Unless you’ve been residing in a cave for the past 12 months or so, it is overwhelmingly evident Russia tried to covertly manipulate the 2016 election. The latest to announce that they were unwitting participants in this campaign is Google, which revealed Monday that the Russians had surreptitiously spent tens of thousands of dollars in ads on YouTube, Gmail, and ads associated with Google search. This effort has not only drawn the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who reportedly will hold hearings November 1. Of all the online providers involved in this affair, none have come in for as much criticism as Facebook. Two days after Trump’s election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a crowd at a tech conference at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Ca., “the idea that fake news on Facebook…influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.”
That denial drew the attention of no less a personage than the outgoing President of the United States, Barrack Obama. Nine days later, at a conference of world leaders in Lima, Peru, Obama met privately with Zuckerberg. (Thirty-three year olds worth $71 billion tend to spend a lot of time at conferences.) According to The Washington Post, “Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously.”
Although Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post hours after his Obama meeting, “we take misinformation seriously,” it was all half-hearted. He distanced Facebook from having any editorial responsibility. “We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” the Harvard dropout opined.
Finally, after months of speculation, Facebook revealed in early September that the Russians had spent about $100,000 on political ads for two years ending in May 2017. In an anodyne headline that would make the military proud, the press release announcing the Russian expenditures was entitled “An Update On Information Operations on Facebook.”