Former President of the United States Barack Obama personally warned Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg about the potential threat of fake news being disseminated through the most popular social network on the planet, The Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. The warning was supposedly given by Obama on November 19, shortly after current U.S. President Donald Trump won the 2016 elections and Zuckerberg himself said it’s “pretty crazy” to insinuate that the spread of fake news on Facebook played a crucial role in the outcome of the election, a notion that was raised by some politicians and other actors in the U.S.
Obama and Zuckerberg’s exchange on the matter reportedly happened in Lima, Peru, with the former President warning the fifth richest person on the planet not only about fake news themselves but political disinformation campaigns as a whole, urging him to not dismiss the potential effect such phenomena could have on the global political landscape, especially when paired with a massive online platform like Facebook. While Zuckerberg wasn’t as adamant that such allegations are entirely unfounded on that occasion, he suggested that the problem is still overblown in the context of Facebook and is also a difficult one to tackle, having no clear and universal solution, people familiar with the conversation claim. Obama reportedly insisted that a failure to act now would mean the problem would become even greater come next presidential election, a notion that Zuckerberg may have agreed with seeing how Facebook later started introducing a wide variety of initiatives to combat the dissemination of factually inaccurate and misleading information.
The latest turn of events in the drawn-out saga came last week when Zuckerberg said Facebook will turn over information about over 3,000 ads which were bought in the run-up to the 2016 election by suspected Russian agents. The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant also prevented pages identified as spreading fake news from buying ads on its platform in late August. The company has so far approached the issue in an extremely careful manner, trying to balance its recent efforts to combat sensationalist, misleading, and false content with its continuous ambition to not indulge in outright censorship. Those goals led it to introduce some initiatives aimed at indirectly fighting the spread of fake news by educating users and encouraging them to be critical of everything they read instead of preemptively banning content.