Skip to main content

How Donald Trump changed Facebook

How Donald Trump changed Facebook

/

Land of the Giants looks at how Facebook has grappled with its political power

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

At one point in time, Facebook’s relationship with politicians was relatively uncontroversial.

But after the 2016 US elections, everything changed.

Early in the campaign, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump tested the limits of Facebook’s rules against hateful speech at the same time that the company became a vehicle of political exploitation by foreign actors.

Facebook’s first test: dealing with Trump’s 2015 Facebook post calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US. While some inside the company saw a strong argument that Trump’s comments violated Facebook’s rules against religious hate speech, the company decided to keep the post up. Until then, most Facebook employees had never before grappled with the possibility that their platform could be used to stoke division by a political candidate for the highest position of office.


“What do you do when the leading candidate for president posts an attack…on [one of the] the biggest religion[s] in the world?” former Facebook employee and Democratic lobbyist Crystal Patterson told us.

And it wasn’t just national politicians that Facebook had to worry about but foreign adversaries, too. Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s initial post-election comments dismissing a “pretty crazy idea” that fake news on the platform could influence elections, it soon became clear that propaganda from Russian Facebook accounts had reached millions of American voters — causing an unprecedented backlash that forced the company to reckon with its culpability in influencing global politics.

Over time, Zuckerberg would acknowledge Facebook’s role as the “The Fifth Estate” — an entity as powerful as the government and media in shaping the public agenda, while at the same time trying to minimize the company’s role in dictating the acceptable terms of political speech.

How much responsibility does Facebook still have to dictate the terms of its own platform?

To offload the burden of political responsibility going forward, Facebook formed the Oversight Board, a Supreme Court-like body it set up to weigh in on controversial content decisions — including how to deal with Trump’s account. But the board is new, and we’re still learning how much power it has over Facebook. How much responsibility does Facebook still have to dictate the terms of its own platform? And can the board go far enough to change the social media platform’s underlying engine: its recommendation algorithms? 

We explore these questions about Facebook’s role in moderating political speech in our fourth episode of Land of the Giants, Vox Media Podcast Network’s award-winning narrative podcast series about the most influential tech companies of our time. This season, Recode and The Verge have teamed up over the course of seven episodes to tell the story of Facebook’s journey to becoming Meta, featuring interviews with current and former executives.

Listen to the fourth episode of Land of the Giants: The Facebook / Meta Disruption and catch the first two episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 5:33 PM UTC Striking out

A
Youtube
Andrew Webster5:33 PM UTC
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew Webster4:28 PM UTC
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


E
TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.