One insidious way to torture the detainees at Guantanamo Bay was to blast music at them at all hours. The mixtape, which included everything from Metallica to the Meow Mix jingle, was intended to disorient the captives and impress upon them the futility of resistance. It worked: This soundtrack from hell did indeed break several inmates.
For four years, Americans had to deal with a similar sonic blast, namely the “music” of President significant uptick in the fears Americans had about the future. One clinician even dubbed the phenomenon “ anxiety disorder.”. His voice was everywhere: on TV and radio, screaming from the headlines of newspapers, pumped out nonstop on social media. MAGAmen and women danced to the repetitive beat of his lies and distortions. Everyone else experienced the nonstop assault of Trump’s instantly recognizable accent and intonations as nails on a blackboard. After the 2016 presidential election, psychologists observed a
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The volume of Trump’s assault on the senses has decreased considerably since January. Obviously, he no longer has the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to broadcast his views. The mainstream media no longer covers his every utterance. Most importantly, the major social media platforms have banned him. In the wake of the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, Twitter suspended permanently under its glorification of violence policy. made the same decision, though its oversight board is now revisiting the former president’s deplatforming.
It’s not only parallel decline in the amount of misinformation available on the Web.. The Proud Boys, QAnon, the militia movements: The social media footprint of the far has decreased a great deal in 2021, with a
And it’s not just a problem of misinformation and hate speech. According to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on domestic terrorism, extremists have been involved in 267 plots and 91 fatalities since 2015, with the number of incidents rising in 2020 to a height unseen in a quarter of a century. A large number of the perpetrators are loners who have formed their beliefs from social media. As one counterterrorism official put it, “Social media has afforded absolutely everything that’s bad out there in the world the ability to come inside your home.”
So, why did the tech giants provide, his extremist followers and their global counterparts unlimited access to a growing audience over those four long years?
Facebook Helps Trump
In a new report from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), Heidi Beirich and Wendy Via write: “For years, violated the community standards of several platforms with relative impunity. Tech leaders had made the affirmative decision to allow exceptions for the politically powerful, usually with the excuse of ‘newsworthiness’ or under the guise of ‘political commentary’ that the public supposedly needed to see.”
Even before reports:became president, was cutting him a break. In 2015, he was using the social media platform to promote a Muslim travel ban, which generated considerable controversy, particularly within itself. The Washington Post
“Outrage over the video led to a companywide town hall, in which employees decried the video as hate speech, in violation of the company’s policies. And in meetings about the issue, senior leaders and policy experts overwhelmingly said they felt that the video was hate speech, according to three former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg expressed in meetings that he was personally disgusted by it and wanted it removed, the people said.”
But the company’s most prominent Republican, Vice-President of Global Policy Joel Kaplan, persuaded Zuckerberg to change his position. In spring 2016, when Zuckerberg wanted to condemn Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico, he was again persuaded to step back for fear of seeming too partisan.
spent $70 million on ads and raised much of its $250 million in online fundraising through as well.went on to play a critical role in getting elected. It wasn’t simply the Russian campaign to create fake accounts, fake messaging and even fake events using , or the theft of user data by Cambridge Analytica. More important was the role played by staff in helping Trump’s digital outreach team maximize its use of social media. The campaign
account of a discussion at a Twitter staff meeting, one employee explained that “on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the propaganda.”established a new paradigm through brute force and money. As he turned himself into clickbait, the social media giants applied the same “exceptionalism” to other rancid politicians. More ominously, the protection accorded politicians extended to extremists. According to an
Of course, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, social media organizations decided that society could indeed accept the banning of politicians, at least when it came to some politicians in the.
The Real Fake News
In the internet users had accounts with as of 2019, up from 40% in 2018 (by comparison, about 67% of Americans have accounts). Increasingly, Filipinos get their news from social media. That’s bad news for the mainstream media in the . And that’s particularly bad news for journalists like Maria Ressa, who runs an online news site called Rappler., an extraordinary 97% of
At a press conference for the GPAHE report, Ressa described how the government of Rodrigo Duterte, with an assist from study, consisted of 60% attacks on her credibility and 40% sexist and misogynist slurs. This onslaught created a bandwagon effect that equated journalists like her with criminals., has made her life a living hell. Like , President Duterte came to power on a populist platform spread through . Because of her critical reporting on government affairs, Ressa felt the ire of the Duterte fan club, which generated half a million hate posts that, according to one
This noxious equation on social media turned into a real case when the faces a sentence of as much as 100 years in prison.authorities arrested Ressa in 2019 and convicted her of the dubious charge of “cyberlibel.” She
“Our dystopian present is your dystopian future,” she observed. What happened in thein that first year of Duterte became the reality in the under . It was the same life cycle of hate in which misinformation is introduced in social media, then imported into the mainstream media and supported from the top down by opportunistic politicians.
