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Facebook is a 'cesspool of nonsense,' says John Oliver

Technically Incorrect: The HBO comedian insists that Facebook did influence the election results.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Oliver and examples from the cesspool

Last Week Tonight/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The firing squads have become as circular as the arguments.

Those that hoped for a Hillary Clinton victory are now looking the culprits in a defeat that so many data nerds, media members and Goldman Sachs executives failed to predict.

One target has been social media.

Presiding over a very loud wake on Sunday night, HBO comedian John Oliver suggested the conventional media played into Donald Trump's hands by, for example, airing his speeches live and unedited.

He slung most bile, however, at social media (near the 10-minute mark of the video).

Around 44 percent of people get their news from Facebook, he explained. Naturally, he gravitated to the idea that Facebook harbors many fake news sites that peddle complete garbage in a partisan cause.

He explained that while the informed -- in his view -- might have enjoyed a News Feed full of articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post, many Americans saw "a cesspool of nonsense."

He insisted that President-elect Trump is one who shares such nonsense with his followers. (This led Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly to once suggest that Trump should never tweet again.)

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was "crazy" to imagine his site had influenced voters.

On Monday, however, he suggested Facebook would do something about fake news.

Still, the complaints about Facebook are odd. This is a company into which humans have voluntarily piled their personal data for the past few years. It has no customers, other than those it sells ads to. What responsibility should it have to people who pay nothing for the service, yet expect that Facebook will bend to some sort of moral will?

Blaming Facebook and its fellow social media also misses that human beings often operate by their own personal instincts, good and bad.

Those are often simpler and more basic than any amount of fake news or social media trolling.

For just enough people in just the right -- or, if you prefer, wrong -- places, Clinton represented more of the same and Trump stood for something, anything different. Oh, and he was famous too.

Which might have influenced people in, say, Wisconsin more: fake news or the fact that the Democratic candidate didn't bother going to Wisconsin at all?

There's something quaint about the idea that people aren't able to think or decide for themselves and need to be told what to do. Propaganda certainly plays a role, but not the only role. When the word "populism" is used to describe movements such as Trump's, some might prefer to describe it as "democracy."

Unless, of course, you happen to believe that the election was rigged. I can't remember who first suggested that. I saw it somewhere on social media.