If You're Blaming Facebook For The Election Results, You're An Idiot

from the there's-real-anger-at-the-status-quo dept

Yeah, okay, I know there are a million and one “hot takes” going on across the media about what happened yesterday and “what went wrong.” I already wrote about what the election means for tech policy and civil liberties, but the trite setup of the blame game is getting really stupid, really fast. I had already started writing up a response to this silly Vox article about how “Facebook is harming our democracy” before the election (the story came out over the weekend), but now that I’m seeing more and more people (especially in the media) blaming Facebook and “algorithms” for the results of the election, I’m turning it into this post: if you’re blaming Facebook for the results of this election, you’re an idiot.

Facebook’s algorithm and whatever “echo chamber” or “filter bubble” or whatever it may have created did not lead to this result. This was the result of a very large group of people who are quite clearly — and reasonably — pissed off at the status quo. Politics has been a really corrupt game for basically ever, and for the past few decades, lots of people have been trying to pretend it wasn’t as corrupt as it really is. The fact that Trump is likely to be as corrupt — if not more so — than those who came before him didn’t matter. People were upset and voted against a candidate who, to them, basically defined the status quo and the problems with the system. This was a “throw the bums out” vote, and many of the bums deserved to be thrown out. That they voted in someone likely to be worse (especially given who he’s surrounded himself with so far) wasn’t the point. Just as with Brexit, this was a vote of “what we have now ain’t working, let’s try something different.”

It’s no surprise many people argued that Clinton was the wrong candidate to go against Trump. She absolutely was. She was the status quo candidate in a time when lots and lots of people didn’t want the status quo.

But that’s not Facebook’s fault. And the idea that a better or different algorithm on Facebook would have made the results any different is just as ridiculous as the idea that newspaper endorsements or “fact checking” mattered one bit. People are angry because the system has failed them in many, many ways, and it’s not because they’re idiots who believed all the fake news Facebook pushed on them (even if some of them did believe it). Many people don’t think Trump will be any good, but they voted for him anyway, because the status quo is broken.

The idea that people are just such suckers they believe whatever Facebook puts in front of them is silly. That’s not how it works:

The fundamental problem here is that Facebook?s leadership is in denial about the kind of organization it has become. ?We are a tech company, not a media company,? Zuckerberg has said repeatedly over the last few years. In the mind of the Facebook CEO, Facebook is just a ?platform,? a neutral conduit for helping users share information with one another.

But that?s wrong. Facebook makes billions of editorial decisions every day. And often they are bad editorial decisions ? steering people to sensational, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate stories. The fact that these decisions are being made by algorithms rather than human editors doesn?t make Facebook any less responsible for the harmful effect on its users and the broader society.

Yes, many people are falling for fake or bogus or sensationalized news — and the Trump campaign expertly took a kernel of truth (that many mainstream media sources didn’t want him to win) and spun it into the idea that no media story highlighting his flaws, lies or corruption (no matter how carefully and factually reported) could be believed. But people are believing those stories because they match with their real world experience of seeing how the system has worked (or not worked) for too long.

I’ve already expressed my concerns about what a Trump presidency will do for the issues that I spend my days focused on — and it’s not good. But as loyal readers here at Techdirt should know well, we’ve never been particularly supportive of the way things have been running in the government all along — and that’s through 10 years under Democratic presidencies and 8 years under GOP presidencies. The federal government has a long history of doing bad stuff: stomping on free speech and expanding surveillance (who cares about the 1st or 4th Amendments?), pushing policies that will harm innovators in favor of legacy industries (including in both the copyright and patent spaces) and generally disregarding what’s best for the public. I fear that Trump will make things significantly worse, but I certainly recognize the need to change the status quo overall. And not because of Facebook’s stupid algorithm.

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Comments on “If You're Blaming Facebook For The Election Results, You're An Idiot”

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62 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "what went wrong."

They’ve been slowing screwing up for quite some time!!! Put a crap in a pot of cold water and then turn on the heat and it slowing goes up and up and before you know it’s you’re dead! That’s what’s been going on with this country!!!

