The media and congressional focus on “whistleblower” Frances Haugen isn’t about weakening Facebook, contends a veteran investigative reporter, it’s “about a quest for greater control over online political discourse.”
The corporate media, wrote Glenn Greenwald, has made the former Facebook employee the current “anointed avatar of stunning courage” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal related to allegations of harm Facebook and its other platforms are causing.
Greenwald believes Facebook and Google “are both grave menaces” with too much power, but “none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers.”
Congress hasn’t moved to curb the power of the Silicon Valley giants, he said, “because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform.”
Ultimately, the only real political problem the tech giants have is not that they are too powerful “but that they are not using that power to censor enough content from the internet that offends the sensibilities and beliefs of Democratic Party leaders and their liberal followers, who now control the White House, the entire executive branch and both houses of Congress.”
Greenwald, a left-leaning libertarian, is known for his reporting for the Guardian of London on the classified documents obtained by Edward Snowden detailing previously unknown American and British surveillance programs.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, Monika Bickert, said Haugen is “not an expert” and did not work on child safety issues.
“I can say she didn’t work on these issues and her testifying about them and mischaracterizing some of the documents she stole is like if a journalist were to read another journalist’s story, a colleague’s story, and say, Oh, I’m an expert on this,’” Bickert said in a Fox News interview. “She’s not an expert in these areas.”
More censorship, please
Greenwald pointed out that Haugen, under the guidance of long-time Obama operative Bill Burton, has complained that her former employer refuses to censor more of what she regards as “hate, violence and misinformation.”
Four times in the last year, Greenwald noted, congressional Democrats have summoned the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to demand they censor more political speech.
Overall, more than three-fourths of Democrats want tech companies “to restrict false info online, even if it limits freedom of information,” according to a Pew survey. And just under two-thirds of Democrats want the federal government to control the flow of information over the internet.
Haugen provides, Greenwald wrote, “a telegenic and seemingly informed ‘insider’ face to tell Americans that Facebook is destroying their country and their world by allowing too much content to go uncensored, by permitting too many conversations among ordinary people that are, in the immortal worlds of the NYT’s tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, ‘unfettered.’”
Greenwald argued the unwanted censorship role was “foisted” on the tech giants by Democrats in Congress after the 2016 election.
Democrats, he said, “were obsessed with blaming social media giants (and pretty much everyone else except themselves) for their humiliating defeat” and “pressure began escalating on these executives to start deleting content liberals deemed dangerous or false and banning their adversaries from using the platforms at all.”
Greenwald also urged caution about the calls to repeal or reform Section 230, which provides legal immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users.
Section 230 could be reformed by denying its protection of any platform that censors. But it’s far more likely, Greenwald wrote, that the measure will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on social media companies.
“Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry,” he wrote.
Such a legal scheme, requiring every post and comment to be assessed for “misinformation,” would demand enormous resources that only the established giants such as Facebook and Google could provide.
Smaller competitors, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive.
The power amassed by Facebook and Google pose real dangers, Greenwald concluded, but “very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power.”
“It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests,” he said.
“The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing,” he said. “Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.”
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