as biased as a drug dealer. We'll take money from anyone and everyone, because revenue is all that matters.

    Needless to say the government that runs on that capitalism wouldn't dare interfere. They recognize the hand that feeds them.

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @04:44PM (#55785863)

    If everyone were to download adblock plus and use it, companies like Facebook wouldn't have the power that they think they have.

    Same goes for every other company whose lifeblood is advertising. Stop giving them attention and block their crap.

  • brings out the worst in everyone.

  • "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas."

    This is a blatant lie. Facebook is making concentrated effort to silence ideas that they consider aboninations. The usual suspects are to be expected. That is to say, you only need to see what ideas liberals are opposing for virtue signaling purposes. Like idea that there are two sexes or the idea that transsexuality, or gender dysphoria in medical terms, is a form of mental illness.

  • Facebook is a cancer on the world and the internet.

  • "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas"... and process them (including censor them) through our Facebook algorithm for selfish reasons.

    No thank you, Zucker.

  • ...work for the one paying the most money. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899

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