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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/29/19

Why is Facebook trying to re-elect Trump?

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From Daily Kos

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg grilled on Capitol Hill
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg grilled on Capitol Hill
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Bullying works.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been on a GOP charm offensive, and it seems to be working for the social media behemoth as it makes its allegiance to the Republican Party more open. In the days preceding his latest testimony before Congress, Zuckerberg had been "hosting a series of dinners with conservative journalists, right-wing celebrities, and at least one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who grilled Zuckerberg about Facebook's market dominance when he testified in a Senate hearing last year," Politico reported. Among those who attended the conservative-only dinners at Zuckerberg's home were Fox News' Tucker Carlson, the Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro, radio host Hugh Hewitt, Guy Benson of Townhall, and Byron York of the Washington Examiner. All of them function as public apologists for Donald Trump, who has spent years bullying Facebook for supposedly trying to "censor" conservative voices.

Facebook's reward for that outreach effort came last week when "Republican members of the committee were generally more supportive of Mr. Zuckerberg," when he appeared before Congress, The New York Times reported.

Indeed, Facebook's political transformation from a quasi-progressive outpost that revolutionized information sharing into a bullied GOP lapdog now seems complete, as the company gives Republicans a green light to use the social media platform to lie their way through Trump's re-election campaign next year and create a sea of online disinformation. "Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation," Elizabeth Warren warned this month. "Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again -- and profit off of it."

There's no question about the profit part. "Trump's reelection campaign is far outspending other candidates on Facebook ads and boosted posts -- to the tune of more than $20.7 million between May 2018 and October 2019, more than all the Democratic presidential candidates combined," Slate reports.

Here's why Facebook now comes across as a digital errand boy for Republican campaigns: It's because the Republican Party today revolves around telling lies. And it's not a bug -- it's a feature.

Republicans proudly lie about taxes, and they lie about immigration. It's become like breathing for them. (Trump is on pace to tell 16,000 lies in four years.) They lie about everything and that has become the fuel that drives the party. So naturally it's also the fuel that drives Trump's re-election campaign. And no, we've never seen anything like this in American history.

Note, however, that there is no such mirror embrace of wholesale untruths by the Democratic Party, which simply does not traffic in misinformation the way the GOP does. And in that environment, Facebook has decided that it will unilaterally allow politicians to lie via paid Facebook ads under the auspice that it's news. "In a democracy, I think that people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying," Zucker recently told The Washington Post, defending the company's official shoulder-shrug policy to allow massive misinformation campaigns. Well, guess who benefits from that? The GOP. And guess who looks like they created a really bad policy in order to appease the Republican Party? Facebook.

Meaning: Facebook walking away from the truth in political ads is a de facto gift to Republicans, and specifically the Trump campaign, because spreading misinformation is what Republicans do. It is not what Democrats do.

Meanwhile, it doesn't help that Zuckerberg has trouble telling the truth about Facebook's own fact-checking procedures. (Yes, they use the right-wing outlet The Daily Caller to help out on that front.) It also doesn't help that Facebook touts its hands-off policy regarding political advertising, yet back in the spring the company stepped in and removed several of Warren's political ads over content. (Warren has called for the breakup of tech and social media giants, such as Amazon and Facebook.)

Today, Zuckerberg likes to pretend Facebook's radical do-nothing policy makes him a "free speech" advocate, which is comical. After Trump's re-election campaign released, without evidence, an advertisement accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of using his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to drop an investigation into a company where his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board, CNN refused to run the ad and its false claim, and no serious players accused the network of "censorship." Facebook, though, gladly accepted the Trump campaign's payment, telling the Biden team that the false Trump ad was staying up because Facebook considers statements by politicians to be newsworthy, even if they are false.

Facebook's CEO defended that soggy policy at a recent speech at Georgetown University. "Zuckerberg's unsophisticated thoughts on free speech generated a manifesto that can only be called incoherent," noted Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. And that raises the key question: Why would Facebook embrace such an incoherent policy for such an important issue, like safeguarding democracy? One obvious answer is that the company is so focused on doing the GOP's bidding, and has been so thoroughly bullied by Trump, that it has backed itself into an incoherent corner.

Here's the bottom line: Facebook is under political pressure from both the left and the right in the U.S., and the company only seems to be actively caving to one set of concerns -- Republicans'. Liberals want Facebook to take down much more of the demonstrably false content that floods Facebook. The right claims Facebook censors conservative voices, which remains an utterly false claim, considering data constantly shows right-wing voices are routinely among the most seen and shared "news" voices on Facebook.

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a (more...)
 

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Possible (likely) answer to the title question: Because Trumpians are more easily duped into buying junk that Facebook promotes.

If they'll "buy" Trump, they'll buy most anything.

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 31, 2019 at 2:30:48 AM

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