Photo Credit: pexels
Even as recently as the 2016 presidential election, social media was largely viewed as a “nice to have” rather than a “must have” if you were going to win a major election. While all the major candidates had a presence on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, all the real action was happening via traditional media channels. But the 2020 presidential election could change all that – not only do we have Facebook executives openly admitting that they got Trump elected in 2016, but also we now have billionaire George Soros warning that Facebook is conspiring to re-elect Trump in 2020. Suddenly, social media has become the No. 1 concern within the political context.
The George Soros conspiracy theory
George Soros, of course, is no stranger when it comes to attacking and demonizing Facebook. Every year, he seems to use the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to launch a new tirade against Facebook. In 2018, Soros compared Facebook to a casino or gambling operation that helps to feed its customers’ vices. In the eyes of Soros, Facebook also helps to feed the social media addiction of its users. Then, in 2019, Soros called on regulators to tighten up their scrutiny of Facebook and penalize the company for its various shortcomings. Now, in 2020, Soros has taken things one step further, claiming that Trump and Facebook have an “informal mutual assistance operation” in place.
The basic Soros conspiracy goes something like this – Facebook needs protection more than ever, given all the scrutiny from regulators and legislators, and the Trump administration is more than willing to offer this protection in return for certain, well, “favors.” For example, Facebook has made no apologies for the fact that it will accept political ads for the 2020 campaign and not worry about fact-checking them. According to Soros, this is an open invitation to the Trump team to run all kinds of nasty political attack ads with absolutely no basis in fact. Furthermore, Facebook might tweak its algorithms in order to favor Republican-friendly content at the expense of Democrat-friendly content. Facebook, for its part, says that any such suggestion is “just plain wrong.”
Is Soros right about the current state of social media and politics?
What makes the conspiracy theory from Soros so amusing is that Soros himself is the center of many online conspiracy theories. Listen to Trump supporters on social media, and Soros is the hidden hand behind some diabolical schemes – like paying tens of thousands of people across Latin America to form caravans and migrate to America in order to bring more voters into the Democratic camp. Around the world, Soros is seen as an evil genius, using his ill-gotten wealth in the financial markets to re-engineer the world the way he would like it to be.
Thus, it’s probably reading too much into the current situation to say that Trump and Zuckerberg have formed some kind of new twenty-first century Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to protect one another and take over the world. Social media is really effective at promoting these types of wild conspiracy theories, and what could be an easier conspiracy to “like” and share with thousands of your closest friends than one involving Facebook and Trump? The same people who believe the “Russian bot” view of reality will also presumably believe this one. At the end of the day, the candidate who runs the best digital campaign will win the election, not the candidate who’s doing shady backroom deals in Silicon Valley.