Despite news and analysis begging the contrary, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims that fake news stories widely disseminated on the social network during the presidential campaign had “no impact” on the election’s outcome. Hmm...
At the Techonomy Conference yesterday, Zuckerberg denied that Facebook had a pervasive role in shaping the electorate’s views, arguing that voters make decisions based off “lived experience,” and not social media.
To suggest bogus news items circulated on Facebook had an outsized effect on the election is “a pretty crazy idea,” he noted, arguing that certain fake stories -- like one implicating Hillary Clinton in the murder of an FBI agent investigating her emails, among others -- form a tiny portion of news shared on the platform.
On the contrary, Zuckerberg claimed that criticism of his company was misplaced, and that a miscalculation of Donald Trump’s appeal to large swaths of the American populace is what truly accounts for the election’s shocking result.
"I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is they saw some fake news," Zuckerberg said. "If you believe that, then I don’t think you have internalized the message the Trump supporters are trying to send in this election."
Yesterday, Facebook VP of Product Management Adam Mosseri acknowledged that false stories do travel far and wide on the site, and that the company recognizes it as a problem. Mosseri’s statement comes after multiple inquiries confirmed this, including a Buzzfeed News investigation that revealed a fake, pro-Trump news operation in Macedonia that flooded Facebook with false stories that gained serious traction among users.
Despite its role in shaping the spread of information internationally, Facebook has never claimed it is a media company. Although its news feed does reinforce an echo chamber framework in which users often reinforce their own views, Zuckerberg on Thursday said the company will work to expose users to content that espouses different viewpoints and opinions.
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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.