The Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh studies exclusive worlds by embedding himself — with a crack-selling gang, sex workers, the teenage children of billionaires, and most recently, at the highest levels of companies at the vanguard of the digital revolution, including Facebook and Twitter. And now he’s hosting a podcast. In each episode, Venkatesh will reveal what he learned in Silicon Valley and talk with the people he met along the way who are building and running the digital world, and those who are using it in a signal way, digging deep into their motivations and challenging their priorities. Sudhir Breaks the Internet is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.
Can Outside Pressure Change Silicon Valley?
How has activism evolved in our digital society? In this episode, Sudhir talks to Jade Magnus Ogunnaike about the intersection of big tech and civil rights. She is a senior campaign director for Color of Change. It’s a racial justice organization that blends traditional organizing efforts with an updated playbook for how to make change.
Meet the Brain Behind Facebook’s Oversight Board
Last week, the board upheld the ban of former President Donald Trump’s social media accounts. Sudhir talks to Noah Feldman, the constitutional law scholar who helped design this “supreme court” for content moderation. They reveal the inside story of how the idea came about, how the court was built, and ask big questions, like … will anyone trust it?
“Someone Needs to Save the World from Silicon Valley”
If the big social-media companies are unable or unwilling to make major changes from within, it may be up to outsiders to create better, healthier digital communities. Whether it’s smaller platforms for like-minded people, a publicly owned social network, self-policing by user groups, or activist campaigns to pressure Twitter and Facebook to improve, Sudhir explores what’s next for social media — and what makes societies function or fail.
The Garbage Can Model of Decision Making
What's it like to try and police millions of pieces of abusive content every day? Sudhir takes us inside Facebook, as he and his former colleagues recall how hard it was to encourage civility at a company obsessed with growth — especially when that growth was often driven by some of the most toxic behaviors.
Designed to Tear Us Apart
When online anger turned to offline violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the big social media companies responded by kicking some users — including the president himself — off their platforms. What led to that decision? Was it an overreach? And what role did they really play in the events that took place? Sudhir explores how social media is built to encourage bad behavior, and why one afternoon of unrest can’t overcome a decades-old mindset in Silicon Valley that blinds them to this reality.
Introducing “Sudhir Breaks the Internet”
Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociologist who has studied crack gangs, sex workers, and gun runners, suddenly found himself working at Facebook, and later at Twitter. Now he’s back from Silicon Valley to explore and explain our overheated digital universe. “Sudhir Breaks the Internet” is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.