In spite of Facebook’s colossal election failure, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg insists the platform will continue to publish Fake Russian News
Facebook has identified 80,000 Russia-linked posts on its platform that sought to interfere in the 2016 election and were viewed by up to 126 million people, the company’s top lawyer will tell a Senate panel Tuesday.
The so-called organic posts were planted by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency during the period from January 2015 to August 2017, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch will say, according to a copy of his written testimony obtained by POLITICO. (Source: Politico 10/31/2017)
In an interview with Axios that aired on MSNBC two weeks ago, COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg said that Facebook would continue to run Russian Fake news and allow Russians to buy ads to promote their posts. She described Facebook as an “open platform” that anyone should be able to buy ads on, whether the information was real or not. “Facebook does not check the accuracy of content before we publish it and I don’t think people should want us to do this”, she said. She said that Facebook’s only criteria for ads is that they don’t contain ‘hate’ or ‘bullying’, their accuracy is of no concern to them. She also said that anyone who ‘is a real person’, no matter where they are, can place ads and have an account on Facebook. The only problem with this is that Facebook has no way of telling if a person is real or not, a small detail she did not address.
Facebook Bears ‘No Responsibility’ for the Content they Allow on their Network
The main takeaway from Sandberg’s interview is that Facebook, because they see themselves as a ‘open platform’ bears no responsibility for the content they allow to be published. This means one thing – THE CONTENT ON FACEBOOK HAS ZERO INTEGRITY (BY DESIGN) AND CANNOT BE TRUSTED. They say they monitor for content they define as ‘hateful’ and ‘bullying’, but beyond that nothing will be pulled, whether it is made up or not.
By this logic, we could create an ad of totally made up things about anyone. Things that would make that person seem like a really horrible human being that has done unspeakable things. We would be able to buy an ad on Facebook and send this out to millions of people and FACEBOOK WOULD APPROVE THIS?
Arrogance or Unapologetic, Out-of-Control Capitalism
Another takeaway from the interview was a not-so-subtle message that Facebook wants your ad money and they will never check your content for accuracy. She asserted that you can post or advertise virtually anything, no matter how big of a lie it is, and Facebook would allow it. Sandberg defended this with righteous zeal. Her utopian vision is a world where the ‘content’, i.e. the actual things being said, are not important. It’s the ability to say them without any consequence is what is important. Anybody that is reading this should find this terrifying. Is this arrogance or is she delusional – or both?
Or is it signal to potential ad buyers in Russia and all the fake news factories around the world that “Facebook wants your business”. If I was a fake news creator, what I would take away from what she said would be ‘Come out from the shadows. Spend more than 5 minutes creating your fake account. Make it look a little more real. Then you can buy all the ads you want.’ Time to hire extra staff.
The Facebook FAKE ACCOUNT Epidemic
What does Facebook do to combat Fake Accounts? Next to nothing. Case in point, look at the screen shot above. Meet Jim. Jim is from California, lives in Puerto Rico, has over 10,000 mostly fake-followers (but only a couple friends) and by the Russian groups he is a member of, he loves adorable kittens and Latvian Real Estate. Jim posted a political meme defending Trump’s efforts in Puerto Rico, and, as so many posts do, it was shared over a half of a million times. Jim isn’t a real person. He is not from California. He is not living in Puerto Rico. And Jim has no idea about the status of the recovery efforts on the island. The account is clearly fake and is pumping out a tremendous amount of highly-effective propaganda. When we reported the profile as fake, we received a notice from Facebook that they reviewed the profile. Facebook determined the profile (in all of it’s fake glory) did not violate their community rules. Their advice to us was to ‘Block Jim’ if we did not want to see his content. They then eagerly asked “How did we do to resolve this situation?” A really smiley face, a somewhat smiley face, a neutral smiley face, a somewhat frowning face or a frown. That is about as serious as Facebook takes fake accounts.
You do not have to take my word for it. Make some fake accounts yourself and see if Facebook takes them down. They will not. Create 10 accounts. Make up names and find some different pics for each one (even though they really don’t police this either). Now that you have your accounts made, friend each other (cross-pollinate) so your 10 fake accounts now have 10 friends. Then have your accounts follow each other. Your fake accounts are becoming popular! Now it’s time to make them really popular by buying some fake friends. Don’t worry, it’s easy and cheap. Google ‘buy friends on Facebook’, pay a couple bucks and watch your popularity soar. Now you can go out and anonymously comment and share information and nobody will know who you are. Because you are so popular, there is a good chance your ‘friends’, wink wink, might just re-post your posts and like your stuff. If you are feeling lazy, don’t worry, you can buy LIKES too.
Companies are throwing away their money advertising on a platform with so many fake accounts
Based on what Sandberg said today, Facebook is going to do nothing to address the Fake Accounts situation. Fake Accounts click on things to ‘seem real’ and to avoid Facebook’s incredibly lax efforts to detect fake accounts. What does this mean to companies advertising on Facebook? Many of the user interactions that you are paying for are from fake accounts. How many? It is impossible to tell. Given the fact there are millions of fake accounts on Facebook, the number is probably very high.
Advertising on any social or search network is based on trust. When the system says that X number of people were reached or clicked, you kind of have to take their word that these things actually happened. Back in the old days (i.e. 2012), we found Facebook ads to be fairly effective in getting viewers to our site. We would publish an article and then boost it on the network to increase exposure. Over the past several years, we noticed a sharp drop-off in the effectiveness of Facebook ads. The stats from Facebook were roughly the same as they always were, but we were not getting visitors from those interactions.
As any business, we did not want to be throwing our money away, so we conducted a little experiment. We created a test ‘boost’ campaign. What we found made us pull all of our ads from Facebook. We investigated the profiles that LIKED our post. We found 6 in 10 LIKES to be from clearly fake accounts. We also looked at the number of people Facebook claimed clicked on the link that would take them to our post. The reported number of clicks, EXCEEDED the number of views of the page it was linking to. This means that the most important metric, how many people clicked on a link and came to our site, was not true. Needless to say, we were shocked.
So, in short, advertising on Facebook is a waste of money. While is used to be an effective platform to reach viewers and potential customers, the infestation of fake accounts, fake likes, false metrics reporting, and a dedication from Facebook ensuring the content on their platform has no integrity, no company should throw away precious advertising dollars wooing people that don’t even exist.
You cannot trust anything you read on Facebook. Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of their COO Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook has no plans to ever check the accuracy of the content it allows to be published. Facebook also has no way to verify if accounts are from fake or real people. Because of the fake accounts epidemic, companies would be throwing away their advertising money if they place ads on Facebook.