Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports ahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.
In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.
“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.
I’m old enough to remember how Republicans successfully cowed pre-internet mainstream media outlets with bullshit accusations of bias. That led directly to the utterly dysfunctional, view-from-nowhere Fourth Estate we have today.
It’s happening again, and as we’re learning, it’s impossible to maintain a functioning democracy when distinctions between truth and lies are erased. Glad I deleted my account in 2016, and here’s hoping the next Democrat in a position to do so cracks down on these shitty companies.
This is a big talking point on Reddit actually. Conservatives from there will complain that reddit is biased because they unlist and ban more of the conservative subreddits. Of course that’s because those subreddits violate their tos more often. But the redpillers will complain about that time a girl was mean.
“Conservatives prefer lies to truth, and we can’t point this out to them.”
Generally I don’t think I am affected by propaganda much, but I remember a friend posted an outraged comment and the video of Hillary Clinton talking about super predators. Which was well known as a propaganda hit piece. I’ll have to ask him if it was effective in his case
The “view from nowhere” journos are doing what their paymasters want. You can see Jake Tapper is often pretty reasonable and then occasionally spews out some republican propaganda. I figure it’s after feedback from the bosses.
I have an account, but I have not logged in in about 10 years. Almost all of my “friends” there (almost exclusively from high school) are idiots. I wonder if I can log in long enough to nuke it from orbit.
It’s going to be the EU that cracks down on them.
We spend an inordinate amount of time in meatspace talking my stepdaughter down from idiocy that she has picked up on Facebook. We are mostly successful, but gee whiz child. You are a parent now. Grow some sense.
@Jerzy Russian: From the point of view of information sanitisation, you’re further ahead leaving it be. Logging in and <koff koff> “deleting” the profile is simply giving them more information than they already have.
trump is attacking the judge and foreperson.
Any tips/links on how to delete a Facebook account? I’ve heard it is nontrivial.
Fortunately, this belief doesn’t apply to child p0rn, which probably also disproportionately impacts conservatives.
Wow.. CNN cut away because he was attacking judges and forepersons. good for them
I deleted early last year, so it’s been just about 12 months exactly. I miss some things about FB, but have no regrets about the decision. It’s just not as indispensable as it seems when you first make the decision to ditch it. And I just have to remind myself about Myanmar and the policy where they pulled all the data from kids’ phones without parental knowledge, whenever I find myself wondering if I should dip my toe in again.
I’m sure Barr will quit anytime now.
They vacuumed up data and used it against us. I can’t understand why anybody still uses that site, and that includes mr hitchhiker, who’s in a band that sometimes pitches its gigs thru facebook.
I’ve asked him if anybody has ever showed up because of those pitches, and the answer is a blank look. Have to point out that hitchhiker daughter #2 was way ahead of me on this — she deleted her account back in 2013 and hasn’t looked back.
The truth is, we don’t need facebook.
They just went back to trump and trump is using his quiet baby voice.
@Jerzy Russian: I nuked my real account in 2016 after their role in the election became clear, but honestly, it was no great hardship because I didn’t use it all that much anyway. I understand some folks use it extensively to keep in touch, organize groups, etc.
I do keep a fake account under a fake name with no contacts or posts just to access sites for businesses, find local yard sales, log in to sites, etc., that are impossible to use if you don’t have a Facebook account. They really have wormed their way into daily life.
They cut away again because he spoke about the poor guy on the ship who took a picture of his ship and yet they don’t charge Clinton who released more classified documents than anyone in the world.
…and don’t imagine, because you’ve deleted your account, that you’re not in Facebook’s database. Nope. Doesn’t work that way.
I’ve been a HS teacher since 2007. Back in the early days, FB was pretty popular among the young. These days barely any kids use it anymore. Mostly because it is so crappy. Not that the alternatives they are using are any better, but I think there is less toxic politics on other social media sites.
I have noticed that in my whole very large extended family, the chance that someone is on FB and the chance that they are a power user is inversely proportional to level of education and profession.
Gin & Tonic
I think I’ve mentioned this, but my daughter was an undergrad at an Ivy when “The Facebook” began, and of course set up an account. Within 1-2 years it was open to anyone with an .edu e-mail address, which I’ve always had – but it was made clear to me by my kids that I was not to get an account. So I didn’t. Once it was open to everyone, and the kids didn’t care as much, Newton’s First Law had already set in, and I never bothered. Haven’t missed it.
