Former Google Design Ethicist Analyzes Russia’s Campaign to Infiltrate Your Mind

Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter have been testifying on Capitol Hill this week about their role in Russia’s campaign to infiltrate social media, spread division and try to influence the 2016 election.

Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris joined Glenn on today’s show to talk about Russia’s scary, smart campaign to shape Americans’ ideas and turn us against each other.

“The question really that Americans need to be asking them is what is their role in enabling … Russian propaganda,” he said of the tech executives. “It ultimately affected 126 million Americans.”

He explained how Russians figured out how to make “a bunch of deliberately polarizing content” by using a diverse range of issues to create social media posts and Facebook groups that were pro-veteran, pro-immigrant, pro-police and pro-Black Lives Matter.

“They did it because they want it so we can’t talk to each other, and they were able to do that with Facebook,” Harris said.

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: Tristan Harris, the founder of Time Well Spent. He is a magician when he was a kid, and a Google design ethicist. He has a great blog on -- on Medium: How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind.

He says, I'm an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. It's why I spent the last three years as a design ethicist at Google, caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people's minds from getting hijacked.

We use technology. And we focus optimistically in all the things it does. But I want to show you that it can also do the exact opposite. It can hijack and exploit your mind's weakness.

He's here to talk to us a little bit about the way the Russians did that and what's happening on Capitol Hill today. Tristan, welcome to the program. How are you?

TRISTAN: I'm great. Thank you, Glenn, for having me back.

GLENN: You bet.

Great conversation last time. Let's continue it. Let's start Facebook, Google, Twitter testifying on Capitol Hill today. And this makes me really nervous, for some reason. And I'm not sure exactly why.

(chuckling)

TRISTAN: Well, yeah. You know, they're testifying on Capitol Hill. And the question really Americans need to be asking them is, what is their role in enabling -- essentially, what's been discovered to be just totalizing Russian propaganda? It went from them first saying that it was about $100,000 in ads, which is a very small amount of ads. Not a big deal, right? But, really, that hid the bigger picture, which is that there were 470 Facebook groups that they created, and pages, that basically shared content that was shared organically, meaning just by all of us, by Americans, without even knowing it. And it ultimately affected 126 million Americans, which is 90 percent of the -- of the US voter base that voted in the last election.

So, you know, I think the real question we have to ask is: Given that the business model of these platforms is spreading engaging information, and the Russians figured out basically how to manufacture deliberately polarizing content -- I mean, they created groups around veterans rights, around immigration. They created pro-police groups, pro-Black Lives Matters groups. They created groups on both sides. And they did it because they wanted -- so we can't talk to each other. And they were able to do that with -- with Facebook.

GLENN: So, Tristan, this is something that we've been warning about since before Donald Trump came down that escalator and said he was going to be president. We had been warning for years that the Russians are deliberately trying to infiltrate and control the conversation and split us apart as a nation.

TRISTAN: Right.

GLENN: Nobody really wanted to pay attention. Everybody denied it. And I think still there's a lot of people who will listen to what he just said and say, "Oh, yeah, big deal, so it was -- no, it really was a big deal.

TRISTAN: Yeah.

GLENN: However, how do we -- how do we -- how do we want Google and Facebook to start controlling or deciding who gets to speak and who doesn't?

TRISTAN: Yeah. Well, this is an incredibly difficult area. Because essentially what we've created is systems that have exponential impact, right? There are apparently, as of yesterday, we found out in a judiciary committee, there's five million advertisers on Facebook. So if some of them are -- say China or North Korea. Or, you know, Russia. How would we know? You can't vet 5 million advertisers. Right?

So we had this problem where essentially by creating exponential impact that has the ability to take one advertiser and send the message to ten people in a very specific Zip Recruiter. And there's no way given all those different ad buys, happening literally 100 million times a second. When you load a page on Facebook, you know, in that snap of your fingers, there's this instant auction, and millions of people are competing for your attention. And Facebook can't look with human beings at every single one and say, is that Russia? Is that North Korea?

So we have this real problem on our hands, where we basically created this kind of runaway artificial intelligent system, except instead of the terminator, it's basically saying -- given this goal of, what can I show this human being that will capture their attention?

And it works really, really well. But it's not aligned with our democracy. Because what's good for capturing just your attention, basically is not the same as what's good at capturing everyone else's attention. So it takes society, like a paper shredder, through -- you know, it takes whole societies of input and spits out this sort of shredded society that only listens to its own information as an output.

