Facebook Troubles (Is Twitter Next?)

This news isn’t new or original. We have all known of Facebook’s global malfeasance and contributions to human rights abuses, wars and coup detats, censorship, riots, and the spread of hatred, racism, and antisemitism.

We know that Facebook makes money by profiting from paid disinformation by domestic and foreign criminals. And we know that, at its core, Facebook is an international criminal enterprise that occasionally provides regular users access to goods, services, family, and a curated community of like-minded followers.

But your auntie selling earrings on Facebook is not the purpose of Facebook. Your church broadcasting Sunday services are not the reason for Facebook’s existence. And your high-school-reunion pictures are not why Facebook allows photo and video sharing.

Facebook exists to make money for its investors and shareholders and to provide big business, criminals, disinformation peddlers, child traffickers, authoritarian governments, anti-government organizations, and white supremacy groups an online safe space to gather, share, plot, influence, recruit, grow their reach and spread their messages to a neighbor, voter, and insurrectionist near you.

Facebook is the real life application of “bad news spreads fast.” 

An unregulated communication vehicle whose reach is unmatched, Facebook-owned companies from WhatsApp and Instagram, each with two billion users, to its behemoth Facebook with more than three-billions users, already reach most earthlings before even including the other seventy-six companies Facebook purchased over the past fifteen years. 

Facebook’s reach is greater than China, India, the United States, and Russia combined. 

Facebook is the world’s largest community, government, population, and unchecked organization, and one with the power of instant communication to the entire world – a first in world history.

The company though is again in the news after a Facebook employee grew a semi-conscious and decided to tell 60 Minutes new dirt that was really old dirt but repackaged for 60 minutes. Outrage directed at Facebook runs on a three-year cycle that goes like this:

  1. Whistleblower shares damning information about nefarious doings at Facebook.
  2. The lazy media runs shallow stories and provide Facebook cover by highlighting young or old, mostly white, users who love Facebook.
  3. A few populist and/or desperate politicians threaten regulations or other types of oversight.
  4. Criminals, er, Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg deny malfeasance, promise to review internal processes, do absolutely nothing, then reward themselves with hundreds of millions dollars from “investors” who thank them for allowing their criminal enterprises to continue to thrive.

The cycle also includes never-ending movements to “delete Facebook.” And while many users have opted out, the numbers are infinitesimal to the global behemoth and barely register during their quarterly calls to Wall Street where Mark Zuckerberg glowingly tells of user growth in countries where Facebook is used to facilitate murder, gangs, unrest, human rights abuses, and governments attacking their own people.

None of the Wall Street analysts ask about any of that, They no more care than they cared about the slave trade, chattel slavery, or the genocide of indigenous peoples. And mostly the mainstream media ignores the global abuses helped by Facebook just like they ignored enslavement, segregation, Jim Crow, and how they continue to ignore police brutality.

The latest unsurprising awful news shared on 60 Minutes is that Facebook aided and abetted the January 6th insurrection and attack on the US. Capitol by Trump forces. The planning by white nationalists, American Nazis who tried to overthrow the government and murder elected Democratic leaders, was as widely shared on Facebook as your ex’s “in a new relationship” notification you also didn’t ask to see.

Facebook saw the planning because it was done on its website right out there in the open, and yet they did absolutely nothing. The company, which benefits from loose American laws, first amendment nonsense, Republican help, and compromised law enforcement at all levels, did not care that the country of its origin was in danger because Facebook has no loyalty to any nation, government, or guiding principles other than the protection of its revenue steam and the revenue streams of all of the international and global enterprises it exists to serve.

That we are ten months past the insurrection and just now hearing of Facebook’s complicity truly highlights the ineffective and incompetent law enforcement agencies whose job it is to monitor social media for… plans to overthrow the government and in theory… put a stop to them.

So while Facebook deserves all the smoke and negative attention it is receiving, it is wise to remember that the world’s “greatest military and intelligence apparatus” failed miserably at detecting and preventing the insurrection.

Facebook knew Russians were targeting voters with misinformation, targeting Black voters with voter suppression messages, targeting white Christians with white supremacy messaging, and targeting Black Christians with anti-Democratic messaging. Facebook knew this was going on and instead of blocking or suspending those accounts, it helped spread their messages further and wider than all other messages, including those messages paid for by small users.

And Facebook is on record as having lied to regulators multiple times, including saying they had located and deleted 95% of the hate pages on its platform. But independent analysis found they had only deleted 3-5% of such pages. They know their apps cause issues with teenagers, particularly girls who use Instagram, but they do nothing with the knowledge other than ignore it. 

So while regular users are subjected to inconsistent rules that frequently lead small user accounts to be arbitrarily suspended or shadow-banned, especially for Black users, Facebook facilitated broader reach for Russian trolls farms, bots, and other accounts peddling disinformation, lies, and insurrection messages all across the globe.

In that regard, Facebook is just like its smaller rival, Twitter.