Obama had his 8 years. What did he do? Well besides dropping 50 times more bombs then BUSH ever did and killing a lot of innocent people, he completely screwed up health care. Passed it at the dead of night. Not a single Republican Vote. Screwed my health care up for sure. because where I work, they dropped health Care support and I have to fork out on my own a huge chunk of money I really don’t have that’s half the cost of my House Mortgage every month. The “We have to pass it to see what’s in it?” Really?

Obama has the thinnest skin ever. Fox News was his boogie man. He hard it so hard, not, Unlike the entire rest of the mainstream media attacking Trump and every other Republican. It’s so far beyond lop sided. You have the ‘Clinton News Network’ (CNN), and the ‘More Snotty Nonsense by Creeps’ (MSNBC) Besides ABC,. NBC, CBS news, all far democrats leaning. Same goes with newspapers. School, you’re getting indoctrinated. Just look at those poor students that didn’t want to come in and take a test because Hillary lost and the Professor let them do it!!!

All these Celebs that threaten to Leave the U.S. of Trump Won, put your money where your mouth is and LEAVE!!! We have the CA. Tech sector wants to leave the Union while Trump is President. It’s laughable. Look at the thugs in Oakland trashing their town, destroying, burning, etc. If trump lost, that would never never happened.

I can’t stand Hillary. I’m not a big fan of Trump, at least right now, see what happens. Something needs to change BIG. Obama put us in Debt more then every other president COMBINED!!!! Obama had zero skill to run anything!!! A Community Activist? HAHAHA. He was elected for being Black!!! I’m all for a Black President, but one that is actually qualified. Someone who knows how hard it is to run a business, or start up a business in this country. A person with real experience.

Look how bad the Democrats attacked Sarah Palin and she was only running for Vice President. Every one attacked her and her family. Talking about getting Nasty!!! Who doesn’t know the SNL skit of “I can see Russia from here!” something she Never said!!! Everyone digging threw her trash, and Obama? Nothing. Who knows what he grades were in Collage? How did he ever afford to go? So many questions never answered. 8 years and he’s the main cause that divided this country more so then ever.

Nothing is better! Everything is far worse. Everyone is going to end up in some pain to get this country fixed. We have a 21 trillion dollar debt. What’s that work out to, something close to $50,000 for every man, woman and child!

At some point you run out of other people’s money to steel to spread the wealth and pay for all the free stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "what went wrong."

You have a lot of good points in there, but I do not subscribe to the experience things.

It takes wisdom & intelligence to run government and NOTHING ELSE! You don’t need knowledge, your advisors are for that. You don’t need experience because government is NOT a business. You need intelligence so you can properly absorb your advisors knowledge and wisdom so that you can tell when your advisor is a fucking shill!

We overvalue experience and we undervalue wisdom. I think it is fair to say we do value intelligence, but there is a growing number of people trading it for ‘political ideology’ instead of wanting actual intelligence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To be fair, as someone who voted for him, my expectations of Trump are incredibly negative. Hillary was just even worse. (I’ll take incompetent over corrupt every time)

Anything good he manages to pull off will be a pleasant surprise.

The one good thing I actually EXPECT from him is preventing the TPP/TTIP/TISA.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here’s news for you: incompetency did not get Trump where he is. Ruthlessness and screwing over the little people did, trumping any incompetency of his.

So you better hope that he is less incompetent than you pegged him for because otherwise he will raze and plunder the U.S. to the ground, riding on top of the wreckage caused by his incompetence.

He may stop TPP/TTIP/TISA, no idea. If he does, he is sure to replace it with something quite worse.

Driving out the devil with Beelzebub does not work. Particularly not in politics.

The idea of fighting in WWII was not to raise a Hitler of one’s own later on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: incompetent over corrupt

“I’ll take incompetent over corrupt every time”

Really??!

No matter what, the corrupt is not going to kill the goose, because he (or, in this particular case, she) knows the real value of the goose.

The incompetent however might (kill the goose).

So, dear Americans, I – from the other side of the pond – wish you good luck with Trump.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: incompetent over corrupt

such idiotic drivel.

Corruption can never be tolerated, those who deem it tolerable are inviting destruction in the front door. A wise man would not care to deal with either incompetence or corruption but given a choice the wise will take incompetence.

