Facebook is Still Fighting the Last Information War – And Losing
An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
John Liccione, Russi Leaks
I recently interviewed St Paul’s Episcopal parish Deacon Ethan Bishop-Henchman outside the Ukrainian Embassy in DC last Tuesday where he gave a pitch-perfect 15-second takedown of Putin calling him out as having “weaponized Christianity for violence” against the Russian LGBTQ community, as well as coming out in support of Ukraine. Here’s the short video up on YouTube.
But after we posted the story yesterday and attempted to advertise it via a Facebook ad campaign to drive traffic to it, Russi Leaks and Deacon Ethan were muzzled by Facebook on the grounds that his speech contained “speech about politics and social issues” that ran afoul of their policy and censorship algorithm which, it seems to Russi Leaks, is fighting the last information war instead of the war we are actually in as of two weeks ago. Wake up Facebook.
After appealing the ad’s rejection decision Russi Leaks was denied approval a second time. At this point Facebook demanded we provide proof of identification, so, ok, we uploaded a high-resolution scan of my passport…Facebook rejected it. Then I uploaded a driver’s license. That was rejected. Now there’s a demand we download a Notary form and get my signature notarized and upload that too. We’ll be getting that today and we will see how that plays out.
It seems to Russi Leaks that Facebook’s one-size-fits-all “social and political speech” censorship policy, which evolved out of the lessons of the domestic 2016 and 2020 elections and the Capital insurrection, have failed to recognize the new world order Ukraine and all of us are now living in. Taking down Putin with non-violent speech whilst his evil army, air force, and navy are murdering civilians and children in Ukraine, and while he threatens nuclear holocaust, is, according to Facebook’s outdated algorithm and review and appeal policy, treated with the moral equivalency as say, speech criticizing Biden or stealing a US election. C’mon man! We are not in that world any more. Facebook’s dated-policy is OBE: Overcome by events. It seems almost quaint, albeit extremely frustrating, considering what’s happening now.
Clearly, taking down Putin in the context of this “Just Look Up” moment as his evil designs, kept secret for the last 9 years since 2013, have now fully manifested, is a righteous mission and Facebook needs to demonstrate more agility (can you say Agile programming?) in it’s policymaking and algorithmic programming iterations. Right now, Facebook should be enabling and accelerating, the forces of good in their fight against the forces of evil in the mind-space and cyber-space, not obstructing and hamstringing them. This is not a good look, Facebook.
Russi Leaks is a but a tiny yet nimble PT boat out in front of the Facebook aircraft carrier and I say to Facebook: Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Otherwise, some nimble competitor’s going to come along and eat your lunch.
Mr. Zuckerberg, you stood by asleep at the switch for the last nine years while you allowed Putin to weaponize your platform to hack the psyches of millions of good American patriots across two presidential elections and an insurrection while you made billions claiming “it’s not my department” before you were finally shamed into taking action after January 6th. And now, when America and the free world needs your platform the most as we mount our counterattack against these marauding forces of evil, death, and destruction, you’re playing Mickey Mouse games with your outdated algorithms.
Facebook, you are failing. Again. But this time, the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher. Stop acting like some kind of modern-day Verner von Braun as was parodied Dr. Tom Lehrer in his song about him. To wit: “Once ze rockets are up, who cares ver zey come down, zat’s not my department” says Verner von Braun.” If you don’t get the reference, here’s the video.
America and NATO can’t send F-35’s and A-10 tank killers into Ukraine (not yet anyway) but we have another arsenal of democracy that we can send into Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus: That is the democratic arsenal of ideas, memes, of psychological warfare, videos, messages: All amassed and engaged on the side of the angels. You are muzzling the ideological arsenal of democracy and the Ukrainian people need that arsenal now more than ever as they get pounded. We must shore up their spirits as they put up their courageous fight against this monstrous, unleashed Russian bear.
You have a social responsibility as the leading (some might say monopolistic) American social media company to place your platform firmly on the side of the angels. You can’t be like the old Switzerland in the cyber-space. Not good enough. You perhaps more than any other American CEO benefitted financially from Putin’s relentless 9-year disinformation and agitation propaganda campaign against the minds of American citizens while you racked up billions in ad revenue that was coming from the Russian Federation. Stopping Facebook advertising in Russia is not enough. It is literally the LEAST you can do. In the information war speed is everything and you are dragging us down with your stale, outdated policies and algorithms that were designed to protect DOMESTIC political infrastructure and civil discourse, a worthy imperative I grant you, but that imperative must be put on hold in this global emergency.
If you can’t bring yourself to get with the new program, you are going to be left on the ash-heap of history and will forever more be known as the social media company that once owned the world but when St. Paul, the patron saint of missions, writers, and publishers, came-a-calling, you just couldn’t shoot straight because you were too blinded by the profits – instead of listening to the prophets.
John Liccione | Russi Leaks Actual
Founder and CEO