From optimism to doubt (and back) at Facebook with Joaquin Quiñonero Candela
In this episode of In Reality, co-hosts Eric Schurenberg and Joan Donovan sit down with Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, technical fellow for AI at LinkedIn and a former distinguished technical lead for responsible AI at Facebook. Before this, Joaquin led the Applied Machine Learning team at Facebook, creating the algorithms that made Facebook advertising so effective. It’s safe to say Facebook would not be the profit behemoth it is today without the innovations he introduced.
2011 saw the broad public adoption of social media and the democratization of public voice that it enabled. The benefits for democracy were immediately apparent in movements like the Arab Spring, which held special meaning for Joaquin as a native of Morocco. After the 2016 election in the US and the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data scandal, however, Joaquin realized that the tools he helped create could be misused and began to devote himself to AI ethics and responsible use of the technology at Facebook, a mission that he carries on at LinkedIn.
You could say that the arc of Joaquin’s career parallels that of society’s evolving relationship to social media. The optimism that defined social media’s early adoption has been replaced by an alarmed awareness that its obvious benefits come with consequences–a polluted information stream, political polarization and erosion of the institutions needed to uphold democracy. Joaquin is now deeply involved in leading efforts to minimize the harms that social media can unleash. “We’ve come to realize that anything open will be exploited,” sums up In Reality co-host Joan Donovan, “and it is time for us to take the measure of that”.