In her new book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,” Mollie Hemingway reveals how social-media companies like Twitter and Facebook responded to the 2016 election of Donald Trump to go from free-speech advocates to censors — including blocking The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden. Here, an exclusive excerpt:
Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was a shock to much of the country, but Silicon Valley took it especially hard. The progressive bastion of San Francisco had turned tech companies from libertarian idealists into liberal crusaders. The industry as a whole felt complicit in Donald Trump’s rise and was intent on doing everything in its power to suppress his voice and those of his supporters.
From the beginning, the tech overlords were plotting how to strike back.
In one meeting, Google founder Sergey Brin suggested that “Jigsaw,” a project Google had developed to combat Islamic terror propaganda, could be used to shape the opinions of Trump voters. By the time Trump was inaugurated, a former Google engineer had told Breitbart reporter Allum Bokhari that activists within the company had formed a working group to brainstorm ways to use Google’s resources to undermine the Trump administration.
Another Google engineer wanted to sabotage Trump’s phone, which ran on Google’s Android operating system, as well as ban the Gmail accounts of senior Trump administration officials. An employee in Google’s advertising department personally referred purchasers of Google ads to the Web site of Sleeping Giants, an activist group that encourages boycotts of conservative news outlets.
It wasn’t any better over at Facebook, where some employees literally took a week off to grieve.
Soon after the election, BuzzFeed was reporting, “Facebook employees have formed an unofficial task force to question the role their company played in promoting fake news in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s victory in the US election last week.”
The group was operating in open defiance of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said the idea that Facebook had unfairly tilted the election in Trump’s favor was “crazy.”
By December 2016, Zuckerberg had caved. Facebook adopted a new policy of trying to combat the alleged “fake news” that troubled Facebook’s left-wing employees. The tech giant would start paying media outlets to “fact-check” news on the site. With media revenue steadily declining — in no small part because Facebook had radically disrupted the traditional journalistic business models — once reputable news organizations signed up to participate in the fact-checking program.
Media outlets that were supposed to be objectively covering Facebook were now on Facebook’s payroll, given the power to determine all the news that was fit to print.
Whether or not the tech companies wanted to admit it, much of Silicon Valley’s anger over Trump’s victory was about their inability to control American opinion.
In the past two elections, the tech industry had loudly and publicly taken credit for helping Obama’s two victorious campaigns.
For years, the dreamers that built Silicon Valley had prided themselves on the potential of the Internet to become a digital libertarian oasis that offered people a way of opting out of the institutions that had historically sought to control what they thought and did. This was always a bit of a pipe dream, but when a Twitter executive famously referred to the social media platform as the “free speech wing of the free speech party” in 2012, Americans still largely believed the Internet was a force for…