Zuckerberg: Fake News Swaying the Election Is 'Crazy Idea'
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday addressed criticism that fake news on the social network influenced the outcome of the election, downplaying the service's role in people's decision-making process.
"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," Zuckerberg said at the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif. "Voters make decisions based on their lived experience."
He went on to say that he understands that a lot of people are still trying to understand the outcome of the election, but added that there's a "profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news."
"If you believe that, then I don't think you have internalized the message that Trump supporters are trying to send in this election."
He also questioned: "Why would you think that there would be fake news on one side, but not the other?"
More than a billion people look at their Facebook News Feed every day. While a lot has been said about the role of news content there, most of what people do on News Feed involves connecting with friends and family, Zuckerberg said.
He reiterated Facebook's commitment to fighting clickbait stories, and said those efforts have "dramatically" increased the quality of News Feed content. On the topic of hoaxes, he said they existed online before the election and before Facebook, but his company does its best to provide tools so that people can report them.
Despite Zuckerberg's comments, a recent Pew Research Center study found that 20 percent of social media users have modified their stance on a social or political issue because of something they saw on one of these services. Another 17 percent said social media helped changed their views about a specific candidate.
As for whether he had an inkling that Donald Trump would actually win, based on the massive amount of data he had access to, Zuckerberg said "not really."
"There's not really a way that a company like ours would just happen to know something like that," he said, adding that anyone, however, could see that Trump has more followers on Facebook than Hillary Clinton, and that some of his posts got more engagement.
Facebook found itself in the crosshairs of conservatives earlier this year after a Gizmodo report said the company regularly suppressed right-wing content, including stories about the CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and more. At the time, Facebook said its trending section objectively listed "topics that have recently become popular on Facebook." But several former Facebook news curators reportedly told Gizmodo that they were instructed to include certain stories in the trending news section, even if they weren't popular among users, and demote conservative topics that were actually trending.
Check out the video above for Zuckerberg's full comments about Facebook's impact on the election. His comments about fake news stories start at around 12:22.