Politics

Mark Zuckerberg’s Trumpian state of the union

By Oliver Smith 17 February 2017
Photos from Flickr/Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.
Summary

Another step towards the White House?

At first glance Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump couldn’t be more different.

While Trump divisive views and actions are dividing America, and the world, this morning Zuckerberg published a 6,500 word manifesto championing a more global community.

It what appears like the Facebook founder’s next step towards a future Presidential bid, his rallying cry for globalisation calls for “humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.”

Read more: Would President Zuckerberg make a good leader of the free world?

He also denounces filter bubbles and the crisis of fake news, adding: “I worry about these and we have studied them extensively”.

Not our problem

Zuckerberg may worry about fake news – especially now it has become a global crisis with many pointing to fake news as a decisive tool used by Trump and his allies to secure the Presidency.

But just months ago Zuckerberg denied that such news had had any impact on Trump’s election victory:

“Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

Even today he describes fake news as a kind of social phenomenon, not the crisis in which Facebook played a not-insignificant role in creating.

This has always been Zuckerberg and Facebook’s attitude, take credit for the positive impact of their platform, dismiss anything negative as a wider societal problem.

It’s almost as if the boss is saying: “We love helping social groups gather online, but when those groups turn into silos that segregate society, that’s really not our problem.”

All Trumped-up

If that reminds you of another politician who gleefully turns the truth to suit his own needs, it should.

During his campaign Donald Trump rejoiced at the email leaks that dismantled Hillary Clinton’s Presidential hopes. Now his own White House is springing leaks left, right and centre he brands them “un-American”.

At some points of Zuckerberg’s manifesto it does feels like he’s on the precipice of taking responsibility for the crisis of Facebook’s making… before reeling back from the idea.

“We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously,” writes Zuckerberg.

“Our approach will focus less on banning misinformation, and more on surfacing additional perspectives and information, including that fact checkers dispute an item’s accuracy.”

No the real problem, Zuck hypotheses, is not fake news but instead a wider “sensationalism and polarisation leading to a loss of common understanding.”

Yes today it’s society’s problem, not Facebook’s.