Is Facebook ready to crack down on U.S. interference?

With wunderkind and likely 2020 presidential contender, Mark Zuckerberg falling all over himself to vow that Facebook is gravely concerned and ready to crack down on alleged “Russian interference” in U.S. elections, it seems like a good time to back up and review some old dusty news stories.

And one more thing, what does it say about the candidacy of Hillary Clinton if some Facebook ads and memes could wreck her campaign? Then again, maybe some Russian oligarch designed an ad that convinced Hillary’s campaign staff to not campaign in Minnesota? I guess it’s possible!

Remember that skinny nerd, Edward Snowden? Didn’t some of the documents he turned over to journalists include exposing the NSA’s manipulation of Facebook and social media?

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. – (2014) The Intercept

The Facebook trick was called QUANTUMHAND by the NSA, and was initially tested on “about a dozen targets” before being launched on a larger scale in 2010, the documents show.

What began as a way to hit “hart-to-reach” targets – around 100 to 150 of them, as of 2004 – the NSA’s malware-spreading efforts have since proliferated to potentially millions of computers around the globe using an automated system known internally as TURBINE. Using TURBINE, documents reveal, gave members of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit the ability to tap into, or destroy, computers on a massive scale. – (2014) Digital Trends

Across the pond in the UK, Snowden’s files also revealed how the NSA and its British counterpart (GCHQ) are “attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.”

TYT may be unhinged at times, but they deserve credit for covering this story back in the day.

Other reading…

Influence, isn’t that the point of Facebook?

…Certainly, we can agree that it’s bad that hostile foreign powers are able to easily and cheaply sow discord and division among American voters. But it’s not at all clear to me that what Russia is doing is a “misuse” of Facebook. Isn’t this the company that explicitly markets its ability to influence and swing voters? Isn’t this the company whose decadelong mission has been to allow people on one side of the globe to communicate and influence people on the other side?

Didn’t Zuckerberg say last year, “We stand for connecting every person. For a global community. For bringing people together. For giving all people a voice. For free flow of ideas and culture across nations”? You don’t have to be particularly cynical to see how Russians sharing Trump memes falls under the “free flow of ideas across nations.” As Zuck put it: “We’ve gone from a world of isolated communities to one global community, and we are all better off for it.”


Seems an appropriate way to close things down for now…

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