So what we really need to do is change the structure of Facebook, in terms of who is paying. Because if we're the product, which we are. Our eyeballs are sold to advertisers. Which means that their business model is basically to keep us addicted, so that we -- they can keep selling our eyeballs to advertisers. You know, with that arrangement, we're kind of screwed, unless we change who is paying who.

You know, one option is to have people pay Facebook. But we're not going to be very happy about that. Because we've been getting it for free. And another option is have governments pay Facebook. But that's not -- that doesn't feel right either.

The challenge is, we find ourselves indebted into a situation where, you know, we don't like the current situation. We don't want to regulate free speech. But we also don't like the status quo. Because we honestly -- Glenn, I really believe we can't survive when the business model is basically catering to an individual's attention -- the most difficult thing for society is we have to be able to talk to each other and basically have open minds and say, "Well, what do you believe, and what do I believe?" And Facebook basically shreds that process, because we can't -- we don't even listen to the same information anymore.

GLENN: I'm also concerned that, you know, the government has pretty much stayed out of Silicon Valley for a long time, mainly because they're a bunch of dolts that don't even understand technology. I mean, I've talked to people in Washington, and their eyes glaze over, the minute you start talking about anything, I mean, at my level. And they just don't understand it. And you're like, "Oh, dear God, we're in trouble." But, you know, now they're starting to pay attention because it affects them. They see the power of -- of how it can affect people. And once the government gets involved, they will make sure that it helps them.

I mean, they have different goals. So what could -- what could Google or Facebook suggest, that would be good for the republic?

TRISTAN: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, we have this challenge, right? We have thousands of people that go to work today at Facebook. And whatever their choices are, they basically are designing the information flows that affect 2 billion people. There's 2 billion people who use Facebook. As we said last time, that's more of the number of followers of Christianity, 1.3 billion of which use it every day. And so when they're designing the information flows, it's by design. It's going to influence all of those people's thoughts, right? Because they set up, basically whether or not the top of your news feed is your high school friend or it's the baby photos or it's Donald Trump every day. Right?

And so, yeah. I mean, we have to have an honest conversation about a few things. One is, for example, bots.

What people don't realize is that up to 15 percent in the academic literature, they say on Twitter, are bots. Fifteen percent of its users are bots.

GLENN: Explain that for people who don't know what bots are.

TRISTAN: Yeah. Bots are basically things that when you click on a page on Twitter -- you know, you see Glenn Beck or whatever, and it looks like it's you. It's got your photo. But you click on someone else, and it looks they're, I don't know, an Asian-American living in Kansas or something like that. And they're actually not. It's just a fake photo. And it's a fake profile. And the profile is run by a computer, which is called a bot. And the thing is that 15 percent of Facebook -- or, excuse me of Twitter's claimed users are actually bots.

Now, the problem is there's this ability to create manufactured consensus. So when you see, you know, someone tweet something, whether it's the president or it's someone else, you can have hundreds of thousands of people like it that are not people, but they're actually bots. So you can manufacture the sense that these certain messages are popular. You can also make conspiracies become trending. And if you make it trend, you make it true. So the reason I'm bringing this up is, one thing we can do is we make it -- we should have total disclosure for bots. So just think of it like a Blade Runner law. I mean, if you've seen Blade Runner which is out right now, it's all about, how do we know that someone is a human or a bot, or a cyborg?

And what you want is when you're on Twitter, having everything that is a bot to be labeled as such. I mean, why should our discourse be poisoned by essentially bots, especially when in this case, many of them were actually run by Russia? And Twitter has been crawling with bots. And the reason they don't shut them down is their current stock price is dependent on telling Wall Street, hey, this is how many users we have. So they can't shut down all of these other bots because then their user accounts drop, right?

GLENN: Holy cow.

TRISTAN: So that's why we have to have a conversation about why these companies won't really regulate themselves -- self-police themselves.

Now, I'm not a fan of regulation. I just want to make that really clear. I'm not trying to --

GLENN: Neither am I.

TRISTAN: I'm with you.

But the problem is, the status quo is also really not survivable. We need to be able to find some way that these companies have to do more. And given the fact that Facebook dug its heels in the ground for the last, you know, six months -- and, you know, why are we only finding out the day before the hearings today, that 90 percent of Americans were affected by Russian propaganda?

Now, you may not believe that. But that's literally the truth from the mouth of Facebook. And they've got all the data.

GLENN: So, Tristan, I want to go back on one thing you just said. You said, "This is not survival."

TRISTAN: Yeah.

GLENN: That's not hyperbole coming from you. Can you explain?

TRISTAN: No.

