November 17, 2018

We Have to Talk About Facebook Again. Sigh.

By Melissa Ryan

This week’s New York Times article on Facebook was a doozy. More than 50 sources, many of whom are surely under an NDA, spilled lots of tea, airing Facebook’s dirty laundry.

It turns out Facebook isn’t just a radicalization engine where conspiracy theories about George Soros and the left spread. They’re practitioners! The company actively tapped into Soros conspiracies for their own PR purposes when they “employed a Republican opposition-research firm [Definers] to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.” Fun fact: said firm runs its own “in-house fake news shop!” The Times followed up with even more details of strategies Definers deployed on Facebook’s behalf, including hyperpartisan news aggregation.

The timing on this particular piece of news couldn’t be worse, just a few weeks after Soros had a pipe bomb sent to his home — one of many pipe bombs sent to progressive public figures — by a man who had almost certainly been radicalized online. It’s maddening that Facebook would allow encouraging these conspiracies as an actual comms plan but I guess if anyone would know what an effective strategy Soros conspiracies can be, it would be Facebook!

Facebook has spent the rest of this week bending over backward to defend itself and as part of that process has thrown Definers under the bus. Basically, deploying the same aggressive PR strategy described in the Times piece. Personally, I don’t care about Facebook doing opposition research on Senators they were lobbying. But Soros conspiracy mongering and hyperpartisan news aggregation are unacceptable. As Ben Collins put it in his excellent Twitter thread “Hiring someone to claim your protesters are paid by Soros is just… beyond the pale disgraceful corruption.”

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