Last month, former Facebook President Sean Parker spoke out against the social network, explaining how it takes advantage of users by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” The eye-opening remark raised questions about the concerning practices Facebook employs to keep users from leaving its platform.
Now, another former Facebook executive is warning users about how the company ruins society by taking advantage of its users. Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth who joined Facebook in 2007, said in a candid speech at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that he has “tremendous guilt” for helping Facebook grow.
Here’s the video of his speech (skip to 21:20), originally published on Nov. 13 and first reported by the Verge.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to the Like or “heart” buttons and comment tools used by Facebook and other social sites to encourage user engagement. “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.”
The statement is eerily similar to those made by Parker, who said Facebook created new features like comments and Likes as a “dopamine hit” to re-engage users. Palihapitiya took it a step further, urging users against using social media: “If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. If you push back on it, you have a chance to control it and to rein it in. There’s a point in time when people need to ‘hard break’ from some of these tools.”
The former Facebook exec, who now runs his venture capital firm called Social Capital, went on to describe an incident where seven people in India were lynched because of a hoax on WhatsApp.
“Bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything they want. It’s a really really bad state of affairs and we compound the problem,” Palihapitiya said. “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short-term signals—hearts, Likes, thumbs up—and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with true. And instead, what it really is, is fake brittle popularity that’s short-term and leaves you even more—and admit it—vacant and empty before you did it.”
The regret-fueled comments from both former executives come at a difficult time for Facebook. The company has been under a constant barrage of criticism since revealing it sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian troll farm that used the platform to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. The company has also recently been slammed for creating a chat app for young children, a move some lawmakers fear could have devastating effects on the security and privacy of kids between the ages of 6 and 13.
Palihapitiya did concede that the social platform he helped grow (which turned him into a billionaire) “overwhelmingly does positive good in the world” but still said “I don’t use this shit. I can control my kid’s decisions, which is, they’re not allowed to use this shit.”
Update 5:46pm CT, Dec. 12: Facebook surprisingly responded to this and didn’t deny of the statements he made via statement.
Chamath has not been at Facebook for over six 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 realized 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.
H/T the Verge