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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

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's carbon emissions-cutting pledge faces tough climb

Image from the Rhodium Group study "Pathways to Paris." Courtesy of the Rhodium Group.

The verdict is in: President Biden's U.S. emissions-cutting pledge isn't a fantasy, but the path to meeting it is very difficult and relies on forces outside of White House control.

Driving the news: The Rhodium Group just released an analysis of policy combinations that could close the gap between the current U.S. trajectory and Biden's vow under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions in half by 2030.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 6 mins ago - Economy & Business

Johnson & Johnson pulls the trigger on Texas talc gambit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's official: Johnson & Johnson has invoked a Texas legal loophole in an attempt to protect the bulk of its corporate assets from claims that its baby powder caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Why it matters: It's the biggest and boldest invocation yet of the so-called Texas two-step defense. But it's still not clear whether it's going to work.

Poll: U.S. leadership approval rebounds from Trump low

A Gallup report published Tuesday found approval of United States leadership in 46 countries and territories hit 49% — up from 30% at the end of Donald Trump's presidency, and matching former President Obama's first year (2009).

Why it matters: Biden's efforts to reengage with the international community following the Trump administration appear to be improving the global approval ratings for U.S. leadership, though this poll does not take into account the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.