#133 Facebook and YouTube Threats: Zeynep Tufekci

Billions of people use Facebook and YouTube. But do social media platforms threaten our privacy and our freedom?  The problem goes well beyond hate messages and other forms of inappropriate content, or fake news and "dark posts"— targeted ads not visible to the public.

"The crucial problem here is we have no protections about the data that's collected," says our guest, Professor Zeynep Tufekci. "We have no protections about how that data is used and we have a business model where we are the product and not the customer."

Zeynep is the author of the critically-acclaimed book, "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest." At the University of North Carolina, she teaches a class: "Big Data, Algorithms and Society."

"They have all our data...They control all the gatekeeping," Zeynep says of Facebook and other internet giants. "The threat that I fear is that we're building the infrastructure for a sort of soft authoritarianism."  

Much of the information these companies have collected on us is "sold to the highest bidders whatever they may be peddling.

The ability of tech firms to spy on us, while nudging and seducing users into different forms of behavior, is constantly changing. "The past five years have been mind-blowing. We are growing a form of machine intelligence," says Zeynep. Unlike the past "this one is learning itself and we don't understanding how it's doing what it's doing." 

"How Do We Fix It?" is a solutions podcast. This episode examines potential remedies, including the need for greater corporate transparency, sunsetting data, government regulation and voluntary actions by Facebook and other big tech firms. Those of us who use social media sites should inform ourselves about how they work. This show is a good place to start.