In 2015, the groups of apoyo a Donald Trump (or, rather, of rejection of Hillary Clinton) were multiplied by social networks and more specifically by Facebook. Why is the platform Mark Zuckerberg? Well, since its inception, Facebook had been linked to friendship and meeting strangers with like-minded tastes.
In that sense, the step from the individual relationship between old school friends, college friends or acquaintances from some crazy night to the establishment of communities was decisive. Of the Touch he went to the comment, from the comment to the private message and here finally came the possibility of share experiences and news with very defined crowds.
That definition is what Facebook sells to its advertisers —80’s music fans, Harry Potter fans, fans of certain brands of clothing or cars or fast food establishments …— and it is in turn a perfect entrance for anyone who wants to use the medium for manipulation.
If I capture all the white voters, from rural or suburban contexts, with very specific tastes, and I encourage them to join my political discussion group, it will suffice to fill that group of false news about such a candidate to turn several quiet citizens into moderate (or not so much) activists in no time.
In that, Russia is an expert country. Few master the underground game of diplomacy quite like them. The Putin’s government’s ties to the Trump campaign were proven by the open investigation in the Senate and were based on Facebook and many other networks.
Disinformation in search of hatred and confrontation. What Russia did in 2015 and 2016 appears to be doing in 2021 with the tensions on the Polish-Belarusian border. Some tensions with human shields in the way that they have been placed there by someone … but probably that same someone coaxed in a bad way to bite the hook first.
The border that never opened
Insist on the migratory conflict between both countries, that is, on the migratory conflict with the European Union and with NATOSince Poland belongs to both organizations and Belarus does not, it is telling only a very small part of the truth. Immigrants are just pawns in a huge game of harassment of Europe by its eastern neighbors, especially the great eastern country chaired for decades by Vladimir Putin.
It is no coincidence that many of the migrants who have been transferred from the border fence to a giant factory are Iraqi Kurds who have been encouraged to come with great deals on flights from Russian and Belarusian airlines … and with Facebook ads promising a early opening of the border with Poland.
This same week, the New York Times published the illustrative story of Mohammed Faraj, who would have traveled from Baghdad to Minsk by plane with the idea of crossing the border without any problem, all to meet an army defending positions and preventing entry.
Faraj would have returned to Minsk seeing the panorama, would have stayed in a hotel and would have returned to the immigrant camp when he saw, also on Facebook, that, this time, the border was about to open. At present, he is with the rest of the deceived, waiting to see what Belarus does with them. Poland’s position on this is very clear.
How many of those crowded on the border with Kuznica have reached there through complaints on social networks? Impossible to know. Facebook has long been promised to verify each news shared on its platform and dedicate special care to those that could incite hatred or cause moral or physical damage to third parties.
Although it is likely that the social network in question has made some kind of effort in this regard, the truth is that its tentacles are already too long and uncontrollable. And we know from the open investigation in the United States Congress that even when it can be controlled, it is not always done with the necessary zeal.
The problem is not Facebook, it is the hybrid war
In any case, priming with the medium remembers the story of the finger pointing to the moon. First of all, it says a lot about today’s world that people not only inform themselves, but make decisions that affect their lives, based on what someone posts on their Facebook wall.
Even if you take advantage of the traffic generated, Facebook is not a means of communication far from a reliable medium. It is not a question of fighting with Zuckerberg until it is, but of filtering the information yourself and choosing better sources. To think that this cannot be done in Iraq would be to indulge in irritating paternalism.
Second, it tells us some of the status of these immigrants. Faced with the class cliché that sees the immigrant as a misfit or someone inferior in some sense, the truth is that we are talking about upper-middle class people in their countries with access to technology, something that we already saw in the migration crisis of 2015 , starring mainly Syrians with enough money to pay for their trips to the limits of Europe. In this case, money is joined by information or, if you like, disinformation. They are not mafias —or they are not just mafias— that attract desperate people to bring them to the West. They are free citizens who decide to bite the bait.
Finally, and with this we return to the beginning, this type of news only reinforces the image of certain countries as constant generators of instability. It has been the turn of Poland as it was at the time to USA or as it is likely to happen at any time to Ukraine, Putin’s possible next foreign policy target. You face, divide and take advantage of the circumstance to bring the ember to your sardine without shooting or launching a missile. The famous hybrid war how fashionable it has become.
A conflict that threatens to rage
The resolution of the conflict between Poland and Belarus does not seem to have a near end. Yes, this particular crisis can have it. It would suffice to inform the refugees that their access to Poland it will be impossible and to finance in some way the return to their countries as their departure from them was financed. The point is that it costs money and Lukashenko, once he has made his show of force, does not seem to intend to take care of the injured. Another thing is that they rebel or that they create some kind of problem. In that case, perhaps, he would put aside so much complacency.
In any case, the example is already there. At any moment, those two thousand immigrants can return to their countries… but, the following month, another two thousand could appear to replace them. Whether by chartering flights, either through the help of mafias or through false advertisements on social networks. The method, actually, does not matter. It has been done once, it has been seen that it was a huge discomfort for the enemy, and you can threaten it whenever the political board demands it. More or less, what Morocco does with Spain.
In that sense, Facebook will never be more than a tool. A dangerous tool in its global sense and a tool that will have to answer for the use that it allows outsiders, but the real problem will be elsewhere. Social networks are ideal for hate messages, but hate is prior. They are ideal for deception or for the exploitation of a need, but both credulity and that need exist beforehand.
Marta Peirano, in his excellent book The enemy is the system collects several examples of mala practice From Facebook, beyond the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The issue, in any case, is the tribal need of the human being and his behavior once felt between theirs. Within this gregarious behavior, the Mohammed Faraj of the world they will always be cannon fodder and his despair, a thrown weapon.
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Facebook and the drama of the Polish border: a history of clicks, confusion and ‘fake news’