Former Facebook exec says network is ‘destroying how society works’
“You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”
That was the tagline for The Social Network, the film about creating Facebook, and it’s only become more relevant as the social network has grown to more than 2 billion people. Those “few enemies” are former Facebook executives, people who helped build the tech giant.
“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. He was referring to the iconic “like” button and other reactions we have while browsing News Feed.
The video, first surfaced by The Verge on Monday, is of Palihapitiya speaking at Stanford Graduate School of Business on Nov. 13. Four days prior, Facebook’s founding president Sean Parker echoed similar concerns about Facebook “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Facebook has received a lot of attention for helping manipulate the 2016 presidential election via Russian trolls and propaganda, but Palihapitiya noted other bad events that have transpired over Facebook’s networks. He described how a lynching in India occurred via hoax messages sent over WhatsApp.
“Imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want,” Palihapitiya said.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Facebook “overwhelmingly does good in the world,” he said.
And, of course, Facebook helped make people like Palihapitiya rich. His net worth was rumored to be close to $1 billion, according to Business Insider in 2015. He spent some of his wealth on owning a part of Silicon Valley’s favorite basketball team, the Golden State Warriors.
Since leaving Facebook, Palihapitiya entered the venture capital industry in 2011. He runs his own VC firm called Social Capital that focuses on investing in technology, healthcare, and education. Social Capital is also an investor in Slack, a platform that causes anxiety like Facebook.
Palihapitiya critiqued not only Facebook and social networks but also the state of venture capital in Silicon Valley.
“Everybody’s bullshitting,” he said of the venture capital community. “Over time you get one of the 20 [successful investments] and you look like a genius.”