Facebook is already feeling the heat due to claims that fake news and hoaxes published in the social media network have influenced the outcome of the U.S. 2016 presidential elections. Its CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to issue a lengthy statement, addressing the charge.
Facebook: 1 Percent Fake
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg reiterated that it is extremely unlikely for hoaxes to have steered the election one way or another.
"Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic," he said. "The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics."
Observers could find two critical insights from that statement. First, Zuckerberg zoomed in on fake news and hoaxes without confirming Facebook's larger role.
Second, the claimed percentage of fake news is still a sizable number considering the amount of Facebook users and their published contents. This particular variable is also undermined by the fact that one hoax could immediately go viral and, before Facebook could finish evaluating it according to its policies, it would have been seen and shared by massive number of users.
How About Misleading Content?
It is also important to note that fake news and hoaxes do not include content that are considered correct in form but do not contain key facts so that it presents a subject in a positive or negative light. This content is also used to spread misinformation and Zuckerberg himself recognized this.
"A greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted," Zuckerberg explained. "An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual."
It is, therefore, clear that the Facebook CEO is barely scratching the surface when he categorically declared that any claim about Facebook's fake news influencing voters' decisions would be crazy.
Possible Newsfeed Changes
It seems that the Facebook itself is now in the process of evaluating its policies to possibly implement some changes. Zuckerberg has referenced this in his statement but phrased it within the company's long-standing goal of eliminating fake content.
But according to the New York Times, there are top executives in Facebook who are now looking at the social media platform's role in the media landscape. With respect to the recently concluded election, this group is already reportedly questioning the social media network's responsibilities to assuage staff concerns.
If Facebook eventually found itself complicit in or responsible for the outcome of the election, it will only have itself to blame. Recently, the company has been criticized for its handling of controversial contents.
During the course of the election, for example, there are already claims that its decision to give users more freedom to post content with less regulation is a policy introduced to benefit Donald Trump. Zuckerberg was widely reported to have said no when his employees moved to censor Trump's earlier incendiary Facebook posts.
Peter Thiel, a prominent Trump supporter, remains as Facebook's longest-serving board member.
Facebook has maintained that it wants to remain a platform for self-expression and has committed to tone down censorship. Zuckerberg is also against Facebook serving as an arbiter of truth, arguing that Facebook is not a media company.
A 2016 Pew Research report, however, show that an overwhelming number of Americans get their news from the social media network.