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Home / Technology / Trump's greatest ally in upcoming elections? Facebook | John Harris | opinion

Trump's greatest ally in upcoming elections? Facebook | John Harris | opinion



If you want to know why the worst president in US history currently has a very good chance of winning again, there are a few facts to consider. Donald Trump's re-election campaign is already in full swing, there is a lot of money, social media is flooded with targeted advertisements and data about voters is being collected.

The impeachment drama is predictable enough to release the material plays with the idea of ​​Trump as a noble outsider and fights against the liberal conspiracy that results from his online questionnaires: "Agree that President Trump did nothing wrong ? Do you think the Democrats will try to find LIES to accuse the President? “

The most likely Democratic challenger made headlines last year when he cut his online advertising budget and focused on television advertising: a very strange decision by Joe Biden, but there we are.

What Trump really helps is Facebook. Last October, it became clear that, despite his collective regret over the role he played in Trump's election three years earlier, Mark Zuckerberg's company tacitly exempted party and candidate advertisements from the truth and falsehood rules. After the flood of criticism, there was speculation that Facebook might shift ̵

1; both in terms of this policy and the way micro-targeting of advertising makes it almost impossible to question what a candidate says to voters and why (who Trump) It is currently expected that more than 1,000 new micro-targeted Facebook ads will appear in the campaign every day.

Earlier this month, however, it was confirmed that corporate policy would remain unchanged on these two important points.

Cosmetically speaking, at least some other internet giants have tightened up. Not that it relieves Twitter of the main culprit for spreading hate and misinformation or hosting Trump's personal feed, but almost all political advertising was banned in October last year. Here, too, Google is barely free from promoting the worst kind of online politics, but has prevented political advertisers from attacking people based on their political affiliation and has promised to act against "demonstrably false claims".

Facebook, on the other hand, does not move. She may have illuminated political ads using new transparency tools, announced that users would now be able to see fewer ads on “political and social issues”, and stepped up her efforts to combat foreign interference, but the most outrageous aspect of Politics remains unaffected.

When I contacted the company's press office, I received an email from a global “CEO consulting firm” called Teneo, asking me to debate the paraphrase of Facebook's line of business and preventing the politicians' messages from being sent reach their intended audience; and that targeted advertising is considered a good thing not only by political campaigns, but also by charities and NGOs. Of course, the problem with this defense is that candidates and campaigns go unpunished, and micro-targeting makes it worse.

For example, in October last year, Trump's organization published an advertisement that incorrectly claimed that Biden had offered the Ukrainian authorities $ 1 billion if they closed an investigation into a company related to his son. CNN refused to air it; Facebook had no such concerns. There will be a lot more of it.

It is interesting to note that Facebook's approach to lying politically was supported by Peter Thiel, the Trump billionaire who sits on the Facebook board. If you want to understand what kind of thinking it supports, the recent memo by Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, Facebook's "vice president of augmented virtual reality" is a good place to start. Trump won three years ago because "he was running the best digital advertising campaign I've ever seen from an advertiser," and this year's Facebook advertising guidelines "could very well [sic] lead to the same result." 19659003] When it comes to the relevance of Facebook's political advertising policy to Trump's opportunities, Bosworth is anything but mystical. "I'm thinking of the Lord of the Rings right now," he says. “Especially when Frodo Galadriel offers the ring and she imagines using the force correctly first, but knows that it will ultimately corrupt. As tempting as it is to use the tools at our disposal to change the outcome, I am confident that we should never do this, otherwise we will become what we fear. "

But what about the fact that Facebook's algorithms have the most hysterical merits, lying, despicable kind of political discourse? "The algorithms primarily reveal the desires of humanity itself, for better or for worse," says Bosworth, and further claims that "corporate paternalism" is not the answer and that "it is good to give people tools to make their own decisions "Trying to force decisions on them rarely works (for them or for you). “In other words, Facebook only presents you with the poison, often in a micro-targeted form that makes it even more tempting: if you want to ingest it, it's up to you. In this vision, the Turkic cod philosophy is less relevant than ruthless libertarianism. So diverse is the corporate responsibility that the most powerful company in the world offers.

Traditional media may still understand elections in the form of speeches, campaign launches and one-on-one interviews. But as Boris Johnson's victory after weeks of not scrutinizing proves, politics aren't really happening here anymore. Facebook offers campaigns and candidates a double attraction: you can spend a lot of money telling lies, and you can be sure that you are using the most effective political communication tools that failure has ever invented, but this formula was at the heart of the Tory victories in December: Towards the end of the election, it became known that 88% of conservative ads published on Facebook over a four-day period contained claims that Full deemed to be misleading, one that Facebook itself used Fact-checking organization (the number of Labor material was 7%).

An honorable debate might have taken its last symbolic respite in 2008, when Senator John McCain silenced an audience at one of his events when she hinted that Barack Obama was not American. There can be very bad prospects, as my colleague Emily Bell pointed out last week – that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an internet policy expert, has never held a press conference and that the White House has the press secretary within six months No public briefing was held – and, incidentally, the new British government apparently wants little to do with mainstream news and current programs.

We are apparently in the early stages of a whole new era in which victory, as the New York Times recently put it, is usually for those who focus on "emotionally charged, non-partisan content, regardless of their factual accuracy." and indeed specialized in very evil techniques: experience the 2016 Trump campaign directed against Facebook against Hillary Clinton to suppress voter turnout.

Every time I write on Facebook, something stays in my head: Even if it started with benevolent intentions, it has by no means been possible to reconcile its power with the corresponding responsibility. Zuckerberg himself seems to agree that there is a need for action. "I believe that governments that set clearer rules are helpful in a number of areas, including elections, harmful content, data protection and data portability," he said in his recent New Year's message.

What is actually required is enforced separation, strict subsequent regulation, and the belated realization that Facebook almost tore democracy apart to bring people closer – all thoughts that are in vogue among the top politicians of the Democratic Party today , However, the unprecedented power of Facebook as a company offers an answer to this: the fact that Trump can beat any Democrat who has been chosen to challenge him, using all of the subtle sophistry that Facebook makes available to him.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist


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