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Even the New York Times Magazine, a liberal outlet, is convinced that Facebook’s new manifesto — influenced by none other than former president Barack Obama — will be considered politically partisan.
The NYT Magazine notes in its story “Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?” that changes Facebook is looking to make, especially to its News Feed, “are bound to be considered partisan.”
But if the company pursues the admittedly airy aims outlined in “Building Global Community,” the changes will echo across media and politics, and some are bound to be considered partisan. The risks are especially clear for changes aimed at adding layers of journalistic ethics across News Feed, which could transform the public’s perception of Facebook, not to mention shake the foundations of its business.
According to NYT Magazine, Zuckerberg was “dismayed” that the planned changes might be seen as an attack on President Donal Trump and took the opportunity to “shoot down” rumors that the Facebook CEO plans to run against the President in 2020.
At the time of our second interview, the manifesto was still only a draft, and I was surprised by how unsure Zuckerberg seemed about it in person. He had almost as many questions for us — about whether we understood what he was trying to say, how we thought it would land in the media — as we had for him. When I suggested that it might be perceived as an attack on Trump, he looked dismayed. He noted several times that he had been noodling over these ideas since long before November. A few weeks earlier, there was media speculation, fueled by a postelection tour of America by Zuckerberg and his wife, that he was laying the groundwork to run against Trump in 2020, and in this meeting he took pains to shoot down the rumors.
Nevertheless, as NYT Magazine points out, pressure to change Facebook’s algorithms and tackle “fake news” came about as a direct response to the election of Trump and the popularity of Breitbart News’ election coverage on the social media platform.
After studying how people shared 1.25 million stories during the campaign, a team of researchers at M.I.T. and Harvard implicated Facebook and Twitter in the larger failure of media in 2016. The researchers found that social media created a rightwing echo chamber: a “media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyperpartisan perspective to the world.” The findings partially echoed a longheld worry about social news: that people would use sites like Facebook to cocoon themselves into selfreinforcing bubbles of confirmatory ideas, to the detriment of civility and a shared factual basis from which to make collective, democratic decisions. A week and a half after the election, President Obama bemoaned “an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.”