Earlier this morning, Donald Trump accused Facebook of being "anti-Trump," suggesting that they had colluded with The New York Times and the Washington Post regarding the ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Since then, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the social network, responded to Trump's accusations.
If Zuckerberg's post is anything to go by, it's clear that he's not looking to take such accusations — from either side — lying down. He wrote, "Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don't like. That's what running a platform for all ideas looks like."
Then Zuckerberg went on to list the positive things that Facebook enabled:
- More people had a voice in this election than ever before. There were billions of interactions discussing the issues that may have never happened offline. Every topic was discussed, not just what the media covered.
- This was the first US election where the internet was a primary way candidates communicated. Every candidate had a Facebook page to communicate directly with tens of millions of followers every day.
A few things on the list, however, felt like subtle swipes at both the Republican and Democratic parties. For example, he mentions that Facebook ran "get out the vote" efforts, bringing in an estimated 2 million new voters. He points out that this is more than both the Trump and Clinton campaign's efforts brought in, combined. As well, he directly referenced the current investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the election through Facebook. He wrote: "Campaigns spent hundreds of millions advertising online to get their messages out even further. That's 1000x more than any problematic ads we've found."
This particular spat began when Trump tweeted his allegations of collusion this morning. He wrote: "Facebook was always anti-Trump.The Networks were always anti-Trump hence,Fake News, @nytimes(apologized) & @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?" Recode said that Trump believes the idea of Russian involvement is merely a "hoax," blaming the media for perpetuating it, as is his wont.
But merely days before this particular outburst, it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller ordered Facebook to turn over any and all details on the 3,000 or so ads that were allegedly paid for by Russian interests. As well, in a livestream late last week, Zuckerberg detailed just how Facebook was complying with Mueller and Congress, and spoke about how they're working to make sure something like that doesn't happen again. Trump's tweet feels more or less like a direct response to this news, and could arguably be thought of as a means of undermining whatever proof may come out of this investigation.
That's why Zuckerberg wrote the post that he did: he enumerated the importance of Facebook's impact on the election, regardless of whether that impact may have been good or bad. He wrote that "the data we have has always shown that our broader impact -- from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote -- played a far bigger role in this election." This is, of course, a far cry from his initial "that's crazy" dismissal of Facebook's impact on the election.
But in this post, he acknowledges that his earlier comment was dismissive, and then expressed regret over having said it. So, faced with accusations from Trump that Facebook's impact was somehow made up, it only makes sense that Zuckerberg would come out and argue the opposite.
As Mueller's investigation continues, it's pretty clear that we're going to see more and more online spats like this between Trump and just about anybody he may believe is working against him.