Yaël Eisenstat, a former Facebook employee, CIA analyst, and diplomat, delivered a talk on Facebook for TED, in which she considers how the social platform has contributed to political polarization, mistrust, and harmed civil discourse and democracy.
Speaking to the platform's algorithm, Eisenstat shows how sites like Facebook rely on posts that keep its users engaged so that they are more hesitant to leave. As a result of this, she states that they often push posts that are inflammatory—with this kind of personalized content working to both validate and invalidate the biases we hold. As these algorithms spotlight content that elicits a strong and emotional response from viewers, the social platform often gives a stage to those with the most extreme opinions. When they're surrounded by this kind of content, viewers often feel that finding common ground with one another is nearly impossible—a problem that Eisenstat explains can cause real-world harm.