I pass on a few clips from a sobering NYTimes article
by Kara Swisher, who quotes from a recent Facebook post:
We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too.
Facebook, as well as Twitter and Google’s YouTube, have become the digital arms dealers of the modern age...by weaponizing pretty much everything that could be weaponized. They have mutated human communication, so that connecting people has too often become about pitting them against one another, and turbocharged that discord to an unprecedented and damaging volume...They have weaponized social media. They have weaponized the First Amendment. They have weaponized civic discourse. And they have weaponized, most of all, politics.
Swisher's concluding paragraphs:
“I mean, my emotion is feeling a deep sense of responsibility to try to fix the problem,” said Mr. Zuckerberg. “In running a company, if you want to be innovative and advance things forward, I think you have to be willing to get some things wrong. But I don’t think it is acceptable to get the same things wrong over and over again.”
It was a classic Silicon Valley engineer’s roll-up-your-sleeves answer, which leaves many cold when it comes to, say, the manipulation of democracy. Fending off bad actors like the Russians has been and will be increasingly expensive; it may even be impossible. But Facebook could have done much more than it did, and it certainly needs to do more than it’s doing.
Mr. Zuckerberg is now trying to fend off talk in Washington of regulating his company like the thing he once told me it was: a utility. He has also spent the last month meeting over dinners with a range of academic experts on free speech, propaganda and more to try to understand where to go from here.
Call it the education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley, but on the world’s dime. How much that has — and will — cost is probably immeasurable.
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