Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Spiritual Driver Behind Facebook

I was slow to get on Facebook. What year did I fill out the account information? Around 2010, maybe. (Facebook could probably tell me the exact minute/day/year if I only knew where to look.) And I was avid at first, trying to fit in. I'm not so avid now.

Late afternoon yesterday, the tech-industry team of Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker reported that Facebook has just removed a whole new network of Russian accounts. The "takedown" actually involved four separate networks -- the one out of Russia and three -- count 'em -- out of Iran.
"The [Russian] network appeared still to be in an audience-building phase when it was removed by Facebook: 246,000 accounts followed one or more of the inauthentic Russian accounts, which had collectively made just fewer than 75,000 posts."
"The audience-building phase." If 246,000 accounts are fetal in nature, do you have any idea the potential when this boy is fully growed up?

I know from watching Homeland (talk to the hand) how Facebook propaganda networks operate: Key postings on dummy feeder pages, which are then shared/replicated by thousands of bots supposedly "residing" all over the country, and so the lies invade the Facebook universe like a virus, traveling on the human gene for viciousness. You've seen it. You've felt it. The raw emotion invoked and stoked: The shared racist meme, the visual joke about Alexandria Osasio-Cortez, and now the latest, the shit bashing Joe Biden and praising Trump, the shit using hashtag (#) multipliers like #BlackLivesMatter to hate on the Democrats, the shit driving wedges on racism and white power, the shit meant to stir up religious people to declare holy war on the Devil (or on other religions). A lot of people actually believe that shit and act on it.

I block it. I delete it. I ignore it.

I'm also a part of it. I use Facebook to spread the postings on this blog, which is no doubt hate-speech to some. And I'm hip to Facebook for organizing and for information-delivery. When there's a new candidate for public office, first place I go ... usually Facebook (after I read the candidate's own website). Groups I belong to use Facebook effectively to raise money, raise a crowd, raise awareness. I participate in and benefit from all of that.

The Russian trolls are effective because they understand the innate power of Facebook, not so much the power to spread fake news as the power to generate raw, lacerating emotion. Facebook has always been a place for self-affirmation, the gratification of personal connections to family or friends. But those emotions translate well to tribes or parties, and can work themselves up into volcanoes of opprobrium. We become attached to Facebook for a range of emotional validations. It's like a feeding tube for connection and love but also for hatred and spite. The emotion that a picture can stir, the feelings that a plea can awake -- these are often irresistible, and they're being invented on Facebook by foreign governments that want to see us destroyed.

I think it's partly because Facebook was invented by a college dude at Harvard who couldn't get laid and had revenge on his mind. That's the spirit behind Facebook.

(I won't be in the least surprised if FB decides to punish me for these words.)

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