“Too many are still asking the question ‘how much can we get away with?’ when we should be asking ‘what are the consequences?’” Cook said. “What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations? What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users join extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends more?”
Speaking at a virtually held International Conference on Computers, Privacy & Data Protection, Cook said it’s “time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost — of polarization, lost trust and yes, of violence.”
Cook never specifically named Facebook or any other company. But his remarks left little doubt that his missives were aimed at the social media sites that have been criticized for enabling conspiracy theories, hate speech and political misinformation that culminated in the Jan. 6 insurrection that overtook the U.S. Capitol while Congress met to confirm the election of President Joe Biden.
“A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe,” Cook added, referring to a Netflix documentary about technology’s — and especially social media’s — corrosive effects on society. That film took square aim at Facebook and how its algorithms manipulate its nearly 3 billion users to get them to look at the ads that generate most of its revenue.
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