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The Perilous Power Of Social Media Platforms

Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store.  (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)
Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store. (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

Social media platforms have immense power: to shut down voices and amplify what we see. But is that singular power perilous to democracy?


Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School. Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.” (@shoshanazuboff)

Guillaume Chaslot, founder of AlgoTransparency. Mozilla fellow. Advisor at the Center for Humane Technology. He helped develop YouTube’s recommendation algorithm from 2010 to 2011. (@gchaslot)

Ramesh Srinivasan, professor in UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. Director of the UC Digital Cultures Lab. Author of “Beyond the Valley.” (@rameshmedia)

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Jason Myles, guitarist for the band Bitter Lake. Host of the This Is Revolution podcast.

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New York Times: “The Coup We Are Not Talking About” — “Two decades ago, the American government left democracy’s front door open to California’s fledgling internet companies, a cozy fire lit in welcome. In the years that followed, a surveillance society flourished in those rooms, a social vision born in the distinct but reciprocal needs of public intelligence agencies and private internet companies, both spellbound by a dream of total information awareness.”

Harvard Business Review: “How to Hold Social Media Accountable for Undermining Democracy” — “The storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday by a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists was shocking, but it was not surprising to anyone who has followed the growing prominence of conspiracy theorists, hate groups, and purveyors of disinformation online.”

CBS News: “A protected right? Free speech and social media” — “A decade ago this very month, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, social media was being praised. Its role as an organizing tool during the pro-democracy rallies had many calling the Arab Spring the ‘Facebook Revolution’ instead.”

New York Times: “Opinion: You Are Now Remotely Controlled” — “The debate on privacy and law at the Federal Trade Commission was unusually heated that day. Tech industry executives ‘argued that they were capable of regulating themselves and that government intervention would be costly and counterproductive.'”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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