For immediate release | Thursday, May 30, 2019

CEP’s Dr. Hany Farid: “Online Extremism, Child Pornography, Child Sex Trade … It’s the Wild West Out There”

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With “Advertising,” CEP Releases Sixth of Nine-Part Series on Online Extremism

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released the sixth of a nine-part video series featuring CEP Senior Adviser Dr. Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In this week’s video, titled “Advertising,” Dr. Farid asserts that the current business model for tech companies, free services in exchange for personal data, has created an Internet “wild west.” For end users, this combination has led to, among other things, the proliferation of online extremism and data breaches. We must now begin to think of ways to mitigate this behavior, including legislation.

The tech industry’s business model has been under unprecedented scrutiny since the New Zealand shootings nearly three months ago. Then, Dr. Farid and CEP Executive Director David Ibsen criticized the “unbridled economic growth” – driven in part by a constant need for more clicks and more advertising dollars – as a reason why there is an “industry-wide indifference to online extremist propaganda and the creation of extremist echo chambers that serve as breeding grounds for radicalism.” In February, it was found that YouTube’s algorithms had actually encouraged the facilitation of child exploitation content. Only two months prior, Google and Facebook were also criticized for feeding “ad dollars to child porn discovery apps.”

As Dr. Farid states, “The business model of the Internet …The whole business model is primarily advertising. And that’s in some ways very good for customers … But what we’ve discovered over the last few years as well it turns out there’s a price to be paid for this. Privacy issues, data breaches, security issues, online extremism, child pornography, child sex trade, drugs, guns. You know, it’s the wild west out there … We have to think of legislation, we have to think about other ways of mitigating some pretty bad behavior we’ve seen over the last few years from the technology companies.”

Please find a transcript for “Advertising” below:

“The business model of the Internet. The whole business model is primarily advertising. And that’s in some ways very good for customers because we don’t pay for Google, we don’t pay for YouTube, we don’t pay for Facebook and we don’t pay for Twitter. And so it seems like a really good deal for us, the end users. But what we’ve discovered over the last few years as well, it turns out there’s a price to be paid for this. Privacy issues, data breaches, security issues, online extremism, child pornography, child sex trade, drugs, guns. You know, it’s the wild west out there. And in part because we are not the customers. We have very little leverage. We can’t just move from one platform to another because we have monopolies in the social media space.

“And so because the big tech companies are driven by advertising, their priorities are different. Their focus is on the advertising dollars and not on us the customers. Their focus is on getting as much data and information about us as possible and then leveraging that for financial gain. And I think we as a public have to think about whether that’s what we want. Whether we’re willing to give up all of these issues, from data privacy to security to the abuses that we’re seeing. We have to think of legislation, we have to think about other ways of mitigating some pretty bad behavior we’ve seen over the last few years from the technology companies.”

Please find additional videos from the series below:

April 24: Intro

May 1: Internet

May 9: eGLYPH

May 16: Misuse

May 23: Fake News

May 30: Advertising