Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has published a response to accusations that so-called 'fake news' impacted the outcome of the US election and helped Donald Trump to win.
In a Facebook post this weekend, Zuckerberg said after the election many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what Faecbook's responsibility was to prevent fake news from spreading.
“These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here,” Zuckerberg said.
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
Accepting power and influence
The post has been shared nearly 12,000 times and has garnered 11,000 comments. One Facebook user, Matt Navarra, commented: “You need to accept the power and influence Facebook has and use independent editors to deal with the issues here”.
Another, Nicole Ivanitski-Wight, said: “I am sad to see that Facebook is being blamed for the laziness and ignorance of people who cannot vet an authentic news source. Your team is awesome.”
Zuckerberg added that that said, it doesn't want any hoaxes on Facebook and its goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, as well as showing accurate news.
He said Facebook has already launched work allowing its community to flag hoaxes and fake news, but said there is more it can do here to improve further.
“This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. 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,” he explained.
“An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
Election was 'very painful for many people'
He tailed off by saying that overall, he is proud of Facebook's role in giving people a voice in the election.
“We helped more than two million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise. We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed,” Zuckerberg said.
“Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.”
He concluded that while a historic election, it has been 'very painful for many people'.
“Still, I think it's important to try to understand the perspective of people on the other side. In my experience, people are good, and even if you may not feel that way today, believing in people leads to better results over the long term,” he said.
One Facebook user, Bob Williquette, commented: “If you really believe your statement 'of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic', then you haven't been reading the same Newsfeed I have. There's a helluva lot more fake and incorrect junk on my Newsfeed than 1%.
Zuckerberg was quick to reply, saying: “The stat I mentioned is across the whole system. Depending on which pages you personally follow and who your friends are, you may see more or less. The power of Facebook is that you control what you see by who you choose to connect with.”
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