After a long, confusing, fake news-filled 2016 election in which Donald Trump became President of the United States, Barack Obama was one of the many people to take shots at Facebook's role in spreading fake news.
But according to a new New York Times Magazine article published online on Tuesday, Obama didn't just complain about fake news, he also spoke directly to Mark Zuckerberg it.
In the article, titled "Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug," writer Farhad Manjoo investigated Facebook's efforts to adapt to and fix the problem of fake news on social media. While interviewing Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg for the story, Manjoo asked if he had spoken to Obama about the former president's complaints. And according to the New York Times Magazine, "Zuckerberg paused for several seconds, nearly to the point of awkwardness, before answering that he had."
Even Zuck knows things are bad if the former president of the United States shows concern for his platform's role in political history.
"Zuckerberg paused for several seconds, nearly to the point of awkwardness, before answering that he had."
Then, Facebook’s spokespeople reportedly followed up after Manjoo's interview was over, stressing that Obama was just one of many people Zuckerberg spoke with about the issue of fake news in Facebook's News Feed, to limit political assumptions about Facebook's efforts to address fake news
While the conversation may have been awkward for Zuckerberg, the topic is not new to Obama.
Nearly a week and a half after the election, while speaking at a news conference in Berlin, President Obama publicly addressed the spread of fake news, specifically calling out Facebook.
"In an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect," he said.
"If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones," he went on, "if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems."
Following the election, Zuckerberg was initially reluctant to admit that fake news articles on Facebook had any sort of influence on the results. Later, he published a post on his Facebook page in November saying it was "extremely unlikely [that] hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other."
In that same post, Zuckerberg also acknowledged that Facebook could do more to combat fake news, but downplayed the presence of misinformation on the site in the process.
"Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes," he wrote.
Since then, the company has taken active steps to fight the spread of misinformative articles, including banning fake news sites from its ad network and creating a tool at the top of the News Feeds that offers tips on how to identify misleading information and links to helpful resources in the platform.
As for the future of Facebook, in a 6,000-word document titled "Building Global Community" Zuckerberg communicated he strives to see a "supportive," "safe," "informed," "civically-engaged," and "inclusive" digital world.
Whatever changes Zuckerberg decides to make to the platform in the future, he should remember — Obama is taking note.