Barack Obama asked Mark Zuckerberg to police Facebook for fake news
The relationship between Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg likely drove thousands of voters to Donald Trump. The notion of establishment politics and Silicon Valley uniting in favor of internet censorship makes even the Leviathan itself look like no big deal. In the 21st century, the control of information is everything.
Now, The Washington Post has reported that Barack Obama encouraged Mark Zuckerberg to take fake news more seriously in the wake of the 2016 election. Not a more robust policy platform, not a serious countermeasure to Donald Trump, but merely asking a tech billionaire to consider clamping down on his site's content. This news is worrying for a number of reasons.
Of course, the mythos of Barack Obama is far rom the reality. Under his Presidency, he deported over 2.5 million people, waged a shadow war against seven Muslim countries, oversaw a massive hidden surveillance network, and let Wall Street off the hook for crashing the American economy. Now, Obama is giving speeches to Wall Street banks for 6-figure sums, the same practice that led many to distrust Hillary Clinton.
The sad fact is that there is a kind of cathedral that constitutes the network of mutually-beneficial relationships between Silicon Valley billionaires and American Presidents. The religion of elites helping elites, and working together to sculpt the world in their image, is surely the ethos of our time. There is no God but authority, and authority knows what is best. It is inherently anti-Democratic to suggest that a private corporation like Facebook has the responsibility to vindicate news as true or false.
And yet, Zuckerberg has taken Obama's advice, and recently came out to declare that Facebook had discovered $100,000 in Russian ads, used by bots to propagate fake news, throughout 2016. He declared that he is releasing the ads to congress, and will be strengthening Facebook's ad policies. It is unclear what type of action will follow those decisions, but a media blacklist and whitelist (as many have suggested in the wake of election) based on this panic seems the opposite of what we need in the age of Trump. Why surrender more of our power to unaccountable, private organizations?
$100,000 in fake ad money did not sway the election, and the United States also pressures other country's elections, particularly in Russia, Gaza and the larger Middle East. Obama also reportedly called Theresa May with a reassuring message after losing dozens of PM seats to Jeremy Corbyn. The interests of the elite are achieved by American will - why do we get so angry when others try to beat us at our own game? When you live by the sword, so the saying goes...
Mark Zuckerberg is nearly irrelevant. At this point, it is the machine, and the algorithm he has created, that decides what information we see, and how we understand the context of the information we are given. If we have to choice between the impersonal censorious algorithm or the bluster of a madman, I think we've lost ether way, and as Milton said, it is "better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven."
Do you get most of your news from Facebook? Do you consider yourself well-informed? Which do you fear more: Russian advertisement campaigns, or the nameless algorithm that determines what you see and experience every time you touch the timeline?
Personally, I fear the machine more than Vladimir Putin.