Corruption is a person willful desired to work fraud and very difficult to expunge once it takes root for it invites more fraud and corruption to grow!

Incompetence tends to be either ignorance/hubris/laziness or a combination of any of them. There is not necessarily a desire to be incompetent as there is a desire to be corrupt. Some people can be either walk away or be pulled away from their incompetence, but you cannot PULL someone away from corruption, they have to walk away from it.

Plus it is far easier to cover for incompetence when you are on a team, but it is much more difficult to cover for corruption!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is the the definition of linking to biased and low accountability media. Typically that content has been the niche of the yellow press, but today yellow press is “serious media” compared to some of the clickbaiting going around online.

Politics is a particular resonance of biased one-sided stories that all supports a particular view on reality. Among the more experienced politicians and the more well-educated the bias is apparent, but for zealots it is what feeds the will to vote for their masters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bingo

“This was the result of a very large group of people who are quite clearly — and reasonably — pissed off at the status quo.”

Exactly. The people who I know voted for him are not idiots or misinformed. They knew exactly who they were voting for. They even knew he was full of BS and would likely be bad for the country. They voted specifically for him because they felt he would be a destructive agent to Washington and shake up everything.

————–

But if you are demanding folks to blame – look to the significant numbers who just stayed home and did not vote. Their apathy says as much as anything about the candidates that were put up this cycle.
This was not facebook fooling grandpa into voting form someone. This was a bunch of fed up people either staying home or voting for the hurricane to hit their home directly hoping it would mean someone did something different.

wiserabbit says:

what went wrong?

You (not you, Mike, the powers that be) Did. Not. Listen.

There have been warning shots across the bow for quite a while now.

And yet still, the local news had their learned political analyst on this morning stating that this election shows that people “don’t want to throw the bums out” of Washington. WTH? Donald Trump just won the White House. Does every single member of the elected federal government have to be voted out of office for them to get the message?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Does every single member of the elected federal government have to be voted out of office for them to get the message?”

Yes, yes they do! If you do not vote IT out, then ITS has ZERO reason to assume that what IT does is not wanted. IT thinks that since it is still in power that IT is wanted and desired! IT only views those with a difference of Opinion as nothing more than ignorant malcontents that require conquering!

mcinsand (profile) says:

the Democrats won

This season has been about which group can fire the biggest footgun, and the Democrats won. Despite Trump’s best efforts to throw his chances down the toilet time after time after time, he just couldn’t compete. The DNC, particularly Wasserman Schulz, worked overtime to leave heaps of evidence of skullduggery in the primary process, which ended up only further legitimizing what came from Wikileaks and the FBI’s free pass. Both sides worked hard to disenfranchise those that would otherwise be loyal. Towards the end, many Republicans were turning their backs on Trump, but the DNC had been working to drive their voters away for months longer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: the Democrats won

This is the part that I don’t get. Everyone is piling on Trump while completely ignoring the sins of HRC. She and the entire DNC are lying, cheating crooks who did everything they could to steal the election. From rigging the primary to stacking the debates. She has a question past of persecuting the victims of Bill’s sexual assaults. She peddled influence while at the State Dept and enriched themselves for generations to come.

But all of that is ignored in attempts to point out Trump’s flaws. I think in many people’s views, HRC’s flaws trumped (pardon the pun) Trump’s flaws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: the Democrats won

Tell you what, and we are ALL going to agree on this for the most part whether you like it or not, okay buddy?

You tend to the sins of my party and I will tend to the sins of yours!

So don’t expect me to be all that concerned about the sins of mine, cause I know you won’t be caring about yours!

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

> The idea that people are just such suckers they believe whatever Facebook puts in front of them is silly.

While i doubt one can remotely blame Facebook for any of this, feel free to replace Facebook in that sentence with a whole host of other things and it’s pretty valid. People also disbelieve both true and untrue things very frequently for equally bad “reasons” as they believe things. I am not sure whether for any particular subject it is germane if they are independently stupid, or believe something stupid because they heard it somewhere.

Psycho Stangchic says:

Why can't Dems be respectful losers?

