"If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook," according to Siva Vaidhyanathan in his new book, "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy." Of course, none of that was part of the plan, but it is the reality today. And it's not just Facebook: From revelations of fake news sources and Russian bots spreading disinformation to Edward Snowden's revelations about government spying online there is increasing public recognition of a wide range of digital threats, to privacy and to democracy.
But people are staying online now more than ever, whether for their work or for their social lives. They are providing a great deal of personal data along with their views without assurances of how that data is stored and if personal information remains private. Moreover there is little or no accountability for false or extreme views on digital platforms -- and these views can spread like wildfire.
Join Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Modern Media Studies at the University of Virginia, along with Danny O'Brien, International Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for a conversation about the state of online privacy and the challenges to democracy presented by social media and the global net.