What exactly is the power of Facebook? An election?

Written by on November 16, 2016 in Features with 0 Comments
REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Facebook has a Twitter-ish problem on its hands. Founder Mark Zuckerberg denied his company played a role in helping get Donald Trump elected as U.S. president because of the spread of fake news articles. And yet, the social network regularly boasts to advertisers about its influence over nearly 2 billion users. Like Twitter’s toxic tweets, allowing hoaxes to mushroom runs the risk of turning off members and brands.

Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that most of what people see on the social network is authentic. Earlier he told attendees at a technology conference that the notion of even the small amount of false information – less than 1 percent – swinging an election was a “pretty crazy idea.”

It’s undeniable the $340 billion juggernaut has power over the dissemination of content. According to the most recent Pew Research Center survey, almost 80 percent of Americans online use Facebook, up from 72 percent last year. The research also noted that most people in the U.S. get their news through social media and half turned to it for information about the election.

Facebook already applies rigorous standards to advertising with an internal review process. Deceptive, false or misleading content is not tolerated. This exacting caliber should extend to news as well. If the company can blot out pornography, for instance – one high-profile flub involved censoring the Vietnam War era “napalm girl” photo on its news feed – surely it can screen for fake stories.

The tension between letting information flourish unfettered and filtering facts as the traditional press has done for decades is real and a vexing problem for other Silicon Valley wonders. On Monday, the top item on a Google news search for final election results yielded a dubious link reporting that Trump had won the popular vote. Hillary Clinton did.

Twitter is paying for letting falsehoods run unchecked. Racist and misogynistic tweets have hurt its business model by diminishing user and advertising growth. It is one reason Walt Disney did not seriously consider buying the firm, according to news reports. Facebook has yet to encounter such hurdles. A good start would be to embrace its role as media organization before advertisers worry about a swampy environment.

CONTEXT NEWS

– Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg addressed in a Nov. 12 blog post accusations that Facebook contributed to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election by allowing fake news on its influential feed.

– “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic,” he wrote. “Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

– SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS 

(By Jennifer Saba; Editing by Rob Cox and Martin Langfield)

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About the Author: Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. .

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