Twitter is also a haven for Russian troll farms, bots, racists, white supremacists, and antisemitic accounts that attack small follower-count users with impunity. Once users push back after being called the N-word and other derogatory insults for Jewish and LGBTQI+ folk, Twitter will immediately suspend the victims, while allowing the vitriol to continue. Twitter knows the accounts are trolls, knows they are racists and Nazis, but @Twittersupport and @Twittersafety do little to make their community safe for Black and marginalized users.

Twitter could suspend the accounts and the troll farms but the financial pull of reporting growth numbers to Wall Street every quarter is just too strong for Mr. Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and majority owner who, like Zuckerberg, breathlessly shares the fantastic growth actuals and projections…without illuminating what percentage of those growth accounts are troll farms or bots.

And again, Wall Street ignores the obvious questions in their desire to always and only protect shareholder (they themselves) investments.

We know Twitter is aware of the fake accounts and that that they can suspend them because when finally confronted with the horror of the January 6th insurrection, Twitter finally and belatedly suspended thousands of anti-government accounts along with the account of former lead insurrectionist, Donald Trump. 

That Twitter ignored calls from then presidential candidate Kamala Harris to ban Trump, who herself was ridiculed by fellow campaigners and Beltway and cable personalities, goes to show the full acceptance of accounts whose sole purpose is to sew dissent.

For years, Black users have called on Twitter to suspend or at least block racists accounts who target Black users with a daily barrage of racist words, gifs, and memes. Twitter remains indifferent to the calls to reign in the racist accounts, but it is not as if Twitter hasn’t acted to address Black, Jewish, and especially Black and brown women’s complaints, because they have – but not like you think. Twitter has responded by suspending Black, brown, Jewish, and LGTBQI+ accounts who defend themselves from the daily attacks.

You read that right: Twitter regularly suspends the accounts of the victims of racism and antisemitism while leaving the perpetrators alone. Twitter leaves them alone to continue attacking, spewing racism, glorifying Hitler, and supporting the Big Lie and the Jan. 6th insurrection.

And the perpetrators celebrate “their closely guarded freedom of speech” and the victims wonder why they don’t have freedom of speech to defend themselves.

Twitter is online heaven for racists, misogynists, and antisemitic incels, and hell for everyone else. But Twitter’s indifferent and aloof creator, Jack Dorsey, is more interested in meditation on a remote island, like the colonizer he is, rather than actively addressing the cesspool that plague his app.

Both he and his supporters, and Facebook, blame the constant attacks and the suspension of the victim’s accounts, as a result of “Algorithms.” 

Using “Algorithms” as the end-all-be-all, excuse, rationalization, and justification for all the vitriol, hate, racism, and antisemitism that thrives on his app is the modern version of “it is the law that you can’t look a white man in the eye, therefore you deserved getting lynched.” And, “the cop had to shoot to kill because he was trained to do that.”

The all-knowing, all-being, “Algorithm” seemingly just created itself out of thin air and there’s nothing Twitter or Facebook can do about it. 

Too bad there’s no way to hire Black coders to write better, less racist algorithms, hire Black people to parse what is, what is not racist, hire Black people to oversee all the non-Black people who quickly suspend Black accounts while leaving white supremacists accounts active, and add Black people to the Twitter and Facebook board of directors – and not just one or two; appoint enough to make a real and instant difference to users. 

The truth is, all social media platforms have now or have had racial problems. 

Snapchat (RIP) used Blackface filters; Instagram was suspending Black users accounts at an alarming rate while leaving up white influencer accounts for the same content – and content stolen from Black creators. TikTok is suffering through one racial controversy after another as Black creators went on strike against the platform that allowed white creators to steal and monetize content stolen from Black creators. TikTok also had to answer for suspending and shadow-banning Black accounts, so much that they created a small department of Black monitors and reviewers to ensure Black accounts were not suspended so much. The effort, lauded at first, has been shown to be ineffective against.. you guessed it, TikTok algorithms.

The digital world is here and isn’t going anywhere. Companies that create and manage platforms that purport to “bring the world together” have succeeded in providing pipelines, community, and connections from neighbors across the street and around the world. The same companies though have also facilitated the spread of hatred and made it easier for those who push hate and seek to harm others to hide behind faceless algorithms that are generally designed by a few men, reviewed by fewer men, and approved by still fewer men.

The platforms are not going away no matter what happens to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok, Weibo, or Instagram after this latest Facebook debacle, global outage, and whistleblower testimony. The all-powerful algorithms aren’t going to miraculously repair themselves just because they are enacting the racist biases of the coders, and regulators the world over won’t suddenly reign in any of these companies.

Today Mark Zuckerberg did what he always does: denied, lied, obfuscate, mislead, and promised to do nothing. 

Users will be the ones who ultimately decide which platform lives or dies. And the sooner users decide to kill off Facebook – the largest of them all –  the sooner the other platforms will fix themselves before regulators get involved.

© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved. 

Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.  

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