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Bremmer: 'The entire business model of Facebook undermines liberal democracy'

Eurasia Group Founder and CEO Ian Bremmer believes that Facebook’s business model undermines the very foundations of liberal democracy.

“My definition of a dystopia is a country or an environment where citizens get their news as determined and filtered by the world’s largest advertising company,” Bremmer said on Yahoo Finance’s Final Round, as Facebook reported Q1 earnings. “That does not help a liberal democracy. In fact, the entire business model of Facebook undermines liberal democracy.”

A recent Pew Research study found that 69 percent of Americans get at least some of their news on social media, with 20 percent doing so often. Another study last year found that Facebook’s base — which includes about 68 percent of Americans — “outstripped all other social media sites as a source of news.”

Yahoo Finance Editor in Chief Andy Serwer asked Bremmer: “Hasn’t it always been that way? I mean, it’s always been ad-sponsored news.”

Bremmer, a geopolitical expert who has a new book about the failure of globalism, argued that the specific nature of personalized news feeds set social media — and specifically Facebook — apart from the ways people previously consumed news.

Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding Facebook’s handling of user data. (Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters)

“If you’re able to tailor it individually, which of course, is what social media is all about, then it is your fiduciary responsibility to ensure that these people like as much of the news as they possibly can get,” he said. “And I think that that … undermines and fragments our liberal democracy.”

Bremmer noted that he didn’t think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially thought that Facebook would splinter society. “I don’t think he gave much thought to it,” Bremmer said. “I think he was talking his book, because he was going to make money this way.”

Facebook, despite facing the most turbulent period in company history, beat Wall Street estimates for Q1 of 2018. The stock rose about 10 percent during trading on Thursday.

Follow Aarthi on Twitter @aarthiswami and Michael @MichaelBKelley.

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