ICT, Executive - Facebook Denies 2016 Responsibility
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and his top executives are fending off questions about the social network reportedly it lashed out against its critics instead of dealing with wrongdoing on its platform during the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.
A bombshell New York Times report details how the company not only knew about Russian meddling during the election cycle, but also failed to penalize Donald Trump's Islamophobic content and tried to undermine critics with allegations of anti-Semitism. The Times reported that Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Cheryl Sandberg "ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view".
As concerns about Facebook's role in facilitating Russian trolls and disinformation grew, the company hired a PR consultant called Definers Public Affairs, run by US Republican Party operatives. It crafted a strategy of attacking critics and leaking pro-Facebook stories into the conservative and mainstream media through its own conservative news site called the NTK Network. As with many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Facebook and Definers falsely blamed billionaire financier George Soros for its problems, casting him as "the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement," the Times reported.
Definers played the other side simultaneously, "lobbying a Jewish civil-rights group to cast some criticism of (Facebook) as anti-Semitic."
After the report, Facebook severed its contract with Definers and Zuckerberg denied all responsibility and even knowledge of the company in a conference call with reporters.
"This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it's not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with," Zuckerberg said. Later he added, "I learned about this relationship when I read the New York Times piece yesterday." Reporters didn't really give up, though, and Zuckerberg claimed the "someone" way down on the corporate food chain hired the public relations contractor.
Virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier was already a critic of Facebook, having authored "Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now", and is taking a harder line.
"I think it would be good for the world if (Zuckerberg) stepped aside," Lanier told Al Jazeera. "But the point is that there's no mechanism for him to do so.
"That [Facebook] is a one man shop is really, really not okay," Lanier added. "It's not okay for the world. It's not even in the spirit of capitalism. I think it's really anti-market, anti-democratic".