Man, was I wrong about Mark Zuckerberg, he’s turning out to be a real stand up guy! For a greedy, arrogant, opportunistic prick that is. Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest. But the blockbuster announcement of the new steps that Facebook is taking to prevent future foreign meddling in our electoral process is not only inadequate, they shouldn’t have even bothered.
After months of Brazilian bikini wax appointments that he just couldn’t break, Mark Zuckerberg is finally appearing before both House and Senate committees next week. This is not a natural forum for a guy like Zuckerberg. Sitting members of congress don’t use Facebook themselves, they hire people like Mark Zuckerberg to run their pages for them. Having someone like Mark Zuckerberg explaining the social import and responsibility of a platform like Facebook is like taking your grandmother to a Jay-Z concert. They won’t get it any more than she would.
Zuckerberg is showing up in front of congress next week for one reason and one reason only. Because not doing so may cost him and his shareholders money. Public pressure is building enough for congress to do something to rein in Facebook that even politicians have been forced to take notice. But the funny thing is, it wasn’t the Russian interference in the 2016 election that caused all of this sturm und drang. No, it was the Labor Day giveaway extravaganza that Facebook held with their users personal information that led to this. Personally, I find this fact mind boggling. I mean, fuck me, if the nations two largest credit reporting agencies, trusted with your most sensitive financial information can’t protect it, what makes you think that Facebook is going to do any better with what movies you like, and what pisses you off? It’s ridiculous on the face of it.
So, what new Maginot line is Facebook erecting to keep the Russian trolls from rolling around in our electoral pumpkin patch in the future? Well, first of all, they’re going to greater lengths to identify and prove the origin of paid advertisements and posts on the Facebook platform. OK, stop right there. Having ads, posts and rallies promoted on Facebook by goosestepping neo Nazi’s and sheet clad bed wetters is one thing, US citizens have first amendment rights. But US law prohibits foreign participation in the US election process. Foreign nationals are not protected by the first amendment. I don’t care how much they’re paying for the space or page, if an ad or promotion comes from a foreign source, it should not appear on the platform. Full stop. And give me a break with the “origin information.” If you’re a hater, you’re going to agree with a fellow hater and go to the rally, whether they wear a baseball cap of a fez. People will forward shit they agree with, regardless of where it comes from, they won’t even look.
The second leg of this rocking chair for morons is that Facebook will begin identifying the identity and locations of people who run pages with large followings. Well, alllllrighty then. There are two small issues with this. For one, Zuckerberg refuses to say what physical number will trip the “following” switch and start the identification process. Ten thousand followers? Two million? Nobody knows, and Zuckerberg has just built in plausible deniability by being able to state honestly that the number had not met the threshold. Which he can, since none of us have any idea of what the actual number is.
The second issue is even worse. Any page that triggers the verification process will automatically require a physical US address be presented to Facebook, to confirm that the poster is physically in the United States. Really? No shit? Are you gonna go and knock on the door and ask for ID? I seem to remember the media reporting a little while ago that said that back in 2016, two Russian agents spent months in the US, opening up accounts at US banks to mask the country of origin for payments they were making for their mischief in the US. Nowadays, pretty much every “business services center” in the country offers post office boxes with physical addresses to fudge their actual identity. If a simple slob like me can figure this shit out, you think a paid FSB intelligence officer, or a professional Macedonian troll might be able to get a clue?
Mark Zuckerberg reminds me of that e-trade commercial about “the dumbest guy in high school just got a boat,” where a guy is tooling around on a yacht the size of a football field, end zones included. Hell, the actor even kinda looks like Zuckerberg. But if he doesn’t get his shit together, just like the actor, Zuckerberg is gonna feel like he just jumped off of the back of the yacht when congress starts slapping regulations on Facebook. Which they certainly will do if he keeps insulting their, and our, intelligence this way.