Well, you know, I think like you, I believe in free speech, and I believe in our need to be able to talk to each other and ask, "What is important for our society? And where do we want to go?" I mean, if you have kids, you want to ask, like, what do I want the world my kids are going to live in to be? Now, if we can't talk to each other, we can't make those decisions together.

And the problem with Facebook is that its business model is dividing societies, not deliberately, but because it's more profitability to capture your attention by showing things that just cater to your individual mind, right? Just your specific mind. By default, it means that every person is only looking at a feed that's related to their world.

So it's shredding society into these echo chambers where we only see our own beliefs. And I think the danger of that is that if we can't talk to each other, then there's violence. And I don't want to go there. But the point is, we need Facebook and these other companies to be basically -- instead of designing to shred our attention and capture it individually, to be designing for the most empowering, and enhanced public square we've ever built. Because it is the new public square. It's not just a product we used, given the scale of people who use these products. It is the public square.

Now, the question is, who is going to pay for that? And also, who is to say what the public square is? You know, do you want these young California guys at Facebook designing the public square for 2 billion people?

So it really brings in huge questions about governance, and how do you have what somebody -- these companies are private superpowers. They don't have militaries. But they have more influence, certainly on people's daily thoughts, than any government in history, that I know of.

GLENN: They also, at least Apple owns more treasuries than most countries do. So they -- they have more T-bills that they could dump if they wanted to get nasty as well. I mean, they're amassing enormous amounts of power.

Tristan -- go ahead.

TRISTAN: No, no. Go ahead.

GLENN: I just want to thank you for being on with us. And hope we can continue our conversation. It's extremely what you're talking about and what you're doing. Thank you so much. Tristan Harris.

TRISTAN: Absolutely.

GLENN: Founder of Time Well Spent.

Soros is trying to elect MORE TEXAS RINOs. Here's how YOU can stop him.

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Texas is under threat of a George Soros-backed takeover.

Soros-funded RINO judges have been elected in some of the highest courts in Texas. These judges implemented restrictions that have blocked nearly a thousand cases of voter fraud from being investigated or prosecuted from across the state. These new restrictions are similar to ones in place in states like George, Arizona, and Wisconsin, leaving Texas more susceptible to election corruption than ever. If Texas falls to corruption, America will lose its largest bastion of conservative electoral power in the nation. Without Texas, Republicans WILL NOT be able to win national elections and liberal corruption will go unchecked across the country.

Fortunately, there is a way to stop this: YOU.

If you live in Texas you have a chance to stand up against corruption and to fight back! Starting Tuesday, February 20th, early voting for the primaries begins, where three of these judges are up for election. Go out and vote. If the right people are voted in, there's a good chance the restrictions will be lifted and election fraud can once again be prosecuted.

But remember, you can't just go in and vote for anyone who has an "R" next to their name. Sorors knows that a registered Democrat would never stand a chance in Texas, so his lackeys register as Republicans and ride the little "R" right into office. So who do you vote for?

Fortunately, Glenn had Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on his show today and Ken gave us his list of judges that he vouches for. His list is as follows:

  • Gina Parker
  • Lee Finley
  • David Schenck
The Primary Election runs from February 20th to March 5th. This is your chance to get out there and make a difference. It might be the most important election you ever participate in. If you need to know where your nearest polling location is, or any other information regarding the election, you can go to votetexas.gov to find out more.
It's time to stand up.

Hypocrisy EXPOSED: The 'Amazon Files' and what WE are doing about it

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Who is really banning books?

For years now, Conservatives have been taking flak from the left for supposed "book bans." The left likes to compare these "bans" to Nazi book burnings, accusing the right of sweeping authoritarian decrees designed to suppress information. In reality, this is a movement largely motivated by parents, who want to remove inappropriate books from children's libraries.

But if you want to discuss authoritarian book bans, look no further than the White House. As Glenn recently covered, the Biden administration has been pressuring the world's largest bookseller, Amazon, into suppressing books they disagree with.

On February 5th, 2024, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan released a slew of subpoenaed documents that exposed pressure placed on Amazon by the Biden Administration. The documents, which Jordan dubbed "The Amazon Files" after Elon Musk's "The Twitter Files," revealed an email conversation between Andrew Slavitt, a former White House senior adviser, and Amazon employees. In these emails, Slavitt complained that the top search results for books on "vaccines" were "concerning" and then requested that Amazon intervene. Amazon initially refused, not out of some altruistic concern for the free exchange of information. They thought any action taken would be "too visible" and would further exasperate the “Harry/Sally narrative,” referring to the outrage that followed Amazon's removal of Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally.

