Edward Snowden is weighing in on the impact of fake news on the 2016 election.
The former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency was spying on U.S. citizens was interviewed Tuesday for Fusion’s Real Future Fair via video call. He discussed the influence companies like Facebook and Google can have on people, particularly in the wake of reports claiming fake news may have swayed voters in the presidential election.
“There’s a big controversy happening right now, about this election particularly, regarding Facebook,” he said. “There’s this claim ― it hasn’t really been proved, it hasn’t really been substantiated, but it’s getting pretty popular ― where they say Facebook [influenced] the election because they showed fake news. If that were true, if that were possible, and Facebook did just put fake news up and down their pages all day long, and we were actually persuaded by that, I think that’s actually very sad indictment of our democracy ― that our voters could be so easily misled.”
Snowden thinks the bigger challenge is the lack of competition among technology companies, the echo chamber that it creates and the ultimate “single point of failure.”
“If one service provider makes a bad decision, we all suffer for it ... To have one company that has enough power to reshape the way we think, well, I don’t think I need to describe how dangerous that is.”
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed published a story detailing how some of the top election stories by mainstream media were outperformed by fake election news in terms of social engagement.
“I’m troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news,” Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College who researches political misinformation and fact-checking, told BuzzFeed. “Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it.”
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