Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB), the social media giant, has faced the music for allegedly swaying the U.S. presidential election results.
FB stock was down 1.47%, at $119.02, due to the issue of fake news possibly influencing people’s votes during the tightly contested U.S. election, where Donald Trump emerged as the winner.
At the “Techonomy” conference, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg categorically defended his company, saying, “Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — of which it’s a small amount of content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” (Source: “Mark Zuckerberg: The idea that fake news influenced the election is ‘crazy’,” CNN, November 10, 2016.)
Mark Zuckerberg, in a post late Saturday, went on to explain in detail that Facebook was not responsible for the election result. In his post, he said that less than one percent of the site’s worldwide content could be classified as fake. “Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
Further, he asserted the role played by Facebook in giving people a voice in this election. Arguing in favor of the importance of platforms such as Facebook, Zuckerberg added that his company aided millions of people in connecting with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Zuckerberg said that without Facebook, this dialogue would have not been likely.
Facebook, which had come under flak for the political bias being followed by its editors for its trending news section, fired all of its editors and switched to algorithm-driven curation in September 2016. But the move did not prove to be foolproof, as a fake story pertaining to Fox News firing host Megyn Kelly started trending.
Although Zuckerberg did not deny the appearance of fake news on Facebook, he assuaged fears by highlighting the action being undertaken, and progress being made toward eliminating fake news and other hoaxes. His post indicated that the company will persist in its efforts to work on accurate news, and added, “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.”
The Facebook CEO ended his post on an optimistic note: “This has been a historic election and 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.”
Facebook gained prominence during this U.S. election season that has driven a lot of conversation on its platform. In the first nine months of this year, 109 million people on Facebook in the U.S. generated over 5.3 billion posts, comments, likes, and shares related to the election.
“Facebook really is the new town hall, and we’re proud of the role that we’ve played in enabling dialogue and increasing civic engagement,” said Mark Zuckerberg.