OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.
In June 2019, New York Times reporter Kevin Roose wrote The Making of a YouTube Radical, a story about how a 26-year-old man, Caleb Cain, was radicalized through YouTube. For the story, Roose examined Cain’s entire YouTube history and plotted the path he took toward radicalization. Software engineer and researcher Mark Ledwich took issue with the story, citing his own research and claiming the notion that YouTube could radicalize was a myth.
Instead of yelling at — and past — each other, Ledwich and Roose came together for a moderated debate on the Big Technology Podcast, where both stated their points of view, got a chance to respond to each other’s points, and ask each other questions.
Alex Kantrowitz: Kevin, can you introduce us to Caleb, the man you met who said he was radicalized through YouTube?
Kevin Roose: I’ve been looking into online extremism and radicalization for a number of years. After the 2009 shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that was the one that was streamed on Facebook. The shooter had this very online manifesto. It was awful and it referred to PewDiePie and that sort of catalyzed for me what became the next year of reporting. I was really trying to answer the question: How does this happen? How do people encounter extremist views online? What role do platforms play in introducing them to new and compelling extremist voices and what are the forces that power that process?
I was really looking for a case study. Someone who would talk to me about their journey, their process. I started…