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When 37-year-old Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress on October 5, she brought thousands of stolen documents with her. They are the most conclusive evidence yet that the top social media company knows it profits from harming the public.

Like many whistleblowers, Haugen — a member of the civic integrity team — took an exciting job only to be implicated in what she believes to be an ethical catastrophe.

Much has been made of her statement on "60 Minutes" that teenage girls who use Facebook are more likely to suffer from depression and self-harm. Endangering children rightly grabs the public's sympathy and concern.

But what about the consequences to democracy? Haugen is the latest expert to directly implicate Facebook in the tsunami of disinformation that was instrumental to Donald Trump's victory in 2016 and, more recently, his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Yet, shortly after November 3, as the political crisis that would culminate in the January 6 insurrection was building, Facebook dissolved the civic integrity team.

Six months later, a third of American voters still believed that Donald Trump won the election. Facebook has been implicated, not just in the spread of global illiberalism, but in gun violence, youth suicide, genocide and a contemporary contagion of conspiracy theories. And, except for listening to Haugen's testimony, Congress has done nothing.

Why?

Although the right fulminates about censorship, and the left about Facebook's monopolistic practices, neither Republicans or Democrats seem content to let the company — which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram — regulate itself. Yet Haugen has revealed little that we, and presumably, Congress, did not know about Facebook already.

Since 2018, media experts like Jaron Lanier and Siva Vaidyanathan have explained that Facebook promotes dark and destructive content because it is "sticky," keeping users on the platform for longer sessions that reap greater profits for the company. In their 2021 book An Ugly Truth, Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, using interviews with anonymous and named sources, recounted Haugen's charges in detail.

To understand why the political class does nothing, one could start with Federal Election Commission filings: Facebook employees donated almost $20 million to political campaigns in the 2020 cycle alone. While over 80 percent of that went to Democrats (Joe Biden was the top draw at over $1.5 million), Republicans got their share too. Facebook's PAC, the company's official political donor arm, consistently donates more money to Republicans than Democrats.

But there is, I suspect, something larger in play than money.

Facebook and other forms of digital marketing that would inevitably be affected by regulating Facebook have transformed politics. It was Republican John McCain who mounted a brief, but robust, challenge to the powerful Bush money machine in 2000 by engaging voters live on a website with rudimentary video technology. In 2004, the almost unknown Howard Dean became a contender for the Democratic nomination by raising hundreds of millions in small donations in a few months, connecting to voters on blogs and organizing supporters in states other candidates didn't visit on MeetUp.com.

And in 2008, Facebook entered national politics through the back door. Co-founder Chris Hughes took a leave from the company to organize digital marketing for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Following his victory, the right took notice: in 2010, the Tea Party movement mobilized almost exclusively on Facebook to fight the Affordable Care Act, endorsing 129 Republican candidates for the House and nine for the Senate. A third of those candidates won, delivering the House of Representatives into the hands of a Republican majority also stripped of many moderate incumbents.

In a short 20 years, it has become possible for "outsiders" who represent the most energetic factions in both parties to succeed, and career politicians in both parties to fundraise as if they were outsiders. Facebook is the linchpin of a digital universe where it is always election season.

What would political campaigns even look like if social media platforms were, for example, uniformly restrained by standards of truth, restrictions on emotional content and algorithms, or the collection and sale of user data? How would the myriad small donations that power all campaigns, but particularly insurgent progressive and right-wing candidates, be collected? What new methods could mobilize grassroots supporters to demand, or refuse, change?

In a world where only 25 percent of twenty-somethings watch the news — but 70 percent of adults use Facebook — how would politics even happen if social media's reach was blunted?

Since Donald Trump was kicked off Facebook and Twitter, conservatives have complained the loudest about Big Tech's power. But the truth is politicians are not just facing questions about regulation, public health and civic disorder when they confront Facebook's unethical behavior. They are facing questions about a political environment that has been transformed by the internet.

And they are facing ugly truths about themselves.

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    ‘Vile’: China threatens European Union over vote in support of Taiwan

    European Union legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of trade talks with Taiwan and other measures flouting China’s claims to sovereignty over the island, leaving officials in Beijing fuming at the display of tension between Western democracies and the communist regime.

    “It is vile in nature and has an egregious impact,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday. “A word for the relevant side: Do not underestimate the Chinese people's determination, will, and capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

    WHY THE NEXT DECADE IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS FOR CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES

    China’s relationship with the European Parliament has soured in recent months, as European condemnation of China’s atrocities against Uyghur Muslims resulted in a trans-Atlantic move to impose sanctions on EU and British lawmakers. China hawks in the European Parliament countered by freezing a major EU-China investment deal, a rebuke compounded Thursday with the endorsement of trade talks and a proposal to rebound the “European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan” as the “European Union in Taiwan” — a loaded name change, given China’s hostility to any sign of political engagement between Taiwan and other governments.

    “If the European Union would make such a step, it would be a really big deal, but I doubt it would be possible,” a Baltic official told the Washington Examiner after the vote. The official added, "It reflects the thinking of many European politicians, so that’s a very serious signal.”

    China has turned trade relationships to geopolitical advantage in a number of ways, not least of which has been to impede transatlantic unity on issues that U.S. leaders and Western intelligence official regard as security threats from Beijing. Chinese officials have sustained some setbacks in recent years, even before their censorship of early pandemic warnings provoked global outrage, which has enhanced the European desire for good relations with Taiwan.

    That interest was reflected in the proposal to abandon the “economic and trade” terms in the current office’s name.

    “Countries usually have an economic office, which shows that they have no intentions of any kind of political relations with Taiwan,” the Baltic official said, noting that even cities can have international trade offices. “For China, if the European Union has an office — not a trade office, but a European Union office — that means that the European Union elevates those relations to the political level. That’s a red line for China.”

    CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

    Wang, the Chinese foreign ministry official, implied that deference to Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the island, a democratic society that the Chinese Communist regime has never ruled, is “the political foundation of China-EU relations.”

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