Facebook, Twitter Are Making The World Worse, Kara Swisher Warns"They have weaponized civic discourse," says the veteran Silicon Valley journalist.As the self-described “grumpy lady of tech,” journalist Kara Swisher has thought and written about Facebook a lot since at least 2005, when she first interviewed Mark Zuckerberg.
Closing in on a decade and a half later, Swisher no longer likes what she sees.
In her latest column for The New York Times, the veteran tech insider concludes that Facebook ― and Twitter, and YouTube ― are doing great damage to the world, perhaps without realizing it.
“[Zuckerberg] and Facebook … have been working humanity’s last nerve for far too long now,” Swisher writes, using language that verges on breakup letter territory. “Every week, it’s something, and that something is never good.”
From enabling massive political disinformation campaigns around the world (which are still happening) to amplifying hate speech to letting the personal information of 87 million people slip through its fingers, “never good” is perhaps putting it lightly.
These companies have indeed changed the world, Swisher concedes ― just not for the better:
All these companies began with a gauzy credo to change the world. But they have done that in ways they did not imagine — by weaponizing pretty much everything that could be weaponized. They have mutated human communication, so that connecting people has too often become about pitting them against one another, and turbocharged that discord to an unprecedented and damaging volume.
They have weaponized social media. They have weaponized the First Amendment. They have weaponized civic discourse. And they have weaponized, most of all, politics.
Swisher slightly tempered her criticism in a follow-up interview with CNBC on Monday, applauding Apple for pulling far-right conspiracy site Infowars from its platform, which prompted Facebook, Spotify and YouTube to follow suit.
“What I’m arguing is it’s not all good, and I think that’s the story we’ve had for far too long,” she told the hosts. “As they struggle to figure this out, society is damaged and there’s a price for it. I don’t mean to say they do it on purpose; it’s that it’s not thought out enough. These policies aren’t thought out enough.”
The companies’ failure to grasp their negative impact in the world may not fully manifest itself in their stock prices at first ― but it will eventually, in the form of a much smaller user base, Swisher predicted.
“As these places ― not just Facebook, Twitter, all the others ― as they become cesspools of humanity, people aren’t going to use them as much.
“And at the same time, the tentacles are just growing and growing, and I don’t mean to be alarming, but if they have this great responsibility, and we trust them with our financial information and everything else … we’ve got to think hard about what those responsibilities are when they get that information.”