In an unexpected move, Facebook PR just pushed back against criticism after a former executive’s critical words of the company affecting our behavior and society spread this week.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and served as its vice president for user growth.
The comments were made on Nov. 13 but a video of him speaking at Stanford Graduate School of Business circulated after The Verge shared it on Monday, nearly a month after the event.
Facebook released a statement in response on Tuesday, where they highlighted the fact Palihapitiya has not worked at the company for more than six years.
Chamath has not been at Facebook for over 6 years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve. We’ve done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we’re using it to inform our product development. We are also making significant investments more in people, technology and processes, and — as Mark Zuckerberg said on the last earnings call — we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made.
According to Facebook, the network was a “very different company back then.”
(We know. Back in 2007, Facebook status updates still began with “is.” The newly released mobile product didn’t have videos. Facebook was all about the poke. Oh wait.)
Strangely, it seems that Facebook is not denying anything Palihapitiya said. Rather, they are saying that the ethos within the company has changed and they’re “working hard to improve.” But if this tweet by Alex Hern, a technology features writer at the Guardian, is any indication, people have definitely noticed the dodge:
Lol, “no no no we only *used* to rip society apart” isn’t the best response https://t.co/I1Cx6S8AFY
— you heard it here first: tweting is bad (@alexhern) December 12, 2017
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment Hern’s point. The spokesperson also declined to provide any input on Facebook investor Sean Parker’s statements made just four days prior to Palihapitiya.
Instead, the spokesperson pointed to Palihapitiya interview on CNBC Tuesday morning. In that interview, he made the point that he wasn’t just referring to Facebook.
“What I was talking about was the question was what do you think the long-term effects of social media in general are? Unfortunately, what happened was, I think it’s easy to characterize what I said just as a Facebook specific thing because I worked there,” he said.
Of course, Facebook is just one of many social networks. But as we saw in the hearings on Capitol Hill, where the general counsel of Facebook, Google, and Twitter appeared, Facebook receives intense scrutiny, deservedly so.
Facebook is undoubtedly the largest social network, connecting 2 billion people every month. While Google’s service also touches billions of people, Google’s general counsel repeatedly noted during those hearings that Google isn’t a social network.
Palihapitiya also repeated what he said, and we noted in our coverage on Monday, that not everything Facebook does is bad.
“I think they have done more than any other company to try to fix it,” he said. “Frankly, I was able to be a part of a company that did something really wonderful, and they’re going to — they’re going to do more to fix this stuff than anybody else.”