Faking it like Facebook: How the Social Network’s Trending Topics Influenced the US Elections

Facebook has recently come under heavy scrutiny for allowing fake news, exaggerated news claims, and other forms of irresponsible “journalism” to circulate throughout its site and it has been speculated by a number of critics that it might have played a very important part in influencing the recent US elections where Mr. Trump emerged as a shocking winner. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg responded saying that less than one percent of all content on the site could be classified as “fake news and hoaxes.”


In a post published by Vox, it has been reported that the fake stories might have outperformed than that of the real ones. However, the social media giant argued that focusing only on top articles gives a skewed picture of what ordinary users see.

The real problem is not the quantity of fake news in the website, but rather the degree of interaction of the users with the type of news. It has been found that Facebook users interacted 80% more with fake news than real / factual news.

A couple of fake stories include the ones “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement,” which received nearly a million engagements and “Trump’s History of Corruption is Mind-Boggling. So why is Clinton Supposedly the Corrupt One?” which takes the second place for the most actively engaged fake news story.

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

Facebook however, has strongly dismissed the idea that fake news in its website influenced the elections. “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,”, he said.

But the real question from critics is that if Facebook has a sophisticated program trying to persuade political organisations to buy adverts on the site, why cant it influence the political opinions of users?

This is a question that Facebook has been trying to avoid and contradicts the statements of Zuckerberg that Facebook’s content “barely” influences its users.

If ads can influence the political opinions of users, why not the extremely popular and widely shared false news stories?

Companies like Google have acknowledged that this problem exists and that they are going to cut fake news sites off from access to its vast advertising network, depriving them of a key revenue.

As more and more people are turning towards companies like Facebook and Twitter for their daily news stories, it is hard to deny the growing power in the hands of these companies especially Facebook. This power should be used wisely by the leaders of these companies and the pressure to do so will be increasing from here.

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