Apr 24, 2018

LinkedIn CEO warns of tech's "unintended consequences"

Photo: Rob Groulx/Axios; Illustration: Axios Visuals

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, visiting Washington as part of Silicon Valley's new attentiveness to D.C., told Axios that tech companies still need to do more to deal with the unintended consequences of the power of their platforms.

His big picture: "And when you amass the kind of scale and influence that current technology companies are capable of, those audiences that they're capable of reaching, it carries enormous responsibility."

In addition to running the world’s largest professional network (546 million members), Weiner has been atop the tech rocket for a quarter-century, with stints at Yahoo and the iconic venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

  • "Increasingly, companies need to really think about the unintended consequences proactively," Weiner said.
  • "The companies may not have been founded with that as a first principle, but that is our reality. ... So, I think that's, first and foremost, something that we need to carry with us as an industry."

Why it matters: Weiner's comments echo those of other tech leaders that suggest new-age tech firms can no longer use the excuse of being well-intentioned but naive when faced with the unforeseen consequences of their products.

  • Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings, said a few weeks ago: "Social ... platforms — whether that’s YouTube or Facebook — are clearly trying to grow up quickly. And you see that with all new technologies."
  • Bill Gates, in an interview with me in February, warned that tech companies need to be "careful that they're not trying to think their view is more important than the government's view."
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook said last month: "Privacy ... is a human right, a civil liberty."

Despite being a data-based ad platform, LinkedIn is rarely mentioned as a part of the Big Tech reckoning that's gripping news headlines.

  • But LinkedIn has a consequential connection to people's careers and money-earning capability, with an emotional and practical tie to basically every rising professional.

Weiner said the reality he was sketching "isn't necessarily specific to our industry, but by virtue of the rate of the change, I think it's accentuated."

There are other industries facing unintended consequences:

  • Drug companies, which created opioids in the 1990s to help with pain, are reckoning with the most serious cause of death in the U.S.
  • The rise of online shopping has created enormous opportunities for consumers, but has also killed thousands of brick and mortar shops.

Go deeper: Video from our interview of Jeff Weiner.

  • See LinkedIn's Economic Graph, "a digital representation of the global economy" based on "all the data on LinkedIn."

P.S. You'll want to read ... Sara's popular Media Trends newsletter, out later this morning (sign up free here):

  • The twisted world of social media influencers: The account of popular progressive Instagram model @lilmiquela (1 million followers) was supposedly "hacked" last week by popular pro-Trump Instagram model @bermudaisbae (64,000 followers).
  • While details around the hack are hazy, a photo of the models together suggests that the event was coordinated.
  • The catch: Neither model is real, although one is verified by Instagram. They are both computer-generated imagery (CGI) models with massive followings and in some cases have racked up real advertising deals and music profiles.

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for calm Tuesday as deadly clashes erupted in the city's northeast between supporters and opponents of India's controversial new citizenship law.

Why it matters: Per the BBC, a police officer and six civilians "died in the capital's deadliest day" since last year's passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act — which allows religious minorities but excludes Muslims from nearby countries to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted for their religion — hours before President Trump and members of the U.S. first family were due to visit the city as part of their visit to India.

Go deeper: India's citizenship bill continues Modi's Hindu nationalist offensive

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Why it matters: It's a welcome boost for Buttigieg ahead of Tuesday's Democratic debate in South Carolina and the state's primary on Saturday.

White House requests $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus as U.S. cases rise

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The Trump administration sent a letter to Congress Monday requesting a funding commitment of at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to 53.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures in efforts to thwart the spread of the virus, WHO expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,699 people and infected more than 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

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