Facebook has countered claims by a former employee that it’s ‘ripping society apart’, claiming that it wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.
Last month, Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice-president for user growth, warned that ‘we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,’ which is about as cutting as you can be about something, short of accusing it of eating the last After Eight Mint.
According to Palihapitiya, Facebook’s ‘Like’ culture has led to the earth’s despairing hordes turning to digital outlets for validation, self-esteem and joy.
Seeming to acknowledge that their ex-executive’s words might reflect poorly on its business model, the social media network has now responded. In a statement, it said: ‘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 realised how our responsibilities have grown too.’
Hmm. Responsibilities, eh? But, anyway, moving on, the statement continues: ‘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.’
Got all that? Well, I don’t know much about this ‘Like’ culture tearing society apart angle (it seems to me that masses of people will always find deeply dull and meaningless ways to pass the time) but one way you can certainly do a lot of society shattering is to allow very large, rich and powerful tech companies to not pay much, if any, tax. Because, you know, tax tends to pay for the infrastructure that keeps society together.
Not that the newly socially-conscious Palihapitiya is likely to be too concerned about Facebook’s tax arrangements – he’s a venture capitalist these days, and those guys have got some very interesting ideas about how society works.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced the launch of a new messenger service aimed at children. Messenger Kids will allow under 13s, the only citizens on the planet not legally allowed on Facebook, to sign up to a slimmed down version of the main service – which you could argue will act as a gateway to the ‘adult’ version in later years.
The launch was condemned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who warned the social media network to ‘stay away from my kids’.
Facebook and responsibilities…what a thought.