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.

On the radio program Monday, Glenn Beck, Pat Gray, and Stu Burguiere reacted to a recent Washington Post op-ed in which the author, Ron Charles, suggests that "as Confederate statues finally tumble across America, [and] television networks are marching through their catalogues looking to take down racially offensive content," perhaps the next items that should be up on the cancel-culture chopping block are "problematic books."

"Monuments celebrating racist traitors, which were erected to fabricate history and terrify black Americans, are not works of art that deserve our respect or preservation. Similarly, scenes of modern-day white comedians reenacting minstrel-show caricatures are not ironical interrogations of racism that we have to stomach any longer. But complex works of literature are large, they contain multitudes," Charles wrote.

He goes on to argue that "calibrating our Racism Detector to spot only a few obvious sins" is but an insidious source of self-satisfaction when compared to the process of critical debate on the values and intentions of history's literary legends.

"If cancel culture has a weakness, it's that it risks short-circuiting the process of critical engagement that leads to our enlightenment," Charles wrote. "Scanning videos for blackface or searching text files for the n-word is so much easier than contending with, say, the systemic tokenism of TV rom-coms or the unbearable whiteness of Jane Austen."

Could cancel culture really spiral all the way down to book burning? In the clip below, Glenn, Pat, and Stu agreed that this radical progressive movement is really about erasing America's history and overturning the foundation of our country. The fundamental transformation of America is happening now.

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:


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It's been a tough year, America. Our news media is inundating us with images of destruction, violence, and division in attempts not only to desecrate our nation, but to make us turn our backs on it. That's why now, more than ever, we need to take an up-close look at America's history to remember what it is we're fighting for and how to fight for it with practical action.

Join Glenn Beck, broadcasting from Standing Rock Ranch, as he takes us to Plymouth, Gettysburg, and Federal Hall on an important journey through America's remarkable history to inspire a brighter future. Glenn asks the hard questions of every American. Is this system worth saving? Is there a better way? Where do we go from here, and how do we answer those questions?

Featuring performances from the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, David Osmond, a very special children's choir, and guests Bob Woodson, Tim Ballard, David Barton, Burgess Owens, Kathy Barnette, Anna Paulina Luna, and Tim Barton.

Watch the full special presentation below:


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"Restoring Hope" has been a labor of love for Glenn and his team and tonight is the night! "Restoring the Covenant" was supposed to take place in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Gettysburg and Washington D.C. but thanks to COVID-19, that plan had to be scrapped. "Restoring Hope" is what was left after having to scrap nearly two years of planning. The Herald Journal in Idaho detailed what the event was supposed to be and what it turned into. Check out the article below to get all the details.

Glenn Beck discusses patriotic, religious program filmed at Idaho ranch

On July 2, commentator Glenn Beck and his partners will issue a challenge from Beck's corner of Franklin County to anyone who will listen: "Learn the truth, commit to the truth, then act on the truth."

Over the last few weeks, he has brought about 1,000 people to his ranch to record different portions of the program that accompanies the challenge. On June 19, about 400 members of the Millennial Choir and Orchestra met at West Side High School before boarding WSSD buses to travel to a still spring-green section of Beck's ranch to record their portion of the program.

Read the whole article HERE

The current riots and movement to erase America's history are exactly in line with the New York Times' "1619 Project," which argues that America was rotten at its beginning, and that slavery and systemic racism are the roots of everything from capitalism to our lack of universal health care.

On this week's Wednesday night special, Glenn Beck exposed the true intent of the "1619 Project" and its creator, who justifies remaking America into a Marxist society. This clever lie is disguised as history, and it has already infiltrated our schools.

"The '1619 Project' desperately wants to pass itself off as legitimate history, but it totally kneecaps itself by ignoring so much of the American story. There's no mention of any black Americans who succeeded in spite of slavery, due to the free market capitalist system. In the 1619 Project's effort to take down America, black success stories are not allowed. Because they don't fit with the narrative. The role of white Americans in abolishing slavery doesn't fit the narrative either," Glenn said.

"The agenda is not ultimately about history," he added. "It's just yet another vehicle in the fleet now driven by elites in America toward socialism."

Watch a preview of the full episode below:


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