Why do people have to make things up, and start off the new era by saying people didn’t want Trump but voted for him? More Leftist make-believe. People didn’t want status-quo, or a career politician because they are so full of crap their eyes are brown.
The people have spoken: We have had enough Liberal BS. We want a politically incorrect candidate who will say it like it is, clean up the mess, and put working families and restore the freedoms in the Bill of Rights FIRST.
Wake up Liberals, you lost.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why can't Dems be respectful losers?

I, and many others, voted Trump as an attack on the establishment. And I’ll be registering Dem after over a decade as an independent. And if the Dems want to give me an electable candidate that actually represents the people in 2020, I’ll be more than happy to help them shove the pendulum back in the other direction. If not, I’ll go another round for Trump.

JMT says:

Re: Why can't Dems be respectful losers?

“Why do people have to make things up…”

Ask Trump. Time after time he made claims that were plain lies, easily disproven in moments and not at all debatable. Clinton lies like any other politician, Trump lies like a 5yo.

“We want a politically incorrect candidate who will say it like it is, clean up the mess, and put working families and restore the freedoms in the Bill of Rights FIRST.”

I’m not sure what campaign you’ve been watching, but the few policies Trump has actually been clear on will absolutely NOT help working families or restore the freedoms in the Bill of Rights, but instead do the exact opposite. Tax cuts for the rich and increases for everyone else? Curtailing free speech rights? Supporting police abuses? He will try to do these things.

John Mayor says:

THE DEATH OF BUSINESS INSIDER

Mike!… I just wanted to let you know that as of Election Day, Business Insider– so far!– has removed every Comment (regardless of the blog to which the comment applies!), and Comment Log window, from every BI blog that I’ve visited! And until these windows– at least!– return, I have no further use for BI!
.
Lastly, I’d really like to see the development of a website that lists… in various caregories!… any and all websites that facilitate Comment Logs! And so!… if people desire to share their views on matters of social interest, netizens will at least have an efficient and effective method of doing so! And rather, that receive a “one-sided’ staple of “news coverage”… day in, and day out!… from “Corporate media parents” who could care less what the “kiddies” are thinking!… and hoping for!
.
Please!… no emails!

mike conte (profile) says:

But WHY do citizens feel angry?

…because by most objective measures, the country is far better off (dow, unemployment, gas prices, crime, growth, deficit, etc).

Maybe it’s because they read every day how they are being cheated, how their taxes are being wasted, how the government is corrupt, how the country is overrun by thugs and terrorists. They read that because FB ranks posts according to “engagement” not “truth.” So their feed, rather than getting more truthful over time, gets more outrageous.

I am not saying FB intends this to happen, but they are far from blameless. It’s bad.

And why call people idiots? You don’t think this is a problem? You don’t see increasing division?

Dingledore the Mildly Uncomfortable When Seated says:

Re: But WHY do citizens feel angry?

I partly agree.

There is a valid argument that Facebook is acting like, and is is used as, an authoritive news source – even though it’s essentially pushing clickbait.

However, the majority of users of facebook are from the younger end of the population, and those people didn’t vote for Trump.

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Protestvote

A lot of Americans gave a protest-vote againt the establishment.
This is nothing new, in recent history we had/have Vlaams Block, Le Penn, Pim Fortuyn, Pegida, Brexit &c.
The plebs is getting tired of the current elite, just as they were getting tired of Louis XVI in the 1780s.
Let’s just hope it won’t drag on for years this time.

Dingledore the Mildly Uncomfortable When Seated says:

Please don't misinterpret the Brexit vote

Just as with Brexit, this was a vote of “what we have now ain’t working, let’s try something different.”

Whilst it’s correct to conflate the two results for a variety of reasons, the above quote is not correct. The Brexit vote would be more accurately compared to Florida deciding to break away from the United States because they were pissed off by State laws and policies. The EU was being blamed for things caused by the UK government.

I don’t think Trump can reasonably be accused of miscommunicating his message – he just didn’t give a sh#t.

Otherwise, yes, they’re both votes against the establishment with little consideration to what comes after.

