Angelo Carusone explains why Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is the 2017 Misinformer of the Year
Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Today, Media Matters for America named Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as its 2017 Misinformer of the Year. The designation is presented annually to the media figure, news outlet, or organization that is the most influential or prolific purveyor of misinformation.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained why Mark Zuckerberg is the Misinformer of the Year:
“We selected Mark Zuckerberg as the Misinformer of the Year because Facebook's actions in 2017 have been more of a public relations campaign than a deeper systemic approach to address the underlying causes of the proliferation of fake news and disinformation.
I know that Facebook has the talent and knows how to implement some meaningful countermeasures. Instead of utilizing that talent, Zuckerberg has spent too much time downplaying the crisis and repeating his mistakes from 2016, like continually caving to right-wing pressure. There are some very basic things that Facebook can do to make meaningful dents in this problem -- and my hope for 2018 is that Mark Zuckerberg lets his team take those steps and more.”
Here’s more about why Mark Zuckerberg earned the Misinformer of the Year designation:
Not only did Mark Zuckerberg allow Facebook to be used to mislead, misinform and suppress voters during the 2016 election, but he took active steps in an attempt to assuage right-wing critics that actually made the problem worse. He subsequently downplayed concerns about Facebook’s clear impact on the 2016 election. Instead of learning from those past mistakes, Zuckerberg has repeated them, continuing to act in a way designed to inoculate against or mollify right-wing critics, despite evidence that 126 million Facebook users saw election-related propaganda in 2016.
Mark Zuckerberg’s inaction and half-measures illustrate either his lack of recognition of the scope and scale of the crisis or his refusal to accept responsibility. After intense public pressure made Facebook’s misinformation problem impossible to ignore, Zuckerberg announced a series of toothless policy changes that are more public relations ploys than real meaningful solutions. Notably, little effort has been made to improve its news feed algorithm so that Facebook is not turbocharging disreputable or extreme content simply because it has high engagement, or to grapple with the scores of Facebook-verified disinformation and fake news pages masquerading as news sites.
Facebook’s third-party fact-checking system doesn't stop fake news from going viral. Fact-checkers who have partnered with Facebook have voiced their concerns about the company’s transparency and effectiveness of their efforts as Zuckerberg has largely refused to release Facebook’s data for independent review.
In yet another attempt to mollify right-wing critics, Zuckerberg’s Facebook partnered with disreputable right-wing media outlet The Weekly Standard, thus allowing an outlet that baselessly criticizes fact-checkers and undermines confidence in journalism into its fact-checking program.
Media Matters is the nation’s premier media watchdog. Following the 2016 presidential election, Media Matters acknowledged that in order to fully carry out its mission, its scope of work must incorporate an analysis of the way digital platforms influenced the larger problem of misinformation and disinformation in the media landscape.
Media Matters’ selection of Mark Zuckerberg as Misinformer of the Year reflects Zuckerberg’s failure to take seriously Facebook’s role as a major source of news and information, and his failure to address Facebook’s role in spreading fake news, yet repeating past mistakes that are actually making the problem worse.