And the daughter who was there at the beginning almost never uses FB anymore.
You are in Facebook’s database even if you have never had a Facebook account. The actual Facebook platform is just one of many hundreds of different sources they use to scrape up data on people.
I have been at the infusion center getting a Rituxin IV since 7:30 am and have reached the point where it seems like the damn drip bag will never be empty and I’ll be stuck here forevermore. Should I ask for another juicebox and cookie?
A key point, though, is that the vacuuming up of data doesn’t depend on you having a Facebook account. That happens to anyone who uses the web and doesn’t have some kind of very good system for blocking all the ways a company like Facebook can track you*. Admittedly, having a Facebook account gives them more information, but as far as information harvesting goes, lack of an account won’t stop them.
*I personally use Privacy Badger from EFF, and while it’s pretty good, I don’t believe it completely stops the majors like Facebook and Google from tracking me.
@Betty Cracker: Please don’t laugh like my sons did, but I have an account because I monitor local politics. The reason I monitor them is because I’m fair and balanced and I’m good at zingers. When my sons found out, to say they were surprised that some think I’m fair and balanced doesn’t really express their view. Lucy was in a runoff with another dem who lived across the street from my son, and I asked my son if I should volunteer for his social media accts. because I’m fair and balanced. I won’t repeat what he said.
It’s the only time I use it as well as other social media accts. local politics is non partisan and to be clear, I was selected for this role.
Neither one of us in the Scout household have ever joined FB and neither one of us have ever regretted that decision. It just never felt safe to me, even in the beginning (before we understood what actually was happening with users’ personal data or the use of FB for propaganda purposes).
Absolutely. But there is a difference between them tracking you and them aiming a firehose of propaganda at you.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Meaning what, that being a conservative means you want to be miss-informed? Wouldn’t a serious conservative want to make sure their fellow conservatives get the concert information? That’s pretty much a confession that the entire movement is based on lies.
Translation: My people are liars and it would be wrong to do something about it.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques: He did say that they don’t know it’s fake news, so it’s all okay.
Condolences. How are they on mixed drinks?
But, seriously, sending good energy. It’s got to be tough.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
What it means is that they’ve abandoned the concept of objective truth. They don’t believe Facebook should be trying to limit what people say based on some concept of truth and facts because there is no such thing. Instead, they need to balance things so liberals and conservatives are affected equally. To do otherwise is unfair.
Snapchat or go home!
You’re correct: Facebook is for the olds. Regrettably, there’s still a billion or so worldwide who aren’t ditching it.
I don’t intend to delete my FB account, but I have no present plans to access it.
The answer to that is ALWAYS yes.
And I’m sending you good thoughts.
Apparently the IRS is now going after Facebook for $9B related to moving revenue to Ireland for tax purposes. You can’t help but wonder if there is a political motivation behind this, if Trump has weaponized the IRS to force certain behavior from Facebook. https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-owes-9b-in-taxes-related-to-ireland-deal-irs-says/
@Jerzy Russian: I have fun with posting leftie progressive Dem anti-Trump articles by the score…many blocks enacted by right wing relatives/acquaintances, etc. Fine by me lol – if someone wants to hear about reality, I am happy to oblige them…
I have a very deconstructionist, postmodern facebook account–it has always already been deleted.
One happy thing I discovered about FB is that FB groups, especially closed groups, rarely if ever have political posts. Even some of the open groups are well moderated. To me, FB is a way to stay in touch with people I know and love. It is incredibly easy to post photos and video, and to share info. Adblocker is indispensable. I’ve also noticed that many of my “friends” (meaning people I don’t know, but who have connections to people I do know) have largely stopped posting political propaganda. There’s hope, I think.
I have always wondered….why hasn’t anyone put up an easy to use alternative?
My privacy loadout includes Privacy Badger, UBlock Origin, and NoScript/Scriptsafe (firefox/chrome). Plus some other measures, but those are a start. Not staying logged into google etc in one’s main browsing browser is a good thing too.
EFF’s https://panopticlick.eff.org/ is helpful for evaluating trackability of a browser.
