Down the Rabbit Hole: How Social Media is Designed to Radicalize its Users


Social media platforms are designed to maximize users’ attention. In order to do so, they employ algorithms that send users down a rabbit hole that promotes the most inflammatory content, including mis/disinformation, hate speech, and extremist content.

Online, people often find themselves pulled farther from the political center, and find it increasingly difficult to view less radical content. The result is a polarized electorate and an information environment poisoned with false information. Authoritarian regimes and domestic bad actors have seized upon this vulnerability, exploiting it to promote their view of the world or divide Americans. This phenomenon is not benign and has already changed the way we observe conflict between Israel and Hamas, and other sociopolitical contentions around the world.

On February 2, 2024, Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media hosted an event where experts in national security, technology, and democracy discussed the effect of social media on domestic and foreign extremism, how the algorithms are designed to radicalize users, and what solutions are necessary to protect our democracy from extremism.

The panel was moderated by Council for Responsible Social Media Co-chair and former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Kerry Healey and featured the following panelists:

  • Farah Pandith: Council for Responsible Social Media member, senior advisor at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, foreign policy strategist, and former diplomat
  • Sasha Havliceck: CEO of Institute for Strategic Dialogue, expert advisor to the UK Counter-Extremism Commission and the Mayor of London’s counter-extremism program, member of the European Council on Foreign Relations
  • Michael Chertoff: National Council on Election Integrity member, co-founder and executive chairman of the Chertoff Group, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and former federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Watch the event recording.