In Sunday night’s now infamous 60 Minutes interview, Donald Trump told at least 16 lies, according to CNN.
But he did get something right. Right before he made a number of menacing statements to Lesley Stahl, and then walked off in a huff in the middle of the interview, Trump reminded the world how he ended up in the White House in the first place.
“I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have social media,” said Trump.
Unlike pretty much everything else he said, that is true.
Even a Twitter board member said the social media network helped Trump win the first time around. And despite changes to its algorithms in 2019, YouTube led plenty of users down misinformation rabbit holes in the lead-up to Trump’s victory in 2016.
But the worst offender was Facebook. As Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, told 60 Minutes in 2017, “I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Facebook was the method — it was the highway which his car drove on.”
In a leaked internal memo from the end of 2019, Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth said the social media network “was responsible for Donald Trump getting elected” — but claimed, “Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica” wasn’t the culprit. Instead, it’s because he “ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”
Many experts find that a bit too generous. An Ohio State study suggests blatantly fake news likely convinced swing voters to pick Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. And the co-founder of FactCheck.org wrote a book about how Russian misinformation most likely helped Trump win.
But aside from the issues of ads (some possibly used to suppress the Black vote in swing states in 2016) and Russian interference, Facebook allowed toxic right-wing misinformation to flourish before and after Trump became president. The list of top-performing Facebook content still regularly looks like this:
Facebook has made some positive changes to fight misinformation. But it continues to let Republicans work the refs with accusations of “anti-conservative bias” (see above list for evidence to the contrary). And Trump is hoping social media, once again, can propel him to victory on Nov. 3.