Many factors attributed to the eventual victory of Republican party nominee and now President-elect Donald Trump. One such factor is the great divide plaguing the American people, a stark evidence of which can be seen in the popular votes, which saw Trump eclipse Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton by the skin of America's teeth.
Taking aside the plethora of determining factors that lead to Trump's presidential win, is there, perhaps, another loose factor that remains unconsidered by many pundits? The media maelstrom that latched on the 2016 elections has polarized many, if not all, and the means by which many consumed this media might have influenced where people eventually swayed.
Has Facebook got anything to do with Trump's win?
Evaluating Facebook's Role In The 2016 Presidential Elections
"Facebook" in this scenario does not mean the company itself or the employees it houses, but rather the massive platform it stands as: a public free-thinking soapbox for voicing opinions or vitriol. By its nature, Facebook has allowed the spread of agenda and dialog, both optimistic and pessimistic in broad strokes that might not mimic real world counterparts of person-to-person conversation that elicits empathy.
Even more problematic is Facebook's handicapped measures to ensure no fake news proliferate its virtual newsstands. The frequency with which these fake news escape scrutiny often leads to people unawarely bypassing what could be simply lampoon pieces to actual, fact-based reporting.
"The most obvious way in which Facebook enabled a Trump victory has been its inability (or refusal) to address the problem of hoax or fake news," declares New York Magazine's Max Read.
Obviously, the fake news isn't exclusive to Facebook's social platform. Several other platforms are also prone to the rapid suffusing of false reporting, but the difference is that Facebook has an insane user base in terms of number whose plight of activities such as sharing, liking and commenting are all blind fuel for Facebook's algorithm to regard fake news as legitimate ones based primarily on popularity.
Mark's Zuckerberg's decision to lax its censorship policy also injured what already was a trove of misinformation and hate fodder.
Fake news dangerously stood for real news, and in an election mired by random telegraphing of miscommunicated messages left and right, hither and thither, fake news became hazardous mind-sculpting shards of information that might have swayed or warded votes.
Worse, all of these took place online, with no safeguards and compelling authoritative fact-checkers to remind people to give everything a second look. Online, no one's an expert. Each opinion, however insubstantial will be given merit if found humorous, witty or acerbically staunch even if incorrect.
"Of course, lies and exaggerations have always been central to real political campaigns; Facebook has simply made them easier to spread, and discovered that it suffers no particular market punishment for doing so," opined Read.
Facebook Wants To Improve Spotting Fake News
Upon the rapid virality of Read's New York Magazine piece, Facebook has issued a response.
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Adam Mosseri, product management VP at Facebook, admits that the company needs to double down on clearing newsfeeds of faulty, misinformed and malicious news.
"Despite these efforts we understand there's so much more we need to do, and that is why it's important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation," he said.
Mark Zuckerberg: 'Fake News Didn't Influence The Election'
In a more recent response upon widespread murmurs spurred Read's piece, Zuckerberg took the stage at Techonomy16 to address the claim that Facebook had a role in Trump's victory.
"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it's a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," he said.
Zuckerberg instead notes that content engagement might have been much fitting as an influence point in the election, with Trump getting more thereof than Clinton.
Zuckerberg has noted that Facebook can exert more effort in ensuring that the quality of the news feed is improved.
"Presenting people with a diversity of information is an important problem in the world, and one I hope we can make more progress on," he said.