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Facebook isn't destroying society after all, says former exec

Commentary: Chamath Palihapitiya, who suggested that he doesn't let his kids use Facebook, clarifies his views. On Facebook.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 1

A change of heart? 

Michael Kovac

Recently, former Facebook execs have been beating their breasts in sorrow and supplication at what their former employer has done to humanity.

First, it was former president Sean Parker, who said he worried what Facebook was doing to kids' minds. 

Then it was Chamath Palihapitiya, another senior figure in Facebook's formative years, who said he kept his kids off the site and suggested that Facebook has "created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."

It seems that Palihapitiya has had second thoughts.

In a, gosh, Facebook post on Thursday, Palihapitiya explained that he was merely trying to "start an important conversation."

One might have thought that this conversation had been ongoing for some time, as scientists and political types worried about the psychological and socio-political effects Facebook was having on weak human minds. 

Palihapitiya, though, has now concluded that "Facebook is a force for good in the world." 

He added that the company "has made tremendous strides in coming to terms with its unforeseen influence and, more so than any of its peers, the team there has taken real steps to course correct."

Oddly, this rather coincides with Facebook's own reaction to Palihapitiya's original words.

"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," said Facebook in its response.

"They've begun important efforts to protect elections, promote more civic discourse and remove or reduce the spread of fake news, polarization and sensationalist content. I know they are investing to do even more in the future," now says Palihapitiya.

Palihapitiya says he loves the company and he believes Facebook will succeed. Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In this new Facebook post, Palihapitiya insists that social media platforms have been "used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined."

Was it really a failure of imagination? Or was the lure of power and lucre rather all-consuming? 

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