Facebook has issued a response to comments made by a former executive who said the platform and other social networks “are destroying how society works.” Mark Zuckerberg’s firm didn’t deny Chamath Palihapitiya’s claims, but stressed that it “was a very different company” when he worked there.
Speaking at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last month, the one-time vice president of user growth at Facebook said he felt “tremendous guilt” for his role in helping the site become what it is today. He added that the company’s early employees “kind of knew” what they were building could be abused but they ignored their instincts.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth,” said Palihapitiya.
Instead of refuting the statement, Facebook is highlighting the fact that Palihapitiya hasn’t worked at the company 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,” said the company.
Palihapitiya did backtrack slightly in an interview with CNBC yesterday. He explained that his comments were directed at social media in general, rather than being an attack on just Facebook. "What I was talking about was the question was what do you think the long-term effects of social media in general are? Unfortunately, what happened was, I think it's easy to characterize what I said just as a Facebook-specific thing because I worked there," he said.
But Palihapitiya isn’t the only former Facebook executive to criticize the company. Sean Parker, the firm's first president, warned of the detrimental effect social media has on society and how it exploits vulnerabilities in human psychology. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” added the Napster co-founder.
Unsurprisingly, people aren’t too pleased with Facebook’s 'we used to be bad, but not anymore, honest,' response.
Lol, “no no no we only *used* to rip society apart” isn’t the best response https://t.co/I1Cx6S8AFY— you heard it here first: tweting is bad (@alexhern) December 12, 2017
Here is Facebook’s full 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.