Despite this initial refusal, Amazon agreed to meet with the White House a few days later. The number one item on their agenda was removing books from the website. An Amazon employee even admitted that the reason they even took this meeting was due to the pressure being placed on them by the Biden Administration.

What was the result of this meeting? Amazon caved. They began to implement ways of limiting the outreach of books that challenged the mainstream vaccine narrative and other books the White House might not like.

The White House was caught red-handed pressuring the world's largest bookseller to restrict the sale of books they consider in opposition to their narrative, and they have the gall to accuse conservatives of information suppression. This is just ONE of many actions committed by the Biden Administration that are more characteristic of a dictator than a president.

What can you do about it? Fortunately, you are not dependent on Amazon and its corrupted algorithm to help you find books. Every week right here on GlennBeck.com, we highlight books that Glenn is reading or talking about in our "Glenn's Bookshelf" series. Here you can find a wide selection of books free from Amazon's filters. Be sure to sign up for Glenn's newsletter to find out about new additions to "Glenn's Bookshelf" every week.

10 times Biden has acted like a DICTATOR

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The left-wing media's most recent tirade is accusing Trump of being a dictator. But, as Glenn said, "Everything they're accusing us of, they're doing."

Since day one, the Biden administration has overstepped the bounds placed on the executive branch set by the Constitution. In Glenn's most recent TV Special, he examined ten times Biden acted like a dictator, NOT a president. Here are 10 of Biden's Dictator Moves, and click HERE to get ALL of the research that went into this week's Glenn TV special:

5 ways to protect your First Amendment rights. Number 4 will surprise you.

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Every day it seems Glenn covers another story revealing how people across the world at all levels of power DESPISE the fact that YOU have rights, and they are actively trying to curtail them. Recently, there has been a string of attacks against the rights outlined in the First Amendment: the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition.

As a refresher, the First Amendment reads as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This is powerful stuff, there is a good reason the Founding Fathers made it the FIRST Amendment. It's also the reason why power-hungry elites are attacking it. These attacks are designed to control the way you think, speak, and believe, vote, what you read, and who holds your representatives responsible. The First Amendment is our strongest weapon against tyrants, and they know it.

So what can you do about it? Hope that some wig in Washinton will eventually do something? We know how well that works. The best thing to do is to stay active, engage in the issues you care about, and exercise your rights.

So where to start? Here are a few things YOU can do to protect your First Amendment rights:

Religion

The best way to flex your Freedom of Religion is to—you guessed it—practice your faith. Become an active member in your place of worship, go to scripture studies, invite your friends to that late afternoon event, and walk the life. This can impact the way you spend money as well. Shop the businesses and brands that share your values, and don't shop at the ones that scorn them. Keeping the community alive and healthy is the best way to ensure that generations to come will be able to experience the freedom you enjoy.

Speech

Much like religion, the best way to protect your freedom of speech is... to speak. Engage your friends and family in polite, civil conversation. Stand up for what you believe in, and make your case to your peers. Just remember to keep it friendly. No one ever won an argument by shouting down their opponent. The civil exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of our republic, and a dialogue where the participants are well-informed, considerate, compassionate, and open-minded can have permanent impacts on all involved.

Press

Freedom of the Press seems a little tricky at first. Unless you work for the media, what are you supposed to do? Quit your job and go work for the local newspaper? The good news is that exercising this right is not nearly that difficult. In fact, you are currently doing it. The best thing you can do is to read from outlets that produce informative content. Want to know what Glenn consumes to stay informed every day? Sign up for Glenn's Morning Brief newsletter to get all the stories Glenn gets sent to his desk every day sent straight to your inbox.

Assembly

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Freedom of assembly is one of the more impactful yet underutilized freedoms in the First Amendment. Peaceably assembling and protesting with like-minded individuals can hugely influence politicians and policies while simultaneously creating community and fellowship between attendees. It's understandable why more people don't turn out. We're all busy people with busy schedules, and flying out to D.C. for the weekend seems like a daunting task to many. Thankfully, you don't have to go out all the way to D.C. to make a difference. Gather some like-minded people in your town and bring awareness to issues that impact your community. Big change starts locally, and exercising your freedom to assemble can be the catalyst to lasting impact.

Petition

If you've been a long-time listener of Glenn, then you will have heard a few of his calls to action where he asks his audience to contact their representatives about a particular piece of policy. There is a good reason Glenn keeps on doing those: they work. Whether it's your local mayor or your senator, a call and an email go a long way. If you really want to make a change, convince your friends and family to reach out as well.