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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.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America is anxious, angry and heavily armed

Data: FBI; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Firearms background checks in the U.S. hit a record high in 2020.

The big picture: This past year took our collective arsenal to new heights, with millions of Americans buying guns for the first time. That trend coincides with a moment of peak political and social tension.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

America on borrowed time

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic recovery will not be linear as the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Despite being propped up by an extraordinary amount of fiscal stimulus and support from central banks, the state of the global economy remains fragile.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.