Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed critics who have blamed hoaxes and false news stories that spread across Facebook as somehow contributing to Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the US.
‘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,’ said Zuckerberg, speaking Thursday night at the Techonomy conference in California.
Facebook, which has 1.79 billion monthly users worldwide, is in a powerful position as a media company, even as Zuckberberg insists it’s a tech platform, not a media company.
About 44 per cent of US adults get their news from Facebook — and 66 per cent of US Facebook users consume news on the social-media platform, per a Pew Research Center study in May.
Fake news disseminated on Facebook leading up to the election included a story insinuating that Hillary Clinton was involved in the murder of an FBI agent investigating WikiLeaks emails, as well as hoaxes claiming that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was a satanist, that the Clintons bought a $US200 million ($A263 million) Maldives estate and that Hillary Clinton bought $US137 million worth of illegal guns and ammunition.
To Zuckerberg, ‘there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news’.
‘If you believe that,’ he said, ‘I don’t think you have internalised the message that Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.’
Facebook has taken some steps to try to improve the quality of news users see in their news feed. In August, it announced a new policy to begin penalising stories with click bait headlines.
Earlier this year the social giant was accused of political bias in its trending topics section to downgrade conservative-leaning stories.
Facebook subsequently laid off the team of freelancers that managed it, and replaced them with an algorithm-based automated system.
While Silicon Valley billionaire and Facebook board member Peter Thiel openly advocated for Trump — and spoke at the GOP convention this summer — other Facebook execs supported Clinton.
Zuckerberg earlier this year appeared to criticise Trump’s immigration and trade policies, saying ‘instead of building walls, we can build bridges’.
In response, a rep for Trump called Zuckerberg ‘self-righteous’ and out of touch.