Former president Barack Obama reportedly pulled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg aside and made an appeal to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously, reports The Washington Post. According to the paper, Obama warned that unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, it would only get worse in the next presidential race. That conversation reportedly occurred just nine days after Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election as “crazy,” just two months before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Obama hoped the conversation would be a wake-up call
Zuckerberg acknowledged the problems fake news posed, but told Obama they weren’t widespread and there wasn’t an easy remedy, according to sources who were briefed on the private exchange. The sources said that Obama hoped the conversation, which happened in a hotel room in Lima, Peru during a meeting of world leaders, would be a wake-up call for the CEO. In light of Trump’s election victory, Obama’s aides “wished they had done more.” The accounts also detailed that Facebook detected elements of a Russian information operation in June 2016 and reported its findings to the FBI, but both struggled to work together to fight the issue.
Facebook has faced criticism over its handling of fake news. In the months since, it has blocked ads from pages that spread fake news and introduced a campaign showing users how to spot fake news. Last week, Zuckerberg announced more efforts to increase Facebook’s standard for transparency, requiring political ads to be traceable to the Facebook page that paid for it.