Episode: How to Fix Social Media


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How to Fix Social Media

Earlier this year Soonish took on social media in an episode called A Future Without Facebook. In that show I explained my own decision to quit the troubled platform and talked with friends and colleagues about their own reasons for staying or going.

But the story of how these platforms are confounding earlier hopes for social media—and are instead blowing up our democracies—was never just about Facebook. In today’s special follow-up episode, I speak with national security expert Juliette Kayyem and former Twitter engineer Raffi Krikorian about the challenges spanning all of our social media platforms—Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and many others.

Algorithms designed to serve personalized content and targeted ads, for instance, have ended up fueling political polarization, aggravating radical-fringe resentment, and accelerating the spread of misinformation and disinformation. “The aspect that's different now is…the extent to which the guy sitting alone, who has these horrible thoughts, is able to find a community or a network to radicalize him and give a sense of community for that anger,” Kayyem observes. YouTube’s autoplay feature, which can lead viewers down rabbit holes full of conspiracy-theory videos, “might be one of the most dangerous features on the planet,” Krikorian comments.

How can we fix it? Both Krikorian and Kayyem say what’s needed is a combination of citizen pressure, technical and business-model changes, education for individuals (so they’ll know how to judge what they see on social platforms), and legislation to make information sources more transparent and hold platforms liable for the harassment they facilitate.

My chat with Kayyem and Krikorian was recorded at Net@50, a celebration of the 50th birthday of the ARPANET (the precursor to today’s Internet) organized by the World Frontiers Forum and Xconomy. Thank you to both organizations for permission to share the session.

For more background and resources, including a full episode transcript, check out the episode page at the Soonish website.

Chapter Guide
0:00 Hub & Spoke Sonic ID
00:08 Special Announcement: The Constant Joins Hub & Spoke
01:59 Soonish Opening
02:15 Audio Montage: Social Media in the News
03:43 The Problem Is Bigger than Facebook
05:29 Meet Guests Juliette Kayyem and Raffi Krikorian
06:04 Question 1: How Did You Get Interested in the Problem of Social Media?
12:39 Question 2: Shouldn’t We Have Noticed This Earlier?
16:22 Question 3: Micro or Macro Solutions?
22:54 Question 4: Can Individuals Make a Difference?
24:42 Audience Question: What’s Really New Here?
27:59 Audience Question: Should We Eliminate Anonymity on the Internet?
29:17 Audience Question: Making Us Smarter
31:21 Final Credits
32:14 Check Out the “Plymouth Rock” Episode of Iconography
33:35 Thank You to Our Patreon Supporters

The Soonish opening theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

All additional music is by Titlecard Music and Sound.

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