Facebook: Arbiter of Truth?

Facebook: Arbiter of Truth?

It is hard to believe that a company that has worked so hard this year to censor free speech on the pretext of trying to stop the spread of “vaccine misinformation” to the public has been fined $5 billion by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating the privacy rights of consumers. But that is precisely what happened to Facebook on July 24, 2019.1

According to the FTC:

Facebook, Inc. will pay a record-breaking $5 billion penalty, and submit to new restrictions and a modified corporate structure that will hold the company accountable for the decisions it makes about its users’ privacy, to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company violated a 2012 FTC order by deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information.1

“For years, when Facebook asked you ‘Who do you want to see your post?’ and you chose to share your information only with your ‘friends,’ Facebook provided that data not only to your friends but also to any of the millions of third-party apps that those friends used,” said FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.2

“Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers’ choices,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.2

Facebook “misled millions of Americans” about how it was sharing user data and “committed serious breaches of trust,” said Gustav Eyler, director of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.2

After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April 2018, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island tweeted, “Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have ‘complete control’ over who sees our data on Facebook.”3

In August 2019, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon went so far as to suggest that Zuckerberg should go to prison. In an interview with the Williamette Week, Sen. Wyden said:

Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly lied to the American people about privacy. I think he ought to be held personally accountable, which is everything from financial fines to—and let me underline this—the possibility of a prison term. Because he hurt a lot of people.4 5

This doesn’t sound like a company fit to undertake the job as the arbiter of truth published online. Here’s what the FTC had to say about the penalty it imposed on Facebook…

The $5 billion penalty against Facebook is the largest ever imposed on any company for violating consumers’ privacy and almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide. It is one of the largest penalties ever assessed by the U.S. government for any violation.1

This is not an insignificant violation of the public’s trust. Yet, over the past year Facebook has been directed by powerful congressmen like Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff to “address misinformation related to vaccines” and take steps “to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to users”6 and then publicly applauded for its efforts to “combat vaccine misinformation” and “stand against anti-vaxxers.”7 8

A little more than a month after Facebook was fined by the FTC, the World Health Organization (WHO) proudly announced that it was partnering with Facebook to stop the spread of inaccurate vaccine information.9

About a week after the WHO/Facebook announcement, the attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia reportedly joined together to launch an investigation into whether Facebook violated antitrust laws.10

New York attorney general Letitia James said:

I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk. We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.10

There is a strange cognitive dissonance with regard to Facebook. On the one hand, the company is viewed as being largely untrustworthy and unethical, perhaps even criminal, in its behavior. On the other hand, the company’s efforts to build what Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center describes as an “electronic wall” to “block you from getting [vaccine] information you want so you only get [vaccine] information someone else decides you need” appears to have the blessing of Congress and has aroused little public outcry.11

It reminds me of the cognitive dissonance that exists with regard to the pharmaceutical industry. On prescription drugs, the industry’s sins are unquestionable, extensive and ongoing. However, when it comes to vaccines, Big Pharma apparently can do no wrong. How is this possible?


References:

Note: This commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers.  The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.

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5 Responses to "Facebook: Arbiter of Truth?"

  1. Michael   September 20, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    The world is living in a dream. A dream created by the focused application of money on a scale never seen.

    An opportunity opened up created by:

    – the relaxation of standards for safety testing perceived as required to get vaccines to market – one that differs from drugs safety testing – one that is easy to “game”
    – the reduction of liability by the creation of the vaccine court – congress allows the US taxpayer to pay for vaccine injury suits brought by parents

    Easy to see the capitalist motivation – we have no downside, we can create it very fast to market – unlike drugs – and we can quickly ramp up hundreds of vaccines. We can pay doctors to support us, we can leverage the press through massive advertising revenues – the legal way to bribe and coerce the media.

    How do we ensure that every child in the world gets vaccines?
    How do we convince the world that there’s a serious danger and vaccines are the cure?
    How can we use or even create data that convinces a legislator, the CDC, the FDA, that a clear and present danger exists to the good of mankind?
    How do we “OWN” the CDC and FDA?
    How how do we get support from the bankers – those who own the central banks and the financial structure for the world? by giving them a plan to reduce world population and reduce the number of “useless eaters” on the planet?

    The answer is to create a dream – something that most people won’t look into deeply – and just let that play out. This is what companies do – at the top level they are pursuing business and they become unscrupulous – without values other than profit for shareholders. The opportunity creates them.

    It doesn’t hurt that the world IQ is decreasing – the explanation of which is too complex for this comment but vaccines certainly play into this – so that decision making becomes less of a consumer process and more reactive to triggers.

    Reply
  2. Anne   September 21, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for writing this. You are so accurate in your evaluation of Facebook. It is overstepping its rights and should not be selectively posting or not posting information on vaccines. I know this is happening and how to get the information I want, but many are not aware and simply believe whatever is popping up in their daily feed.

    Reply
  3. Mary   September 21, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for this. Cognitive dissonance, indeed. My fellow liberal friends are irate at the drug manufacturers for their corrupt practices and price gouging; and yet, they totally trust that same industry to produce vaccines that are totally safe. The population in general has bought into this and it would be almost impossible to convince most nurses and doctors that they should investigate the issue because they think the science is with their practices.

    I attribute this to the propaganda network which repeatedly states that vaccines can do no harm, and when presented with proof that they can harm, they switch to “herd immunity” arguments.

    Reply
  4. Igor   September 27, 2019 at 8:12 am

    I would say it is still too early to celebrate. Mr Zuckerberg is, most likely, going to appeal and fight hard.

    Reply

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