Roger McNamee, one of Facebook’s early investors and a mentor of Mark Zuckerberg, has criticised the company for prioritizing profits over user safety.
NBC News reports that Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor and mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, has criticized the company for its growth and management style over the past few years. In a recent interview alongside former Facebook manager Sandy Parakilas and former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris, McNamee outlined his issues with Facebook as they currently operate. “All the content is stuff that you like, right? It’s what they [Facebook] think you like. But what it really is, is stuff that serves their business model and their profits,” said McNamee. “And making you angry, making you afraid, is really good for Facebook’s business. It is not good for America. It’s not good for the users of Facebook.”
McNamee then discussed Facebook’s reaction to accusations that their platform had been used to manipulate the 2016 election, “They treated it like a public relations problem, rather than a substantive issue for the business,” McNamee said. Google’s former design ethicist Tristan Harris also discussed the election stating, “Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene for what happened in the 2016 election — and only they have full access to what happened.”
Facebook responded to accusations of election influence using their platform saying, “We are taking many steps to protect and improve people’s experience on the platform.” “In the past year, we’ve worked to destroy the business model for false news and reduce its spread, stop bad actors from meddling in elections, and bring a new level of transparency to advertising. Last week, we started prioritizing meaningful posts from friends and family in News Feed to help bring people closer together. We have more work to do and we’re heads down on getting it done.”
Former Facebook manager Sandy Parakilas described Facebook’s priorities saying, “One of the things that I saw consistently as part of my job was the company just continuously prioritized user growth and making money over protecting users.” He then accused the company of attempting to “sow chaos” saying, “It makes me terrified that something that I had a small part in helping to build is being used by people with really bad intent against America,” he said. “They don’t have sides. They’re just trying to sow chaos… I think Zuckerberg personally needs to feel the weight of this on his personal shoulders.”
McNamee, Parakilas, and Harris are now calling on Facebook to allow outside firms to analyze their data to note suspicious activities and stop widespread problems on the platform. The three also want set limits on how long social media companies can hold onto user data and if worst comes to worst, social media companies be broken up if they become too large and controlling. “Their goal wasn’t to let this to happen,” said McNamee. “The problem was they crafted a model that was so perfect for them, because they had been told culturally in Silicon Valley that it was OK to disrupt things. They weren’t responsible for the consequences.”