Former employees turn on tech giants

World

Former employees turn on tech giants

Ex-Google and Facebook employees launch a campaign after becoming disillusioned with the technology

Ben Riley-Smith

Former Google and Facebook employees have launched a multi-million dollar campaign to curb the worst effects of social media after becoming disillusioned with the technology.
The campaign, called The Truth About Tech, wants better protections for children using smartphones and more done by internet giants to curb addiction.
One drive will push for teaching resources for understanding the impact of social media to be made available to 55,000 public schools across the US.Another will include adverts worth up to $50-million in airtime highlighting the dangers, such as depression, of overusing social media apps.
Two proposed laws will also be promoted: one commissioning research on how children’s health is affected by technology, another restricting the use of anonymous “bot” accounts.
Tristan Harris, who helped launch the campaign and was once an in-house ethics adviser for Google, said he was concerned by the influence that internet companies now have.“The thoughts of two billion people every day are steered by 50 people in Mountain View,” said Mr Harris, referring to the Californian headquarters of Google. “No one talks about that. It is a 100% blind spot.”
The campaign is being run by two groups: the Center for Humane Technology, launched this week, and Common Sense, a non-profit group campaigning for safe technology for children.
The Center for Humane Technology is supported by Roger McNamee, who used to advise Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and former employees at tech firms such as Mozilla. The centre also includes Justin Rosenstein, who invented the Facebook “Like” button.
A blurb from the group’s website reads: “Our society is being hijacked by technology. 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.”It goes on: “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously.
“But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money. Constantly forced to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued.
“They point AI-driven news feeds, content and notifications at our minds, continually learning how to hook us more deeply from our own behaviour.”
Concern about the impact of social media on children has increased recently after companies launched new platforms targeting the young.
YouTube Kids, an app from the video-sharing platform aimed at children, has been criticised after pointing viewers toward violent videos.
– © The Daily Telegraph

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