Remember Cambridge Analytica? The data firm that exploited Facebook to gather information and support the presidential campaign of then-unlikely candidate Donald Trump? When things looked bleak for Facebook, Facebook got aggressive.
And between linking protesters to liberal financier George Soros (and deflecting the notion that doing so was anti-Semitic by lobbying Jewish groups) and downplaying the idea that Russians were using their platform for propaganda, the New York Times expose published Wednesday discussed the role of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
SEN. SCHUMER (D-@FACEBOOK): When Senate Intel was probing Facebook's relationship with CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA, @ChuckSchumer told @MarkWarner to back off.
* Schumer was the biggest recipient of Facebook employee $ in 2016, & his daughter works for the company https://t.co/uvahVGgcv5
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) November 14, 2018
Schumer collected more money from Facebook in 2016 than any other politician in Congress, and his daughter works as a marketing manager for the social network. The Times alleged that Schumer interceded on behalf of Facebook during Congressional inquiries into the fallout from Cambridge Analytica and Russia’s propaganda operations.
Schumer confronted Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who has been one of the chief critics of Facebook’s conduct. Schumer told Warner to back off, to find ways to work with Facebook instead of against it. Facebook lobbyists were allegedly kept informed of Schumer’s efforts to protect the company.
It could be, then, a testament to Warner that he has continued to hammer Facebook.
“Often people make the analogy that data is the new oil. Well, in the old oil company, every time you used oil, you at least depleted the company’s reserve,” Warner said in a recent interview with the Verge. “The difference with these kinds of enterprises is that every time we interact with Google, every time we interact with Facebook, we give them more oil. We make them more powerful. We make it even harder for a new competitor to come into the marketplace.”
Warner would not comment about the accuracy of the Times report.
“Schumer has worried that Facebook would bow to pressure from Republicans, who oppose the purging of the fake accounts and bots, and has urged Senator Warner and the Senate Intelligence committee to make this the priority in their ongoing investigation of the company,” said a Schumer spokesperson, Justin Goodman.
Goodman went on to say that Schumer “has worked aggressively to push Facebook to do more to purge fake accounts and bots used by the right wing and Russians to perpetuate a disinformation campaign and interfere with our elections.”
As Facebook deals with a fresh round of criticism from Congress, we’re left to wonder if Schumer will tell more of his colleagues to back off as well.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.