Aa a shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, set about massacring dozens of worshippers at two mosques on March 15, his body cam beamed live footage to social media. Soon after, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, learned that it was being uploaded to the platform. The company put thousands of human beings and a pile of algorithms to work finding and removing the snuff footage. It was already too late. As The Economist recounted not long ago, “Before she went to bed at 1am Ms Wojcicki was still able to find the video.” And no wonder: It was being uploaded as often as once every second, a dispersal “unprecedented both in scale and speed,” as a YouTube spokesperson told The Guardian. Facebook, also scrambling, removed the video from users’ pages 1.5 million times in the first 24 hours after the shooting. Yet nearly two months later, CNN reported still finding it on Facebook.
Not long before the attack, Justin Kosslyn, who was then an executive at Jigsaw, a technology incubator created by Google, had published an article on Vice.com called “The Internet Needs More Friction.” The internet, he argued, was built for instantaneous communication, but the absence of even brief delays in transmission had proved a boon to disinformation, malware, phishing, and other security threats. “It’s time to bring friction back,” he wrote. “Friction buys time, and time reduces systemic risk.”
Kosslyn was onto some