Talking to the assembled throngs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make.
“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
He described an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people.
“That’s what we’re dealing with. And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
He avoids using Facebook and that his kids “aren’t allowed to use that shit”.
He is not the only Facebook builder who has issued a statement of contrition. In November, early investor Sean Parker said he has become a “conscientious objector” to social media, and that Facebook and others had succeeded by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”.
Former product manager at the company, Antonio Garcia-Martinez, has said Facebook lies about its ability to influence individuals based on the data it collects on them.
Palihapitiya criticised not only Facebook, but Silicon Valley’s entire system of venture capital funding. He said that investors pump money into “shitty, useless, idiotic companies” rather than addressing real problems like climate change and disease.
Palihapitiya currently runs his own VC firm, Social Capital, which focuses on funding companies in sectors like healthcare and education.