WhatsApp Co-Founder to Students: ‘Delete Facebook’

Mark Zuckerberg frowning
Getty/Chip Somodevilla

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton repeated his call for a Facebook exodus during a guest appearance at a Stanford University undergraduate computer science class on Wednesday, according to BuzzFeed news.

“We give them the power,” said Acton of users of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other technology firms. “That’s the bad part. We buy their products. We sign up for these websites. Delete Facebook, right?”

Last year, Acton tweeted “#deletefacebook” following revelations that 50 million Facebook accounts’ user data were allegedly compromised via a personality quiz.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion.

Acton left Facebook in 2017. He later described the tension between WhatsApp’s founders and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg over Facebook executives’ push for further implementation of ads within WhatsApp. He also listed issues with Zuckerberg’s push for ads and collection of user data among his reasons for leaving.

“The capitalistic profit motive, or answering to Wall Street, is what’s driving the expansion of invasion of data privacy and driving the expansion of a lot of negative outcomes that we’re just not happy with,” said Acton. “I wish there were guardrails there. I wish there was ways to rein it in. I have yet to see that manifest, and that scares me.”

“Accountability to shareholders absolutely drives the decision-making and skews it,” added Acton. “At Facebook, they spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how they can get into China.”

“WhatsApp’s business model was: We’ll give you service for a year for a dollar,” continued Acton. “It was not extraordinarily money-making, and if you have a billion users … you’re going to have $1 billion in revenue per year. That’s not what Google and Facebook want. They want multibillions of dollars.”

Acton challenged social media companies’ censorship and curation practices.

BuzzFeed News reported:

I think it’s impossible,” [Brian Acton] said when asked about moderating content. “To be brutally honest, the curated networks — the open networks — struggle to decide what’s hate speech and what’s not hate speech. … Apple struggles to decide what’s a good app and what’s a bad app. Google struggles with what’s a good website and what’s a bad website. These companies are not equipped to make these decisions.”

In 2018, Acton co-founded the Signal Foundation, a non-profit organization associated with the Signal app. Signal is a multi-platform encrypted communications app offering voice and video calls, instant messaging, and media transfers.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.

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