ANOTHER FACEBOOK executive has gone rogue, talking of his "tremendous guilt" about what the social network has done to society, forcing Facebook to retort.
Chamath Palihapitiya is the former VP for user growth at the company, but told an audience from Stamford Graduate School of Business that he now believes he was partly responsible for "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works".
Cue inevitable Oppenheimer reference.
Palihapitiya was referring not just to Facebook but the whole social media circus.
"The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works," he said, referring to the little hits of happy we get from a like or a retweet."
No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem."
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson responded: "Chamath has not been at Facebook for over 6 years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realised how our responsibilities have grown too.
"We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve. We've done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we're using it to inform our product development. We are also making significant investments more in people, technology and processes, and - as Mark Zuckerberg said on the last earnings call - we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made."
Palihapitiya is the second Facebook executive to come out fighting against his former employer this year.
Just last month, former Chairman Sean Parker described himself as a ‘conscientious objector' of social media. He too talked about the ‘dopamine hit' concept, adding:
"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
At a time when Facebook is amongst the platforms implicated as a tool in ‘engineering democracy' through fake news (and we shall leave you to debate that amongst yourselves), as well as being implicated in historical events like the Arab Spring, London Riots and Myanmar ‘genocide', the fact that two high ranking former employees have come so completely off the fence on the matter underlines just what a pivotal time this is for digital media.
Palihapitiya added that although Facebook "overwhelmingly does good in the world.", he tries to use Facebook as little as he can and his kids "aren't allowed to use that sh*t".
So that's completely unambiguous, then. µ
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