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The Death of Truth: How Social Media and the Internet Gave Snake Oil Salesmen and Demagogues the Weapons They Needed to Destroy Trust and Polarize the World--And What We Can Do by Steven Brill

The Death of Truth: How Social Media and the Internet Gave Snake Oil Salesmen and Demagogues the Weapons They Needed to Destroy Trust and Polarize the World--And What We Can Do by Steven Brill

Regular price $30.00 Sale

From Knopf

How did we become a world where facts—shared truths—have lost their power to hold us together as a community, as a country, globally? How have we allowed the proliferation of alternative facts, hoaxes, even conspiracy theories, to destroy our trust in institutions, leaders, and legitimate experts? Best-selling journalist Steven Brill documents the forces and people, from Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue to Moscow to Washington, that have created and exploited this world of chaos and division—and offers practical solutions for what we can do about it.

"A precise description of the punishment cell we have built around our minds and the first few steps back towards light and air." –Timothy Snyder, Author of On Tyranny and Professor of History, Yale University.

“A seminal, ground-breaking, documented and honest examination of two of the central dilemmas of our time—what is truth and where to find it.” —Bob Woodward, associate editor at The Washington Post.
As the cofounder of NewsGuard, a company that tracks online misinformation, Steven Brill has observed the rise of fake news from a front-row seat. In The Death of Truth, with startling, often terrifying clarity, he explains how we got here—and how we can get back to a world where truth matters.

None of this—conspiracy theories embraced, expertise ridiculed, empirical evidence ignored—has happened by accident. Brill takes us inside the decisions made by executives in Silicon Valley to code the algorithms embedded in their social media platforms to maximize profits by pushing divisive content. He unravels the ingenious creation of automated advertising buying systems that reward that click-baiting content and penalize reliable news publishers, and describes how the use of these ad-financed, misinformation platforms by politicians, hucksters, and conspiracy theorists deceives ordinary citizens. He documents how the most powerful adversaries of America have used American-made social media and advertising tools against us with massive disinformation campaigns—and how, with the development of generative artificial intelligence, everything could get exponentially worse unless we act. The stakes are high for all of us, including Brill himself, whose company's role in exposing Russian disinformation operations resulted in a Russian agent targeting him and his family.

Crucially, Brill lays out a series of provocative but realistic prescriptions for what we can do now to reverse course—proposals certain to stir debate and even action that could curb the power of big tech to profit from division and chaos, tamp down polarization, and restore the trust necessary to bring us together.