Facebook whistleblower, former defense and intel officials form group to fix social media

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  • A Facebook whistleblower, two former US defense secretaries, several former lawmakers and intelligence chiefs are among the members of the new Council for Responsible Social Media.
  • The group, backed by the non-partisan reform organization Issue One, says it aims to address the harmful effects of social media on children, communities and national security.
  • Members will meet in person on Thursday in Washington, DC

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A Facebook whistleblower, two former US defense secretaries, several former lawmakers and intelligence chiefs are forming a new group to address the harmful effects of social media on children, communities and national security.

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The Council for Responsible Social Media, launched publicly on Wednesday, is a project of the cross-partisan political reform non-profit Issue One, focused on strengthening American democracy and with several former members of Congress on solutions. Works.

Dick Geffard, former House majority leader and Democratic Representative for Missouri, was involved with Issue One and helped form the council after trying to understand the roots of the country’s current polarization, he told CNBC in a phone interview Tuesday. Gifford is one of the council’s co-chairs, along with Republican former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy.

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“People used to come up to me and say, ‘What’s wrong with Congress? They can’t do anything, they only fight,'” Geffard said. His reaction, he said, was that division comes from the people.

“Congress will have to be a reflection of the people and if there is division among the people, the Congress will be divided,” he said.

Geffard said he first considered whether traditional media might be contributing to the divide, but felt that there was always opinion and politicization on editorial pages. After watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” he began to believe that tech platforms could be an important factor and began speaking with experts and reading about the impact of technology on democracy.

Geffard said, “My experience in Congress has always led me to believe that to solve any problem in a democracy, you have to bring diverse people together, talk to each other, listen to each other. “

Some well-known names to have joined the council include former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hegel and Leon Panetta, former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, ex. Facebook Frances Haugen and former employee turned whistleblower Google Design ethicist Tristan Harris.

Chris Krebs, Michael Rogers and Porter Goss, who previously headed the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber ​​Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, respectively, are also members.

The council said it aims to foster bipartisan dialogue around technology in Washington, D.C. and across the country, raise non-partisan voices like that of parents and pediatricians, and advance effective solutions to improve social media Is. While the members have already met virtually to begin their work, their first in-person meeting will take place on Thursday in Washington.

“I think things like this group are very important to provide a unified front, to achieve common-sense change that can really make a difference,” said Haugen, a former Facebook employee who researched company policies and research. About was leaked internal documents to lawmakers, journalists. And the Securities and Exchange Commission told CNBC in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Haugen said the issues stemming from social media are actually bipartisan in nature, which can be made more clear by avoiding framing as issues of content moderation. Many conservatives are skeptical of content moderation because they believe platforms can use it to censor certain viewpoints, although mainstream platforms have repeatedly denied that they do.

Haugen said she sees content moderation largely as “a distraction from the real path that is around product design, security by design, transparency.”

Haugen said it’s more important than ever to design for security rather than rely on content moderation alone, as platforms move toward end-to-end encryption that enables them to monitor the substance of messages between users. prevents from

“The way you keep people safe in those environments is through design and through each other,” Haugen said.

Geffard said he sees the role of the council as a way to create informed solutions and address these issues in Washington. He remembered some advice an adviser had given him during his first year in Congress.

Gifford recalled former Representative Richard Bolling, D-Mo., saying, “You can never get Congress to pass some meaningful legislation here with inside support, you have to build up support by outsiders for anything.” Gotta do it.” ., told him. “So I guess I see this group as a small part, a small part of that external pressure that needs to be put in to try to drive something across the finish line.”

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