Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. He has written several books, including The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry), Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction, and, most recently, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, which Oxford University Press published in May 2018.
We sat down with him to talk about the tech giant on everybody’s minds.
In the introduction to your new book you write, “the problem with Facebook is Facebook.” What do you mean?
When we look at the various crises that Facebook has faced in the past couple of years, people talk about them as failures or breakdowns or meltdowns. In fact, it’s just the opposite. None of these are mistakes—they’re fulfillments of a vision.
Facebook intended to connect billions of people. It intended to create an algorithm that would favor engagement around highly emotional content. It intended to create an advertising platform that was more efficient, more accurate, and more specialized than any that had ever been created. These features were all intentional. And they have produced almost every negative externality that we’ve seen come out of Facebook. Those externalities are a fulfillment of Facebook’s design.
Definitely worth your time to read the interview.