Zuckerberg: America’s Kingmaker?

Mark Zuckerberg has the power to decide the upcoming U.S. election. In fact, he might be responsible for deciding every election here on out, and not just in the U.S. Facebook has already impacted elections in the UK, Brazil, and the Philippines—to name a few.

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal already demonstrated how user data harvesting can impact political advertising. Zuckerberg apologized, calling the fiasco a “mistake” and a “breach of trust”.

But as regretful as Zuckerberg claimed to be, that’s not stopping him from deciding the fate of the worlds’ democracies—he does it with little restraint.

Facebook is the News

The news business was once a thriving media industry—people got their news from credible TV, radio, and newspaper sources—but not anymore. Over the past 10 years, Facebook has stolen the entirety of the news business.

According to Pew Research, half of Americans now depend on Facebook to get their news. In fact, 73% of Facebook users mainly use the service to catch up on news.

But how much news on Facebook is factual? From a user perspective, it’s hard to know. When it comes to spreading fake news, however, Facebook is the worst perpetrator.

It doesn’t help that fake news intensifies during election seasons. During the last presidential election, 44.3% of Americans visited at least one fake news website during the final weeks.

Chances are, the same phenomenon will occur in the upcoming election.

Facebook wants to influence elections

Since Facebook wants to be the news, it only seems fitting that they uphold journalistic standards and educate their users about what is factual and fictional—but they don’t.

Despite scientists pleading with Facebook to tackle misinformation, Facebook has decided to protect fake news under the guise of “free speech.” Facebook may say they shouldn’t be the arbiters of truth—but so long as their algorithms are deciding what gets seen in newsfeeds, they are indeed arbiters of truth.

Casual Friends?

On Facebook’s board of directors sits billionaire Peter Thiel, one of Facebook’s earliest investors. In November 2019, Zuckerberg had dinner with Thiel and (wait for it) Trump at the White house. Thiel is a “major donor to Trump’s campaign … and the chairman of Palantir, a private data technology company that has become one of the largest recipients of government defense contracts with the United States government since Trump took office.” (Bryers & Collins, 2019). I can’t help but wonder if any back-scratching took place at that dinner?

Recently, Zuckerberg’s refusal to fact-check fake news, spread by Trump, prompted a Facebook employee virtual walk-out. Did that cause Zuckerberg to have a change of heart? Nope.

No Company Should Decide Elections

With a claimed user base of 2.6 billion people, Facebook has an unrivaled network effect—unequaled by any other company. So, how dangerous is it for them to be wading into elections? Very dangerous.

Considering its leadership, we should be skeptical about Facebook’s commitment to democratic values. For Facebook, it may not be enough to decide elections. Perhaps they’d prefer to crown kings.

This is a power no company should ever have.