Break up Big Tech

Things are made worse by the fact that social media sites operate under algorithms that promote “engagement,” which generally means emotion. And because, as tech visionary Jaron Lanier has written, the easiest emotions to engage are the negative emotions, the effect of social media platforms’ algorithms is to amplify negative feelings. The more you use them, the angrier and sadder you’re likely to become. (And they’re quite consciously designed to be addictive.)

At the same time, unlike the old blogosphere with its many independent platforms, social media sites have a common platform. Censoring the old blogosphere was impossible; censoring social media is possible, which means that social media companies face demands to do so.

Thus today’s social media world tends to give us the worst possible outcome: lots of angry, ill-informed speech, coupled with censorship of things that the platform owners don’t like or are pressured into killing. Add to that a tremendous loss of privacy as platforms monetize people’s personal data, and it’s easy to see why the tech giants aren’t as popular as they once were.

In fact if I were Facebook, et al., I’d be particularly worried by something I noticed at the conference: Both left- and right-leaning speakers don’t like them and want them brought under control.

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