The 2020 election is rigged! That’s the word from billionaire George Soros who was speaking at a dinner hosted by his Open Society organization in Davos, Switzerland.
“I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros, 89, said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”
Soros didn’t offer any evidence for his claim. “This is just plain wrong,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in response…
“Facebook basically has only one guiding principle: maximize your profits irrespective of what harm it may do to the world,” Soros said Thursday.
This is what would normally be called a conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, it’s not that far afield from what many on the progressive left already believe about Facebook, i.e. that Russian manipulation of Facebook handed Trump the 2016 election. Russians did spend money on Facebook in 2016 but the claim it was somehow decisive or even very significant is nonsense. In fact, just about two weeks ago a Facebook executive’s leaked memo, which was published by the NY Times, made this point:
I was running our ads organization at the time of the election and had been for the four years prior (and for one year after). It is worth reminding everyone that Russian Interference was real but it was mostly not done through advertising. $100,000 in ads on Facebook can be a powerful tool but it can’t buy you an American election, especially when the candidates themselves are putting up several orders of magnitude more money on the same platform (not to mention other platforms).
Instead, the Russians worked to exploit existing divisions in the American public for example by hosting Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protest events in the same city on the same day. The people who shows up to those events were real even if the event coordinator was not. Likewise the groups of Americans being fed partisan content was real even if those feeding them were not. The organic reach they managed sounds very big in absolute terms and unfortunately humans are bad at contextualizing big numbers. Whatever reach they managed represents an infinitesimal fraction of the overall content people saw in the same period of time and certainly over the course of an election across all media.
What Soros is suggesting is somewhat different. He’s not talking about external but internal manipulation, i.e. the company will do something behind the scenes to tilt the outcome in a way no one would even notice. That’s not a crazy thing to worry about in my view but saying it’s possible is very different from saying a) it’s going to happen this year and b) Trump will be part of it somehow. Those claims require some evidence and Soros doesn’t seem to have any.
Finally, while I’m bringing up conspiracy theories I want to be very clear that my criticism of Soros (who is Jewish) is in no way intended to suggest that he is controlling the media or meant to play on any anti-Semitic tropes, tropes that I do not believe in and which no sensible person does. He’s not controlling anything, he’s just talking nonsense.