Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Social Media Inflames ‘Identity Politics, Tribalism’

CEO calls the internet a “confirmation bias machine”

Social media is helping drive Americans apart — but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned altogether, according to Jeff Bezos.

Speaking at Wired’s 25th anniversary conference on Monday, the Amazon chief executive said he believes major platforms like Facebook and Twitter exacerbate social and political fault lines.

“I think social media is increasing, unfortunately, identity politics, tribalism. I think the internet, in its current incarnation, is a confirmation bias machine,” Bezos said.  “If you have a going in point of view, and you go do some searches, you find confirmation of your point of view. If your news feed is showing you things, its showing you things that confirm your point of view, by and large.”

The world’s richest man didn’t strike a defeatist tone, though. Bezos said he believes society eventually develops an “immune response” to the drawbacks of new technology.

“Technologies are always two-sided. There are ways they can be misused as well as used. This isn’t new,” Bezos said. “The book was invented and people could write really evil books and lead bad revolutions with them and create fascist empires with them; doesn’t mean the book is bad.”

A fitting analogy for someone that started building their fortune selling books online.

Bezos’ comments come at a time when major tech companies are struggling to make their platforms more hospitable. Facebook, after first shrugging off concerns it was leveraged by Russian trolls during the 2016 presidential election, has taken several steps to weed out fake news. Twitter has tried a myriad of tweaks in the last year, including hiding mean tweets at the bottom of reply threads, as it looks to curb bullying and harassment.

Bezos took it a step further, sharing he’s worried social media will be “very useful for autocratic regimes to enforce their will.” Nevertheless, he added, “We don’t know the solutions to these problems yet, but we’ll figure them out.”