Sudhir Breaks the Internet

The Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh has never been conventional. In graduate school at the University of Chicago, he embedded himself with a crack-selling gang. Later, he immersed himself in the lives of street prostitutes and then the teenage children of billionaires. His memoir Gang Leader for a Day became a national best-seller — and it caught the eye of Mark Zuckerberg, who hired Venkatesh to help Facebook deal with bullying and misinformation. Since then, Venkatesh has continued to embed at the highest levels of the tech world, including at Twitter and other companies at the vanguard of the digital revolution. And now he’s hosting a podcast. In each episode, Venkatesh will draw from his connections to interview the people 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. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociologist at Columbia University and Director of the University’s SIGNAL Lab on Tech & Society. He directed research teams at Facebook and Twitter that built products to ensure healthy consumer experiences and he served as Twitter’s first Director of Social Science Research.

The Garbage Can Model of Decision Making (SBTI Ep. 2)

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 (SBTI Ep. 1)

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.