Right after the election, the founder of Facebook said it was "pretty crazy" to think fake news on his site influenced the election. Full quote:
Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea.
Crazy to think it influenced the election in any way. Wow. That's... that's not what fake-news creators are saying.
By "fake news," I'm referring to stories like these:
BREAKING: Pope Francis Just Backed Trump, Released Incredible Statement Why—SPREAD THIS EVERYWHERE
FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide
George Soros: 'I'm Going to Bring Down the U.S. by Funding Black Hate Groups'
Germany Folds to Shariah Law, Approves Child Marriages
Doctor Who Treated Hillary's Blood Clots Found Dead
And also stories like these:
Oprah Tells FOX News Host 'Some White People Have to Die,' Her Reasoning Is Unbelievable
BREAKING: PROOF SURFACES THAT OBAMA WAS BORN IN KENYA—TRUMP WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG...
Those last few were made-up by young Macedonians who "don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives."
I am not linking directly to any of the above headlines, for obvious reasons.
Zuckerberg says, "Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view." I wonder if he's right about that.
Today, the Washington Post has a must-read interview with "Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire" who "has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years." Read it. It's chilling.
The first question is: Is this problem worse than it was a few years ago?
Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Did fake news help Trump in particular?
My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.
Horner says, "I hate Trump." The interviewer basically asks: Then why the hell would you be writing this stuff?
I didn’t think it was possible for him to get elected president. I thought I was messing with the campaign, maybe I wasn’t messing them up as much as I wanted — but I never thought he’d actually get elected. I didn’t even think about it. In hindsight, everyone should’ve seen this coming — everyone assumed Hillary [Clinton] would just get in. But she didn’t, and Trump is president.
I can write the craziest thing about Trump, and people will believe it. I wrote a lot of crazy anti-Muslim stuff — like about Trump wanting to put badges on Muslims, or not allowing them in the airport, or making them stand in their own line — and people went along with it!
Ummmmmmmmm. Guess how much money this guy makes off this shit. Guess! Just for context, to help you make an informed guess, the click-through rate for ads online is very, very low—a few pennies for every thousand clicks on an online ad.
Guess how much he makes. $1,000 a month? $2,000 a month? $5,000 a month?
I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.
It's the end of the world as we know it... and I feel like deleting my Facebook account immediately. I don't even use my Facebook account except to see pictures of family members in far-off places. But even being relatively inactive on the site like I am, why on earth would I let Facebook count me as one of its members, what with its founder saying, "Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook... influenced the election in any way... is pretty crazy."
No, Mark, that's not crazy. You're crazy.