Facebook and Trump are both threats to our democracy

Facebook and Donald Trump are both threats to our democracy and our well-being. Each have contributed to the events on January 6 in Washington D.C. Trump facilitated and emboldened white supremacists to come out of hiding and storm the Capitol, while Facebook helped them organize, grow in number, and coordinate their plans. They are each partners in crime. While they’re certainly not alone, others, including Fox News and other social websites such as Twitter are also complicit, But Facebook deserves special recognition and contempt for their failure to even admit responsibility. Their behavior parallels Trump’s: denying all responsibility and continuing to keep doing the same.

Facebook is designed from the ground up with its engine and algorithms designed to identify those with like interests and bring them together, whether it’s class members from the same high school or individuals that express interest in Nazis. The connections and referrals are all automated with no significant oversight. In spite of being criticized for years, they’ve never been able or willing to provide adequate oversight.

Just like Trump, Facebook denies the evidence that’s in plain sight. Like Trump, they take no responsibility.  Right after Trump claimed his “victory” in the November presidential election was stolen, a “Stop the Steal” Facebook group was created. Within 24 hours it grew to 300,000 members.

Later that same day, Facebook closed it down. But by that time there were half a million comments, and more groups had been created. It spread like a virus. Two of these groups remained active on Facebook through January 6 and were used for organizing many of the illegal activities that took place on the Wednesday. Facebook bears much of the responsibility for facilitating, organization and transporting attendees to the storming of the Capitol building.

According to the Washington Post, “Facebook has been at the center of controversies over its role in the organizing of far-right events since at least 2017, when the service played a central role in the promotion of a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in which a woman was killed.” That was a warning that Facebook monetized instead of taking action.

A few days ago Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, made a statement for the press where she said, “I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.” Read that again. It’s a lie.

Her statement flies directly in the face of reality. But it’s a familiar pattern that she and her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, have followed for years. Deny the obvious, occasionally offer a feeble non-apologizy, and accept no responsibility.

Over the past dozen years Sheryl Sandberg has non-apologized for an Emotion Manipulation Study … Kind Of” (July 2014),  the Cambridge Analytica data scandal” (March 2018), and for Russian trolls using Facebook to attempt to suppress African-American voter turnout during the 2016 election. But they never did anything to prevent these reoccurrences. It may be because they can’t. Facebook might just be built upon technology that cannot distinguish between the good and bad use of it. And the only solution is to close it down or do something equally drastic such as requiring members to use verifiable names.

And just this past week it was revealed that an app that track’s a woman’s fertility cycle was illegally reporting the information to Facebook and Google.

So it’s not as if Facebook was not warned. But, sadly, they just don’t care.

As we learn about many of the participants in the takeover of the Capitol building, many of them are believers in absurd conspiracy theories and are incapable of rational thinking. They’ve become that way from living in an alternative universe that has been created and delivered by Facebook, Fox News, Trump, and other social networks.

by Phil Baker