... they just lay out the timeline and the facts of Facebook's exponential growth and the ethical dilemma raised - What obligation does a communications platform have, if any, to the societies in which it has a presence and thus impacts? Much of this second episode was about the
2016 presidential election, the fact that the Russian federation spent a great deal of time and effort putting up "fake news" about the
presidential candidates on Facebook, and that even a group of people in Montenegro were involved, although in their cases they freely admitted
they were making up stories about Donald Trump because Americans ate that stuff up, and they were doing it solely to turn a profit from ads on
I was a bit taken aback by some of the opinions. When Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, was dragged before Congress, they show one legislator talking about how Facebook has become so big, and that when things become that big there is talk of regulation or breaking it up into pieces. Really Mr. Congressman? Facebook is a threat to the world and the banks that were too big to fail, ten years after they crashed the world
economy, after all of the carnage and poverty they caused, are even bigger? Not one action taken? The double standard is breathtaking.
Frontline had quite a bit of input from Zeynep Tufekci, UNC School of Information and Library Science, and I take a bit off for Frontline for not
clearly stating what Prof. Tufekci did at UNC that made her such an authority. Her specialty is the intersection of technology and society. It
would have helped to know that rather than just knowing she was from UNC.
As always Frontline leaves you to draw your own conclusions, so I am going to draw mine here. Russia can pat itself on the back all it wants for putting out fake news about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on newsfeed, but I don't believe that it turned the election. Before 2016 the USA had already descended into political tribalism. The more radical and outrageous the news item, of course the faster it will go viral. That's because people want you to tell them what they want to hear. It's why MSNBC only puts out leftist opinions, and why Fox only puts out right wing opinions. They'd lose viewers if they actually reported the news to their respective audiences. The people I know who were normally Democratic voters who in 2016 either stayed home or voted for Trump told me that they did so because they believed Hillary Clinton to be corrupt, condescending, and enabling an abuser. And they got that opinion from watching her in action over the last 26 years on the national stage, before the Internet and definitely before Facebook.
Facebook, sobered by the threat of regulation, is now policing itself during the midterms with a tremendous army of employees. I just hope this isn't the first step on the road to the regulation of free speech in America. One of the great things about America has been how you are free to put out silly stupid stories, and it is up to the citizen to decide what to filter out and what to believe. I would highly recommend both halves of this documentary to anybody who is interested in how social media can be a double edged sword.
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