November 11, 2016
The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States has left Hillary Clinton supporters, critics and media commentators looking for someone to blame. And many are pointing their fingers at Facebook.
Facebook has long had a problem with fake news appearing in its news feed as well as in trending topics. Critics said the social networking firm did not do enough to police the proliferation of fake political news stories in its news feed. It was these bogus stories, they claim, that convinced voters Trump was the better candidate. And that, critics said, means Facebook deserves to share the blame for Trump’s election.
The Huffington Post is one member of the media that is putting some of the blame on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s shoulders.
“Fake news isn’t Facebook’s only problem. The platform is designed to arouse our emotions. Respectable news outlets and content farms alike craft stories for the social network with that in mind ― The Huffington Post included,” reads a column by executive editor Emily Peck. “Taking news stories out of the realm of fact and into the realm of feelings causes problems. It overemphasizes the trivial ― Trump was looking at his wife’s ballot! ― and under-emphasizes the front-page pieces that aren’t as conventionally exciting. It’s the perfect forum for a candidate who’s light on policies, plays easy with the facts and is adept at riling up his supporters and opponents.”
NyMag.com’s Max Read also pointed the finger at Facebook: “The most obvious way in which Facebook enabled a Trump victory has been its inability (or refusal) to address the problem of hoax or fake news.”
Read went on to say that “All throughout the election, these fake stories, sometimes papered over with flimsy ‘parody site’ disclosures somewhere in small type, circulated throughout Facebook: The Pope endorses Trump. Hillary Clinton bought $137 million in illegal arms. The Clintons bought a $200 million house in the Maldives. Many got hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares, likes, and comments; enough people clicked through to the posts to generate significant profits for their creators. The valiant efforts of Snopes and other debunking organizations were insufficient; Facebook’s labyrinthine sharing and privacy settings mean that fact-checks get lost in the shuffle.”
Zuckerberg is having none of it however. He called the media’s and critics’ accusations “crazy.”
“I’ve seen some of the stories you are talking about around this election and personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said in a live interview at Techonomy16.
“You know voters make decisions based on their lived experience. We really believe in people. You don’t generally go wrong when you trust that people understand what they care about and what’s important to them and you build systems that reflect that. Part of what I think is going on here is people are trying to understand the result of the election, but I do think that there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news. If you believe that then, I don’t think you have internalized the message that Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.”
What do you think? Are the accusations against Facebook no more than sour grapes from Clinton supporters? Or did Facebook really play a role in Trump’s election? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.