Chris Hughes Helped Get Obama Elected, But Now That Facebook Helped Elect Trump, He Wants To Break It Up?

from the funny-that dept

Last week we wrote about Facebook co-founder Chris Huges’ long, but remarkably uncompelling argument for why Facebook should be broken up. The post itself was quite long, but could be summed up in that Hughes listed out a variety of problems he attributed to Facebook, and then suggested breaking the company up and regulating speech on the internet in response. However, some of the problems he attributed to Facebook are not, in fact, because of Facebook, and he made no effort to show how his proposed solutions would actually solve any of those problems (indeed, there are arguments it might make some of them worse).

Dare Obasanjo tweeted a quite insightful tweet in response to Hughes’ piece, noting that a lot of Hughes’ (and others’) concerns about Facebook can be traced back to the fact that Donald Trump won the election, and a lot of people believe that Facebook helped create that result:

It’s quite wild to me that we’re likely to see Facebook punished for the “crime” of getting Trump elected while he Teflon Don’s his way through every scandal.

And then, he noted, that it’s useful to put Hughes’ comments into context, in that a decade ago, Hughes was being celebrated for using Facebook and social media to help elect President Obama. Hughes, famously, left Facebook to go work on the Obama campaign, and built up MyBO, the online platform to organize supporters of Obama’s campaign.

His key tool was, or MyBO for short, a surprisingly intuitive and fun-to-use networking Web site that allowed Obama supporters to create groups, plan events, raise funds, download tools, and connect with one another ? not unlike a more focused, activist Facebook. MyBO also let the campaign reach its most passionate supporters cheaply and effectively. By the time the campaign was over, volunteers had created more than 2 million profiles on the site, planned 200,000 offline events, formed 35,000 groups, posted 400,000 blogs, and raised $30 million on 70,000 personal fund-raising pages.

It’s not quite the same thing, obviously. However, it does seem notable that Hughes used social media effectively to help elect one President, and now seems to be quite disturbed and upset by the fact that it helped elect a different President. You can, perhaps reasonably, argue that the tactics, the scale, and the overall context are quite different today (organizing excited Millennials is pretty different than Russian trolls sowing discord), but it certainly does seem like valuable context in thinking about this.

Social media is — like many technologies — a tool. It can be used for things people like, and for things they dislike. We should be wary of assuming all the good comes solely from the technology at the same time we should be wary of assuming all the bad does as well.

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Comments on “Chris Hughes Helped Get Obama Elected, But Now That Facebook Helped Elect Trump, He Wants To Break It Up?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"Liberals tend to push for more people voting. Conservatives tend to push for fewer people voting. There is a difference."

One of them thinks our political system is called democracy where everyone has a voice, while the other wants to anoint a king where everyone is a slave. There is a difference.

FlatZOut (profile) says:

As the Years Come and Go...

Our attitude towards everyday occurrences changes. One year we like seeing people bonding together on the internet. Then suddenly we enter a year where everything is seen as racist and hostile even though just a few minutes ago people were fine with sharing their experiences.

What is happening? Can’t people just make up their minds and move on? Pretty soon someone’s gonna confuse Youtube and PornHub and it turns into an episode of “Hoo-Haw”

christenson says:


I think it is time to realize that the reality of frictionless communication is horrible….

and friction is a necessary thing. No one can deal with a billion communications effectively; it has to be sorted down.

Techdirt puts up friction to moderate its posts
I rely on friction to sort the wheat from the spam, but that only works if I don’t get too much of it.
Trump (and Putin) winning the election happened because many assumed friction for bad ideas that was not there….especially on Facebook.
Neo-nazis and others can make people miserable because there is no friction… to help make a sandy hook parent miserable, I don’t even have to pay for a postage stamp or phone call!

So, to fix Facebook/twitter/whatever: effective moderation is the key, but it has to be on the users, and it has to be hydra-headed, so if I don’t like Techdirt’s moderation, for example, there are lots of choices.

Oh, and we are gonna have to make those that have trouble with coherent arguments feel a lot less abused….otherwise, they will support the best social manipulators, to everyone’s detriment.

christenson says:

Re: Re: Friction...

I do not mean debate…I mean that you (or anyone) can harass me all you like, pester me with your spammy sales pitch all you like, spread your lies all you like, at basically no cost to you.

You don’t have to be smart enough, you don’t have to put up any money, not hardly any time, not convince anyone else your garbage is worthwhile.

(Note: you as an individual may not be doing these things, but there are plenty of scummy individuals out there who are — Q-anon or anti-vax anyone?)

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I say it is the perfect term for what he describes. Back before Facebook and Twitter and even LiveJournal and MySpace, getting your voice out on the World Wide Web involved some semblance of “friction” — moderation of posts, limits on how much/how often you could post, or some other obstacle that slowed down communications by even a few seconds. (Chatrooms and such were something of a different story, given the ephermal nature of a chatroom’s content.) Now the biggest places for Internet communication are “frictionless”: Twitter, Facebook, and other such services all let you get your voice out without putting up any sort of obstacle beyond “you need an account”. OP of this discussion thread has a point, in that a little more “friction” between a user and their posts getting out in the world might benefit everyone in the long run.

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone who voted for TRUMP,..Trump WON because the Democrats picked a poor person, Hillery to run. Trying to blame Facebook over that is beyond laughable. The whole Russia thing was laughable and a LIE pushed by the left for the last 2+ years. A LIE started by Hillary.

I don’t even use Facebook. I can’t stand Facebook. Don’t give a crap about Twitter. This has been a dumb narrative pushed out by the left.

Trying to split up Facebook, which I don’t see how such a thing is even doable, won’t change anything. Considering who was President at the time and didn’t seem to do anything, you can put that all on OBAMA!!!

Even now, the left choices for President are a joke and Trump will win again. They will be in for another BIG SHOCK and wonder why and make up a whole lot of excuses.

bob says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you dont like bullies then how in the world do you like Trump?

He only calls people names, threatens others with veiled threats, lies about almost everything when pressed on an issue, etc.

All that has nothing to do with media being bullies and instead everything to do with the man being a dick to others.

I think either you are a troll or you are a dumb person. Both of which mean you are not alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Dumb person? I think you should pull off the partisan glasses when reading. I don’t see where I said I like Trump, I believe I said something the exact opposite. I also don’t like this overturn the election at any cost stuff, and I for one will rebel against those efforts. Maybe I will be the lone swing voter to Trump. But maybe, just maybe I am not alone in my disgust of the anti-Trump efforts.

bob says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The more Trump is treated unfairly even viciously attacked especially in what "the news" media have devolved to, the more I find myself on his side.

Your words not mine.
Your double quotes above show your partisan leanings quite heavily already.

Trump creates a lot of his own problems and the media actually haven’t roasted him and his presidency enough for the man’s terrible words and actions. And then you have his propaganda site fox news that can’t even state facts about the issues because they are too far up Trump’s butt. But even they seem to be getting annoyed with some of his antics because they dont always toe the presidency line.

But this is not partisan thinking. This is from the view point of treat others like humans instead of as a scapegoat for your own problems.

I will give you that Trump is not evil incarnate. He does rarely do something good whether or not he intended to. But the things he’s fixed are mainly fixes to problems he created in the first place. Or they are over hyped nonsense that he is pedaling to try and not appear completely inept at being president.

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