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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: algorithms, anger, democracy, donald trump, echo chamber, filter bubble, politics, status quo
Companies: facebook


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2016 @ 4:57pm

    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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.