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Tech giants’ disinformation challenge (think Russia) is getting worse


Your highly-innovative, greatly successful company has become a force for global social progress – but because of great misuse it’s now seen by many in power as a threat to social stability.

What to do?

If you have a solution, contact Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Now.

In the meantime, consider:

After months of adjusting business models and services to be responsive, this week the companies faced a new doubleheader of criticism from powerful influentials.

First, Axios reporting from Capitol Hill – “Facebook, Twitter roped into new Russian interference scandal ” :

“Two top congressional Democrats have asked Facebook and Twitter to investigate attempts by Russia-backed accounts to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with a hashtag campaign calling for the public release of a partisan memo involved in the probe.

“Why it matters: The letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff is an attempt to draw attention to the possibility that Russian accounts boosted the ‘#Release The Memo’

campaign. If that’s true, the Democrats wrote, ‘we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process.’


“Big picture: The social media companies are getting hammered over Russian interference, and despite their attempts to crack down on Russia-backed accounts and their political activity, this could be a new example of the problem. Go deeper: The full letter.


Second — and, perhaps a more existential threat — the New America think tank and Harvard’s Shorenstein Centre on Media, Politics and Public Policy  have published “Digital  Deceit: Exposing the Internet Technologies of Precision Propaganda”, which argues that the technology supporting digital advertising has made disinformation more effective.


Key points in the New York Times article on the report written by two former Facebook executives,  “Once Cozy With Tech Giants, Democrats Grow Wary of Tech Giants” :

“The report argues that the interests of the internet giants are aligned with someone looking to spread misinformation …


“Fundamentally, the problem is that disinformation campaigns and legitimate advertising campaigns  are effectively indistinguishable on leading internet platforms …


“Ultimately, the underlying business model of digital advertising hasn’t changed, and it is not clear how Facebook will handle content that advertisers pay to promote.”




(See also, “What does a company owe to its country — and society?” 




“In the aftermath of Russian use of these companies’ platforms to divide Americans and likely influence the 2016 election, U.S. Senators are saying, in effect, ‘we don’t believe you have control over what’s happening in your internet space. Fix this or we will.’ The issue is nothing less than U.S. national security/democracy and the corporate responsibility to help protect it.” )