Facebook banned Trump 1 year ago. Social media hasn’t improved much.

It’s been about a year since Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump (temporarily, in Facebook’s case, even after Trump spent four years making fun of rules written specifically to accommodate him) and pledged to step up. their efforts against disinformation, hate speech and radicalization.

Facebook “remains an extremist breeding ground,” giving militias an unparalleled ability to disseminate anti-government propaganda, recruit new members and even run advertisements, according to a Tech Transparency Project report released last week. This is even if the platform claimed to have banned “militarized social movements” in August 2020.

“You would imagine that an event like the Capitol uprising would have forced Facebook to clean up its militia mess, but, as usual, the company puts profits first,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, in a press release. statement sent by email. “The prevalence of these groups is surprisingly similar to what we found a year ago. “

In a separate study focused on election misinformation, MediaMatters found that Facebook continues to host and amplify the same “Stop the Steal” lies that spurred Trump’s months-long attempt to reverse his 2020 election defeat.

Disturbingly, MediaMatters also found that many groups have pivoted and are now seeking to undermine the legitimacy of state-level elections ahead of this year’s mid-terms.

“Facebook’s advertising tools can now ‘nanotarget’ an individual user, suggesting that we have entered a new era of personalized propaganda,” warned Fight for the Future, a nonprofit technology advocacy group.

These concerns are compounded by more fundamental issues about how Facebook decides to prioritize the content its users see. As the documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen show, Facebook’s own algorithms, informed by unregulated use of user data, continue to drive polarization on an unprecedented scale.

This polarized audience generates mountains of money for Facebook and its new parent company, Meta. Because anger is more profitable than courtesy.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before a Senate subcommittee on October 5, 2021.

Other social media companies also struggle to control bad actors. In December, for example, a well-meaning privacy policy deployed on Twitter was instead exploited by far-right extremists to ban journalists, researchers and even comedians from the site.

Even though Facebook and the company have been poorly insured, Trump’s own upcoming Social Truth is likely to do a lot worse. The business (no, not that one, or that one, or that one) is slated to launch in February, with former GOP Rep Devin Nunes at the helm.

If social media companies can’t, or won’t, curb their worst impulses, the ultimate and urgent answer is federal regulation.

This includes a federal data privacy law of the type advocated by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), As well as more conventional antitrust legislation championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) And Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“Facebook is more concerned with making a profit by pampering white nationalists, crooks and undemocratic right-wing figures than protecting Americans’ private data,” Wyden remark last week in a tweet promoting his bill. “Congress must pass strong federal privacy legislation in 2022.”

Wyden continued to advocate for legislation at a press conference this week.

“If we had a tough privacy law, Mark Zuckerberg would already be in jail for his series of lies about Facebook’s misuse of Americans’ data,” Wyden said. “Congress has an opportunity to act now by passing comprehensive privacy law that can cut the flow of data to Facebook’s scandal machine by setting tough new rules on how businesses can collect, share and use Americans’ personal information.

“This will go directly to Facebook’s business model and affect its bottom line, which seems to be the only thing the company cares about.”

In the absence of federal action, Fight For the Future says we should expect to see Facebook and the social media industry do more harm in 2022 – and beyond.

“We cannot restructure society’s relationship with social media or hold safe and fair elections without ending the exploitation and manipulation that currently underpins our digital lives,” Fight for the Future said in a statement. “Facebook’s business model has evolved into social engineering via psychological warfare, and it is crucial that lawmakers tackle this existential threat. In order to protect the integrity of future elections, lawmakers must disarm Facebook’s data weapon by regulating surveillance, not speech.

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