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Tech Leaders Shocked by Weaponization of Social Media


In an extraordinary November Silicon Valley summit, big guns of the tech industry found themselves agreeing that not only are the Russians’ weaponized narrative attacks on social media destroying America, they’re destroying the way Silicon Valley has been operating. It marks a real sea-change in thinking among the techies. According to this piece in IEEE Spectrum, they painted a dark picture of our current online world for at least the immediate future. They concluded that preventing such manipulation is not going to be easy. “We have passed the fail-safe point,” venture capitalist Roger McNamee said. “I don’t think we can get back to the Silicon Valley that I loved. At this point we just have to save America.” JG

Why is this important?

"The tech industry can’t hide from the information war, particularly when its own creations are being weaponized," writes Tekla Perry. There are remarkable levels of agreement on statements that would have been heresy just months ago, including: “We hardened our financial institutions against hacking, but it never occurred to us that the minds of our voters could be hacked; they turned our tools against us"; “I spent my whole life working in civil liberties, and I didn’t see this coming"; “The current model [of self-regulation] is collapsing" and “[Google and Facebook] aren’t even regulated to the point that television was regulated when we were all calling it the idiot tube.” Speaker after speaker marveled that, only a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg said, “the idea that fake news, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” Further, social media technology leaders seemed shocked by how cheap and easy it turned out to be to weaponize social networks. JG


Tekla Perry

Publication Date

November 14, 2017