Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Facebook VP: Trump got himself elected, Russia isn't to blame


The thing about reporting is that it helps to read what material you’ve gathered before you come up with a headline. I know, this may seem like simple stuff when it comes to journalism, but it’s apparently not standard operating procedure over at CNN.

This was the headline on one of the network's stories Tuesday: “Top Facebook exec: Yes, we got Trump elected and it may happen again.” That’s "whoa" material.

Liberals have always operated under the conspiracy theory that the Trump campaign worked hand-in-glove with Facebook — along with other social media giants, the Russians, reptilian shape-shifters and Judge Crater — to steal the presidency from the wholly deserving and very electable Hillary Clinton. Now, CNN’s got proof!

The entire body of the story, instead, is about a memo written to colleagues by Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth describing how Donald Trump's campaign efficiently used the platform, while in no way breaking the rules or engaging in unethical behavior. Also, Bosworth -- a Hillary Clinton backer -- warned against changing the rules to tilt against President Trump for the 2020 campaign.

So, uh. Sorry for everyone that clicked expecting to find evidence of that whole conspiracy, guys! That's CNN's bad. Thanks for coming.

The article in question didn't have the only terrible headline or wretched level of spin on the Dec. 30  memo -- first reported by The New York Times -- but it was the worst. (The Washington Post was a solid second, if not quite close a close one: "Facebook executive says company was responsible for Trump’s victory but warns against policy changes.")

Most of these headlines hung their legitimacy on a sentence in Bosworth's memo where one is left with the feeling members of the newsroom got to a certain point and stopped reading.

That point, I'm guessing, was right when Bosworth wrote this: "So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks."

They definitely didn't read the next three sentences: "He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period."

For media channels where functionaries have no doubt spent an inordinate amount of time poring over the sentence fragment "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," one feels this might be intentional.

The memo also stated that Trump and Brad Parscale, the 2016 campaign's digital media head who is the Trump campaign manager for the 2020 race, had done "unbelievable work" while dispelling many of the myths surrounding the campaign.

"They weren’t running misinformation or hoaxes," Bosworth wrote. "They weren’t microtargeting or saying different things to different people. They just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person. The use of custom audiences, video, ecommerce, and fresh creative remains the high water mark of digital ad campaigns in my opinion."

Bosworth posted his memo in toto on Facebook (natch) after The Times reported on it. For the most part, it's a rambling document that touches upon "Lord of the Rings," left-wing political philosopher John Rawls and "quadruple stuffed Oreos" as metaphors for Facebook's business and the company's decision-making regarding political advertising.

The Oreos reference is part of a rather inconsequential passage about how "algorithms are primarily exposing the desires of humanity itself, for better or worse." Rawls, of course, was invoked because of his theory of the "veil of ignorance," which isn't worth explicating here but which draws a bit of a chuckle on multiple levels when used by a Facebook executive.

Bosworth's excursion into J.R.R. Tolkien, however, was yet another part of the memo where the media's eyes tended to glaze over.

"I find myself thinking of the Lord of the Rings at this moment. Specifically when Frodo offers the ring to Galadrial [sic] and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her," Bosworth wrote. "As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear."

A Facebook exec swiping a metaphor from a fantasy novel is profoundly unsurprising, and one talking about how "we must never do that or we will become that which we fear" is about as rich as quadruple-stuffed Oreos, but there you have it.

The unspoken context of that passage -- and indeed, of the entire memo -- is Twitter's decision to halt all political advertising. The unspoken part of that decision, meanwhile, was that the GOP (more broadly) and the Trump campaign (more specifically) had better positioned themselves to use advertising on social media to their advantage. The decision was broadly hailed as a victory for fairness and nonpartisanship. In fact, the decision to halt it suddenly and in the middle of a campaign cycle, particularly to benefit one side, was anything but that.

And make no mistake, social media -- like any other group of tech conglomerates in Silicon Valley -- is very liberal. Here's the least surprising part of the Bosworth memo: "To be clear, I’m no fan of Trump. I donated the max to Hillary. After his election I wrote a post about Trump supporters that I’m told caused colleagues who had supported him to feel unsafe around me (I regret that post and deleted shortly after)."

"[C]olleagues who had supported him." Right. Please show me these colleagues, Mr. Bosworth. I'm demanding habeas corpus on these tech employees. I get the feeling they're every bit as real as Cory Booker's good friend T-Bone.

Another unsurprising passage: "That brings me to the present moment, where we have maintained the same ad policies. It occurs to me that it very well may lead to the same result. As a committed liberal I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result. So what stays my hand?" This led into the "Lord of the Rings" passage, so apparently Gandalf did.

Bosworth's memo also said that Cambridge Analytica was "a total non-event" from "snake oil salespeople."

"The tools they used didn’t work, and the scale they used them at wasn’t meaningful. Every claim they have made about themselves is garbage," Bosworth wrote. "Data of the kind they had isn’t that valuable to being with and worse it degrades quickly, so much so as to be effectively useless in 12-18 months. In fact the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seized all the equipment at Cambridge Analytica and found that there was zero data from any UK citizens!"

Bosworth said that "[w]henTrump won, Cambridge Analytica tried to take credit so they were back on our radar but just for making bullshit claims about their own importance. I was glad when the Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale called them out for it."

As for CNN’s headline, one wonders how many levels of gatekeeping it passed through without someone actually pulling the emergency cord and stopping the crazy train.

Given the content of the memo, it’s clear what Bosworth meant was that the platform got Trump elected. His campaign managed to do it on its own. No Russians, no Cambridge Analytica, no Judge Crater -- and no scale-tipping by Facebook, either.

Let’s apply this to other media. If CNN were around in 1864, we would have “Western Union executive: Yes, telegraph got Abraham Lincoln elected, and it could happen in the future, too.” In 1936: “RCA: Our radio technology helped ensure FDR's victory, and 'Fireside Chats' could win him three more terms." In 1961: "Westinghouse top brass: JFK owes his election to our televisions, and it could ensure Democrat dominance going forward."

A medium is -- or should be -- a platform. There shouldn't be people running around behind the scenes pulling levers like Bosworth wants to do. (Thank God we have Frodo, or else things would apparently have taken a turn.) That's exactly what legacy media want social media to do, however, as evinced by headlines like "Top Facebook exec: Yes, we got Trump elected and it may happen again."

Trust me, CNN did plenty to ensure that Donald Trump would not get elected and will do more to prevent it from happening again. If you don't believe me, watch for 10 minutes if you're in an airport sometime soon.

It's a rare day where a Silicon Valley executive comes out looking more even-handed and objective than someone with a major news network. Congratulations are in order to Andrew Bosworth, I guess. He deserves a package of quadruple-stuffed Oreos.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

The post Facebook VP: Trump got himself elected, Russia isn't to blame appeared first on WND.