Former President Obama reportedly met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after the 2016 election to advise the tech billionaire on how to deal with fake news on the Facebook platform.
The Washington Post reports that former President Barack Obama met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg to discuss the issue of fake news on Facebook’s platform, with Obama urging Zuckerburg to take a more serious stance on the issue. Zuckerberg has previously dismissed the idea that fake news affected the 2016 election as “crazy,” but Obama didn’t seem to agree and held a private meeting with the tech CEO at a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, on November 19, just two months before President Trump’s inauguration.
Zuckerberg reportedly told Obama that he acknowledged the threat that fake news and disinformation present, especially during election cycles, but that disinformation wasn’t widespread on Facebook and dealing with the problem was easier said than done. Obama reportedly changed Zuckerberg’s mind, convincing him that what took place during the 2016 election was “a coordinated assault on a U.S. election by a shadowy foreign force that exploited the social network he created,” according to the Washington Post.
Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies the effects of social media on governments and society said, “There’s been a systematic failure of responsibility. It’s rooted in their overconfidence that they know best, their naivete about how the world works, their extensive effort to avoid oversight, and their business model of having very few employees so that no one is minding the store.”
Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy and communications at Facebook, disagreed, saying “ We believe in the power of democracy, which is why we’re taking this work on elections integrity so seriously, and have come forward at every opportunity to share what we’ve found.” Facebook did recently reveal that during the 2016 presidential election, Russian sources purchased political advertisements on the social media platform. The company has since turned these advertisements over to Congress and Robert Mueller.
Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos discussed the ads saying, “the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.” Stamos continued to say, “One question that has emerged is whether there’s a connection between the Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook.” He continued, “these are serious claims and we’ve been reviewing a range of activity on our platform to help understand what happened.” The ads totaled about $100,000 in value.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg said at the time, “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy — that’s not what we stand for.”