Everything Donnie does is part of an effort to force fealty to himself. You don’t like the tariffs that are killing your business? Appeal to Donnie for relief. You don’t like the IRS giving you the attention you deserve? Appeal to Donnie for relief. You don’t like serving your justified prison sentence? AtDfr…
Always Be Grifting.
Google thought they had one with G+ and we can see how well that worked for them. Did not seem particularly complicated but I never got further than just fiddling with it. If nobody else is using, why bother?
@VOR: Don’t wonder. You know he/they did this. When have they not?
Corporations are free to define what they mean by conservatives and liberals in this framework.
@trollhattan: Here is my OK, Boomer moment. I thought it was hard to use, well, harder, plus there are a bunch of folks who do not use Google. But yes, no one used it, and it quietly died.
I guess I don’t understand why some well financed company couldn’t develop an algorithm that is less intrusive, but still make the platform easy as FB. Has to be a way. Perhaps because it takes so long to monetize?
I would LOVE to get rid of Facebook. Currently I am an admin for various clients who advertise there. I’m hoping to dump social media work by the end of 2020.
Of course, there’s still Instagram, which is where I find lots of cool calligraphy exercises. That will be harder to get rid of.
That’s a really big stick. We should assume Facebook is now effectively controlled by Trump.
That’s certainly what I would expect from DT, but what could FB possibly do to be more friendly to DT’s criminal enterprise than they already are? Also, the threats would make more sense before filing the lawsuit.
Yes, I have privacy badger, and use duckduckgo on Firefox for search.
One of things that surprised me a few years back when I pulled all my data from FB before deleting was that it had a running toll of everything I’d ever played on Stitcher (a lot of stuff!) Like, what shows, how many times, whether I’d finished them, whether I’d skipped the ads, etc. I’m sure that alone is a fairly complete portrait of my thoughts.
I hadn’t understood until that moment how granular and comprehensive the sorting and sharing of data really is.
Keep in mind, that argument is “lies aren’t good, but eliminating lies that help Republicans is bias”.
Facebook is a monopoly, and its value is in its widespread adoption. In an ideal world, it would be split, with competing Facebook entities having mutual access APIs so there could be competing Facebook experiences, may the best Facebook win.
However, there are huge advantages to not having it split. It avoids duplication of labor (i.e., fewer jobs) and avoids duplication of expenses (i.e., less economic growth) and avoids marketing costs to win market share against the competing Facebooks(i.e., less money spent in making and informing people about improvements).
You might note that none of these advantages translate to advantages to the product, er, I mean, to the people using Facebook.
But that’s the GOP way: Deregulate! Make it cheap and easy for businesses to cause damage and make money, because ordinary people can be swayed with cheap theatrics more easily than with sound policy. And sure, you’re shifting costs from companies (who really are *creating* these costs) to people, but again, *people* are swayed with cheap theatrics; *companies* want paid results! Surely you don’t expect the GOP to care about “We, the people of the United States.” The important parts of the Constitution are the parts where it says “might makes right” (you have to read between the lines, like a Republican, to notice that), and, of course, the Second Amendment.
(edit to correct a think-o. Like a typo, but it wasn’t typing fingers that flubbed, it was word selection.)
To get away from people you want to avoid. I’m not sure if I want to use the same social networking site my boss uses.
The Moar You Know
@The Dangerman: It’s actually not possible. Oh, you can “delete” it and your friends can no longer send you dog pics, but they delete nothing.
I nuked a profile five years back and logged into it last year. Every single post, piece of info, and photo was still there. That shit’s worth money to them. And legally, according to the TOS you agreed to, it’s their property. So don’t bother. Just stop using it.
Facebook is for fools and Twitter is for idiots.
@LongHairedWeirdo: Thank you for that. Interesting. Frightening.
The Moar You Know
@Mr. Mack: They have. Facebook just buys them. Instagram being the most famous example.
A huge part of it is that the intrusiveness is directly related to Facebook’s ability to monetize. They make their money selling ads, and their ability to sell those ads is directly related to how deeply they can mine their users’ data. This is the fundamental problem with a system where everything is paid for by ads: the customers are the people buying the ads, not the people using the service.
We can’t prosecute war crimes because it would disproportionally convict war criminals.
I recently created a burner FB account with a completely fake name to take part in a private group (deleted my old one years ago).
