This sort of thing strongly suggests that Facebook will do little to nothing to police the enormous outpouring of disinformation that Trump and his propagandists will unleash between now and November.
In an odd turn of events, it turns out that one of the things that might help provide an antidote to that gusher of disinformation is … Mike Bloomberg’s personal fortune.
NBC News has a remarkable report on Bloomberg’s current spending on Facebook ads. It turns out Bloomberg’s spending is already dwarfing that of Trump, who had previously enjoyed a huge jump on Democrats:
Bloomberg spent more than $1 million a day on average over the past two weeks on Facebook. That’s five times more than Trump spent during the same period — and more than three times what Trump spent per day during his victorious fall 2016 campaign.On a single day, Jan. 30, Bloomberg bought $1.7 million worth of Facebook ads, signaling just how much he’s willing to put his personal wealth behind his long shot bid.
At this point, it’s well understood that Trump’s 2016 digital operation, with its hyper-targeting via Facebook, was far superior to what many thought they were seeing at the time. It’s also well understood that Trump is on his way to duplicating this effort, which has dismayed some Democrats.
Indeed, as the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins has reported, Facebook will figure heavily in what is shaping up to be a billion-dollar information warfare campaign to get Trump reelected, much of it involving disinformation.
But, as NBC reports, not only is Bloomberg’s spending outpacing Trump’s; it could actually end up crowding out some of it as well:
The scale of what the Bloomberg campaign is doing on Facebook already bests that of some Fortune 100 companies, said Nick Venezia, managing director of Social Outlier, a marketing agency in Los Angeles that specializes in data-driven campaigns.Venezia said that the amount of money Bloomberg is spending can have an impact on the Trump campaign.“He’s going to be taking eyeballs away from Trump. He’s making it so that he’s pushing him out of the auction,” he said. Ads on Facebook are sold in real-time auctions, with the winner chosen based on several factors including bid and what a Facebook user wants to see.
What’s interesting here is that, even if Bloomberg doesn’t win the nomination — which he very likely will not — this spending could end up mattering, anyway. That’s because Bloomberg has pledged to spend a large fortune to dislodge Trump even if he’s not the Democratic nominee.
That means Bloomberg’s money could end up playing some kind of role in blunting Trump’s Facebook disinformation onslaught regardless of who the nominee is. Even if it’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the most vociferous critic of the pernicious impact of big money in politics — particularly that spent by billionaires like Bloomberg — in the race right now.
Judd Legum, who tracks Trump’s disinformation and online campaigns for his newsletter Popular Information, noted that this odd state of affairs might get foisted on Democrats by Trump’s willingness to employ disinformation warfare — and Facebook’s willingness to platform it.
“It will be interesting to see if Bloomberg continues this level of spending if he is not the nominee," Legum told me. “In the absence of a meaningful fact-checking program by Facebook, something of this magnitude will be needed to counter the disinformation on Facebook by Trump and his allies.”
That a democratic socialist could end up as the nominee, even as Democrats end up relying in part on billionaire Bloomberg’s money to fend off what may be the largest disinformation warfare campaign in U.S. history — one partly enabled by the threat the Big Tech oligarchy poses to democracy — is another measure of just how weirdly unsettled our politics are right now. It also hints at the odd compromises that might be necessary to survive the current crisis.