Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it’s a “crazy idea” to think that his social network helped deliver Donald Trump the White House by also delivering fake news stories to its millions of U.S. users.
“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook…influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said during a Q&A on Thursday. “Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”
Facebook is under fire for its role in disseminating fake news stories, particularly pro-Trump stories, in the days and weeks leading up the election. A lot of people get news from Facebook — two-thirds of U.S. adults, in fact – and some have questioned Facebook’s role in helping spread that false information ahead of what was one of the most polarizing elections of all time.
Zuckerberg is having none of it.
“I do think that there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way that they did as because they saw some fake news,” he said. “I think if you believe that, then I don’t think you have internalized the message that Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.”
Zuckerberg further defended Facebook by claiming that the network’s fake news problem is “small” and not party-specific.
“The quickest way to refute the fact that this surely had an impact is why would you think there would be fake news on one side but not on the other?” he added.
In other words: Everyone got fake news, not just Trump supporters!
Facebook has long argued that it’s not a media company — it’s just a tech company that helps distribute media. That’s not actually true, though, and the bigger problem here is that Facebook doesn’t seem to appreciate its role as a platform that delivers news to 1.8 billion people around the world.
It’s not whether or not fake news ultimately impacted this election, but whether or not Facebook has a greater responsibility to make sure the news it carries and spreads is accurate.
Unlike many of his peers in the tech industry, Zuckerberg doesn’t seem concerned that Trump was elected.
“Well we have a lot of work to do. But that would have been true either way,” he said. “I also think it would not be right to suggest that it changes the fundamental arc of technology or progress over time.”
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