In a post this week on Facebook, the social networking site’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he regretted dismissing the idea that misinformation on Facebook could have swayed the result of the 2016 US presidential election.
After Donald Trump became President-Elect in November 2016, many claimed the vast swathes of misinformation that was circulating on social media daily (many from recently deceased hoaxer Paul Horner) could have had swayed the results of the election.
Many fake articles – including ones that claimed Clinton campaign were paying Americans to protest at Trump rallies and others that the Pope endorsed Donald Trump – managed to rack up hundreds of thousands of shares as Election Day neared.
However, Zuckerberg, speaking in 2016, didn’t appear to agree. During the Techonomy conference near San Francisco days after Trump won the election, he dismissed the notion as a “crazy idea”.
There is a profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw fake news
However it appears the Facebook CEO may have u-turned a little, stating in a post this week that he regretted those comments. In a post on September 27th, Zuckerberg wrote [in part] –
After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive. But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election
While Zuckerberg believes Facebook’s role in information dissemination has more of a positive effect than a negative one (he listed the positive consequences of Facebook during the election in the post too) it appears he may be more open to the substantial impact misinformation and fake news can have, even on nationwide elections.
Do you think fake news changed the result of the election, or had any effect at all? Let us know.