Facebook and Fake News: the Sanitized PBS Version

The Facebook Dilemma

James Jacoby Frontline PBS (2018)

Film Review

This document presents a sanitized PBS version of the Facebook fake news/Russiagate controversy that ultimately led to growing Facebook censorship of both right and left wing social mediate sites. In my view the main drawback of the film is its failure to examine Mark Zuckerberg’s murky funding links to In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm funded by the CIA (see Revealed CIA-Facebook Connections), nor the major role CIA trolls play on Facebook and other social media networks (see CIA Agents Hired to Troll Alternative Media Comments Online), nor the the historic role the Agency has played in corrupting the the so-called mainstream media (see  CIA Media Control Program Operation Mockingbird)

Without this context, the naive viewer gets the impression that Facebook is uniquely vulnerable to manipulation of its content by foreign intelligence trolls, which is far from the truth.

Part I  covers the period from Facebook’s launch in 2004 to the 2015 manipulation of Facebook by Russian trolls to demonize the fascist Poroschenko government Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland installed in Ukraine in 2014.

Like all the big tech companies, Facebook derives most of its profits by collecting data on its users, which they use to target them with product ads and/or sell it to third parties for similar purposes. I was really surprised to learn the Federal Trade Commission first filed charges against Facebook in 2010 for selling user data to other corporate interests without their permission. Facebook would settle the case by promising to “plug the gap” that was allowing this to occur.*

According to the filmmakers, US policy makers first realized that Facebook could be misused by bad actors shortly after the world’s first Facebook revolution, the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt.** Later in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood would also use Facebook to come to power in Egypt.


*Given the scandal that erupted in 2017 over Facebook’s sale of user data to Cambridge Analytica, clearly this “gap” was never plugged.

**There is good evidence that the 2011 Arab Spring was actually a series of “color revolutions” orchestrated by the CIA and State Department. See The CIA Role in the Arab Spring and Arab Spring Made in the USA

***There is also good evidence the Muslim Brotherhood has longstanding links to the CIA. See Muslin Brotherhood: Auxillary Force of MI6/CIA

Part 2, which covers the period 2016-2018, mainly concerns the 2016 election and the algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed. The platform’s most popular feature, the latter provides users with their own personalized view of the news, based on links they have viewed, liked, and shared in the past. This algorithm, first heavily used by Obama’s presidential campaigns, allows politicians to microtarget individuals and groups most likely to respond to specific messaging.

By 2016, 62% of Americans derived most of their news from Facebook, in part because nearly all US news outlets were publishing directly into Facebook’s news feed. During the 2016 primary and general election, there were over one billion campaign posts on Facebook. The Trump campaign alone spent $100 million on Facebook advertising.

By this point a number of foreign actors had also discovered the enormous value of sensational, violent, and political divisive posts in driving  users to their Facebook site. For example, a group of Macedonian hackers used bizarre Trump posts (eg Pope endorses Trump) to lure users to commercial sites that earned them hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Likewise a St Petersburg group called the Internet Research Agency (believed to be linked to the Russian government) spent $100,000 to promote a series of pro- and anti-Trump, pro- and anti-immigration, and pro- and anti-gun posts. A spokesperson for US intelligence claims the controversies this generated adversely affected the 2016 presidential elections: that is it caused a lot of Trump supporters, who normally stay home, to go to the polls.

Far more ominous, however, were the use of Facebook by Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte to demonize Filipino human rights activists, and its use (according to the UN Special Rapporteur) to inflame Buddhist violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, to inflame Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese against the country’s Tamil minority, and to inflame Hindus against Muslims in India.

 

Child Marketers: a New Kind of Pedophile

Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood

Adriana Barbaro & Jeremy Earp 2008

Film Review

The Commercialization of Childhood is about the constant, insidious targeting of American children with corporate marketing.

The US is the only country in the industrialized world that refuses to regulate children’s advertising. In 1984 the Reagan administration stripped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of any ability to regulate any children’s advertising or programming. Starting from age three or earlier, American children are bombarded with an average of 3,000 commercial messages a day. Because children under twelve lack the critical faculties to recognize deception, this constant bombardment with pro-consumption messaging has a profoundly negative impact on their psychological development and physical health.

The Nag Factor

Most child marketing is centered around what public relations specialists call the “nag factor” – children’s ability to make their parents miserable if they don’t buy them want they want. In addition to the $40 billion kids themselves spend every year, they also influence their parents’ spending to the tune of $700 billion a year. It’s often children who determine where families spend their holidays and what kind of car, computer and cellphone aps they buy.

Children’s advertising is no longer limited to TV ads and cereal boxes but intentionally pervades every area of their lives. Many contemporary children’s programs are deliberately centered around branded products, such as Sponge Bob Square Pants and Teenage Ninja Turtles. Marketers then play on children’s identification with these toys to get their parents to buy them Sponge Bob and Teenage Ninja Turtles video games, lunch boxes, tee shirts, cookies, crackers and even macaroni and cheese.

Meanwhile financially strapped schools make extra money by displaying brand logos in hallways and auditoriums and on sports fields. Many get free computers and satellite dishes by playing Channel One informercials at the beginning of the school day.

Child Marketers are Like Pedophiles

One of the psychologists interviewed compares child marketers to pedophiles. In addition to maximizing the nag factor, children’s marketing deliberately taps into powerful developmental needs. Public relations specialists spend hundreds of hours filming children’s in supermarkets, at school and even in the bathtub. As well as organizing special focus group slumber parties to expose them to new products, they get them to join fake online social media groups. Here they can earn money and free products by providing personal information about their friends. In most cases, these activities take place without the parents’ knowledge.

This continual bombardment with corporate messaging is leading to a total remodeling of children’s psyche. One particularly alarming example is the sexualization of young girls via “tween” marketing. This is designed to heavily promotes short skirts, skimpy tops and sexy make-up and hair products to 6-12 twelve year olds. After years of this insidious brainwashing, western society is left with a staggering number of young women who think they only have worth if they’re pretty and thin and wear designer clothes. As well as an alarming increasing in anorexia nervosa, which is often fatal.

Meanwhile enticing ads for junk food and soft drinks is responsible for an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes – conditions that were once extremely rare in childhood.