Can Facebook Influencing Elections? and Should?

Each week, Mark Zuckerberg attends a session of questions and answers with their employees. Issues concerning proposed workers themselves and are chosen through an internal survey. “What responsibility does Facebook to help prevent that Trump is Chairman in 2017?” was one of the questions proposed in the survey of March 4, according to a screenshot of it published by Gizmodo.

While Mark Zuckerberg never has been characterized by strongly show their political tendencies in public, this week for the first time made a declaration of intent against a candidate. Although we do not know whether Zuckerberg came to respond to the question in the Q & A internal, it took advantage of the beginning of its F8 Conference for criticize some proposals of Donald Trump, the controversial and popular Republican candidate who ever is closer to victory in the primary of their party.

“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distance people and alienating people who they labeled as different, request blocking freedom of expression, which will reduce immigration, reducing trade…,” said Zuckerberg. His proposal, in line with its desire to “connect” to the people, is rather the opposite: “instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges”.

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the F8 against walls and reduce immigration, two pillars of the campaign of Donald Trump

In his subsequent explanation, Mark Zuckerberg explained that He was not referring to a particular person or a country, that it was the company’s global vision, but it was late: numerous means had interpreted it as an attack, discreet that Yes, to Trump. Indeed, spokesmen for Donald Trump did not take long to respond.

“I think that I’ll take seriously to Mark Zuckerberg when renounce its private security, move your posh neighborhood and go to live in a modest neighborhood of a frontier town. And then I am sure that its position would change,”explained Katrina Pierson, spokesperson for Trump in an interview with USA Today.

Facebook if you can, technically, influencing an election

The option to ask Zuckerberg about Trump was the fifth most voted by 61 people, the private Facebook survey. Unfortunately we do not know if at the end the question came to perform and, if so, that said the head of the most popular social network. After the publication of the controversial catch, Facebook did not hesitate to offer an official response to Business Insider, in which ruling out influence in any form in the United States presidential election:

“Voting is a core value in a democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution that we can make to the community. We encourage all voters, candidates and groups to use our platform to share their vision of the election and discuss issues. “We, as a company, we are neutral: we have not used or will use our products in any way trying to influence how people vote” (Facebook)

During the last years we have seen several examples of those “appeals” to vote that you mention Facebook in its official response. Although it is very difficult to assess the influence of the social network in the voters, a study at the University of California claimed that a simple message announcing that the friends of the user had already voted in the 2010 midterms, led to more than 340,000 to the polls which, otherwise, would have not cast your vote.

In a “secret” 2012 experiment discovered by chance, Facebook showed certain users more news than usual to see if this was that they were to vote

However, Facebook experiments did not stay there. During the three months prior to the 2012 election, Facebook proved to show more news on the walls of 1.9 million people with the intention to see if this change was made that more users came to vote. All of this without notifying those that chosen randomly according to Facebook, formed part of the experiment without knowing it. And Yes, strategy seems it worked: the group that saw more news voted by 3% more than that not.

This political experiment was unveiled at a Conference that featured one of the scientists of Facebook data though, as soon as it began to attract the attention of the press, the social network made disappear the YouTube video. In addition, and as part of the experiment, changed the messages accompanying the button “vote”, its location on the screen of the user, etc. Mother Jones, one of the media closely followed the issue, criticized at the time the lack of transparency in Facebook:

“The message: Facebook wants its users to vote, and the social network not to manipulate his campaign in favor of voting for reasons of research.” How do we know this? Just because Facebook says it”(Mother Jones)

The power of Facebook, with more than 1,500 million users, is immense. We are sure that, without spending too much time and effort, you occur to several ways that could alter, or at least try it, the votes of its users: giving more visibility to certain issues (immigration, terrorism) news, giving more scope to certain candidates messages, show the button to vote only to people of certain ideologies… even the call to vote could be interpreted as a form of influence, especially in places where abstention favour one party or candidate.

Really Facebook do something against Trump?

Now well: that Facebook could influence voters using his popularity and the technological resources of your social network, does it mean that you can do this legally? In the Gizmodo article they speak with various legal experts and all agree: just that the media can be positioned for or against a candidate, Facebook could “promote or block everything you want”, according to Eugene Volokh (UCLA professor). Who want a free Trump Facebook? They might do so, according to what he said the first amendment of the U.S..

However, it is more than understandable the interest of Facebook to stay neutral: not “positioned” against certain sector of the population (such as Trump supporters in this case) and get that its platform follow being used by all candidates, both posting their messages and to promote them ($$$).

Facebook claims to be neutral. The problem is that if it weren’t, we could not know it

Facebook has already received enough criticism in the past by these “secret” experiments that makes and of which we are aware only when you publish any studies on them. Due to this lack of transparency, both with regard to experiments as to own algorithm which decides what shows you and what is not, normal that there is mistrust. With this I’m not saying believe that Facebook is using its network to get more votes for a particular candidate (that I do not believe it, would be a “suicide” if then this became public) but, If he did, we don’t know.