Less than two months after the US presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on his company’s role as a news distributor has evolved quite a bit.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg hosted a Facebook Live video chat with the company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg where the two recapped the year and talked about what they were looking forward to in 2017.
Zuckerberg also briefly addressed the controversy of fake news that spread throughout Facebook during the election.
Here’s what he said:
Facebook is a new kind of platform. It’s not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company. You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it’s used. We don’t write the news that people read on the platform, but at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute the news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.
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 went on to imply that most people were smart enough to determine on their own what’s fake and what’s real.
Still, studies like this one from BuzzFeed were published that showed hoaxes and fake news stories, like the Pope endorsing Donald Trump for president, were some of the most shared and engaging stories on Facebook.
Zuckerberg’s comments stirred up a bit of controversy immediately after the election, and he massaged his stance in a post on his Facebook page, saying:
Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.
That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.
Last week, Facebook made good on those remarks and started rolling out new tools that let users and third-party fact-checkers like Snopes flag stories as fake news.
And that brings us back to Zuckerberg’s statement Wednesday on the Facebook Live video with Sandberg.
Weeks after pushing aside any responsibility in the way people consume news, Zuckerberg now seems to realize Facebook is as much a media company as it is a technology company. He’s right to say “it’s not a traditional media company,” of course, but there is a responsibility as a distributor of media that goes along with the awesome power of informing such a massive audience.