Many times over, Facebook has admitted that it missed the mark on rampant misinformation being shared on its platform, as well as foreign interference that may have had an impact on political elections. The company has also vowed to do better, but what does that really mean? If you do quick searches on the social platform, it’s hard to say if it means anything at all.
One Facebook page, for instance, is titled “Barron Trump,” and is quite clearly a fan destination for Barron’s father, President Donald Trump. The page shares an endless stream of divisive memes and videos, most of which are about owning liberals or loving Trump. Over 27,000 Facebook users have liked the page and over 34,000 users follow it, despite the fact that it was only created in February. It’s quite clearly a part of a vast conservative Facebook content ecosystem.
Some of the content certainly doesn’t seem like it comes from the perspective of a 13-year-old tween. Frequent targets of the page are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer–both of whom likely don’t resonate with the younger crowd. It also mentions socialism quite often, another topic that would indicate older administrators. This should go without saying, but the page also targets Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
Beyond the fact that this page, in the name of Trump’s son, shares hyperpartisan videos and images–some of which could easily be considered misinformation–there is another questionable element to it: The page’s administrators are not operating out of the United States. According to the page’s info section, four of its managers are from Pakistan and one is from Portugal. It has not purchased any ads, but one of my editors found one of its memes as a top result when he searched for “Kamala Harris” in Facebook’s search bar. What makes the page even more fishy is that it’s categorized as a “government organization.” (It seems Pakistan is a haven for Barron Trump pages; we found another with over 14,000 followers, although it’s categorized as “just for fun.”)
This is just one small example of the vast fight that Facebook and other platforms are facing as the 2020 election approaches. It is certainly a whack-a-mole endeavor. Still, a page that calls itself a government organization, uses the name of an underaged Trump family member, and is run by people outside the country should raise a few red flags.
I reached out to Facebook for comment, and will update this post if I hear back.
Social media companies have a tough fight ahead. But pages like this show that the digital landscape likely hasn’t changed that much since the 2016 election, despite the platforms’ promises and solemn words. People can still easily go on social networks and find a filter bubble of content that fits their political ideology and pays no regard to truth. Not only that, but many of these page’s followers likely aren’t even aware of who runs these destinations.
It’s clear that a more sweeping effort may be needed to curb this problem.
Update: Facebook seems to have taken down the page after I brought it to the company’s attention. I haven’t, however, received a formal response to my inquiry.