Social media have been battered in recent years by growing concerns about disinformation, privacy breaches, and the spread of harmful speech. This article itemizes the problems surrounding social media and political authority in the form of “three painful truths”—so termed because, although there is an emerging consensus around these points, many people are reluctant to squarely acknowledge the depth of the problems and the fundamental changes that would be required to mitigate them. The first painful truth is that the social-media business is built around personal-data surveillance, with products ultimately designed to spy on us in order to push advertising in our direction. The second painful truth is that we have consented to this, but not entirely wittingly: Social media are designed as addiction machines, expressly programmed to draw upon our emotions. The third painful truth is that the attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media also propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability. Moreover, the fine-grained surveillance that companies perform for economic reasons is a valuable proxy for authoritarian control.