On May 2, 2022, we received reader mail that referred to a newly posted TikTok video that showed a recording on a TV. According to the video, Facebook is a surveillance program for the CIA and Mark Zuckerberg is secretly one of its agents. Some readers might already be able to tell this is fake, but still might be interested in knowing how this all started.
According to Google Trends, some Google users were searching for answers about Facebook, Zuckerberg, and the CIA in the hours and days after the video was posted to TikTok.
In the bottom-right corner of the video are the letters, "ONN." This stood for "The Onion News Network." This was likely difficult to see since the vertical TikTok video showed a recording of a TV from a short distance. It was simply an old clip from a satirical TV show that was created by the well-known satire website, The Onion. The episode shown in the video first aired on March 18, 2011, making it more than 11 years old by the time it was posted to TikTok. TikTok user @bigdaddyleo1037, who uploaded the video to the platform, provided hints that it was satire with the hashtags "#onionnews" and "#comedy."
The full "FactZone" segment with Brooke Alvarez, who was portrayed by actor Suzanne Sena, is available on YouTube:
We transcribed the clip below:
This is The Onion News Network. Better news. Better viewers.
Brooke Alvarez: Congress today reauthorized funding for Facebook, the massive online surveillance program run by the CIA. According to Department of Homeland Security reports, Facebook has replaced almost every other CIA information gathering program since it was launched in 2004.
Christopher Sartinsky: After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded so many people would willingly publicize where they live, their religious and political views, an alphabetized list of all their friends' personal email addresses, phone numbers, hundreds of photos of themselves, and even status updates about what they were doing moment-to-moment. It is truly a dream come true for the CIA.
Alvarez: Much of the credit belongs to CIA agent Mark Zuckerberg, who runs the day-to-day Facebook operations for the agency. The decorated agent, codenamed "The Overlord," was recently awarded the prestigious medal of intelligence commendation for his work with the Facebook program, which he has called "the single most powerful tool for population control ever created." Among the biggest successes of the Facebook program is Operation FarmVille, which the CIA credits with pacifying as many as 85 million people after unemployment rates rose dramatically. Other features, such as the suggested friends window, have been instrumental in allowing government agents to infiltrate deeper into the friend networks of suspected dissidents.
During the segment, one of the other satirical moments included a graphic that read, "CIA Calls Facebook 'Reason We Invented The Internet.'"
The satirical video from The Onion News Network also included a panel of three people called "First Responders." One of the questions they answered was about how the CIA also purportedly created Twitter in what it called the "Twitter Initiative." One of the panelists said that the program should be "cut entirely." Another person followed up with, "Right, 400 billion tweets and not one useful bit of data was ever transmitted."
Later, Alvarez cited a report that found Al-Qaida created Foursquare "to identify popular locations for bombing." A panelist answered, "Actually Brooke, that's been discredited as any kind of real threat. The people that use that site are people that no one would mind seeing bombed anyway."
In sum, the video about Facebook, Zuckerberg, and the CIA all originated as satire from the old TV show, "The Onion News Network."