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KQED Radio

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Love it. If anyone who works at Facebook, you can backtrack me on this. But I've heard rumors that people have actually had shirts printed that say Senator we run ads on become like a catchphrase. What I love about. This though is that it's funny. And so it's it's sort of like you're forced to eat your vegetables or like tricked into eating your vegetables. Because now, I'm I I've been I've understood what has happened in this congressional hearing. It's funny. But it's also it's deeply unsettling to realize that that. On the internet. They don't understand the internet. And so how can they regulate? How can they regulate this beast that when they don't even know what it is? You're listening to the team behind the New York Times podcast, the daily this is city arts and lectures, so when we think about the kind of two headed monster that you've been covering over the past two years on the one monster head you've got the bad actors that kind of the white nationalist discord, the people who were sowing the misinformation who were kind of ruining this pristine wonderful thing the internet for the rest of us. I know you don't even agree with that. But on the other on the other head of this monster are the companies, right? And whether they have done enough because they reached so far into our lives to correct for the bad actors or if they've just fallen back on kind of like first amendment arguments are falling on our problem. And it feels like this has been going on now since the election extra since before the election, and that the first big test of whether or not those congressional hearings mattered that the lessons of discord and everything you've been covering matter is. As the midterm election. So I think the essential question is are we in better shape now than we were two years ago? When we first discovered that the internet was going to be so maliciously, turn against our democracy. It's a great question. I think I can sort of break it up into how I think about it. At least two parts the first is like Russia in four and actors question like are we more prepared for the kind of attacks that we saw in two thousand sixteen. I think the yes, like, I think Facebook and Twitter and other companies have made strides in sort of preparing themselves for for those kinds of attacks. Obviously, there are other kinds of attacks. No, no attacker would would make the same approach twice. But I do think they have done a fairly reasonable job of preparing themselves for that. I think there's this other piece of it though that I'm I'm sort of focused on right now, which is this kind of domestic like United States-based, disinformation and interference. I wanted to look like why I think like in two thousand sixteen we saw how effective a campaign to interfere in. Election waged over social media can be I think a lot of people in the US were paying attention to that. And I think they have sort of taken the playbook and run with it themselves and are building these networks of disinformation some of which we've experienced, but some of which are probably taking on new forms, and that's the part that I worry about. Now. The most is like the stuff that's coming from inside the house. So this week the outside. Well, that's a lot harder for. I mean, Facebook and Twitter are obviously justified in taking down a Russian interference campaign. But what if it's someone in Florida? What if it's someone in Texas, I've been working we have a treat for you guys. But I've been working on an episode that is yet to come out. But we found a couple in rural Pennsylvania, husband and wife who have been spending the past couple of years churning out, hyper partisan. News and information on their website, which they then run through the Facebook page that has two million followers. Wildly success husband and wife where in rural Pennsylvania have two million dollars two million followers happened. Well. I have a podcast show that you should stay tune. But, but basically they have figured out a formula that works, which is you take the story of the day. The outrageous story of the day, and you make it even more outrageous. There's any nuance in the headline that you're aggregating you take that out and you put in an intensified instead. And like what? Well, like, you might say, you know, there's there was a dispute between a local crime story, and it might in the newspaper. It might read. Man robbed at gunpoint, and they would take that. And they would say, oh is this is the Muslim men will then we'll say it's a Muslim man who robbed a white woman at gunpoint, and they will just sort of dial up the intensity on all of the signifier is that will make people angry, and they've found that that works, really. Well. In an environment like Facebook, or or like social media in general where people are or the things that you see are ranked by sort of how engaging they are in part. So I think we should play a clip, and this this is this is not been edited yet, so excuse the the sort of rust on it. But I think we. This'll be coming on the next few weeks. Did you notice any types of stories that did particularly? Well. Yeah. Highly opinionated stories. I think.