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.

Glenn Beck joined Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Thursday night to discuss Visa Inc.'s "horrifying" new plans to flag firearm sales by separately categorizing purchases at gun shops, a move that Glenn aptly described as "the next step in banning guns."

In what's been hailed as a major victory for gun control activists, Visa agreed to adopt the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) new set of standards by creating a special merchant category code for gun and ammunition sales.

In his appearance on "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Glenn shared a letter written by Robert B. Thomson III, a senior vice president at Visa, showing that the credit card company initially pushed back on the ISO's new rules.

“We believe that asking payment networks to serve as a moral authority by deciding which legal goods can or cannot be purchased sets a dangerous precedent,” Thomson wrote in the letter to pro-gun-control lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Just days later, however, Visa had agreed to comply with the ISO's plan to establish a new merchant category code for gun stores. So why did Visa suddenly flip?

As Glenn explained, it all comes down to pressure from America's largest union-owned bank, the Amalgamated Bank, one of the only unionized banks in the United States and a proud proponent of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing.

"This is the next step in banning guns," Glenn asserted.

"It's horrifying!" Tucker responded after several seconds of stunned silence.

"I'm so grateful you did the reporting on this," he told Glenn. "I'm not sure why it falls to you since we have a couple of very large daily newspapers in this country you'd think would want to report this, yet none of them did. So, Glenn Beck did."


On a recent episode of "The Glenn Beck Program," Glenn broke down the details of this latest attack on the Second Amendment and revealed how this is a step toward something even worse than federal gun registration. Watch the video clip below for more details. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.


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Glenn Beck: Here's why Stacey Abrams' fetal heartbeat remarks are hilarious but TERRIFYING

(Left) Image source: video screenshot/ (right) Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has a new pro-abortion conspiracy theory: "There is no such thing as a [fetal] heartbeat at six weeks ... it is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have a right to take control of a woman’s body."

On the radio program Thursday, Glenn Beck and producer Stu Burguiere agreed Abrams' latest "misinformation" is not just ridiculous but could be dangerous if people are actually willing to believe her.

"If you want to defend abortion, go ahead and defend it. Defend what you're actually doing. Stop denying what is reality," Stu said. "If this is such a great defensible policy, then just come out and defend it, but they never can ... you notice how they can't go to the actual thing they say is so important. They keep defending these other things that aren't true."

Glenn said the pro-choice movement was successful for a long time because most people want the decision to be up to the woman and her doctor and that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. But when leftists began "celebrating" their abortions or calling for "abortion on demand" at any point in the pregnancy, that's when they start to lose support.

"Because they've celebrated abortion and are losing regular people, you can't put that genie back in the bottle. So, what do they have to do now? They have to take the insane step of discrediting medical machines and technology," Glenn said.

"This is after two years, by the way, of them claiming the biggest scandal in the world was people suggesting the voting machines were hacked — after they previously said that voting machines were hacked in elections they [Democrats] lost," Stu pointed out.

"Honestly, gang, think this through because this is where life gets very scary. This is where you go to authoritarian rule and you can kill millions of people because you're truly now discrediting things that everyone knows is true," Glenn warned.

"So, if you disagree ... you can say that is an evil magic box that has made up sounds in it to convince people. If they will buy that, you're at the Salem witch trials. 'If she doesn't float, she wasn't a witch.' That's what you're looking at right now — and what's frightening is, [Abrams] can say this with a straight face and no one discredits her," he continued.

"You don't think that they can convince those people that you are a terrorist because of the way you vote? [...] You don't think they can convince half the country that you should be eliminated, liquidated, put into a camp, whatever authoritarians love to do? ... We are headed towards dangerous, dangerous times. We better wake up and stand together because this is frightening — it's hilarious — but because people are taking it seriously, it is terrifying," Glenn added.

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

A big question Glenn Beck has always had about “The Amazing Do-Over” is: How do you get the most powerful and wealthy nation that has ever existed to accept, “You will own nothing … and be happy”? A foundational principle of this country from its very inception has been land ownership. We worked hard, were fiscally responsible, and stayed away from high debt, but the progressive era began to erode all of that.

The Clinton Global Initiative recently gathered the ruling class to tell the plebes how to run their finances and called anyone who dared challenge their ideas “climate change deniers.” Glenn argues we are dangerously far down the “Road to Serfdom” and exposes the progressive playbook to keep us in line. It’s a 600-year-old medieval model that’s been the plan all along.

We’re already feeling economic pain, and yet they’re playing “Game of Thrones” with our lives. Turning us into serfs is their ultimate goal. How do they finish the complete restructuring of the American financial system and our way of life?

On Wednesday night's "Glenn TV," Glenn connects it all on the chalkboard and details the solution to fighting back against the ruling elites.

Watch the full episode below:

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To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

These days, it seems like everything is about politics, and comedy has been one of the biggest targets. Many comedians are walking on eggshells, but stand-up comedian and "Saturday Night Live" alum Jim Breuer isn't one of them.

Breuer joined Glenn on the latest episode of "The Glenn Beck Podcast" to talk about why he’d rather be funny than fearful and what inspired his hilarious comedy special, “Somebody Had to Say It," which has garnered almost 1.5 million views as of this writing.

Breuer made it clear that he does not consider himself to be political. "I'm not. I'm 100% not [political]," he told Glenn, before explaining how people started calling him political when he dared to ask questions about a certain shot that we're not allowed to mention, let alone question.

"When did medicine become political?" Breuer asked.

"What kind of price have you paid for being called political?" Glenn asked Breuer.

"To be dead honest with you, once COVID really kicked in, and ... once you realize we're not going to be here, that we're on borrowed time, and I do have God in my life ... you come to terms with reality on a deeper level. And when COVID kicked in, I said, 'You know what? All bets are off.' I already knew I wasn't in control. But now, not only am I not in control from the natural order of life, but now the puppet masters ... are in control," Breuer answered.

"It made me realize I don't have time to worry about what people think of me. I know where I'm at in life. I know where I'm at spiritually. I know where I'm at with my family," he added.

"That's tremendous power," Glenn said. "But it spooks the hell out of people."

"But it shouldn't!" Breuer exclaimed. "I'm excited that other people get this ... but they're stuck. We ain't got time for stuck. To me, this is the time of, 'You gotta rise.' For years and years and years, you allow fear to control your life. Fear of dying. Fear I might get sick ... everything's based out of fear. It's time for the fearless."

Breuer also revealed his secret for dealing with tough times, and he’s seen his share. But he also said he's seen miracles, including the incredible (and hilariously told) story of how he found faith, how God saved his marriage, and why one family friend was convinced his wife belonged to a cult.



Watch the full episode of "The Glenn Beck Podcast" below:

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