While I’m generally not a fan of Bill Maher, a colleague passed along the video below, which raises a really interesting parallel — think of an industry, largely unregulated during its early years as it insinuates itself into the daily life of a huge number of people, that sells a product that is bad for your health, and that is deliberately designed to be addictive. Sound familiar? No, not cigarettes, social media.

Do Facebook’s evasions around the role they played in recent elections remind you of tobacco company lawyers talking about the effects of their products (cue Nathan Thurm reference)? In fifty years, when they make a television (or brain implant) show about the social media era, will viewers scoff at how naïve and self-destructive we were, much the way we looked at all the smoking in Mad Men?

(note, the video below contains Not-Safe-For-Work language and some fairly crude humor)

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


5 Thoughts on "Technology as the New Tobacco"

Paula Poundstone was interviewed recently on The Nerdist podcast and they had a very interesting discussion about technology addiction and how it may affect children. They brought up the Bill Mayer segment. I thought it raised several intesting points.

Yes, I have just read about the analogy between technology (so not just social media, but social media was mentioned) and drugs other the weekend. The interviewee was a professor at Stony Brook University I think, Nicholas Kardaras, and the interview was more related to the impact on children’s brain, but I thought the comments could fit adults’ too.

Sorry, no. Both Facebook and Twitter have presented tangible evidence to Congress that misinformation campaigns from Russian sources happened on their networks. One can certainly argue about the impact of such campaigns, but their existence is undeniable. Your link talks about hacking attempts on voting machines, something entirely irrelevant to this post.

at least you can be satisfied that even this small blog post appears to have attracted the attention of someone who is simultaneously offering one of the primary disinformation lines about recent events, while claiming there is no disinformation. I know it isn’t “direct evidence”– but then again what would “direct evidence” be exactly? the standard, like that for climate change when “skeptics” talk about it, changes constantly–but here’s Trump’s own senior digital media strategist saying outright that they would have lost the election without Facebook: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-40852227/the-digital-guru-who-helped-donald-trump-to-the-presidency
Note that Trump has made no effort to suggest that Theresa Wong is lying about the role she and Facebook played in the election and have chosen not to, despite Trump making the bizarre claim (after this video was released) that Facebook opposed him. The Facebook operatives sitting alongside Cambridge Analytica operatives in his “Alamo” campaign offices sure didn’t seem to be working against him.

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