Op-Ed: Facebook ditches accounts poised to disrupt mid-term election

Posted Jul 31, 2018 by Paul Wallis
Getting murkier by the minute, Facebook has dumped many Facebook and Instagram accounts it says are intended to influence the mid-term US elections. Facebook says it “believes” the accounts are linked to Russia.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers he does not oppose the idea of regulation of social netw...
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers he does not oppose the idea of regulation of social networks if it is done right
The accounts dumping is part of Facebook’s big purge of accounts, including the very unpopular with the stock market demolition of large swathes of fake accounts. Facebook says the accounts are well-shielded, using private servers, third parties to place ads, and more. (“Fake” also means false identities, etc., pretty common in the political sector.) Facebook also states it can’t be sure where the accounts are based.
To its credit, Facebook is putting its money where its press releases are. After receiving incredible amounts of flak for the 2016 electoral tide of political content on its sites, the company is cranking up its efforts. Users have been complaining about the sheer volume of ludicrous political crap on the sites, and much of the content is truly objectionable, not to say the commentary from accounts with a sort of template content of all-political activity.
The stock market, however, doesn’t like the dollar numbers and other data coming from Facebook. Issues include:
Dropping user numbers – This is actually “slower growth” in user numbers, and may well include the fake accounts. This is to put it mildly a reflection on the market’s mindless acceptance of numbers, rather than facts. The market can’t have it both ways; either Facebook does the right thing, or provides inflated figures which are basically wrong.
European privacy laws – Not really a huge impact on Facebook, but compliance is tricky, given the all-embracing nature of the new laws. With so many members, Facebook is of course stuck with the sheer scale of compliance requirements. Some of these laws are pretty impractical, too, placing some rather odd restrictions on identification of people, businesses and even allowing use of names in business operations.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal- In which this data company analysed user data for the Trump campaign. This is “recent news” according to mainstream financial media. We covered it on DJ about a year earlier; must have taken a while to percolate down to the scandal manufacturers. It’s old news, not fake news, and it’s NOW a scandal? Come off it. Facebook was also the victim, not the perpetrator.
The politics of cowardice vs Facebook
Cambridge Analytica
Cambridge Analytica
The political angle, however, is white hot. The US mid-terms are in November, and there’s a lot at stake. It’s all well and good for gutless pundits of all stripes and color schemes to criticize, but what are the options for Facebook? Get hammered again for not doing anything, doing something, or being the platform for arguably some of the most repulsive stuff ever posted online?
The market never seems to get the fact that Facebook is a big moving target, always online, with incidents of all kinds every second. Is it realistic to expect a business to become the moral guardians of America, when American political organizations are acting like downmarket brothels themselves? Where are all these noble principles when it comes to decisive action and practical solutions?
The political “entities” involved in social media, whether they’re Russian or Martian, are basically hate factories. Nothing is too ridiculous or unfounded for them to post. If anyone in this fan-hitting exercise had a working brain cell, they’d all get on the same page and work to remove this sewage, not do running commentaries from absurd moral heights.
Facebook ISN’T the problem. It’s the war zone. Clean up your own filth, and be realistic about who’s trying to disrupt what. Productive results will follow.