Facebook certainly has a lot to atone for. Not least, of which, are the data and privacy issues surrounding Cambridge Analytica and other third-party apps. It’s the latest problem for the social media giant, which has been blamed for allowing “fake news” to spread across the country and help elect Donald Trump president.
But Donald Trump wasn’t elected because of Facebook or any other social media platform. He was elected because many people have stopped questioning what they see if it reinforces what they already believe.
As cartoonist Walt Kelly famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” But the us isn’t just conservatives and Trump supporters believing whatever fits their favorite narrative. Liberals and other non-conservatives are also regularly fooled by “fake news.” This isn’t a political problem. This is a human problem. People have stopped being skeptical and care more about scoring points for their side than getting at the truth.
A fake picture of Trump without his hand over his heart during the National Anthem was automatically shared by many Clinton voters who didn’t bother to do any research to see if it was a real photo. A fake story about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor was automatically shared by many Trump voters who also failed to question it. Obviously, the latter is much more egregious and dangerous to our country, but all lies are corrosive to at least some degree. It’s up to us, not Facebook, to determine what is true and what isn’t.
“Fake news” can’t vote. Photoshop can’t run for governor. Russian troll farms in Eastern Europe aren’t represented in Congress. These people who lie to us only have as much power as we give them.
Facebook is a huge social media platform. But, at the end of the day, it’s really a tool. And, like all tools, the user decides how to utilize it.
What journalist Edward. R. Murrow said over 60 years ago about television can just as easily be applied to social media and the internet today. “[It] can teach. It can illuminate. It can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it toward those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”