Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Questions Its Influence

Mike Isaac, New York Times:

Even as Facebook has outwardly defended itself as a nonpartisan information source — Mr. Zuckerberg said at a conference on Thursday that Facebook affecting the election was “a pretty crazy idea” — many company executives and employees have been asking one another if, or how, they shaped the minds, opinions and votes of Americans.

[…]

Even in private, Mr. Zuckerberg has continued to resist the notion that Facebook can unduly affect how people think and behave. In a Facebook post circulated on Wednesday to a small group of his friends, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Zuckerberg challenged the idea that Facebook had a direct effect on the way people voted.

Emily Bell, Columbia Journalism Review:

The line of argument that says we need better journalism to combat fake news is appealing. However, it conflates two different crises. Having a larger number of good journalists is an indisputable goal for any functioning democracy. Wiping out the malicious falsehoods that carpet swaths of the social Web should be a high priority too. But the former will not be an adequate antidote to the latter.

On any given day, far more journalism is produced by non-partisan media outlets than by the most popular partisan sites. It might be relentlessly mundane reporting, insufficiently serious, and poorly reflect complex policy arguments, but it is rarely fabricated or hoaxed—fewer than 1 percent of pieces published in mainstream outlets fell into Silverman’s “totally false” category. The problem is that even where there is accurate journalism, it is not seen or not believed, or both.

It strikes me that Facebook is simultaneously arguing to advertisers that its targeting is effective in swaying buyer decisions while also stating that what users see in their feeds cannot possibly effect an election. I don’t see how both of those can be true.