Congress is just using 'Russian bots' as a reason to finally regulate social media

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have an interest in controlling social media. On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Session announced plans to meet with state attorneys general to discuss possible regulation of social media over concerns that platforms are stifling conservative speech. On September 13, Senator Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, remarked on this heavy bipartisan support for future regulations at a conference hosted by The Atlantic on digital privacy. "Depending on how we framed it, I think we'd have an overwhelming majority," Warner said, noting that he thinks it's likely citizens no longer desire unconstrained liberty in their internet usage. "I think there is a high chance that people realize that the days of the wild, wild west are over—that there needs to be some guardrails."

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Every day, Congress is nearing implementation of these online guardrails. On September 5, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, explaining how foreign intelligence agencies were able to use their social media platforms to spread disinformation throughout the 2016 election. Indeed, the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-linked company specializing in online operations to promote Russian interests, created thousands of political ads and fake pages intended to sow division. Dorsey even described the Russian social media campaign as one comprised of "abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots and human coordination, disinformation campaigns and divisive filter bubbles."

All these concerns may have merit, but opening the door for government regulation of social media is a cure far worse than the disease. The federal government, which operates a massive surveillance program through the National Security Agency, isn't exactly the best gatekeeper of user privacy and data. Neither is government the best choice to determine what constitutes "fake news" considering how one of the jobs of the press is to hold government accountable. Allowing the government to decide what is acceptable content is a surefire path to harsher censorship than Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg could dream of.

Facebook should take steps to prevent fraudulent accounts from spreading disinformation, but it's a task for them, not Congress.

But, in relation to the actual extent of the Russian disinformation campaign, Congress' steps toward interference in social media seem absurd. Facebook revealed in last year's November hearing that the Russian Internet Research Agency spent only $46,000 on pre-election Facebook ads. In terms of funding, that's remarkably minimal. Compared to the $81 million spent by the Trump and Clinton campaigns, that sum likely had little influence in voter decision-making. What the Russians did was fraudulent, but it's important to understand the scale of the Russian operation before making the case that Congress should intervene.

It's true that millions of Americans saw the Russian ads and clicked "like" on fake profile pages created by the IRA, but that illicit content still made up a miniscule fraction of what social media users saw on a daily basis. A Facebook report published on April 27, 2017, stated that the reach of known operations during the 2016 election was less than one-tenth of a percent of the total reach of civic content. Facebook should take steps to prevent fraudulent accounts from spreading disinformation, but it's a task for them, not Congress. Even if Facebook could remove all Russian propaganda from their site, users are still exposed to content created by their friends. Ultimately, ordinary Americans are just as capable of creating and sharing fake news or divisive political memes as Russian intelligence agents.

Before handing the reins over to lawmakers, social media users should make an effort to protect their own data and decide what content they want to see. And it can be done, but, unfortunately, a recent Pew Research poll found that most Facebook users are unaware of how their newsfeed works. Of the 4,594 surveyed U.S. adults, 53 percent said they didn't understand why certain posts appeared on their feed while others didn't. Yet, this isn't Congress's problem to fix.

People have means of controlling for themselves what they read on social media. Facebook allows its users the ability to prioritize the content they want to see and hide the posts they'd rather ignore. Users can even temporarily unfollow a friend if they find their long-winded political rants annoying. Despite having these tools, only 14 percent of those Pew surveyed said they had a lot of control over their Facebook experience. Yet, a majority of users—63 percent— said they haven't once tried to influence the content they see. Aaron Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, described this as a major contributing factor in fake news consumption: "Whether or not someone has made an effort to influence the content of their own news feed is often linked with their sense that users have control over the content that appears there."

People ought to take responsibility for their own news consumption.

Concern over social media is fueled, in part, by a lack of understanding of how these networks actually work. And Congress, ever-anxious to put regulations where they shouldn't be, is generating needless panic to exacerbate the problem. But the truth remains that social media users have, in their own hands, the tools for curating their experience online. A user can fact-check and unfollow fake news—whether from a Russian bot or a friend at work. But it should be up to the user to determine the validity of the content they see, not some bureaucrat in Washington. People ought to take responsibility for their own news consumption. No one else is qualified enough for the job.

Lindsay Marchello is a Young Voices Contributor and an Associate Editor with the Carolina Journal. Follow her on Twitter.@LynnMarch007.

A virus has escaped the university labs and is super-spreading through our culture. It's called Critical Race THEORY and what used to be a fringe topic in the academic world is now a dangerous Marxist REALITY infecting our public schools where students are taught the U.S. is a "parasitic system" based on the "invasion" of "white male settlers."

On Glenn TV this week, Glenn Beck exposes how some teachers are being instructed to "cash in on kids' inherent empathy" in order to train them to become "activist intellectuals," starting as early as first grade.

