Mark Zuckerberg's social behemoth is desperately trying to get into the Democrats' good graces by handing over cash and control to those who shriek the loudest about "attacks on our democracy." Not surprisingly, it isn't working.
On Monday, Facebook announced"new measures to help protect the democratic process," including "fact-checking" posts on both Facebook and Instagram; protecting the accounts of elected officials, candidates and campaigns; labeling "state media"; and spending billions on "media literacy" training.
Facebook also announced it had shut down four "inauthentic networks" on Instagram, one "Russian" and three "Iranian" - supposedly not based on content they posted, but their behavior.
As news coverage of the measures admits, all of this is based on the assertion - accepted as fact without evidence - that "Russian trolls" used the social media platform to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Pointing out that this remains an unproven allegation, and itself a fallback position from the "Russian collusion with Trump" conspiracy theory, gets one labeled a "Russian agent" of course.
"I can't say exactly what their goal was," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, told Reuters about the banned accounts. It turns out the person responsible for making the determination was none other than Ben Nimmo, formerly - or still? - of the Atlantic Council think-tank, now at the "social media analysis company" Graphika.
In case that sounds familiar, Graphika was one of the companies commissioned by the US Senate Intelligence Committee to validate their assumptions about "Russian meddling," alongside the actual social media meddlers New Knowledge.
Nimmo himself was exposed last year as a hatchetman of the Integrity Initiative, a shady outfit funded and operated by the British government with the task of shaping public opinion against Russia. As for his "expertise" in social media research, the best example of it is the argument that imperfect English makes one a sure Russian spy, troll, bot - or all three.
Nor is he alone in this. The inability of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats to accept the outcome of the 2016 election has spawned a veritable bubble of "cyber experts" and "troll hunters," cashing in by accusing social media platforms of enabling "Russian" and other foreign meddling, and demanding to be paid to prevent it. The same dynamic has driven the explosive growth of the "fact-checking" industry, which mainly serves to target non-establishment politicians and non-mainstream media outlets.
Determining who qualifies as "state-owned media" is a perfect example. Facebook says it has consulted 40 experts across a variety of organizations, naming some of them: Reporters Without Borders, Center for International Media Assistance, European Journalism Center, Oxford Internet Institute's Project on Computational Propaganda, Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) at the Central European University, the Council of Europe, UNESCO...
In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, this list overlaps entirely with organizations mentioned by Twitter back in August as its arbiters of what qualifies as "state ownership."
To the surprise of precisely no one, the verbiage these "experts" came up with was at the same time broad and flexible, to the point of being arbitrary. So while Russian, Chinese or Iranian media are by definition evil "state owned" outlets, those funded by the US, British or NATO governments are good "public broadcasters," because of their supposed editorial independence.
What any of this has to do with actual democracy or elections integrity is anybody's guess, since social media companies essentially end up bending the knee to partisan grifters and give them control of the process they tell us is so very vulnerable.
If you thought that would get Facebook in their good graces, however, think again. A number of mainstream media reporters and Democrats huffed and puffed on Monday afternoon, declaring Facebook "right-wing" because conservative sources accounted for most of the content shared on the platform.
It doesn't matter that Zuckerberg is reportedly giving advice to the presidential campaign of Democrat Pete Butigieg - per Bloomberg - either. The clear message here is that Facebook will be "right wing" until its content is 100 percent from Occupy Democrats, and anyone however mildly critical of the DNC is banned as a "Russian asset." If you think this is hyperbole, you must have missed Hillary Clinton's latest smears of Tulsi Gabbard.