Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign set a new bar for how national campaigns ought to use social media engagement to reach out to voters. But now, after Donald Trump’s impressive social media engagement, the left wants a crackdown on certain forms of online free speech.
Gizmodo and The New York Times have both suggested in recent reports that Trump’s victory was partially because so many “fake” news stories making his opponent look bad were shared.
The outlets cite a controversy earlier this year when Facebook upset many conservatives by directing editors to bury newsfeed items coming from far right sources. Because of the backlash, the sources report, Facebook has been overly sensitive to conservative sites, with curators allowing right wing inaccuracies to take prominence on many Americans’ social media feeds.
Former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte fueled the controversy last week with a post claiming that conservative “bullshit” took gets more play than real reporting on news feeds because it drives engagement.
“Highly partisan, fact-light media outlets blinded us on the left (HuffPo, Vox), and propelled Donald Trump into the lead on the right (Breitbart). Sadly, their fuel is the social internet: FB, Twitter, Reddit too. Breitbart and countless other conservative publications have thrived over the last few years. In some cases they’ve multiplied 10X or more,” Goodlatte said.
He added, “Sadly, News Feed optimizes for engagement. As we’ve learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging. These outlets, and Donald Trump, have no concern for the truth, and really only care for engagement.”
He’s not wrong that the right won social media this election season.
Even Trump, during an interview with 60 Minutes, lauded social media’s role in his election.
“I think that social media has more power than the money [the Democrats] spent,” he said.
But claiming that “bullshit” news stories from conservatives have any more weight on social media than bullshit promulgated by the left or its army of social justice warriors is… well, bullshit.
Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg has weighed in, warning that it isn’t the social media giant’s job to serve as the arbiter of truth for its users.
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” Zuckerberg said in a post. “That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news.”
But that doesn’t mean, Zuckerburg rightfully noted, that users aren’t interested in reading stories with opinions.
That’s why he says the company is making a special effort to avoid giving editors the power to censor stories that “express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual.”
Keep sharing conservative content unless you want your news feed full of real news from places like The New York Times, HuffPo and MSNBC.
Also, for those wishing that organizations like Facebook would do a better job at censoring opinions out of step with your own: We hear China, Iran and Syria have pretty strong policies for only allowing social media from official sources.
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