Facebook employees submit questions weekly to the site’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking repeatedly what the social media company can do to block Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
The question–"What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?"–was the fifth most popular submission from a March 4 poll submitted to Zuckerberg before an upcoming questions-and-answer session, Gizmodo reported Friday.
Recent Stories in Politics
Facebook is the most widely-used social media platform, with more than 1.04 billion users across the globe. In July 2015, a third of Americans were getting their news from Facebook, bolstering the site’s influence as a media source.
But users typically view the site as nothing more than a social platform, putting second its capabilities for information gathering.
Most people don’t see Facebook as a media company–an outlet designed to inform us. It doesn’t look like a newspaper, magazine, or news website. But if Facebook decides to tamper with its algorithm–altering what we see–it’s akin to an editor deciding what to run big with on the front page, or what to take a stand on. The difference is that readers of traditional media (including the web) can educate themselves about a media company’s political leanings. Media outlets often publish op-eds and editorials, and have a history of how they treat particular stories. Not to mention that Facebook has the potential to reach vastly, vastly more readers than any given publication. With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t know what the bias is or how that might be affecting how we see the world.
Facebook employees have the capacity to shape what billions of users read and consume, raising questions, as Gizmodo points out, about how or whether the tech giant intends to alter algorithms to sway 2016 election coverage.
On a legal level, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told Gizmodo that Facebook does not have an obligation to provide users with an impartial view.
In the months leading up to the 2012 midterm elections the company covertly altered the news feeds of roughly 1.9 million users, increasing the number of "hard news" pieces that appeared at the top of the page. The shift "measurable increased" voter turnout, Mother Jones reported.
The experiment spurred criticism from users who said the company was using its position to drive social pressure.
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has not been discreet about his disdain for Trump.
He condemned the GOP front-runner’s hard-line immigration stance during Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference earlier this week.
"As I look around and I travel around the world, I'm starting to see people and nations turning inward, against this idea of a connected world and a global community," he told the crowd. "I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others. For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and in some cases around the world even cutting access to the Internet."
Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson hit back at the remarks during an interview with CNBC the following day, suggesting that Zuckerberg move to the southern border to experience the immigration influx.