Interview with “The Social Dilemma” director Jeff Orlowski and producer Larissa Rhodes – Deadline


Jeff Orlowski, director of award-winning Netflix documentary The social dilemma, was an avid user of social media. Not anymore.

Around 2017, he says, he began to worry about the “manipulative design techniques” used by social media companies, and with his documentary collaborators, he set out to illustrate the ways in which social media platforms have been working. harmed society. “We just knew there was something really important here,” Orlowski explained during an appearance at Deadline’s Contenders Television’s awards season event: Documentary + Unscripted.

The social dilemma focuses on algorithms created by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other similar companies, which push content to users to keep them glued to their platforms. These companies have found that an effective way to engage people is to feed users a diet of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and other outrageous elements. This is good for platforms, because the more people they reach and retain, the more ads they can sell, but the effects have been clearly bad for democracy, social relations and even the mental health of users.

“They figured out how to reverse engineer all of us,” Orlowski said. “They did it really well and it was extremely beneficial to them. … It turns out that these things, those rabbit holes that we end up falling into, can often be polarizing.

No two people get the same stories and the same content. Algorithms personalize an individual’s feed based on previous searches, likes, content engagement, and more. Social media users can get bogged down in a feedback loop that reinforces their preconceptions or exposes them to more radical content.

“Our information ecosystem is not only polluted in one way or another, but is also distinct and different for each person,” said producer Larissa Rhodes. She cited the example of entering the search term “climate change”, which produces different results for different people and also varies depending on where the search is performed.

“Doing this research that you see in Denmark is ‘a nasty problem’, in China ‘it’s real’, in Texas ‘it’s a hoax,'” Rhodes said. “I think it really helps us understand and understand where our company is at, recognizing that everyone sees a different set of information.”

False allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election have spread across social media platforms and arguably helped radicalize Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, threatening the foundations same of American democracy. Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to remove disinformation from their platforms, but for the most part, they have clung to the position that they are not responsible for the content they post.

Orlowski was asked what he would tell Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if he could interview him. He thought for a moment, then replied, “I guess, in its simplest form, if he still thinks everything is worth it … Is he still convinced himself that this Frankenstein monster is still something that he loves and admires?

Watch the panel video above.


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