Pulse.ng logo
Go

Politics Mark Zuckerberg called the idea that Facebook influenced the 2016 election 'crazy' — but the company has long touted its ability to impact politics around the world

  • Published:

Facebook has come under fire for allowing Russian election meddling to play out on its platform, but turns out the site knew it was political all along.

Mark Zuckerberg play

Mark Zuckerberg

24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously called the idea that Facebook had inadvertently influenced the 2016 election "crazy."
  • But it turns out Facebook had touted its influence in other elections as "success stories," until the tab displaying them was taken down.
  • Facebook and the ads Russia bought on the site are of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and others investigating Russian ties to President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

When accusations were flying at Facebook for allegedly helping spread fake news about the 2016 US election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded by saying the idea that Facebook had any serious impact on the election was a "crazy" one.

But Facebook had apparently been proudly documenting the influence it had on politics, and even reportedly had a section in the "Success Stories" tab on its business site that showed how much of a role the platform had played in elections around the world, according to the Intercept.

Facebook has taken the tab down after the 2016 election controversy, but links to the "success stories" it had touted remain online.

One story Facebook cited looked at how the social media site helped Florida Gov. Rick Scott get elected to his position in 2011. The page states that Scott was hoping to reach a wider Hispanic and Cuban audience, and was able to do so through targeted Facebook ads that often targeted people following the 2010 World Cup that was going on at the same time as Scott's campaign.

One of Scott's strategists, Andrew Abdel-Malik, said the ads were invaluable for the campaign.

"Facebook Ads provided us with unique targeting capabilities to look beyond broad demographics and specifically target messages in English and Spanish to specific groups of Cuban, Puerto Rican and other descent," he said, according to Facebook's page. "This allowed us to reach different sub-groups of Hispanic voters in ways that were simply not feasible on TV and radio."

According to Facebook, the ads led to a 22% increase in Hispanic support for the campaign.

Another "success story" concerned the the Scottish National Party's victory in the 2015 UK elections. Following the failed Scottish independence referendum in 2014, the party wanted to personalize its message, and harness its limited but growing grassroots support.

The director of Industrial News Media, Kirk J. Torrance, summed up how important Facebook was for achieving the party's eventual electoral victory.

"I don’t think Scotland would be where it is today in terms of representation if it wasn’t for Facebook and the tools it offers campaigners," he said, according to the site.

Despite Zuckerberg's claims, Facebook seems to have known how wide its political reach is, and had apparently worn it as a badge of pride until the 2016 election controversy.

Lawyers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter were interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, and the committee subsequently released the Russian-bought ads that users had engaged with on the platform, which were similar in purpose to Scott's 2010 ad campaign.

The ads and Facebook itself has reportedly come under special counsel Robert Mueller's scrutiny as well. Mueller's investigative team reportedly sat down with the social media site's staff earlier this year as part of the Russia investigation.