Since Donald Trump’s stunning election victory, some people have been very quick to blame Facebook – specifically, the proliferation of fake news on the social network that President Obama called a “dust cloud of nonsense” – for swinging the vote against Hillary Clinton.
Mark Zuckerberg thinks otherwise.
“Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg says speaking on stage at the Techonomy conference.
In fact, he says, if you believe that fake news spread by Facebook had a major impact on the election, it betrays a “profound lack of empathy,” showing that you don’t take Trump supporters and their stances seriously.
“If you believe that, then I don’t think you’ve internalized the message that Trump supporters are trying to send,” Zuckerberg says, though he didn’t get the chance to elaborate on this point.
He also says that while Clinton supporters are concerned about fake news that supports the worldview of Trump supporters, it ignores the idea that there’s an equal amount of false stories the other way.
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“Why would you think that there’d be fake news on one side and not the other?” Zuckerberg asks.
‘I think people are smart’
In general, Zuckerberg says, it’s always smart to bet that people can separate truth from lies for themselves, and that they know what issues matter to them, even as “we do our best” to remove hoaxes as they pop up.
And, in response to the idea of a “filter bubble,” or the concept that Facebook’s News Feed insulates its users from articles and stories representing dissenting viewpoints, Zuckerberg says that those articles do indeed appear, “you just don’t click on it, you just tune it out when you see it.”
Instead, it’s simply that people are good at recognizing what matters to them, and better than people give them credit for at navigating conflicting sources of information.
“I think people are smart, and that people understand what is important to them,” Zuckerberg says.
Overall, Zuckerberg – who made it clear that he wasn’t a huge fan of President-elect Trump in the months leading up to the election – struck an optimistic and conciliatory tone.
He says that stuff like building virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and working at scientific breakthroughs will still go on within Facebook and outside of it, regardless of who’s at the helm of the government.
“Well, we have a lot of work to do, but that would have been true either way,” Zuckerberg says. “It would not be right to suggest that it changes the fundamental arc of technology and progress over time.”