Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rejected criticism that bogus stories that appeared on the social networking site influenced the outcome of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. The site's news algorithm does not distinguish fake stories from verified ones.
"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which, it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," Zuckerberg said Thursday at Techonomy, a technology conference near San Francisco, California.
"Voters make decisions based on their lived experiences. … You don’t generally go wrong when you trust that people understand what they care about and what’s important to them and you build systems that reflect that," he said.
Zuckerberg not only defended his company, but pointed out that anyone could have analyzed data from Facebook to see the vast amount of support Donald Trump received from across the country.
"It’s not a surprise, or it’s not news, that Trump has more followers on Facebook than Hillary [Clinton] does; I think some of his posts got more engagement," the social network founder said, responding to a question about whether Facebook knew from its access to user data that Trump had been poised to win the election.
Zuckerberg remained nonpartisan and defensive of his company throughout the hourlong talk, maintaining that Trump had won the election because he had the support of over half of the U.S. electorate.
"We really believe in people," he said. "I think there’s a 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."
Facebook, however, is aware of the role it plays in perpetuating bogus news. In September, the company teamed up with members of First Draft Coalition – which includes companies such as Twitter, CNN and The New York Times – to combat the growing trend of false news.
The trend caught the public's attention when Facebook announced that its "trending news" feature would be decided by an algorithm instead of human editors.
Some unsubstantiated reports have still circulated, raising questions about the algorithm and the vulnerability of such programs to hoax articles posted with the intent of generating online ad revenue.