How Ex-Facebook And Google Employees Are Uniting To Battle The Monsters They Created
The fightback has begun, at the new Centre For Humane Technology
In December 2017, Facebook's former vice-president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya confessed to his "tremendous guilt" over creating "tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."
His comments followed former Facebook president Sean Parker, who the previous month criticised the site's lack of social responsibility, arguing that from the beginning it exploited "a vulnerability in human psychology" adding "God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains."
They're part of a broader trend of former Silicon Valley big shots turning their back on the behemoths they helped create, as the debate around social media ethics and the societal cost of addictive technology continues to grow.
Now, a cohort of such rebels have united to form an action group with the specific aims of holding tech-giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube to account.
The Centre for Humane Technology wants to reverse the 'digital attention crisis' and 'realign technology with humanity's best interests'. Their team includes former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris, former Mark Zuckerberg advisor Roger McNamee and former head of user experience at Mozilla Aza Raskin, to name a few.
"What began as a race to monetise our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children," the group argue, as they take aim at everything from Snapchat supposedly redefining how children measure friendship to Instagram glorifying a non-existent 'perfect life' to Facebook's much-reported tendency to segregate us into political echo chambers.
But how? The Centre for Humane Technology aims to lobby governments and try to persuade technology companies like Apple, Samsung and Microsoft to pursue 'humane design practices'. They will also launch an anti-tech addiction campaign at 55,000 schools across America called 'The Truth About Tech'.
The emergence of the group is the latest blow to tech companies who have been facing continued criticism over their lack of corporate social responsibility. Facebook has recently been forced to admit they sold $100,000 worth of adverts to fake Russian accounts in order to influence the 2016 US election, and last year both Facebook and Twitter agreed to hand over information to the Commons watchdog committee in order to aid an enquiry into Russian-sponsored pro-Brexit accounts, which may have aided the Leave vote during the referendum.
Add to that the criticism Facebook faced over their controversial live function, which not only hosted streams of suicides, rapes and the murder of an 11-month-old girl, but raised ethical concerns about welfare of employees bought on to monitor this content.
"Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger," said early Facebook investor and advisor to the Centre, Roger McNamee. "And with smartphones, they've got you for every waking moment."
Could a resistance be on the horizon?
More like a replacement with something for the people, buy the people and of the people, something exactly what Markethive is and about time.