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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Russia “weaponized” Facebook

Obama gave Zuckerberg a face-to-face warning, and Zuckerberg blow him off

As the investigations into how Russia meddled in our election escalate, Facebook has turned records relating to ad buys from Russian actors over to Congress.

Facebook has found itself in the crosshairs of Democrats and Republicans alike because of this (and for other reasons), and Mark Zuckerberg is finally, finally wondering if maybe he should be taking a more active role in his own company.

Why? Because Facebook sold over 3,000 pro-Trump and pro-right wing ads to fake accounts run by Russians and people with ties to Russia.

They turned those records over to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

They’re going to re-evaluate the processes they use to review political ads, and they will supposedly “offer a higher standard of transparency” on those ads than what the law requires for radio, television and other platforms.

For many, it’s too little, too late, though. Trump was elected, a hostile foreign power helped him win, and the true scope of how Russia used and manipulated Facebook is still unknown.

When they first came under fire for allowing the proliferation of fake news following Trump’s “win,” Zuckerberg’s excuse was that they were a technology company, not a media company. The implication was that they couldn’t be held responsible for any of that.

They’re only now starting to come around to the truth, but the sad thing about this is that Zuckerberg was warned about people misusing his platform to swing the election several times.

In fact, none other than President Obama himself literally pulled Zuckerberg aside during a conference in Peru to practically beg him to take the threat of fake news and disinformation seriously. Obama told Zuckerberg that, unless he actually paid attention, this would only be worse in four years.

But Zuckerberg blew him off. He told Obama that such messages weren’t widespread on his platform, and that there wouldn’t be an easy solution to it.

Like his pathetic excuse of being a tech company, Zuckerberg shirked any and all responsibility for it. Obama tried. Zuckerberg didn’t really seem to care.

Discovering that another country would even dare to try and influence our elections should be a horrific epiphany for any American.

It’s true that neither Zuckerberg, nor anyone else at Facebook (or anyone really) could have sufficiently predicted that anything like this would happen.

As recently as two to three years ago, most of us would have made fun of the conspiracy theorists making bizarre claims about shady and hostile foreign actors working to swing our elections to their favor.

That’s reality now, but early warnings like Obama’s seem to have slid right off Zuckerberg’s back, as he was more concerned with his product than with how his product was being misused.

Russia weaponized Facebook, and it’s not over.

Facebook has its part to do and they need to get to it post-haste. But another part may lie with Washington, with our lawmakers. It may well be time to apply laws similar to those that govern political advertising elsewhere to social media.

Facebook hasn’t yet provided many details about how they’ll be transparent, especially given the fact that many of their political ads don’t meet current legal definitions for political ads. They are, however, talking the talk. Now they need to walk the walk, or be forced to do so under law.

Author Rika Christensen is an experienced writer and loves debating politics. Engage with her and see more of her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter