During the past few weeks, it has come out that Facebook and Twitter played an active role in distributing political ads and fake news that were paid for by Russian operatives to intentionally sway U.S. voters during the 2016 election. What is more troubling is that Facebook and Twitter have intentionally deleted the evidence that could shed more light on the matter.
Does this behavior surprise me? No. Facebook spends millions of dollars lobbying federal and state lawmakers to ensure they don’t have to abide the type of regulations that brick and mortar and mom and pop small businesses need to abide by. Facebook and their friends believe that transparency and accountability shouldn’t have to apply to their business practices.
Bloomberg recently reported how Facebook lobbied the FEC in 2011 to block any new digital political ad regulations that would require transparency and real accountability. Bloomberg’s article is an interesting read but old news. However, what nobody has discussed is how Facebook, Google, and other members of the digital advertising industry lobbied very hard to ensure that Maryland’s 2010 social media election regulations didn’t require them to become transparent and accountable when accepting money for political ads.
At the time, I advised the state of Maryland on its efforts and I was troubled by the digital advertising industry’s efforts to try to ensure they did not have to follow the same rules as print, radio, and television political ads. Their lobbyists shut down any efforts to ensure more transparency and accountability in the digital political ad space.
Why? So the digital advertising ecosystem could make billions of dollars without any real oversight. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice found that Google turned a blind eye to illegal pharma ads and reached a settlement of $500 million dollars to ensure that their employees did not face jail time for their illegal activities.
Will the U.S. Department of Justice hold Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. responsible for putting profits over democracy? If not, will the states step up to protect our democratic values? Time will tell…:)