Hillary Clinton Argues "Mark Zuckerberg Should Pay a Price" for False Facebook Ads

Hillary Clinton - American Federation of Teachers Friday, July 13, 2018 - Getty-H 2018
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At a Friday night screening of the Netflix documentary ‘The Great Hack’ at New York's Crosby Street Hotel, the former Secretary of State discussed the importance of data security with the filmmakers.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday night moderated a post-screening discussion of the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which covers the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal and the larger implications data mining has on democracy, at New York's Crosby Street Hotel.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this conversation, but I think the three people sitting here are the ones you need to hear from because they’ve been in the middle of this incredibly complicated and serious threat to individual freedom, to the rule of law, to democracy,” Clinton said at the top of the conversation.

But filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer turned the tables right from the beginning. “And you haven’t been in the middle of it at all?” Noujaim responded.

“I’m like the hit-and-run victim who you find on the side of the road,” Clinton joked. “Oh, how did that happen? Well, it started in England.”

The documentary covers how the data mining company Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to manipulate multiple democracies in electoral processes, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit.

“We are living in an era where information systems are completely vulnerable. We’re living in an era where there is a fragility that we’re all feeling and that fragility is something that we needed to understand further,” Amer said about making the film. “What we found is it’s a broken system but that we built the system. Humans built the system, and we have a responsibility to fix it and this country is the only country in the world that can hold the technology platforms accountable. If we don’t do something, we are putting the entire information system and the sanctuary of trust, which is the foundation of that system at risk for the entire world.”

The Great Hack follows the story through the eyes of several of the people involved, including journalist Carole Cadwallai, who uncovered the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and joined the filmmakers at the talkback. Subjects also included David Caroll, the media professor who filed an official complaint against Cambridge Analytica, requesting his data, and Brittany Kaiser, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who has testified about her involvement and started the #OwnYourData campaign. Both Caroll and Kaiser were in attendance.

However, all eyes turned toward Clinton, who spoke at length about the implications of data mining both from her own experience and for the future of democratic processes.

“When I watched the movie and heard the stories of the individuals and the way you put it together, I thought, 'Wow, people need to see this because still to this day there is sense of disbelief about a lot of what has happened,'” she said. “And we are getting warning signals all the time about what is happening right now and how it is likely to affect our next election. So when Facebook, which is the principal news sources for more than half of the American people — it is the only source of news that most of them pay any attention to — announces that it has no responsibility for the airing of false ads, it’s like, even if you searching for it, how are you supposed to be able to get accurate information about anything, let alone candidates running for office?”

Cadwallai asked Clinton if she thought there was any connection between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s meetings with President Donald  Trump and the ruling that the social media platform will not fact check political ads. “Is it possible to have a free and in any sense fair election while that policy is in place?” Cadwallai asked.

“I doubt it,” Clinton responded. “Propaganda works. People act like, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t be influenced.’ That is just baloney. If you are the recipient of how many billions of ads that come across your Facebook feed, you are going to be affected because negative information has a lasting effect." She added, "I can’t draw any conclusions about closed-door meetings, not only with Trump but with Tucker Carlson and with Breitbart and with many others that have been going on at Facebook headquarters. But if I were of a conspiratorial mindset, I might suggest that there seems to be some connection.”

Clinton applauded Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s decision to ban political advertisements on his platform and later added, “Mark Zuckerberg should pay a price for what he is doing to our democracy.”

Filmmaker Noujaim spoke about the issue as a “war on truth.”

”It is an information war, and we are so in the middle of it,” she said. “And we’ve seen what happens in Egypt when they win, when a government has complete control over information. I think that has really put a fear in us about this country and what’s possible here. It is a bit of a horror film.”

Added Amer, “This is not a partisan issue. This is about defending the republic and some things in this country should no longer be blue or red, they should be about standing up for the preservation of the foundation.”

Then he turned to Clinton and asked, “What do you think we should do?”

“There is much constant activity to sell people or exhaust people because if you’re exhausted, you’re equally likely to just shrug and say, 'I’m not going to be in the public space, it’s just too much trouble. I’m going to go off and pursue my own private interests,'" she responded. "But the public space is where you have to defend your private interests, and that is not in any way exaggeration."

Added Clinton, "This is our information, but people seem to forget that we own it. Therefore, we need a whole new agenda of legislation and regulation in order to take back that power and to regulate these platforms.”