The declared that women shouldn’t run for president. This time around, however, disrupted the misinformation campaign tied to the Dutertes when it took down fake accounts coming from China that supported the daughter’s potential bid for the presidency.faces another presidential election next year, and Duterte is barred from running again by term limits. Duterte’s daughter, who is currently the mayor of Davao City just like her father had been, tops the early polls, though she hasn’t thrown her hat in the ring and her father has
President Duterte was furious. “said. “We allow you to operate here hoping that you could help . Now, if government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country? What would be the point of allowing you to continue if you can’t help ?”, listen to me,” he
Duterte had been led to believe, based on his previous experience, that report, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party:was his lapdog. Other authoritarian regimes had come to expect the same treatment. In India, according to the GPAHE
“… wasIndia’s biggest advertising spender in 2020. Ties between the company and the Indian government run even deeper, as the company has multiple commercial ties, including partnerships with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Ministry of Women and the Board of Education. Both CEO and COO Sheryl Sandberg have met personally with Modi, who is the most popular world leader on . Before Modi became prime minister, Zuckerberg even introduced his parents to him.”
misinformation helped get Jair Bolsonaro elected in Brazil, and the platform served as a vehicle for the Islamophobic content that contributed to the rise of the far in the Netherlands. But the decision to ban has set in motion a backlash. In Poland, for instance, the Law and Justice Party has proposed a law to fine and others for removing content if it doesn’t break Polish law, and a journalist has attempted to establish a pro-government alternative to called Albicla.has also cozied up to the government in Poland,
Back in the USA
Similarly, in the removed 22.5 million posts., the far have suddenly become a big booster of now that social media platforms have begun to deplatform high-profile users like and take down posts for their questionable veracity and hate content. In the second quarter of 2020 alone,
users can also petition the board to remove content.has tried to get ahead of this story by establishing an oversight board that includes members like Jamal Greene, a law professor at Columbia University; Julie Owono, executive director at Internet Sans Frontiere; and Nighat Dad, founder of the Digital Rights Foundation. Now,
With platforms, such as Gab, Telegram, and MeWe. They continue to spread conspiracy theories, anti-COVID vaccine misinformation and pro- propaganda on these alternative platforms. Meanwhile, the MAGA crowd awaits the second coming of in the form of a new social media platform that he plans to launch in a couple of months to remobilize his followers., Twitter, YouTube and others now removing a lot of extremist content, the far have migrated to other
Even without such an alternative alt-opined, “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate of the voters now casting ballots with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.”platform — Trumpbook? TrumpSpace? Trumper? — the life cycle of hate is still alive and well in the . Consider the “great replacement theory,” according to which immigrants and denizens of the non-white world are determined to “replace” white populations in Europe, America and elsewhere. Since its inception in France in 2010, this extremist conspiracy theory has spread far and wide on social media. It has been picked up by and mass shooters. Now, in the second stage of the life cycle, it has landed in the mainstream media thanks to pundits like Tucker Carlson, who recently
Pressure is mounting on Fox to fire Carlson, though the network is resisting. Carlson and his supporters decry the campaign as yet another example of “cancel culture.” They insist on their First Amendment to express unpopular opinions. But a privately-owned media company is under no obligation to air all views, and the definition of acceptability is constantly evolving.
Also, a deplatformed Carlson would still be able to air his crank views on the street corner or in emails to his followers. No doubt when Trumpbook debuts at some point in the future, Carlson’s biggest fan will also give him a digital megaphone to spread lies and hate all around the world. These talking heads will continue talking no matter what. The challenge is to progressively shrink the size of their global platform.
*[This article was originally published by FPIF.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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