1 May 2021
A Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, says that in many countries fake pages are distorting perceptions of politicians and trolling opposition leaders. She says that while there is some interest in this in the Western Democracies there is not much interest in countries like Honduras, Azerbaijan, Mexico and the Philippines. Clearly if action is delayed in these areas politicians may win elections, distorting whole nations’ futures.
Sophie Zhang was a low-level data analyst who found this and tried to get Facebook management interest, but was continually rebuffed and finally sacked.
Marx said that ‘Power is control of the means of production’ in that it gave access to money, but now it would seem that power is control of the means of information. This is why Murdoch and Fox are so powerful. With 70% of Australia’s print media a drip-feed of negative stories can get rid of governments.
My personal view is that the fact that Rudd would not change the media ownership laws in Murdoch’s favour was why Rudd fell, though of course his two other key policies, a carbon tax, and royalties on mining offended the mining lobby. Offending both Murdoch and the miners was terminal.
Apart from the mainstream media (MSM) the other significant media player, which the population think that they control, is the social media, particularly Facebook. We might ask whether it determined the 2016 US election that elected Trump, or the 2016 Brexit vote. My more recent view is that my own personal lack of awareness of the power of social media probably cost me my seat in NSW Parliament.
Be all this as it may, Sophie Zhang has raised a very important issue in the power of Facebook and the clash between its commercial interests and its social function. Like many whistle-blowers, she is a hero who has suffered for her efforts.