CRT is an absolute toxin to America and Glenn warns that in just one generation the Constitution, freedom, and true equality will be totally destroyed. Yet, any opposition to the spread of this disease is shouted down as racism and bigotry. If Critical Race Theory is not already in your local school curriculum, it will be soon.

Joined by Asra Nomani, Vice President for Strategy and Investigations at Parents Defending Education, Glenn arms you with the facts about CRT so you can stand up to this tyranny in your community.

Watch the full episode below:


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Ezra Levant, founder of Rebel News, joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to describe the shocking footage he and his team captured of Canadian police harassing and even arresting Rebel News reporters during a protest in Montreal.

Video clips show officers making remarks about the "Jew" reporters and calling Rebel News "Jew media." Reporters are pulled out of crowds, handcuffed, slammed against vehicles and arrested. Some have been fined "thousands and thousands" of dollars "because they had cameras pointed at the police," said Levant.

Another video clip shows Canadian police demanding entrance to a rented Airbnb houseboat without a warrant.

"They the claimed it was an illegal gathering. It was just a B and B," Levant explained. "I told them to get a warrant. I went out there ... and they wouldn't let me back in.... It turned into a ten-hour standoff. They couldn't find a judge willing to give them a search warrant, so to punish us, they called the whole thing a crime scene. They actually wouldn't let any of my team off the boat unless they submitted to a personal search, which is illegal. And the craziest part, is that they arrested one of my guys, took him to jail, and they said this to us: We will hold him in jail until you let us search the Airbnb without a warrant."

Levant said nearly all Canadian media have ignored the insane attacks, warrantless searches and seizures, and the jailing of journalists, and warned Americans to take note and protect our First Amendment rights.

"If you do not protect your First Amendment, if you do not hold those hard-won freedoms, you will be like what we are," he said. "This is your future if you don't protect your First Amendment."

Watch the video below for more details:

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On Monday's episode of "The Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn opened up about the tragic death of his brother-in-law, Vincent Colonna Jr., who passed away unexpectedly on April 5. He also shared some of the important thoughts and insights he's learned through the grieving process.

"Last Monday, I was sitting in this chair ... the two-minute warning comes and Stu said to me, 'You ready for the show?'' ... And that's when my wife [Tania] came to the door of the studio here at our house and said, 'I...' and she held the phone up. And then she collapsed on the floor in tears," Glenn began. "Tania's brother had passed. To say this was a shock, is an understatement."

Glenn described his brother-in-law as having "a servant's spirit."

"He was always the guy who lit up the room. He was always the guy helping others. He would never stop, because he was always helping others," Glenn said of Vincent. "He was on the school board. He was a little league coach. He was the soccer coach. He helped build the church. He took care of the lawn of the church. He was constantly doing things, raising money for charity, working over here, helping to organize this. But he was never the guy in the spotlight. He was just the guy doing it, and you had no idea how much he had done because he never talked about it.

"We also didn't know how much mental anguish he was in because he never talked about it. And last Monday morning, after spending Easter with the family ... he killed himself. This is now the third family member of mine that has gone through this. And I keep seeing it play out over and over and over again, in exactly the same way."

Glenn described his thoughts as he, Tania, and her family struggled to come to grips with the devastating loss.

"I learned some really important things as I was watching this wake. I'm seeing these people from all walks of life ... the people that were there, were there because [Vince] made a difference in their life. He was a true servant. As I'm watching this, all that kept going through my mind was, 'by their fruits, ye shall know them.' The fruits of his labor were on display. He was a servant all the time. All the time ... he found a way to love everybody.

"There are two great commandments: Love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And love your neighbor. So those two great commandments boil down to: Love truth. Because that's what God is," Glenn said.

"Love thy neighbor. That's where joy comes from. The opposite of joy is despair, and that is the complete absence of hope ... and how do you find joy? You find joy by rooting yourself in the truth. Even if that's a truth you don't want to accept. Accept the truth," he added. "But we have to stop saying that there's nothing we can do. What are we going to do? Well, here's the first thing: stop living a lie."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:


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After imprisoning a pastor for refusing to follow COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian officials barricaded his church. And when some church members retaliated by tearing down part of the fence, Canadian Mounties arrived in riot gear.

Rebel News Founder Ezra Levant joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to give his insight on the crazy situation. He described the new, armed police presence surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, and how it not only encouraged hundreds of protesters to stand with the church in support but forced congregation members underground to worship as well.

What's happening is eerily similar to what occurs everyday in China, Levant says, and it must stop. Who would have thought this type of tyranny would be so close to home?

Watch the video below to hear Ezra describe the religious persecution taking place in Canada.


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