News Release

Facebook or Russia: Who’s the Real Threat?

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone: “RIP Edward Herman, Who Co-Wrote a Book That’s Now More Important Than Ever,” that: “Edward Herman, the co-author (with Noam Chomsky) of Manufacturing Consent, has died. He was 92. His work has never been more relevant. Manufacturing Consent was a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers.”

Herman, a strong supporter of the Institute for Public Accuracy, wrote many books including The Real Terror Network and, with IPA board member Robert W. McChesney, The Global Media: The Missionaries of Global Capitalism. His last piece was “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies: The New York Times, 1917–2017” for Monthly Review.

Taibbi writes that a new Manufacturing Consent is needed to include an examination of the increasing power of giant internet firms: “A small handful of monopolistic tech companies like Facebook have life-or-death power over media companies. They can steer traffic wherever they please simply by tweaking their algorithms. Firms that don’t themselves create news content wield this monstrous influence.”

YASHA LEVINE, mail at yashalevine.com, @yashalevine
Levine is an investigative journalist and author of the forthcoming Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet. His previous books include The Koch Brothers: A Short History. He was recently interviewed by The Real News for the segment “Congress’s ‘Show Trial’ of Big Tech over Russia.”

Levine said: “I still think that for the most part it’s not clear who is paying for those ads because of the limited information that we’re getting from Facebook and from Twitter — that these ads are bought by ‘Russia-linked’ accounts. ‘Russia-linked’ accounts is a very hazy category. According to Twitter’s own testimony, ‘Russia-linked’ could mean any account that had logged in from a Russian IP address. It could mean any account that had used Cyrillic in its Twitter handle or tweeted in Russian. It could be any account that is in any way, however tangentially, tied to the Russian territory. So, it doesn’t have to be tied to the Russian government. … I would be considered a ‘Russia-linked’ account, because I had reported from Russia, obviously, and I spent about eight months in Russia last winter, logging into Twitter every day from a Russian IP address, and tweeting about Russian events and tweeting about events from a perspective that was critical of American foreign policy.”

Levine tweeted in September: “Facebook censored my post on Morgan Freeman’s call for war with Russia, provided no explanation.”

Levine added: “The Senate hearing basically had lawyers of the biggest technology [firms] in America going down the line, pledging their allegiance to America and to protect America and doing everything they could to prevent foreign meddling and foreign influence in American society. This is coming from companies that have, for years, told the world, have told countries like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China that their platforms are totally politically neutral and that they’re in no way connected to the U.S. government or to the goals of the bigger national security state in America’s foreign policy apparatus.

“What Silicon Valley has done here is completely ditched that idea. … And they’re doing it to prevent having to open up and to be honest about their business practices, because I think there’s a lot that they’re afraid will get out about the way that they make money.”