On MSNBC, Roger McNamee explains why false anti-conservative bias claims distract from actual problems with the tech platforms
Center For Humane Technology's McNamee: "There are a lot of reasons for American citizens to be angry with Facebook, Google, and Twitter for the impact they've had ... But this issue that Trump is raising is not one of them"
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From the August 30 edition of MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi:
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ALI VELSHI (HOST): First of all, I just want to address something. We don't really know the algorithms that result in what pops up when you search something on Google, right? That's their black box. I think we'd all like to know more about it. But putting two computers next to each other and doing a search and then coming to some sort of conclusion from that probably wouldn't qualify as a rigorous study.
ROGER MCNAMEE (CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY FOUNDING ADVISER): No it would definitely not, and I think the important thing for everyone to internalize here is there are a lot of reasons for American citizens to be angry with Facebook, Google, and Twitter for the impact they've had, not just on democracy in the United States, but on public health, privacy, and innovation. But this issue that Trump is raising is not one of them. I mean, if anything, the right has really worked the refs incredibly successfully, particularly at Facebook where they got rid of human editors from trending stories, where they've gotten a former senator from the Republican Party to be in a position to essentially act as a -- to provide influence to ensure there's more Republican coverage. To me this whole thing is about a distraction, it's about changing the subject. A man with 160 million followers on social media is complaining about being silenced? I find that laughable.
VELSHI: [Recode's] Kara Swisher was saying, it's an interesting point she makes, she said, "Stifling human vile speech is not one of the things that these social media companies should be accused of. It's hard to make tech giants sympathetic, but Mr. Trump has manage today pull it off with cloddish aplomb with nearly every accusation of their being unfair in this regard." He is not a guy who is generally not benefited from it, but I guess it's the provenance of this is in question, right? He was listening to Lou Dobbs, it seems, on Fox, who was quoting some study by a right-wing site where somebody took two computers and came to that conclusion. What should the answer be? Because the bottom line is the president has said, "We'll see if we want to take action if we want to do that." Is Google's response sufficient?
MCNAMEE: Well, Google's got a bunch of problems here, right? There's a hearing coming up next week in which they've suggested they're not going to participate. And this is a hearing at which [COO] Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and [CEO] Jack Dorsey from Twitter are going to testify. And the hearing itself is likely to be a train wreck because of what Trump has said here. But from Google's perspective, they are behaving as though they're above having to answer to governments for their actions. They're doing something similar in Europe. And I personally think that that is insane. And I do not understand how their board of directors can allow this to happen. I can understand how if you're running a tech company and things have gone really well for a long time as they have at Facebook or Google, that you can get blinded to what your civic responsibility is. But that's why you have a board of directors. And the response of the tech companies to all of these issues has been brain damaged.
In fact, the biggest issue with Facebook is that enables what we call filter bubbles where you create an environment where all the voices you hear are ones with which you agree and that anything you disagree with, you block. And that has allowed, particularly on the right, but also on the extreme left, the development of people who live in an alternative reality, do not accept what's going on in the world, and that has been a core part of how Trump got elected. The manipulation of voters by the Russians and the voter suppression done by the Trump campaign itself were both highly dependent on those filter bubbles. And the last people on Earth who politically speaking should be complaining about that would be the Trump family.