Opinion | Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Is the Most Powerful Unelected Man in America - The New York Times
On Thursday, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced the company’s “New Steps to Protect the U.S. Elections.” They include blocking new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day and attaching labels to posts containing misinformation, specifically related to the coronavirus and posts from politicians declaring victory before all the results are counted.
One can — and many will — debate just how effective these measures will be at preventing election night chaos during a pandemic. (So far Facebook’s “misleading post” labels are vague to the point of causing additional confusion for voters. Similarly, blocking new political ads one week out from the vote ignores the vast amounts of disinformation Americans are subjected to year after year.) But what seems beyond debate is just how deeply Facebook has woven itself into the fabric of democracy.
“I think we underestimate Facebook’s power constantly,” Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, told me. “It’s really hard for human beings to picture in their head the actual size and influence of the platform. Something like one out of three people use the thing — it’s like nothing we’ve encountered in human history. And I’m not sure Mark Zuckerberg is even willing to contemplate his influence. I’m not sure he’d ever sleep if he ever thought about how much power he has.”
Facebook wins in every direction. Its size and power creates instability, the answer to which, according to Facebook, is to give the company additional authority.
This cycle is unsustainable. This summer has shown that the platform has been a prime vector for the most destabilizing forces in American life. It has helped supercharge conspiracies around the dangerous QAnon movement. It has provided organization for, and amplified calls to action from, militia movements, which have been linked to deaths in U.S. cities at protests. Its moderation policies have failed to catch blatant rule violations around voter disenfranchisement, and the conspiracy theories that go viral on the platform have found their way, time and again, to President Trump’s mouth.