Is the Facebook algorithm to blame for Trump’s win? – top geeks say maybe

Trump’s lead in the social media stakes contributed to the election victory, says the tech leaders meeting in Lisbon

 

The bombshell news of Donald Trump’s victory landed with a special thud at a gathering of more than 50,000 techies in Lisbon on Wednesday. There, speakers reflected wryly on the fact that it was their technologies – Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In and other social media – that helped Trump win.

In a dedicated panel discussion about the US elections outcome in the ‘Web Summit’, journalist David Patrikakos opened by saying, “We are all slaves of the Facebook algorithm”. Another journalist, Owen Jones, contributor to The Guardian, supported his colleague, “Social media create echoing places, where you are surrounded by like-minded people”.

However, not everybody around the table shares this view. Actress and democracy activist Shailene Woodley argued that people can indeed curate their interests on social media, opening opportunities to access voices that otherwise could not be heard. She leaned towards blaming mainstream media instead, saying, “They were Trump’s mouthpiece.”

Bradley Tusk, founder & CEO of Tusk Holdings, pointed to other factors. “America does not like when somebody says ‘It’s my turn’”, he said. Hillary Clinton was seen by many people as someone embedded in the Washington establishment.

Trump’s shadow ambled around the Lisbon stage on Tuesday too. Interviewed by Politico editor Ryan Heath, Ann Mettler, head of European Political Strategy Centre, stressed the importance of social media in Trump’s campaign. “Without social media he probably would not have been the candidate for the Republicans”, she said, quoting Trump during an appearance on TV last year, when he said “I have this thing called Twitter and Facebook, which is amazing actually—it’s like owning The New York Times without the losses.”

Read more on Science|Business.

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