In the early hours of Tuesday, NBC News published a special report about “secret documents” supposedly revealing Facebook sinister shenanigans. The story is based on 4,000 pages of documents leaked to Omidyar-funded British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who shared them with NBC and two other outlets.
Co-authors Olivia Solon – former Guardian scribe of “everyone who questions White Helmets is a Russian agent”fame – and Cyrus Farivar say that the documents show Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “leveraged” user data to help friendly companies and harm competitors, and went as far as discussing the possibility of selling it.
They also describe Zuckerberg’s Washington Post op-ed in March as an attempt to “curry favor with policymakers at a time when many are baying for the company’s blood.”
Among those who might be “baying for blood” is Wired magazine, which published its own Facebook feature about an hour following the NBC story. Titled “15 Months of fresh hell inside Facebook” and co-authored by the magazine’s editor in chief Nicholas Thompson, the article opens with George Soros’s 2018 denunciation of social media giants in Davos, going on to claim that the “world had learned how Russian intelligence operatives used the platform to manipulate US voters”while “Genocidal monks in Myanmar and a despot in the Philippines had taken a liking to the platform.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter later shared a link to the story, along with a quote about how Facebook executives supposedly rejoiced at “pain” of news sites losing traffic on the platform.
The day before, ABC carried a story about how the leading Democrat firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said she had stopped using Facebook because of health risks associated with social media like “increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, and escapism.” She remains on Twitter and (Facebook-owned) Instagram, however.
Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, first made on a Yahoo News podcast on Sunday, got little traction on Monday, as the eyes of the world were on the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, so ABC tweeted out the story on Tuesday.
Facebook has dismissed the documents NBC cited – but did not publish, so it’s impossible to independently verify Solon and Farivar’s story – as illegal leaks by app developer Six4Three, which is suing the Menlo Park behemoth over data policies that cut off their ability to access users’ bikini photos back in 2014.
The NBC story features a prominent quote from Six4Three founder Ted Kramer, accusing Zuckerberg of wanting to “weaponize the reliance of companies on his purportedly neutral platform and to weaponize the private and sensitive data of billions of people.”
That Facebook treats user data as currency is not news, however. Zuckerberg basically admitted to as much during a series of congressional hearings in April of last year, while artfully dodging follow-up questions and capitalizing on lawmakers’ ignorance of technology. The platform’s entire business model is based on monetizing user data, and no amount of PR talk about “focus on privacy” will obfuscate that.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google (which owns YouTube) have been on the defensive ever since the 2016 presidential election, with Democrats accusing social media of somehow helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton – in addition to chasing the ‘Russiagate’ mirage, that is. Trump’s campaign has actually said they used Facebook better than Clinton, but denied getting any special treatment from the social network giant.
Then came the March 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, when a company that sold consulting services to both the Brexit and Trump campaigns was accused of improperly harvesting Facebook user data. In his testimonies, the CEO maintained that policy changes in 2014-15 were intended to forestall such a thing from happening again, while apologizing profuselyto anyone who’d listen. To no avail.
Things were different just a few years ago, when Democrats regarded their political allies in Silicon Valley as an important tool in winning elections forever. At the time of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, one campaign staffer for Barack Obama admitted that Facebook didn’t blink when the Democrat’s campaign was able to “suck out” user data during the 2012 election.
According to Carol Davidsen, “They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that theyallowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and Republicans are going after Facebook for censorship on the platform, while Democrats – and their mainstream media allies – are bludgeoning Zuckerberg that Facebook isn’t censorious enough. All the talk about privacy and user data seems, how to put it, “weaponized” in the process.
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