Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are being accused of helping to sway presidential election results. Over one billion people are now active on Facebook, and one interviewer at a recent tech conference in California questioned Mark Zuckerberg about all the political “fake” news going around Facebook this election cycle. Speaking at the Techonomy conference, that started one day after the 2016 presidential election, Mark Zuckerberg quickly brushed off the idea that political noise on Facebook, whether true or false, had any influence on U.S. voters.
An article on Forbes in 2014 calls Facebook a place that co-founder Mark Zuckerberg designed to be a “nicer place than the real world.” However, the 2016 U.S. presidential election contradicts that theory, with political posts, opinions, and memes filling Facebook news feeds, sparking heated debates and turning friends into enemies. What’s even worse, according to a new article on Recode, are all the alleged “fake” political news stories that pop up on Facebook and have a “real impact” on the way the American public decided to vote on November 8.
7% of voters report they either lost or ended a friendship because of this year’s presidential election: https://t.co/ceIp2wF3rd
— MarketWatch (@MarketWatch) November 12, 2016
Founder and CEO of Techonomy Media, as well as author of the book titled The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World, David Kirkpatrick, pressed Mark Zuckerberg about how Facebook may have actually helped determine the outcome of the election, saying that Facebook has become a growing distributor of news and information — albeit sometimes fake news and information.
Sue Halpern on how false news, fake followers, and overblown leaks hacked the election https://t.co/G3NsSCdpS1
— NY Review of Books (@nybooks) November 12, 2016
Even fake news about a political candidate has influence over people who don’t know that what they’re reading is fake, but Mark Zuckerberg countered Kirkpatrick’s idea that Facebook had any influence over the presidential election outcome by saying that fake news on Facebook is a “very small” amount of content that’s shared on the popular social media site. Zuckerberg went on to say that it’s a “pretty crazy idea” to think that fake news across the Facebook news feed swayed favor towards president-elect, Donald Trump.
“All the research we have suggests that this isn’t really a problem.”
“Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”
Plus, Mark Zuckerberg goes on to say that fake news stories were spread about both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. There was, apparently, no “filter-bubble” in place, as suggested by Kirkpatrick. Since Facebook was investigated earlier this year for allegedly publishing false political news stories, right-wing pages are thought to have helped Donald Trump rise to the top by sharing misleading stories about Hillary Clinton. In fact, The Verge reports that right-wing Facebook pages shared fake news stories nearly 40 percent of the time, compared to only 20 percent of the time by left-wing Facebook pages.
However, a study of millions of Facebook users last year suggests that people only click on, read, and share what they already agree with and tune out the rest. Mark Zuckerberg did stress, though, that he does care about how Facebook may have influenced democracy during this year’s election, but says he doesn’t know what to do about it, saying that he wants Facebook to have a “good impact” on the world, and that he wants people to have a “diversity of information.”
— NPR (@NPR) November 12, 2016
In his own Facebook post on Saturday, Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook has a responsibility to try to stop fake news stories from leaking onto people’s news feeds, especially since Facebook has become a “major outlet” where Americans go to get their news every day.
“Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual.”
Facebook is a place where everyone has a voice — a voice that Mark Zuckerberg says he’s proud of in this election. A voice that some Facebook users grew very tired of during this election cycle. The Huffington Post reported in February that people were already getting “annoyed” with the political posts on Facebook from friends and family who were trying to change their minds.
“Politics are messy and conflicted. I like my leisure time consumed with leisure, not your stupid convictions. So, do us all a favor and just shut up.”
However, Mark Zuckerberg continues to defend Facebook’s role in the presidential election as positive, saying that Facebook helped millions of people register to vote, connect with candidates, and “share billions of posts and reactions” about the election, allegedly with only 1 percent of those posts being fake. Zuckerberg went on to say that he thinks it’s important for Facebook users to “understand the perspective of people on the other side.”
Some Facebook users, on the other hand, view political posts with disdain and deem them as “Facebook hate,” saying that “political appeals” on social media never really change people’s minds and sometimes just “makes things worse.”
What do you think? Do you agree with Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook had no influence over how Americans voted, or did the steady stream of political news stories, posts, opinions, and memes on Facebook actually help determine how you voted in this presidential election? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]