Facebook is ‘programming’ its users and ‘ripping apart the social fabric’ of society, a former exec has warned.
Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked as vice president of user growth, said he was riven with ‘guilt’ for his role in helping Facebook to attract two billion users.
He is one of several dissenting voices who has spoken out against the all-pervasive social network recently.
In November Sean Parker, whose early stake in Facebook turned him into a billionaire, said the site exploited ‘a vulnerability in human psychology’.
Then an early Facebook investor called Roger McNamee compared the social network to Nazi propaganda and said it uses the same methods to those employed by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
Palihapitiya was taking part in an event at the Stanford Graduate School of Business last month when he issued an astonishing broadside against his former employer.
He said: ‘I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds—even though we feigned this whole line of, like, there probably aren’t any bad unintended consequences.
‘I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of, we kind of knew something bad could happen. But I think the way we defined it was not like this.’
Palihapitiya started working with Facebook in 2005 – the year after it was founded – before leaving in 2011.
He said the site rewards its users by making their brain deliver dopamine hits because ‘someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever’.
‘The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,’ Palihapitiya said.
‘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.’
Palihapitiya has banned his kids from using social media, saying: ‘They’re not allowed to use this shit.’
He said that anyone who wanted to be intellectually independent should question how much Facebook is controlling their behaviour.
‘Your behaviors—you don’t realize it but you are being programmed,’ he added.
‘It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you are willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.’
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