Back in January 2020, Tristan Harris went to Washington, D.C. to testify before the U.S. Congress on the harms of social media. A few weeks ago, he returned — virtually — for another hearing, Algorithms and Amplification: How Social Media Platforms’ Design Choices Shape Our Discourse and Our Minds. He testified alongside Dr. Joan Donovan, Research Director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy and the heads of policy from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The senators’ animated questioning demonstrated a deeper understanding of how these companies’ fundamental business models and design properties fuel hate and misinformation, and many of the lawmakers expressed a desire and willingness to take regulatory action. But there’s still room for a more focused conversation. “It’s not about whether they filter out bad content,” says Tristan, “but really whether the entire business model of capturing human performance is a good way to organize society.” In this episode, a follow-up to last year’s “Mr. Harris Goes to Washington,” Tristan and Aza Raskin debrief about what was different this time, and what work lies ahead to pave the way for effective policy.
Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin debrief on Tristan's recent testimony before the U.S. Congress.
Watch the hearing in full, jump to highlights, or search the transcript.
From the Technology and Social Change Project at the Harvard Shorenstein Center, led by Dr. Joan Donovan, this collection of case studies on media manipulation and disinformation is a resource for researchers seeking to understand how algorithmic amplification spreads misinformation and contributes to our toxic media environment.
In this text, published in 1995, French philosopher Guy Debord points to human performance as the focal point of society, and explores contemporary power dynamics from the lens of political and cultural theory.