The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World

Little, Brown. Sept. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780316703321. $29. TECH
In his first book, New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Fisher details how the radical free speech ethos of Silicon Valley, coupled with artificial intelligence algorithms designed to drive user engagement, combined to create a toxic stew of racist, misogynistic, and conspiracy-laden content across social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These companies’ founders and executives, loath to do anything that may affect their bottom line, turned a blind eye to the harm. Fisher details how YouTube and Facebook recommendations pushed users toward more extreme content, which tragically fed ethnic violence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India, places where users received the majority of their news from social media. Groups that originated online also played a role in the election-related U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Fisher’s insightful and sometimes frightening look into social media companies is rooted in court records and hundreds of interviews with researchers and Silicon Valley employees and executives.
VERDICT A deeply researched and well-written study for anybody interested in social media or technology and their effects on society and the transmission of news.
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