It asked if it could access my contacts. No, it couldn’t. It had no friend suggestions to me. Cool.
Then it insisted on a phone number so that it could send me a confirmation text. I couldn’t continue without doing this. So I gave it my phone number. All of a sudden it had friend suggestions. A handful of them are people I really know. Most of them by crude geographic proximity, but one of them a former work colleague who does not live nearby. And when it tried pushing extra hard on “do you know this person” it had a high hit rate with the ones I really did know.
This freaks me out somewhat. How can it tell from my mobile phone number (which, in the UK, does not have a local area code!)?
@The Moar You Know: Also, there is a “network lock in” problem.
If I set up a new social network tomorrow with proper privacy, you could join it, but none of your friends would be there. None of your family. You could post stuff, but nobody would ever see it.
One of the best things that could happen to FB would be to break it up into a network that was run as a regulated monopoly utility, that had the database of people, friends, messages, etc. And then there could be multiple “user interface” companies who could compete to make the front end that you would choose to use to access that database (i.e., make friends, send messages, join groups, etc).
They’ve done this before. Most notably to AIM chat, which dominated the market with network lock-in many years ago. That opening allowed the facebooks of the world to have a chance to get started. Having got in that door, FB are going to do their best to make sure it stays firmly locked behind them.
J R in WV
If you aren’t paying for a service, that means you ARE the product!
They’re probably looking through everyone else’s contact list to see which ones have your number in them.
Yes, but it’s an extremely bad way of doing it. It is to social interaction what empty calories are to nutrition.
Mindshare is a hell of a drug.
@unknown known: One of the truly evil thing about Facebook (and the like) is the way they treat your information as theirs, even when a third party has given it to them. All you need is one real-life acquaintance with poor judgement to upload their contact list and you’re in the network whether you wanted to be or not. The seduction doesn’t have to work on you as long as it works on the people you know.
At some point there’s going to be a massive wake-up when people realize, “Hey, this stuff isn’t actually worth jack shit!” and the market for it will collapse. But I might be dead before that happens.
The intrusion is what pries the data loose. If you don’t intrude, you have nothing to sell.
Facebook is a parasite. You don’t domesticate parasites.
That makes sense… Though most of their suggestions are people I don’t know at all…. Oh, hm, probably friends of the someone who DID have my number in their uploaded contacts list.
Yeah, I think you’ve probably rattled it there.
Thanks, I was wondering.
It’s unlikely to happen because it isn’t true. A service that lets people keep in touch with friends and relatives has a lot of value. The problem isn’t at that end, it’s that Facebook* is demanding all our private information in exchange for offering that service, and then using that private information for nefarious purposes. A public utility that did something similar to what Facebook does, except with out selling our information to the highest bidder, would be a fine and valuable service.
*And other social network companies to a lesser but still significant extent
@different-church-lady: Thats actually not legal in the EU anymore. GDPR rules require companies to have your affirmative permission to store any data on them, and to allow you to delete it on request. And it’s a law with real teeth in terms of the fines it can levy. It’s caused a seismic shakeup of database marketing here. Seriously it’s changed a LOT.
But apparently not Facebook. Wonder when the boom will come about that…
Of course, post brexit I’m no longer protected by GDPR* (ETA: Fuck you Johnson). I wonder if FB have already rolled that back, or if they are daring the EU to take them on… because the EU do have a track record of going after the big firms.
* Well I sort-of am. Most companies here are going to comply with GDPR anyway, because they’ll do so much business with people in the EU that they won’t want to risk sweeping up info on a euro and getting into shit over that. FB probably are not so worried about that though.
Facebook behaves as if it is a law unto itself, and they will continue to behave that way until somebody steps up and proves otherwise.
@J R in WV: Does that mean that WE are the product here on Balloon Juice?
@J R in WV: I will say that more than one of the potential developers we spoke with had trouble understanding the concept of Balloon Juice.
But what do you sell? How do you make your money? You have a blog for no reason???
@Roger Moore: No, I mean the buyers of the advertising and information: they are going to go, “Hey, nobody is actually buying anything as the result of our targeting. It doesn’t do us any good to have all this info because having all this info doesn’t really sell anything equivalent to what we’re paying for it.” It’s the can’t-drink-from-a-firehose problem, combined with people tuning out.
