With both Robert Mueller (see here and here) and Congress turning up the heat on Facebook for its inadvertent role in helping the Kremlin push manifestly false narratives in the lead up to the U.S. election, it’s inevitable that the public is going to be made acutely aware of how social media can be employed in the service of creating self-referential propaganda campaigns.
Facebook has made it clear that it will cooperate with investigators in their efforts to assess exactly what when on and as we and others have variously noted, suggesting that $100,000 in ad spend couldn’t possibly have affected an election outcome seems at odds with reality. Because after all, the whole reason Facebook and other popular social media platforms are attractive to advertisers is because of those platforms’ unparalleled ability to amplify a message.
Just in the past couple of weeks we’ve learned quite a bit about how Russia sought to leverage Facebook. Earlier this month for instance, we drew your attention to the connection between a highly dubious story (which posited a link between the spread of disease in Twin Falls, Idaho and immigrants) pushed by Breitbart, Alex Jones, and other Right-wing media outlets, and an effort by a Russia-linked Facebook account to capitalize on the xenophobia that story catalyzed by organizing anti-immigrant rallies.
You can, and should, read about it here: Russia Used Facebook To Organize Rally In Town Targeted By Breitbart, InfoWars.
Well on Monday we learn that Steve Bannon apparently tried to plant a mole inside Facebook prior to his taking over the Trump campaign. Here’s BuzzFeed:
Steve Bannon plotted to plant a mole inside Facebook, according to emails sent days before the Breitbart boss took over Donald Trump’s campaign and obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The email exchange with a conservative Washington operative reveals the importance that the giant tech platform — now reeling from its role in the 2016 election — held for one of the campaign’s central figures. And it also shows the lengths to which the brawling new American right is willing to go to keep tabs on and gain leverage over the Silicon Valley giants they used to help elect Trump — but whose executives they also see as part of the globalist enemy.
The idea to infiltrate Facebook came to Bannon from Chris Gacek, a former congressional staffer who is now an official at the Family Research Council, which lobbies against abortion and many LGBT rights.
“There is one for a DC-based ‘Public Policy Manager’ at Facebook’s What’s APP [sic] division,” Gacek, the Senior Fellow for Regulatory Affairs at the group, wrote on August 1, 2016. “LinkedIn sent me a notice about some job openings.”
“This seems perfect for Breitbart to flood the zone with candidates of all stripe who will report back to you / Milo with INTEL about the job application process over at FB,” he continued.
“Milo” is former Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, to whom Bannon forwarded Gacek’s email the same day.
“Can u get on this,” Bannon instructed his staffer.
So here’s Steve Bannon, caught on e-mail, plotting to inundate Facebook with fake (or maybe not) job applicants in order to determine if the company’s hiring process is biased.
I guess. God knows what would have happened had he actually succeeded in placing someone from Breitbart inside the company.
Of course at the end of the day it didn’t matter because as it turns out, planting a “mole” inside Facebook was as simple as buying ads.