The votes are in and Trump won. Among some, there is a feeling of shock and horror – how could this happen? as people look for answers, some blame Facebook for influencing the election and the way people voted.
Is this possible? Did Facebook win the election for Trump?
Well, Yes and No.
People vote for the candidate that represents their ideology. Therefore, candidates try their utmost to showcase their values and deliver their campaign message to the voters. Delivering this message has never been simpler or cheaper and has never been easier to reach millions of people right inside their homes. Thank you social media. And what has social media been collecting on each person? Data.
Both parties employed teams of data scientists who created models that predicted outcomes based on people’s behaviors and sentiments. The team set out to either enforce that behavior or try to modify it. If you were a Hillary Clinton supporter then the “Hillary team” would show you more positive stories from Hillary and more negative stories about Donald Trump. And Donald’s team would do the same.
How did they know if you were a Hillary or a Donald supporter ?
This was based on data that came from publicly accessible data sources. One such data source is Facebook.
|Stop Facebook from knowing this about you:
Anytime you click, like, share, view, comment about anything on Facebook, it is being logged against your profile and this information is made available to advertisers. Advertisers are able to target their ads at people who are potential customers and not waste advertising money showing ads to those who are not. This targeting is not only done geographically but also based on factors that include categories such as people’s interests, the likelihood to take a specific action, martial status, number of kids under a specific age, job title etc.
It is worth noting that the advertiser does not get names or contact information. The advertiser is only able to create an advertising campaign targeting a demographic with specific interests.
Therefore, using this information, the Political Data teams could identify their supporters and their non-supporters. They sent targeted stories and even fake stories which got hundred and thousands of shares and reactions.
Did Facebook influence the election?
No. Facebook itself did not. The people who use Facebook did. The social media users who share every bit of “news” without checking if it is factual or not, those who click on comedy skits favoring one party over another, those who shared funny Memes, they are the one who influenced the election. People who shared their political preference reinforced their affiliation for one candidate. They shared content with their “friends” who also liked and reacted to the same content thereby reinforcing that view.
So why the shock that Donald Trump won ?
With the run-up to the election, the number of politically related content increased dramatically on social media. Since you mainly saw stories that reinforced your political belief, those who were pro-Hillary stories continued to share and like pro-Hillary content and this lead them to believe that most people were pro-Hillary. When a positive story about Donald appeared there were scathing comments and this again enforced in people’s minds that Hillary was going to win since everyone was against Donald.
Turns out not so much.
Once again, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are NOT the whole world – these platforms are just your world. These are just a microcosm of your view of the world. Just as in real life you surround yourself with people you like, on social media you follow people you like. This is what makes social media your place so scream and shout about any topic as you know that your Facebook Friends will come out to support you and hit that like button.
And what about those who have a counter view? How dare they? those idiots get the “Unfollow/ Block” treatment and once again the social media becomes a safe bubble.