Apr 11, 2018 - Technology

Critics: Facebook's ad model stops self-regulation

Tristan Harris, speaking at TED

Tristan Harris, speaking at TED 2016. Photo: TED

The seeming disjointedness of the Facebook hearings reflects just how much of our society Facebook now impacts, according to noted critic Tristan Harris.

Why it matters: "It actually speaks to the unprecedented level of power Facebook has," Harris told Axios on the sidelines of the TED conference in Vancouver on Tuesday.

I had a chance to catch up with Harris at the conference, and he pointed to Facebook's growing influence, as seen in the many issues it needs to address, from discrimination to hate speech to privacy and the integrity of elections. He said:

"Each of these things are influenced by one global actor."

And, Facebook's track record shows we can't trust the company to police itself, he said, adding:

"Their actual business interests incentivizes collecting more data over time and offering better and better tools to advertising over time to reach a larger and larger audience over time."

Of note: Harris has been one of the driving forces behind the Center for Humane Technology, which advocates a critical lens on how technology is impacting society.

Separately: VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, in a very timely TED talk, said Facebook and Google need to be paid-for services. The ad-based model has turned the companies into "social manipulation empires," he said.

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