Mark Zucker­berg: ‘Pretty Crazy Idea’ that Face­book fake news helped Don­ald Trump win

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

Mark Zucker­berg dis­missed crit­ics who have blamed hoaxes and false news sto­ries that spread across Face­book as some­how con­tribut­ing to Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion as the 45th pres­i­dent of the US “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,” said Zucker­berg, speak­ing Thurs­day night at the Te­chon­omy con­fer­ence in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Face­book, which has 1.79 bil­lion monthly users world­wide, is in a pow­er­ful po­si­tion as a media com­pany (even though Zuck­ber­berg keeps in­sist­ing that it’s a tech plat­form, not a media com­pany). About 44% of US adults get their news from Face­book-and 66% of US Face­book users con­sume news on the so­cial-media plat­form, per a Pew Re­search Cen­ter study in May.

Fake news dis­sem­i­nated on Face­book lead­ing up to the elec­tion in­cluded a story in­sin­u­at­ing that Hil­lary Clin­ton was in­volved in the mur­der of an FBI agent in­ves­ti­gat­ing Wik­ileaks emails, as well as hoaxes claim­ing that Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta was a sa­tanist, that the Clin­tons bought a $200 mil­lion Mal­dives es­tate and that Hil­lary Clin­ton bought $137 mil­lion worth of il­le­gal guns and am­mu­ni­tion.

To Zucker­berg, “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,” he said, “I don’t think you have in­ter­nal­ized the mes­sage that Trump sup­port­ers are try­ing to send in this elec­tion.”

Im­prov­ing qual­ity

Face­book has taken some steps to try to im­prove the qual­ity of news users see in their News Feed. In Au­gust, it an­nounced a new pol­icy to be­gin pe­nal­iz­ing sto­ries with “click­bait” head­lines.

Ear­lier this year the so­cial gi­ant was ac­cused of po­lit­i­cal bias in its Trend­ing Top­ics sec­tion to down­grade conservative-lean­ing sto­ries. In re­sponse, Zucker­berg and other Face­book ex­ecs met with conservative com­men­ta­tors to dis­cuss the is­sue. Face­book sub­se­quently laid off the team of free­lancers that man­aged Trends Top­ics, and re­placed them with an al­go­rithm-based au­to­mated sys­tem.

But de­spite all of Face­book’s ef­forts, fake news sto­ries have con­tin­ued to pop up on the site, in­clud­ing a hoax that Fox News was go­ing to fire Megyn Kelly for back­ing Clin­ton. Zucker­berg said on Thurs­day that the in­for­ma­tion peo­ple get through so­cial media plat­forms like Face­book to­day is “in­her­ently more di­verse” than what Amer­i­cans re­ceived decades ago when the ma­jor media out­lets were three TV broad­cast­ers and news­pa­pers. That’s a good thing, he sug­gested-but the un­fil­tered tor­rent of news on the in­ter­net, real or made up, also makes it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to fig­ure out what’s true.

While Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aire and Face­book board mem­ber Peter Thiel openly ad­vo­cated for Trump-and spoke at the GOP con­ven­tion this sum­mer-other Face­book ex­ecs sup­ported Clin­ton. Zucker­berg ear­lier this year ap­peared to crit­i­cize Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion and trade poli­cies, say­ing in his key­note at the com­pany’s F8 de­vel­op­ers con­fer­ence, “In­stead of build­ing walls, we can build bridges.” In re­sponse, a rep for Trump called Zucker­berg “self-right­eous” and out of touch.

Mark Zucker­berg

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