Yes, from his bully pulpit on Twitter, the “real” Donald Trump took direct aim at Facebook on Wednesday, calling what is arguably the country’s most innovative corporation “anti-Trump.”
Wading into antitrust waters, Trump even suggested that the social giant is colluding with The New York Times, The Washington Post and other purveyors of “fake news” in some vast left-wing conspiracy.
As is so often the case, the inanity of Trump's "reasoning” is rivaled only by its irony. If he wasn’t aware, Facebook is presently in the hot seat for failing to prevent Russian agents from steering the presidential election in his favor.
Facebook, for its part, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian-linked ad buys on its platform.
As part of that investigation, of course, Mueller and his team are trying to determine the degree to which the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents to influence U.S. voters.
But, maybe Mueller's got it all wrong. Maybe Facebook colluded with the news media to undermine Trump, while at the same time working with the Russians to give Trump a bump in the polls.
It's a crazy theory -- but that's the point. Sowing doubt and confusion is what Trump does because, as he well knows, it’s fertile soil for conspiracies like this latest one.
As with all conspiracies, there is a kernel of truth in the narrative that Trump is presenting. Following an internal investigation last year, Facebook seemed to acknowledge that its Trending topics section was for a time influenced by liberal bias.
“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, wrote in a letter to Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
Despite efforts to remedy the issue, Facebook certainly has more explaining to do on a range of matters from ad buying to content circulation. It’s an enormously powerful entity, which should (and will) be more closely scrutinized.
Rather than pushing Facebook toward greater transparency, however, Trump is simply picking a fight, which he knows will entertain his base, and briefly direct their attention away from his endless lies, legal troubles, and lack of legislative achievements.
In a respectful response to Trump’s tantrum, Mark Zuckerberg points out that liberals and conservatives have been similarly unhappy with Facebook’s political content.
“That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like,” Zuckerberg notes.
What happens next is anyone's guess, but one thing is already clear: The 33-year-old Zuckerberg is the only adult in this duel.