So says Hillary Clinton, who, according to Indiewire, made the comment Friday during an event she hosted for a documentary about controversial political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Clinton’s remark is the latest shot at Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and the negative effect that critics say his social network is having on US society and its political system. Most recently, Zuckerberg has been facing fallout over his company’s refusal to take down politicians’ ads that contain falsehoods.
“Part of our problem — those of us who are appalled by this war on truth and this fake news, which is truly surrounding us these days – is we’re not very good at combating it,” Clinton reportedly said during the New York event. “It’s hard because you’re up against algorithms, plus all these other powerful forces, it’s really hard.”
The Cambridge Analytica documentary, The Great Hack, looks at the data-driven company’s role in the 2016 US presidential election, which Clinton lost to Donald Trump. It also asks the larger question; are we being manipulated by social media even as we willingly give tech companies our personal information?
“It’s not just about one election, it’s about so many of the choices that we’re facing in society right now,” Clinton reportedly said about the current moment. “The use of our data to manipulate us, to make money off of us, is really one of the cardinal challenges we face … this is our information, but people seem to forget that they should demand to own it.”
In a scandal that grabbed headlines last year, Cambridge Analytica obtained data on 87 million Facebook users without their consent. The consultancy had touted using such data to create psychological profiles of potential voters and guide political messaging, and the company was employed by the Trump campaign for a time. Facebook was widely criticized for failing to secure the data, with the scandal leading to Zuckerberg’s first testimony before Congress.
Clinton isn’t the only prominent politico to take aim at Zuckerberg recently. Last month, current presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren called attention to Facebook’s policy on politicians’ ads by running a false Facebook ad to protest false Facebook ads. Warren, who’s called for Facebook and other big tech firms to be broken up because they’ve become too powerful, said Zuckerberg was giving politicians the thumbs-up to “pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
Facebook’s own employees have objected to the ad policy too. On Monday, more than 250 Facebook workers signed a letter to Zuckerberg, saying, “We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.” In defending the policy Zuckerberg has cited free speech and said “people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”
On Wednesday, rival social network Twitter weighed in, with CEO Jack Dorsey announcing that the company will stop selling ads concerning candidates for office, elections or political issues such as climate change and immigration. Dorsey argued that the reach of political messages “should be earned” by getting people to follow an account or share a tweet instead of “bought” through advertising. Another tech bigwig has also weighed in. Earlier in October, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Facebook needs to be “held accountable for propaganda” on its platform.
According to Indiewire, Clinton said Friday that tech’s current trajectory could result in “a bad fairy tale.”
“It was an open society that enabled technology to be birthed and now be so dominant in our lives,” Clinton reportedly said. “It’s like a bad fairy tale. They are going to kill that golden goose. They are going to create a political system that is going to either come down too hard on them and squeeze them in ways that are not productive or continue to have a laissez faire attitude toward them where they continue to undermine our privacy and our freedom and our democracy. It could not be a more imperative challenge for us.”