Why The Absence Of Collusion Between Donald Trump And Russia Is Bad News For Silicon Valley
Social networks are the greatest geopolitical threat to world peace since the Berlin crisis.
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wrote that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.“1
After complaining during the whole investigation that he was the victim of a witch-hunt, Donald Trump is now claiming that he has been totally exonerated (which is not true regarding the possible obstruction of justice) and is demanding that an investigation be launched into “the other side.” In Trump’s mind, the “other side” is Hillary Clinton, not Russia.
Yet the summary of the Mueller report sent by Attorney General William Barr to congressional leaders leaves no doubt as to the extent of Russia’s attacks on America’s democratic process during the 2016 elections:
“The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. […]
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.“
Russia was able to conduct an attack on the American people’s sovereignty without even needing the support of the candidate it was trying to help elect. This is why the responsibility of the digital platforms on which “disinformation and social media operations” were deployed is all the more overwhelming. They allowed Russia to carry out an unprecedented geostrategic aggression by the means employed and the result obtained: Not a single soldier was engaged in combat and, yet, there is every reason to believe that Russia was able to choose the President supposedly elected by the American people. Social networks are the greatest geopolitical threat since the Berlin crisis.
The most important, now, is to make sure that Russia doesn’t do it again in 2020. It will be all the more difficult since Donald Trump will never acknowledge that his election may have resulted from any other factor than his incomparable genius. Furthermore, he would have no reason, having no sense of general interest, to thwart activities which probably helped him be elected. Therefore, the government will do nothing before 2020 to regulate the digital platforms used by Russia to influence the US election.
As a result, it is up to Facebook and the other digital giants to decide whether or not they want to favor popular sovereignty over their stellar profitability.
As Winston Churchill said,
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
1 The fact that the actions of Donald Trump (and Donald Trump Jr. among others) don’t violate the law doesn’t mean that they aren’t morally and ethically wrong.