“We are a force for good,” says Nas Daily, the popular Facebook video site that boasts: “With 60 members, we reached 3.2% of the world’s population, 10 billion video impressions, 35 million followers, 100% organic views.” Nas Daily videos tend to be heartwarming and inspiring tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and a video posted Saturday seemed to be more of the same: it profiled a man who adopted eighty children, portraying him as an unalloyed hero. Yet others on Facebook have given background that diverges sharply from Nas Daily’s relentlessly cheerful video, raising questions about what Nas Daily’s – and Facebook’s – intentions really are.
The video sings the praises of a man named Mohamed, the man who adopted all those kids. “If the world had more people like Mohamed,” we’re told, “then no child would be left alone.” In his post publishing the video to Facebook, Nas Daily creator Nuseir Yassin wrote: “His story broke my heart. Mohamed fosters dying children who have been abandoned by their parents…in the hospital. I find it shocking to think that anybody can leave their own child alone like this. But people like Mohamed set a beautiful example for every parent in the world. Trust me, you need to watch this.”
Mohamed’s story was featured last Saturday because it’s Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. Yassin explains at the end of the video: “In collaboration with Facebook, during the month of Ramadan, we are showing you the stories of thirty people in thirty days, and each one of these stories is more amazing than the other.”
Facebook promoting the Muslim holy month when it would never dare even to come close to promoting Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist observances is noteworthy enough, but the video raised eyebrows for other reasons as well. Although the comments below it were a crescendo of praise and congratulations for Mohamed, some people on a private Facebook group sounded a discordant note. One woman wrote: “This video is using my daughter’s image (and several of her friends actually), claiming she was adopted by this man in California!!! Help! What do I do!! I am disgusted!!”
Another commented: “This video clearly shows him holding a doll in a pink blanket.” And it’s true. Five seconds into the video, and again at 3:04, we see Mohamed walking along carrying what appears to be an extremely small baby in a pink blanket, with only the hand of the little one showing, thumb pointing downward and looking suspiciously immobile and artificial. Maybe one of Mohamed’s adoptees is an unfortunately doll-like, plastic-looking child, or maybe there is more to this video than meets the eye. The Facebook commenter continued: “In addition there are multiple children shown as his adopted children that ARE NOT HIS ADOPTED CHILDREN. they literally have families, have not been abandoned, and using their images be it photo or video are not okay.”
Even worse, the commenter added that “not only that, but the adoption process in California would make adoption of all these children (at these ages) virtually impossible to happen as portrayed in this video. This is fake BS.”
Remember, these things were posted in a private Facebook group, not publicly in an attempt to embarrass Mohamed or Nuseir Yassin. People in that group say they have reported this video to Facebook, but nothing has been done by those who flag posts even mentioning possible election irregularities or herd immunity.
It’s easy to see why: Facebook, according to Nuseir Yassin, had a hand in the production of this video, as part of its promotion of Ramadan. Is it possible that Nuseir Yassin’s team was so overwhelmed by the stresses of having to produce videos about thirty extraordinary people in thirty days that they cut some corners, found a willing frontman, and fabricated a story that served to satiate the establishment’s hunger for stories of noble, heroic Muslims whose very lives rebuke all those racist, right-wing “Islamophobes”?
It is possible. It is not certain. Maybe the whole thing is on the up-and-up, and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why children who have not been adopted by Mohamed appear in the video as if they were his children, and for why he was carrying around a doll as if it were a baby, and how he was able to circumvent California’s adoption laws so as to adopt eighty children. But if there is, Facebook is unlikely to tell us. All this raises the increasingly important question: who watches the watchmen? Facebook has appointed itself the arbiter of what speech is acceptable and what isn’t, even when the speaker is the president of the United States. But who is monitoring Facebook and ensuring that its “fact checks” are even close to factual? Whatever the real story of Nas Daily’s Mohamed video may be, it stands as an object lesson on why the social media giants’ ever-increasing power over the public discourse is so dangerous.