CPP says:

Fake News is a Euphemism for Propaganda

Let’s call “fake or bogus or sensationalized news” by its real name: propaganda. There is propaganda in the form of manufactured articles and videos all through the web (not just Facebook) created by foreign actors seeking to influence the outcome of the 2016 American election. The extent to which Americans believed this widely disseminated propaganda and were influenced by it while voting is not just about journalism, it’s also a matter of national security. To dismiss it just as “fake news” is to understate its seriousness.

Elain says:

Mmm, this ‘pissed off with the status quo’ argument ain’t washing for me, and it won’t wash with the vast majority of women, trans & queer, black and other non-white or minority voters.

An elephant in the room that looms large whenever someone uses that phrase, is that they’re speaking from white, straight male and/or orthodox Christian point of view. That’s the only point of view that allows Trump supporters to believe that they’re rebels, because they think that we are what’s wrong with ‘the status quo’: the immigrants, blacks, feminists and queers.

Although many women did vote for Trump (just as many women always go along with men who degrade them, out of habit) it’s obvious that the only people who’d vote for him are those who have no fear of being raped, or needing an abortion, or free medical care after getting shot for being black… you get the picture. They’re mostly white, male and straight.

So please stop parroting this insidious line: ‘pissed off with the status quo’ line. I’M pissed off with the status quo… and with very good reason. The champions of my causes don’t wear suits and ties and own huge skyrises in New York – they have nearly always been executed or jailed. They’re always been poor. Those are the kinds of people who support universal equality and rights for all, because they know it’s the only REAL solution.

You’re doing those people, and people like me, a huge disservice by associating us with the pigheaded fools who think that taking away basic human rights from others will change things. That’s not a rebellion, it’s a RETURN to the status quo, to the olden days of bigotry and bias that got the world into its this mess.

So please don’t flatter those bigots and ignoramuses by calling them rebels – they’re anything but. They ARE the status quo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is a problem!

“An elephant in the room that looms large whenever someone uses that phrase, is that they’re speaking from white, straight male and/or orthodox Christian point of view.”

It seems to be your opinion that white people = only one view and/or Orthodox view.

Your entire argument is bankrupt by this. It is the very epitome of racism. You judge white people based on the color of their skin and disparage Christians by their believes. Something I believe most of your type whines to no end about when it happens to you.

When you can stop being a blithering hypocrite you can get some recognition you racist bigot misandrist ignoramus!

dan (profile) says:

Facebook just made the polling bad

Many rational Trump supporters just stopped commenting on things because of the arguments it caused on Facebook. Sure we all have a few friends that reveled in the firebomb throwing but I for one stopped letting my view be heard because I was at a significant disadvantage. My argument could not be put done in a sound bite. For instance: “The unregulated flow of illegal immigrants into the country is causing a strain on local government resources and preventing low skilled works from getting jobs at reasonable wages. This combined with no longer pushing assimilation is fracturing the communities”
Response: You RACIST!!!
At which point I just turned it off and never let on who I was voting for. Granted anyone who talks to be enough knows full well where I stand on many issues.

dan tynan says:

sorry mike but I gotta disagree

Facebook wasn’t the primary reason Trump won, but it played an ENORMOUS role in allowing no-name fly-by-night anonymous sites to find an audience — and its algorithms actively promoted these propaganda engines. I cannot tell you how many times my sister (a trump supporter) sent me one of these links on facebook as “proof” of hillary’s corruption. Without facebook, these sites would not have received 1/100th of the traffic or attention. more than google, more than twitter, facebook made them possible and aided in the demonization of hillary. and facebook really needs to own that instead of denying it, and fix it.

Frost (profile) says:

Facebook has a lot of blame, because...

Facebook shows people the “news” they like, not the news they might need. A bigot will be shown more stuff that appeals to a bigot, and less and less (or none) of the progressive or reality-based stuff out there. Similarly, progressives will get shown progressive stuff, so they may not even realize there’s a huge chunk of people out there living in their insane hate-infested la-la land, in the Facebook echo chambers.

Is that why Trump won? No, he won because people are desperate and want change. They wanted change with Obama, then he screwed everybody by being ultra-establishment, and now Clinton came along and promised more of the status quo. People voted against business as usual, not for that lunatic Trump.

And at least partially, Facebook’s curating of people’s news will have contributed to achieving the level of stupidity needed to vote for Trump.

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