Yes we are still talking about the US presidential elections which actually held last week and produced Donald Trump as the president-elect of the United States. The big question then was what happened or put in another way, how did this happen? Now I’m not a political pundit but before the election, many saw Mrs. Clinton as the anointed candidate and were actually expecting her to win the election but that didn’t happen.
Then on the 9th which is the day after the election, the blame games started. Secretary Clinton blamed it on the FBI which decided to re-open an investigation into her use of a private email server just about 8 days into the election and then 2 days to the election, they closed the case again. So yeah, she told donors that the FBI is to blame for her loss (she did win the popular vote though).
But in tech, the blame game has centred on Google and Facebook. On the Facebook side, the New York Times reported that some senior and not so senior people inside Facebook questioned the role Facebook played in the emergence of Donald Trump; “several vice presidents and executives of the social network,” began questioning the role that Facebook played in this year’s presidential election almost immediately after it was over. Sources that wished to remain anonymous said that “top executives concluded that they should address the issue and assuage staff concerns at a quarterly all-hands meeting.”
There were a lot of fake stories on Facebook and Twitter in the weeks leading up to election and all this may have played a role in the election. On Twitter for example, the “indictment” hashtag started after the FBI’s decision to re-open an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email server. One of the Fox News presenters had said a reliable source within the FBI just informed him that Hillary Clinton was likely to get an indictment and this spread like wild fire on Twitter and Facebook. Days later though, the presenter seemed to retract the story and made something close to an apology. But mane believed, the damage had been done and the silence and vagueness of the FBI on it was quite amazing for which they received bi-partisan criticism.
It was all about fake stories on Facebook but in usual fashion, Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook to defend his company. He said the fake stories many point to only represent about 1 percent the total number of stories on the site.
He admitted that hoaxes do from some part of the stories posted on Facebook but was quick to point out that they affect both parties and are not usually directed at just one political party or candidate for that matter. This means that Facebook is able to track what they see as real or fake news because you see back in August, they came out with this new algorithm that they said was going to clamp down on misleading headlines. The news was welcome as everyone agreed that there was a lot of fake news on Facebook but it would seem as if the social media giant didn’t do more with respect to the elections. By now it’s a known fact that majority of us actually read the entire news from headlines only. So a headline like “Indictment most likely in new Hillary email investigation” draws a lot of attention. To most readers, this simply means Hillary will be indicted and like I said, it never happened and the reporter who started this later took those words back even as other major justice correspondents were saying they hadn’t heard anything like that from their sources inside the FBI.
Regardless of explanations made by Mr. Zuckerberg though, many think this has always been his goal. The Facebook CEO has always hated the idea of corporate media being in the hands of a few. See the following from Gizmodo post on this election debate and on Mark Zuckerberg’s view of the media space.
All the way back in 2007, Fred Vogelstein wrote for Wired that Zuckerberg “has transformed his company from second-tier social network to full-fledged platform that organizes the entire Internet.”
When a young Zuckerberg visited his alma mater, Exeter, in 2007, a blog post a blog post on the school’s website recounted a Q&A session that Zuckerberg held at an assembly:
Zuckerberg also explained why he has turned down offers to buy out Facebook. “It’s not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.”
From the beginning, it would seem, Zuckerberg’s plan was to take down “media corporations owned by conglomerates” in favor of an “open information flow for people.” At this point, what is happening certainly seems hostile to established media and by algorithmically manipulating the news feed, the company is actively working
Facebook is now seen as a media company and the biggest in the world for that matter from which a lot of fake news stories have been born. With 1.81 billion users, it’s certainly the single most powerful medium through many people today learn of current happenings around them.
But can Facebook really be blamed ultimately?
Maybe partly but the truth is that we all live in a more politically polarised world. We install apps that appeal more to our views and we tune to stations that may say what we want to hear. That’s what happens on Facebook which is a virtual representation of our real world. Facebook allows you like or follow channels (Pages) that may appeal to your views while giving you the opportunity to criticise others that don’t and that the way it works. Right now it may be impossible for even Facebook to police the entire Facebook without raising eyebrows (remember when the conservatives in the US thought their stories were intentionally suppressed?).
Maybe they should do more to really tackle the fake or misleading headlines they promised to tackle back in August but guys, it’s the new world and we have to gradually adjust to it unless we want to take away the power of individuals to report news which would be against the reason why Facebook was created in the first place. I do remember that there was a time when many hailed the power of Google and Facebook in restoring/upholding democracy especially during the Arab spring but today some of those people now want it to do more in stopping the flow of fake news.