SAN JOSE, Calif. — On a day when Facebook revealed it has removed dozens of pages that were using “coordinated inauthentic behavior” intended to interfere in American politics ahead of the midterm elections, PBS held a media conference on Tuesday to promote an upcoming “Frontline” investigation into the social networking giant.
“The Facebook Dilemma” is a two-part documentary that, according to promotional material, will delve into the recent scandals and privacy issues that have “exposed the darker side” of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, while pondering whether Facebook “creates more harm than good.”
Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist and early Facebook investor, was part of the PBS panel at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. He has long claimed that his warnings to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election fell on deaf ears.
“Facebook was manipulated by bad actors. And (company executives) had convinced themselves that literally everything was OK,” said McNamee, who is interviewed in the “Frontline” program. “I think they were willfully blind in 2016 to what was going on … it never occurred to them that something was wrong.”
McNamee was joined on the panel by Washington Post journalist Dana Priest, and “Frontline” producers James Jacoby and Raney Aronson-Rath.
Jacoby believes that Facebook became vulnerable to problems because the company “lived on positive media coverage for so long” and, as a result, “the more negative aspects of things didn’t come through.”
“They basically needed a Paranoia Department to think through all the potential problems,” he added.
Priest warned that the problems could continue because Facebook has “none of the regulations that we demand intelligence agencies have.”
“Normal checks and balances are out of whack,” she said.
“They treat the First Amendment like it’s supposed to protect them, not their users,” said McNamee, who added that “our democracy is now in the hands of three companies” — Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“The Facebook Dilemma,” which is the result of a yearlong investigation, does not yet have an airdate, but “Frontline” is targeting a fall premiere. Jacoby acknowledged that fresh real-time developments will force his team to be “nimble” in an effort to keep the project as up-to-date as possible.
“We’re kind of keeping a chunk of the film open right now … to handle a cascade of news,” he said.
Tribune News Service