Friday, September 22, 2017

Facebook's accidental Russian subversion faces social media with more regulation

Facebook has agreed to turn over information on ads purchased by Russians, in a story wide reported yesterday, as with the NYTimes here.

May Kosoff on Vanity Fair reports that Russia set up multiple Trump rallies in Florida. 
Congress talks about regulating social media companies, at least requiring reporting of large ad purchases. In a manner similar to standard industry practice in the past for broadcast television networks.  This is relevant to my own resume:  I worked for NBC in MIS from 1974-1977 after moving to NYC, and important period of my own life.  I remember hearing about the regulations.
Facebook says it will overhaul its own political ads system, as in this Reuters story.

The Russian interference played on the idea that the “elites” didn’t pay much attention to what the “deplorables” would believe when fed into their newsfeeds.  The “elites” tended not to care what people whom they looked down on as inferior believed.  A foreign enemy took advantage of this.

It’s touchy for Mark Zuckerberg, who would be 36 during the 2020 political election, and conceivably could run as a Democratic candidate for president.  There could be an irony of a much younger and richer businessman challenging Donald Trump.   Who really wants the job of dealing with Russia, radical Islam, and North Korea?  (Obama gave Zuckerberg a fatherly talk in December in Peru about the fake news, fake users and fake ads, story here.) 
The reports recall the flak from 2002-2005 over whether routine blogging about political campaigns could constitute “illegal campaign contributions” given the implementation of campaign finance reform at the time – an issue that indirectly affect my own career (July 27, 2007 post). 

The entire situation comes at a time when there are controversies about Internet regulation, especially pre-screening of content -- especially ads -- in other areas (like Backpage and Section 230, which Congress wants to weaken).  It's not yet clear whether all of this would have much impact on smaller businesses on the web.  

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