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The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World

The debut of a New York Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist: a gripping narrative that fuses research, exclusive interviews, and on-the-ground reporting to capture the full inside story of Big Tech’s monomaniacal race to drive engagement—and profits—at all costs.

We all have a vague sense that social media is bad for us, for our children, and for our democracies. But what exactly is it about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms that causes this creeping feeling of unease? Max Fisher, using years of his own international reporting for the New York Times, tells the inside story of how the social networks fundamentally altered the world, detailing the roots of their ideology, their race to maximize engagement, and the resulting algorithms that drive everyday users to extreme opinions and, increasingly, extreme actions.


The debut of a New York Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist: a gripping narrative that fuses research, exclusive interviews, and on-the-ground reporting to capture the full inside story of Big Tech’s monomaniacal race to drive engagement—and profits—at all costs.

We all have a vague sense that social media is bad for us, for our children, and for our democracies. But what exactly is it about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms that causes this creeping feeling of unease? Max Fisher, using years of his own international reporting for the New York Times, tells the inside story of how the social networks fundamentally altered the world, detailing the roots of their ideology, their race to maximize engagement, and the resulting algorithms that drive everyday users to extreme opinions and, increasingly, extreme actions.

Taking the listener from deep inside Silicon Valley to the far reaches of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Brazil, Max Fisher unfolds the definitive account of how the social-media harms that sometimes began in forgotten pockets of the world saw their dark culmination in America through the pandemic, the 2020 election, and Capitol Insurrection. The result is an intimately detailed account of the consequences of the polarization that social media incubates: the cancellations, the omnipotence of hate speech, and the spillover into real-world violence. Fisher weaves together the stories of dozens of alarmed outsiders and Silicon Valley defectors to reveal the true human cost at the heart of social media.

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The Chaos Machine is a fresh, excoriating, and definitive narrative of the rise and legacy of the social-media giants. Delivering both astounding stories and hard-hitting reporting, Fisher captures the tangible havoc wreaked upon our minds and our world by the titans of the tech industry.


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