Social media giant Facebook has responded to allegations made by its former vice president, who claimed the company was “destroying how society works.”
In a statement addressing concerns that its tools have contributed to the downfall of society, Facebook said it had grown and changed since its former VP Chamath Palihapitiya had left the company.
The company’s statement reads:
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 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.
In a November discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the former vice president indicated he felt guilty over his role in heading a company which has aided the destruction of society.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said, pointing to the insatiable need for “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.”
“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 venture capitalist noted.
“That’s what we’re dealing with,” Palihapitiya said. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
“And we compound the problem, right? 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 truth. And instead what it really is is fake brittle popularity that’s short-term and that leaves you even more – and admit it – vacant and empty before you did it, because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like, ‘What’s the next thing I need to do now? Because I need it back.’ Think about that compounded by two billion people, and then think about how people react then to the perceptions of others.”
“Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” Palihapitiya said. “It was unintentional, but now you got to decide how much you are willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.
Palihapitiya’s comments followed remarks from former Facebook President Sean Parker, who also claimed the company’s tools are psychologically re-wiring users.
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Parker stated at an event hosted by Axios.
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … 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.”