Snowden discusses Facebook’s fake news controversy

Facebook is facing post-election criticism that it did not do enough to weed out fake news on the platform, allowing viral false stories to spread and influencing the election result. The social network experimented with AI and human reports to cut back on fake stories during the campaign season, and announced yesterday that it will ban fake news sites from its ad network.

At Fusion’s Real Future Fair today, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed doubt that Americans would fall hard enough for fake stories on Facebook that it could sway their votes. His comments echoed those recently made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claimed it is “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

“I think that’s a very sad indictment of our democracy, that our voters could be so easily misled. But were it true, and there is some evidence that it may be, this gets into a bigger challenge,” Snowden said, moving on to concerns about the size and dominance of platforms like Facebook in our daily lives.

“When you get a Google in place, a Facebook in place, a Twitter in place, they never seem to leave,” he said. “When one service provider makes a bad decision we all suffer for it. … The Silicon Valley desire for massive, world-eating services, the scale that takes over not only our country but all others, it’s asking us to accept a status quo where we set aside that competition in favor of scale. We should be particularly cautious about embracing this and taking this to be the case.”

Snowden cautioned that social media networks are careful to respect users as they grow, but get more reckless as they establish dominance. “To have one company that has enough power to reshape the way we think — I don’t think I need to describe how dangerous that is,” he concluded.