Recent news shows Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies aren’t doing nearly enough to combat foreign meddling in their platforms.
On Feb. 16, special prosecutor Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three foreign companies with using social media to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election and support the Donald Trump campaign.
But the charges aren’t slowing the Russians. In the wake of the tragic Parkland, Fla., school shootings, Russian social media accounts immediately began spewing inflammatory rhetoric designed to further divide Americans.
Facebook, Twitter, et al, are failing to take meaningful steps to stop it.
It’s a matter of trust and accountability. If Americans can’t count on the likes of Facebook and Twitter to be responsible managers of their sites, users should go elsewhere. And advertisers should follow.
Unilever, maker of more than 1,000 brands worldwide, already is threatening to pull its $9 billion in advertising from the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter over fake news, hate speech and abusive comments.
Nothing less than the sovereignty of our nation is at stake. Yet, despite the charges filed by Mueller, Facebook still doesn’t get it. Its vice president of advertising, Rob Goldman, on Friday tweeted that “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was ‘NOT’ the main goal.”
Goldman had to apologize and walk back his comments after President Trump used Goldman’s comments to buttress his own misguided perspective. “The Fake News Media never fails,” Trump tweeted. “Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Face Book Ads, Rob Goldman!”
With that mindset in Washington, it’s unlikely the president or Congress can fix the problem. They can’t even pass an online consumer Bill of Rights, much less successfully navigate a tech issue of this complexity.
It’s up to the industry to police itself, and show real leadership, if it hopes to avoid a massive consumer backlash. They certainly have the resources.
Facebook posted $15.9 billion in profits in 2017, up from the $10.2 billion in profits it collected in 2016, the year Trump was elected and the issue first surfaced. For the sake of its financial future, Facebook and other social media companies have an obligation to devote sufficient resources to preserve the integrity of their sites.
Facebook, with its 2 billion monthly users, last year implemented a new mission statement to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in announcing the change that “We have a responsibility to do more.”
He’s right. But all the evidence to date shows Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies only dividing us further.
— The Mercury News