Given the pace at which Facebook is acquiring, we’re looking for more quality content. In collaboration with Atlantic Media, we’re creating a new hub of quality Facebook content that The Atlantic can share with readers across the web. More stories, video, and photos each week. — Sam Lessin () November 21, 2018
Facebook vice president of product Sam Lessin expressed his views on the 2016 presidential election in a rare public speech on how technology is changing the world and what it means for politics.
“Facebook played a major role in the election,” Lessin said in a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday. “Yes, it played a role in the election of President Trump,” he added later.
Some of Lessin’s statement began to raise eyebrows among the audience after the speech, including when Lessin said he “misunderstood” the ad limits of Facebook’s political targeting tools. “[There’s] this notion that because we just report content that comes in that way that somehow we’re not neutral, that we’re a news site,” Lessin said. He also said Facebook and the digital news industry were partly to blame for the election results.
The Atlantic posted a transcript of Lessin’s remarks, which have since been removed.
“At a fundamental level, we have to find a way to make news organizations healthier, and for that to happen we have to move the conversation from whether news organizations can actually cover a story, to what are the appropriate practices that news organizations can and should follow,” Lessin said in his remarks. “Both the establishment press and the new media, both are critically important for this.”
As we’ve reported before, Lessin is one of the first Facebook execs to address the social media site’s role in the 2016 presidential election—something the company has avoided for more than a year. Lessin, however, made it clear that the Facebook he knows is a very different platform now than it was the one Trump campaigned on.
“I’m not going to pretend that we’re perfect and that everything we do is actually ideal,” Lessin said. “We make mistakes, but we’re generally thoughtful about making those mistakes, and we make plenty of mistakes.”