@Roger Moore: I think what it means is that conservative/Republican politicians and operatives know that the only way they can win elections/attain/maintain power (and all that comes from that) is to lie. They know their base will eat up their lies and will be motivated to vote for them.
@different-church-lady: On the contrary, they are very much aware of what they are getting. They track click-through rates and “conversion rates” (i.e., of any interactions with their site, how many convert to their desired behaviour: usually buying something, but that depends on the particular site).
Targeted ads (meaning, ones that use tracking data to choose who they are shown to) are more expensive than non-targeted ones, because they tend to get higher conversion rates… though there are big internal problems of transparency within the industry – when you buy a targeted ad it’s frequently not clear how that targeting info was acquired, who assembled it and how, and some analysts think that the targeters are using this opacity to milk most of the profits that come from more accurate targetting).
So anyway, the tracking you industry is not about to collapse under the weight of not being profitable. Regulation is the only real threat to it.
In happier news, I’ve done some minimal internet research, and it seems like I’m still pretty much protected by GDPR despite Brexit, because the UK is pretty much absorbing it into their own domestic law. So yay. Now I have to figure out how to report these fuckers.
I have always assiduously avoided Facebook and never clicked on any link to it. Nevertheless, every time I look at cookies or website data there are several different Facebook-related files totaling twenty megabytes or more.
I feel like they are cyberstalking me. Do i have any recourse? Or are we all SOL?
@Anomalous Cowherd: It’s the sites you are visiting that are giving you those cookies. Any web page you visit that has a “click here to like on FB” button is tracking you on behalf of FB. If you are logged into FB when you visit them then they know EXACTLY who you are.
All you can do is to have more aggressive cookie blocking software / settings (you can probably blacklist FB in your browswer for one)
My understanding is that the [Edited]
real milking isn’t coming frompeople getting milked aren’t the advertisers; it’s coming fromthe ones getting milked are the sites selling the ad space. Josh Marshall at TPM has spent a lot of time talking about this. His big point is that in the good old days, publishers were in control of the market. Their publications were focused, either by region (like a local newspaper) or by market segment (like a specialty magazine). That meant an advertiser who wanted access to that market knew which publishers it could use to target the market and deal with them directly.
The internet did a lot to break that situation by bringing masses of comparatively amateur publishers into the game. There were just too many tiny sites out there for advertisers to deal with them all directly, and in a lot of cases their audience was too poorly defined for advertisers to know if they were worth dealing with. And many of the publishers weren’t capable of dealing with all the people who might have wanted to advertise on their sites, anyway. So the ad networks stepped in to act as intermediaries. They function as aggregators, so publishers and advertisers only need to deal with one broker instead of masses of counter-parties. It made everything very convenient for both advertisers and publishers and made a lot of the modern net possible.
But they also built up a tracking infrastructure so they are the ones who capture all the information about the people they’re serving the ads to. Since that information is what makes the ads valuable, it means they get to capture the lion’s share of the value, not the publishers. And now that they’re so consolidated, they can use their market share to get additional leverage. The net result is that more and more of the ad revenue stays with the ad networks, and the publishers are getting squeezed.
@Roger Moore: You are exactly right. I was a bit off there. I’d read an academic article laying out the evidence for this a long time ago, and my reconstruction of it was a bit wonky.
Some of the really big publishers (I’m going to say Time Magazine was one, but I can’t remember exactly – something like that) are trying to push back by setting up their own network for advertising in which they only invite other big name publishers to participate, and then sell ads directly without any intermediary. If you buy an ad with them, you know it’s going to one of their big-brand sites (and not, say, some random nearly-top-ten-thousand politics blog). As I recall (which is rather hazily) they were struggling to really get this off the ground, mostly because it didn’t scale very well. But I’m way out of date on that, so maybe it did end up going places.
It’s a shame FB bought Instagram because I do like Instagram a lot to look at knitting and art and such.
Deleting a Facebook account is nigh on impossible.
I joined facebook for 1 day exclusively because a relative was involved in some charity “competition” ( he won a chance to rappel off a tall hotel) that involved accumalating ‘Likes” from Facebook.
I signed up voted and quit deleted acct. all in one sitting.
I was recently told by some freinds that my “page” is still up.
I had sent repeated demands for them to completely delete my acct.
It is like trying to quit AOL in the ’90’s early aught’s