For immediate release | Thursday, June 20, 2019

CEP’s Dr. Hany Farid in Finale: “Companies Have to Start Taking More Responsibility for What They’ve Created”

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With “Responsibility,” CEP Releases Finale of Nine-Part Series on Online Extremism

(New York, N.Y.) - The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released the finale 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 "Responsibility," Dr. Farid calls on tech companies to take more responsibility for what happens on their platforms — both the good and the bad. The Internet’s growth over the past two decades has led to an entire generation of kids that have grown up with social media available at the tip of their fingers. The very real problems that are associated with that — addiction, depression, and many others — must be acknowledged and addressed.

One problem, deepfakes, represent the next frontier in online extremist content. As lawmakers grapple with how to handle the increasingly sophisticated, artificial intelligence-driven evolution of manipulated digital content, Dr. Farid has sounded the alarm, stating “we are outgunned.” Last January, he outlined the ways in which fake videos could be used to manipulate the public and be weaponized, stating “I think the nightmare situation is a fake video of a world leader saying, I want nuclear weapons against a country. The other country reacts within minutes, seconds, and we have a global, nuclear war.”

As Dr. Farid states in the video, “I think the companies have to start taking a hard look at what they are doing, because we have suddenly woken up to realize these products are addictive, they are unhealthy, there is now quantitative data that says the more time you spend on Facebook, the less good you feel about yourself … the companies have to start taking more responsibility for what they’ve created. I think this idea that they can sit back and say, ‘We are a platform, we are connecting the world,’ is nonsense. And we have to acknowledge there are some real problems here. And if we want to leverage all the good things that the Internet can do, we have got to start taking more responsibility.”

Please find a transcript for "Responsibility" below:

“We are not as a public very good, it seems, at digesting digital content online. We mindlessly retweet, share, like, everything without giving anything a second thought and part of that is the way the Internet and the way these platforms are designed. They’re designed to keep you there as long as possible. These companies hire exactly the same people who help the Las Vegas casinos design them so that you stay there as long as possible to separate you from your money. Online, it’s to get you to click on ads to generate revenue.

“I think the companies have to start taking a hard look at what they are doing, because we have suddenly woken up to realize these products are addictive, they are unhealthy, there is now quantitative data that says the more time you spend on Facebook, the less good you feel about yourself. Now take all of these problems and throw in the mix that kids from pre-teen through teenagers through college-age kids are spending the vast majority of their day on these platforms, and we don’t really understand what it is doing to their forming minds. And I think we have a real problem. And I think we are going to wake up 10 years from now, and we’re going to realize an entire generation has been raised by YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and there’s been some things that we don’t really like very much.

“I think the companies have to start taking more responsibility for what they’ve created. I think this idea that they can sit back and say, ‘We are a platform, we are connecting the world,’ is nonsense. And we have to acknowledge there are some real problems here. And if we want to leverage all the good things that the Internet can do, we have got to start taking more responsibility."

Please find a listing of videos from the entire series below:

April 24: Intro

May 1: Internet

May 9: eGLYPH

May 16: Misuse

May 23: Fake News

May 30: Advertising

June 6: Products & Consumers

June 13: Pressure Points

June 20: Responsibility 

To speak with Dr. Farid, please contact [email protected].