Facebook Blamed for Donald Trump’s Election Win

BY Killian Bell

Published 10 Nov 2016

Donald Trump

Facebook and other social media platforms are being blamed for Donald Trump’s election win over Hillary Clinton. The platform’s inability to address fake news is seen as the most concerning problem, with hoax stories about Clinton seeing millions of shares.

Max Read for NY Mag points out that Facebook’s massive audience — it now has almost 2 billion users worldwide — coupled with “the emotionally charged activity of sharing, and the show-me-more-like-this feedback loop of the news feed algorithm” are the biggest issue.

Users are driven to stories that are “made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three” and fooled into thinking they are real, he adds. Some of those stories claimed the Pope endorsed Trump, and that Clinton bought $137 million worth of illegal arms.

Some stories like these got millions of likes, comments, and shares — not only generating massive profits for the dodgy sites that hosted them, but also instilling misbelief in those who read them and were unable to determine they weren’t true.

Even those who didn’t click through to read the full story were sometimes fooled by the headlines that appeared in their newsfeed, and if they did click or like those stories, Facebook offered up more of them same.

“Tens of millions of people… were served up or shared emotionally charged news stories about the candidates, because Facebook’s sorting algorithm understood from experience that they were seeking such stories,” writes Read.

What’s even more worrying is that some of these stories were shared on the front page of Facebook because the social network decided to do away with its team of editors that were previously tasked with curating and filtering news stories.

With 40 percent of Americans saying they get their news from Facebook, and 170 million people in North America using the service every single day, it’s easy to see why these stories — many of which supported Trump and slated Clinton — swayed voters.

“Facebook allowed Trump to directly combat the hugely negative media coverage directed at him, simply by giving his campaign and its supporters another host of channels to distribute counterprogramming,” Read continues.

“This, precisely, is why more good journalism would have been unlikely to change anyone’s mind: The Post and the Times no longer have a monopoly on information about a candidate.”

Prior to the vote on Tuesday, it seemed unfathomable to almost everyone that Trump could actually win. Clinton was the clear favorite, and it looked like little could change that before U.S. citizens visited the ballot boxes.

We see lies and unsubstantiated rumors with every political campaign, but these days, those stories have a much wider reach thanks to the popularity of Facebook and other social media platforms.

The sad thing, as Read points out, is that it appears there is no remedy to this problem. Facebook seems unable, and even unwilling, to do anything about hoax stories, which means they will continue to be shared and believed by unsuspecting users.

[via NY Mag]