By: +David Herron; Date: October 12, 2017
Two things are colliding on the Internet: Propagandists desire to spread fake news to influence society-wide-beliefs -- this is a huge portion of Russia's meddling in elections in the USA and other countries; and freedom of speech, freedom to build/publish websites, freedom to use social media networks, etc. Facebook and other Tech Giants are increasingly under fire for having allowed Russia to misuse their platforms, both advertising and social media, to spew out tons of fake news and society manipulation. Facebook's answer is that “The thing about free expression is when you allow free expression you allow free expression”, according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Okay, yes, we understand that any squashing of speach is problematic. But, it's false that Facebook doesn't check advertising before it is posted, and it is problematic when stuff that's portrayed as news is completely false and bogus. Facebook already hires a team of people, moderators, to monitor what folks post on Facebook, and delete material or accounts that prove to be problematic. Why doesn't Facebook do the same for fake news?
In an interview with Axios, Sheryl Sanberg said that in the 2016 USA elections, "Things happened on our platform that shouldn't have happened." And, "We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms..." Sanberg also pledged to release the fake-news-Russia advertising they'd identified as having been posted by "bad actors". They're planning to work with the Federal Government on identifying these actors, and to utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to streamline identification of problematic content.
Sanberg also said even if the Russian-bought election interference advertising hadn't been posted by fraudulent accounts, that “Most of them would be allowed to run.” A lot of those advertisements, even if they'd been run by legitimate people, the advertisements would have been run.
“The thing about free expression is when you allow free expression you allow free expression,” applies not just to regular speech, but to advertising. This paradigm means protecting the right of folks who you disagree with also having the freedom to say what they believe.
Sanberg didn't break any new ground with that statement. That idea has been expressed many times in the past by many people. I believe in that idea myself. But, having studied some history of propaganda, there are troubling aspects to that paradigm.
The fake news phenomena is not new. A big example is the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's, that brought Adolf Hitler to power along with a big pile of hateful ideologies. The use of fake news played a huge role in how the Nazi Party came to power, and the Trump Regime is using many of the same tactics fake news propaganda tactics the Nazi's used.
Fake news basically undermines the truth, and the populations ability to determine right from wrong. The deluded public then goes along with policy changes based on fake ideas derived from fake news, and we end up in a horrid place.
In other words - certain kinds of speech are psychologically manipulative and extremely dangerous. This section of TechSparx is named "Social Media Warfare" for a reason, and that's because a form of warfare is being waged on the belief patterns of whole societies.
It's not just the Russians who are doing this. There's a whole crew of so-called-Conservatives who've been waging an information war on American society for years. For example it's now a badge of shame to label someone a Liberal.
Another example -- why are the Flat Earth people suddenly getting lots of attention? There have been flat earthers for a long time. Ever since Science definitively proved we live on a Globe, the flat earthers have been a side show we all laugh at. But the last few months, for some reason these people are rising in prominence and causing lots of conversation around the supposed question of whether we've all been lied to about the shape of the planet we live on.
A more important example -- The border wall, the ban on travel from certain muslim-oriented nations, the refusal to call it terrorism when a white guy does the act, etc. At the same time Trump (and others) are repeatedly making all kinds of racist slurs. That all Mexicans are rapist drug dealing murderers, or that all Muslims are dangerous, or that Halal Food is an evil Muslim plot to undermine American laws, or that there's a danger of Sharia Law becoming the law of the USA, and so on. Those claims are all nonsense, but for example Donald Trump says lots of those things, and then he pushes for policy changes based on those deluded ideas.
The problem isn't about the exercise of free speech or not. The problem is the information war that's underway, that's undermining truth itself, and making the population believe fake stuff.