Hello, Facebook. We’ve got to talk. Yesterday you let Russian thugs harass me and my friends. Moms like me, in Florida and probably elsewhere, were turning to each other for comfort and support in the face of the Parkland massacre and you let people from another country drop into our midst and harass us.
You allowed our conversations with each other about an undeniable swelling of rage at OUR elected officials, who are sacrificing our children’s lives for NRA contributions, be subjected to a barrage of lies and derision.
Their m.o. is like the Westboro Baptist Church (the right wing cult in Kansas that travels around the country to harass gay people and veterans at funerals), but these guys have billions of dollars to spend. You let them in the door. You actually helped them travel from Russia, Macedonia, wherever, to sneer at us and create confusion in a moment of pain. You probably even took money from them to do it.
Your company plead stupidity about not knowing you’d taken money from Russia and served their purposes in disrupting the 2016 election. You can’t plead ignorance now. You are participating in another Russian political attack now on me, my community of parents in Florida, and interference in my country’s process of grappling with a life and death issue.
Your company harmed me. It harmed my friends. You are harming my country. You seem American because you have a building here, but you are not American. You have no loyalty to democracy. You don’t actually think of us as your customers. We are the chum you feed your actual clients. I can feel that viscerally today.
We may all need to stop using Facebook as a place to talk, catch up with our friends, discuss the things we care about. I don’t want to abandon my community members who don’t understand what is happening to them when they’re on Facebook. They believe your line about this being a place of connection and community. When they get attacked by Russians (or are they paid NRA thugs, who knows?) they simply reel with confusion, compounded trauma and discouragement. The online attacks yesterday and in 2016 were infinitely more hurtful because we thought they came from fellow members of our community. They didn’t. The hate from the trolls means a whole different thing when we understand it’s not another mom talking to us, but a cybersoldier from Russia. And we can be clearer about what our community believes, feels, wants and demands if we understand that those voices don’t come from our community.
We require politicians in the United States to explicitly state when we are receiving their paid ads. The law makes them say who paid for it too. You need to make your accounts represent real people who can be identified properly and held accountable for their actions. You need to identify all paid material and tell viewers who paid for it.
And we Americans need to take responsibility for creating community that is actually safe and serves us. That may mean accepting a messier world of multiple social media environments, many of which cost money to use. We need to wake up to the reality that nothing is actually free. The ‘free’ Facebook cost me and all of us a great deal yesterday.