(This is a copy of the Time Well Spent newsletter. You can subscribe on humanetech.com)
The last few weeks have brought tremendous momentum, and we’re eager to share many important updates:
“The Great Hack” Documentary
“The Great Hack” is a terrific film that details Cambridge Analytica’s efforts to use data acquired from Facebook to impact the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Brexit, and several other elections across the globe via psychological manipulation. The nature of our human sensitivities means we are all susceptible in one way or another to psychological manipulation, and the movie is a wake-up call on how vulnerable democracies around the globe are. We encourage you to host a screening party with your friends to learn more, and to consider how we can protect ourselves against the hacking of future elections. Here’s a conversation guide to get you started.
Documentary subjects Brittany Kaiser and David Carroll were joined by CHT advisors Yaёl Eisenstat and Roger McNamee at a screening of “The Great Hack” in New York.
New Episodes of “Your Undivided Attention”
In “Down the Rabbit Hole by Design” former YouTube engineer Guillaume Chaslot details how the YouTube recommendation engine, which he worked on, goes rogue. Over a billion hours are watched daily on YouTube, and 70% of those hours are from recommendations. Guillaume explains how the system spins up outrage, conspiracy theories, and extremism—and why his attempts to change Google from the inside failed.
- Guillaume Chaslot, former YouTube engineer and founder of AlgoTransparency.org
In "From Russia with Likes (Parts 1 & 2)” we interview Renée DiResta, a world expert on disinformation and one of the researchers invited by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She reveals how and why today’s propaganda—from memes to manufactured consent—is more dangerous than in the past. She explains how Russia tried to influence both the right and left political identities going after authentic grievances of U.S. voters.
- Renée DiResta, a 2019 Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust.
In our next episode we’ll hear from researcher Gloria Mark on tech-induced interruptions to our thoughts, work, and relationships, and the resulting impact on society.
In the News
Rebelling against attention economy, Humane Tech movement expands CHT is profiled in the growing coalition of social groups pushing back against tech companies that feed digital addiction and overload.
The Technology of Kindness How social media can rebuild our empathy—and why it must.
The Toxic Potential of YouTube’s Feedback Loop Guillaume describes how the AI feedback loops he helped build at YouTube amplify our worst inclinations.
Facebook Knows More About You Than the CIA CHT advisor Yaёl Eisenstat shares her first-hand view of working inside Facebook. To hear her solutions, check out our podcast, “With Great Power Comes…No Responsibility?”
Update from Capitol Hill
The tide is turning in Washington. Facebook received the biggest fine in FTC history—$5 billion—and is now facing anti-trust probes from the FTC and the U.S. Dept of Justice. Unfortunately, the fine is essentially a slap on the wrist and does not require any changes to Facebook’s operations or actual accountability. It does, however, demonstrate that the U.S. government will take action to protect its citizens from the harmful effects of social media.
As seen in Tristan Harris’s testimony on Capitol Hill on June 25, CHT’s mission includes educating policy makers on how persuasive technologies downgrade humanity. In July U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill to limit social media companies’ ability to use design features like infinite scroll and video autoplay, with articles in MIT Technology Review, and Gizmodo citing our testimony and influence. We also helped inform U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s tech policy.
As momentum builds around humane technology, we continue to be overwhelmed with opportunity and are growing our team to respond. We’re always grateful for your help in finding outstanding candidates, as they are often already within our combined network.
The Center for Humane Technology Team