A couple pull-quotes on the power of the big platforms:
“One of the things I did not understand,” says Schmidt, “was that these systems can be used to manipulate public opinion in ways that are quite inconsistent with what we think of as democracy.”And:
Schmidt, likewise, references the dangers of “mechanized” fake content on YouTube (say, a video of Hillary Clinton with manipulated audio and visuals to make it sound and look as if she’s confessing to one of the many conspiracy theories orbiting her), and warns of the increasing role bots might play in the national discourse as their interaction skills improve.
“How many Twitter accounts are real people versus non-real people? It’d be useful to know if the thing tweeting at and spamming you was a person or not,” he says. “And in Facebook’s case, they’re working hard on this, but how would you know that it was a computer that was spreading viral fake news?”Here's Fast Company's:
Oct. 29, 2017
Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt On Fake News, Russia, And “Information Warfare”
“One of the things I did not understand,” says Schmidt, “was that these systems can be used to manipulate public opinion in ways that are quite inconsistent with what we think of as democracy.”
Ever since the 2016 presidential election, Alphabet, the tech giant that owns Google, has been under intense scrutiny to acknowledge its role in trafficking the Russia-backed disinformation campaign that potentially helped shape the outcome. In some of the most unequivocal comments yet, the company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently acknowledged to Fast Company that the search giant didn’t do enough to safeguard its services against Russian manipulation.
“We did not understand the extent to which governments–essentially what the Russians did–would use hacking to control the information space. It was not something we anticipated strongly enough,” Schmidt said. “I worry that the Russians in 2020 will have a lot more powerful tools.”...MUCH MUCH MORE
Schmidt’s comments, from an August 30 interview published as part of a new Fast Company feature about how Alphabet is grappling with digital threats such as fake news and disinformation, offers a preview of how Google may frame its testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees this week.
Public criticism and government scrutiny of leading technology companies is mounting, and they are being asked to deliver a full accounting of the ways Russia leveraged their services, in addition to how they, directly or indirectly, assisted in those efforts. Yet inside Alphabet, there is a sense among some top executives focused on these challenges that the company does not owe the public a mea culpa....