The United States is a leader in internet technology. But it may well be a laggard when it comes to using internet technology for political mischief.
The role that fake news stories on internet sites — Facebook, in particular — played in last week’s presidential election continues to be a hot-button issue. Did fake news tip the balance in the election? Can Facebook do more to prevent fake news? Should it?
Facebook executives dispute the notion that fake news on the social network might have swayed voters.
But political analysts say the warning signs of this debate could be seen in other countries years ago. Take the Philippines, where a spokesman for its president, Rodrigo Duterte, shared on Facebook an image of a girl believed to have been raped and killed by a drug dealer. “Fact checkers later revealed that the photo had come from Brazil,” Paul Mozur and Mark Scott write.
The role of fake news posted to Facebook in the recent presidential election is likely to be debated for months, even years. But there is little doubt that the social media network has had plenty of influence.
In October, a 17-word reminder to register to vote contributed to significant increases in online voter registration across the country, according to officials in nine states. In that case, Facebook did not dispute their conclusion.