Investigation: Facebook employed Washington-based consultant to promote negative stories about Facebook’s competitors.
11/18/18 – An article released on the 14th by The New York Times documents how Senator Chuck Schumer intervened on Facebook’s behalf as evidence has continued to accumulate that the social media gulag has been used to “broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe”, and that Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg tried to conceal the danger from public view.
The New Yorker followed with an article about the investigation on the 15th.
If these publications, both of which are famously very left-leaning, are documenting this, the problem may be even worse than we realize.
Here’s what the New Yorker had to say:
From the outset, Facebook pitched itself as something new and good—a revolutionary force for transparency and accountability. In early interviews with David Kirkpatrick, the author of “The Facebook Effect,” Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s co-founder and C.E.O., envisioned a challenge to the tools of corporate and political camouflage. “When there’s more openness, with everyone being able to express their opinion very quickly,” he said, “it puts the onus on companies and organizations to be more good, and more trustworthy.”
As the company grew, it sought to maintain its outsider ethos. In a letter to potential investors, in 2012, Zuckerberg proclaimed, “We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way.” It reached beyond the hacker ethos of ingenious engineering, he explained, to shape the company’s internal culture. “Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win—not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.” In recent years, the company has sought to stay true to its hacker DNA. At weekly all-hands meetings, Zuckerberg has highlighted a “fix of the week,” celebrating the in-house esoteric technical interventions that the rest of the company may have overlooked.
Yet during the past two years the image of a nimble, idealistic upstart has steadily eroded, as the company has strained to make changes that would protect user privacy and prevent the spread of disinformation. On Wednesday, the idea of a company dedicated to “openness” took another blow. A Times investigation by a team of reporters found that Facebook has engaged in a multi-pronged campaign to “delay, deny and deflect” efforts to hold the company accountable. (In a statement issued on Thursday, Facebook said that the piece contains “a number of inaccuracies” about the timing and the motives behind its actions.)
Some of the Times’ account is, by now, familiar. Members of Congress, for instance, have long complained that Facebook rebuffed early efforts to investigate interference in the 2016 election. (“The initial reaction was completely dismissive,” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, told me last summer.) But the piece contained many new details about Facebook’s use of decidedly swampy political public-relations and lobbying techniques. To blunt critics in Congress, Facebook relied on Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, whose daughter works at the company; it also hired Warner’s former chief of staff to lobby against a Senate bill introduced by Warner and Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, which would expand federal regulation over online political advertising. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, made a personal appeal to Klobuchar, who had lent support to Sandberg’s “Lean In” project, which promotes women’s empowerment in the workplace.
The most disturbing revelation is that Facebook employed Definers Public Affairs, a conservative Washington-based consultant, to promote negative stories about Facebook’s competitors by pushing them on the NTK Network, which calls itself “a unique news website that brings together data points from all platforms to tell the whole story.” NTK is not, in fact, a news Web site; it shares offices and staff with Definers. As the Times reported, “Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative outlets, including Breitbart.” In other words, Facebook employed a political P.R. firm that circulated exactly the kind of pseudo-news that Facebook has, in its announcements, sought to prevent from eroding Americans’ confidence in fact versus fiction. [emphasis added]
The Times writes:
As evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. [emphasis added]
We must continue to monitor this issue and apply political pressure to address this extremely dangerous form of censorship and social engineering that has been a major player in the seeding of violence and division among the American people, as well as election manipulation.
If you haven’t already done so, please check out the WriteTrump.com site and add your name and letter to be presented to President Trump calling for anti-trust actions to be taken with these monstrous tech companies.
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