Accuracy in Media

Facebook must have gotten a little too cozy with President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign for the likings of mainstream media because a raft of stories have appeared recently on Mark Zuckerberg meeting with conservatives, Republicans working in high positions at Facebook and the medium becoming “unaccountable.”

Time magazine is the latest to join the chorus of those concerned about Facebook and its relationship to the Trump campaign, offering as a cover story this week a piece by Brian Bennett and Chris Wilson entitled, “The Trump Campaign Has Raised Millions Off Impeachment – And Facebook Is One of Its Most Powerful Tools.”

Time blithely assumes Trump’s guilt in the story. “In the weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 decision to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump for using the power of his presidency to press a foreign country – Ukraine – to investigate a political rival, the Trump campaign hasn’t run from Pelosi’s impeachment push or settled into a defensive crouch,” Bennett and Wilson wrote. “Campaign officials instead are leaning into the impeachment threat, using it to mobilize supporters and try to extract a political price – and millions of dollars in fundraising – from the Democrats’ move.

“One of the single most powerful weapons in the Trump campaign’s arsenal has been Facebook, which – unlike many TV stations and newspapers – does not monitor candidates’ political ads for veracity.”

Time claims Trump uses messages “tested and tailored to solicit responses from older voters, deploying Trump’s distinctive use of capital letters and words like scam and witch hunt.”

Whatever they do, it works. On the day of Pelosi’s announcement, the campaign raised $15 million in small-dollar donations. It raised $3 million the day the House voted to approve rules for the impeachment inquiry.

It then took Congress’ side against Trump in the battle over executive privilege. All this money flowing in means “that even as White House lawyers have been outwardly blocking access to documents and officials and dismissing the House’s work as illegitimate, the Trump campaign has embraced impeachment as a means of rallying support and donations in an extraordinarily aggressive Facebook campaign that sometimes includes Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – and that is augmented by spending on Google and other platforms.”

The “sheer volume of the Trump campaign’s presence on social media, and the money behind it, means that for a substantial number of Americans who thumb through Facebook for personal and national news, the campaign stands a good chance of actually delivering its version of events, no matter the reality,” Bennett and Wilson wrote.

This raises issues, Time wrote, because “Trump is using the fallout from impeachment to reach more voters and donors on a platform that’s come under fire for being a tool of election meddling, especially after Russia used Facebook and other social media platforms to stir up animosity, spread falsehoods and organize real-life protests against Hillary Clinton in 2016.” The Russians also organized protests and spread falsehoods about Trump during the campaign.

The Trump campaign claims each time the Democrats press forward on impeachment, they see a dramatic spike in small-dollar donations, Time wrote. But it insisted without evidence most of the country still wants to impeach Trump and that his approval ratings have not climbed meaningfully throughout the process.

Trump’s approval ratings on Rasmussen, the only daily presidential tracking poll now operating, reached 52 percent last week and stood at 51 percent on Monday. Time refers to a Gallup poll in early November that found Trump’s approval rating at 43 percent.

Time also could not leave the topic without defending Joe Biden and his and his son’s conduct in Ukraine.

“A small percentage of ads propagate widely debunked stories about collusion between then-Vice President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian government, with messages like, ‘Joe Biden boasted that as vice president he threatened to withhold $1 billion in foreign aid from Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor looking into a lucrative contract held by his son, Hunter Biden.”

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