Microsoft President Chides Facebook, Warns of Weaponisation of Tech

Photo Credit: Photo by Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Digital technology has become both a tool and a weapon: Brad Smith
  • Smith chided Facebook for allowing influence campaigns to flourish
  • Companies can’t profit from hatemongers posting vile content, he said

Microsoft built its fortune making the tools of technology that billions use every day. But the company’s president, Brad Smith, has increasing misgivings about how thieves, terrorists and scoundrels have weaponised those tools, and how the industry has failed too often to thwart them.

He chides Facebook for allowing influence campaigns to flourish on the network that helped elect Donald Trump president in 2016. And he argues that social media companies can’t profit from hatemongers posting vile content while brushing off responsibility.

“Digital technology has become both a tool and a weapon, and we need to address that head on,” Smith said in an interview at Microsoft headquarters here. “And part of addressing it head on starts with really understanding the different ways in which it’s either serving humanity or being weaponised.”

Smith lays out his critique in his forthcoming book, “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and The Peril of The Digital Age.” Co-written with Microsoft communications executive Carol Ann Browne, the book examines the missteps tech companies have made and suggests new approaches for the industry as threats to privacy, cybercrime and disinformation mount.

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