Tech | October 14, 2017 5:00 am

Is Facebook Good for Democracy?

The Atlantic looks into the effects the ubiquitous social network has on politics.

A new piece The Atlantic writes that “the informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, ” but no one knows — or has explained — how.

Research over the years has shown that Facebook had the potential to have a major impact on the election. But most writers, The Atlantic says, focused on electoral problems inside other concerns, like privacy.

The Atlantic writes that Facebook’s draw is “the ability to give you what you want” by correctly predicting what you will engage with, through liking, commenting, or sharing. And here’s the thing: the News Feed works really well. The Atlantic writes that in 2013, the social media platform began to serve ads initing users to “like” media pages, which causes a massive increase in the amount of traffic Facebook sent to media companies.

Essentially, this meant they took over media distribution, or in simpler terms, they owned media companies.

What flew under the radar was that right-wing media developed in opposition to and alongside the left-leaning sites. Then there was the video push, where any video was able to generate millions of views. So everyone started to create videos. Places like Breitbart utilized social media as their backbone “to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world,” The Atlantic writes. There really is no left-wing equivalent.

That is when constant misinformation and hoaxes started to spread in the run-up to the election.

Craig Silverman, a BuzzFeed reporter, found that “in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets.” But he also found that Facebook’s “Trending” algorithm regularly promoted fake news. Fake news generated a ton of engagement and was spread so far and wide that the Pope himself was even talking about fake news.

Then there are Russia’s disinformation campaigns. Three thousand ads have been linked to Russia, but the biggest game Russia played is that they created pages that reached people “organically,” according to The Atlantic. Those posts were shared billions of times, and no one really knows how many views or who was specifically targeted.