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Discussing the dangers of misinformation with Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology

Tech Overload
Posted at 5:04 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 20:45:16-05

(WXYZ) — Information is easily spread with technology. Which means, misinformation is also easily spread. 7 Action News was recently at the center of false claims of voter fraud spread on social media.

These instances have become more common in the age of technology.

On Tuesday's 7 UpFront segment, we feature Tristan Harris, who is former Google design ethicist.

Harris is now the co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit that seeks to draw attention to misinformation perpetuated through social media. He was also featured in the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma."

"This film, 'The Social Dilemma,' is the first time that many insiders who are from the technology company... speaking on camera about the harms that have come from social media and this business model that rewards more outrage, more addiction, more polarization, and more confirming that our view is correct. And I think that's never been more true than in the recent election where each of us are being fed our own micro reality."

In speaking of rampant misinformation, particularly during the recent election, Harris was asked how dangerous is it for society when fiction replaces facts so very easily.

Harris said 7 Action News #wagongate is a perfect example of this, where a video of a camera equipment was mistaken as election ballots. That baseless claim of voter fraud spread quickly throughout the country through social media.

Tristan Harris talks about how misinformation is so easily spread

"What we know and what we talk about in the film 'The Social Dilemma' is how fake news spreads six times faster than true news because fake news and salacious ideas are more exciting, and more confirming of what we want to believe. And so we spread what we want to believe really fast, before we actually ever get the correction."

As the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter are questioned by lawmakers about how they moderate content on their platforms, in brings into question what else they can do to address the issue of misinformation on their platforms.

Harris said ultimately, there needs to be.a fundamental change to those business models.

There's no clear difference between when good-faith, ethical and conscious news is shared versus bad-faith news or the immediate sharing of assertions, Harris said.

"Really, we're going to have to change the business model of these companies, otherwise we're playing a wack-a-mole game and we're going to try to wack each of these fake news stories faster," Harris said. "and we're not going to be able to wack them faster than how fast they're being spread."