Sources: Obama Tried to Warn Zuckerberg About 'Fake News'

At the time, Facebook CEO seemed unconvinced his company played a role
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
Sources: Obama Tried to Warn Zuckerberg About 'Fake News'
Then-President Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wave after speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Stanford, Calif., on June 24, 2016.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Facebook has been facing a lot of flak over the role it played in pushing "fake news," especially during last year's election cycle. Now it's come to light that none other than then-President Obama conferred with Mark Zuckerberg just days after the election (and after Zuckerberg's proclamations that it was "crazy" Facebook could have impacted the election), with the president delivering what the Washington Post says he "hoped would be a wake-up call" to the Facebook CEO. Sources who said they were briefed on the conversation—which reportedly took place privately on Nov. 19, on the edges of an APEC gathering of world leaders in Peru—reveal that Obama warned Zuckerberg that he should give more weight to the fake-news phenomenon, and that if Facebook didn't look more carefully into it, there could be even more repercussions in the next presidential election.

Zuckerberg's alleged response: that while fake news was an issue, Facebook shouldn't be seen as a main disseminator of it, and that there wasn't an easy answer to fixing the problem. Since then, Facebook and Zuckerberg have slowly conceded the severity of the problem, including via a February blog post by Zuckerberg that talked about "[mitigating] the bad" aspects of the social media platform, and resulting recently in the company agreeing to turn over Russian-bought ads to Congress for a "full accounting." The Post details what one UNC professor calls Facebook's "systematic failure of responsibility," scrutinizing the company's slow unraveling of Russian activity and its own "self-examination," and outlining the issues tech companies face in weighing values such as free speech against dealing with "malevolent actors." The in-depth take here. (More Facebook stories.)

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