Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has said the social media platform is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
In a talk to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Palihapitiya said he feels “tremendous guilt” about Facebook, a company he helped craft as vice president for user growth between 2007 and 2011. He recommended to his audience that they take a “hard break” from social media.
Palihapitiya criticized not only Facebook, but the entire online system.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, adding that civil discourse and cooperation have given way to “misinformation and mistruths” packed into sound bites and emoticons.
He says this is “a global problem,” noting how a hoax message on Whatsapp that circulated in India about kidnappings led to seven innocent people being lynched. Palihapitiya commented that “bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs,” later adding, though, that he thinks the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”
The former Facebook executive went on to criticize the Silicon Valley venture capital system, saying that most successful companies reach their status through luck and “precious capital” rather than talent.
After Palihapitiya left the online social media giant, he began his own venture capital firm, Social Capital, which focuses on funding healthcare and education companies.
A Facebook representative responded to Palihapitiya’s comments, saying that the company has changed significantly since the former employee left.
“We have realized how our responsibilities have grown too,” the representative said. “As Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder and current chairman and chief executive officer) said on the last earnings call, we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made.”
Last month, Sean Parker, a former Facebook investor, said the company succeeds by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” A former product manager at the company, Antonio Garcia-Martinez, said Facebook lies about its ability to influence individuals based on the data it collects on them. He published "Chaos Monkeys," a book about his time working at the online business.