On January 8, 2020 an article appeared in Teen Vogue titled “How Facebook is Helping Insure the Integrity of the 2020 Election” followed by “With the company’s huge platform comes huge responsibility”. The article interviewed five women who work on Facebook’s misinformation team. It read like a press release – Facebook has your back, we’re so wonderful, totally dedicated to eradication of misinformation, go team! The piece went to great lengths to illustrate how Facebook is tackling misinformation.
Several hours later Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg posted – “Great Teen Vogue piece about five incredible women protecting elections on Facebook. Since 2016 we’ve worked to stop the spread of misinformation, fight foreign interference and voter suppression, improve transparency, and encourage people to vote. There’s more to do and I’m so grateful we have this team – and hundreds of people across the company – working every single day to do it.”
Astute media watchers weren’t swayed by Facebook saccharine. Why no byline? Who wrote this? Something smells rotten. Rotten indeed – seems Facebook paid for the article, but rather than admit it, a line appeared on Teen Vogue reading “Editors note, this is sponsored editorial content”. Facebook stayed the course, admitted nothing, apologized for nothing. Facebook paid for propaganda about how they’re combating propaganda! That’s not normal, or is it the new normal created by social media behemoths like Facebook?
Over the past few years work has allowed glimpses into hallowed halls at Facebook. Security is intense, it takes 15 minutes to secure visitor credentials. “Wear your lanyard at all times, stepping off concrete onto carpeted areas is forbidden, do not discuss Zuckerberg – it will be heard and not taken lightly. WTF? Beyond entrance formalities a bubble of extravagance erases any doubt Facebook has power and money to do what they damn well please. Motivational slogans of empowerment ripple seamlessly from futuristic team building hives to ping pong tables, $10,000 fresh squeezed orange juice machine, thirty foot wall of yours for the taking employee snacks, light meals, fresh produce and beverages. Who are these people?
In my opinion that’s the million dollar question. By all appearances Facebook culture embodies a young techno savvy millennial’s wet dream. Geek chic unleashed without cognisance of immense power and influence along for the ride. In a nutshell – Facebook wasn’t equipped to fathom a leap from social media army to commander in chief of global perspectives. That said, there’s absolutely no excuse for paid propaganda used in a anti-propaganda campaign.