SAN FRANCISCO, CA (WCMH) — A former manager with Facebook says the social platform puts profit and user growth at the expense of its users.
“One of the things that I saw consistently as part of my job was the company just continuously prioritized user growth and making money over protecting users,” the ex-manager, Sandy Parakilas, who worked at Facebook for 16 months, starting in 2011, told NBC News. During his tenure at Facebook, Parakilas led third-party advertising, privacy and policy compliance on Facebook’s app platform.
At more than 2 billion users, Facebook rivals Christianity and Islam in terms of number of people.
In the past 14 months, Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone from saying it was “crazy” to think Facebook could influence an election to vowing that 2018 is the year he will “fix” Facebook.
Experts are still trying to determine how the Russians used the social platform to influence America’s 2016 presidential election.
However, critics say Facebook isn’t doing enough to prevent meddling in the upcoming midterm elections.
“Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene for what happened in the 2016 election – and only they have full access to what happened,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His work centers on how technology can ethically steer the thoughts and actions of the masses on social media and he’s been called “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience” by The Atlantic magazine.
Facebook released a statement in regards to the comment saying it is a “vastly different company” from when it was founded.
“We are taking many steps to protect and improve people’s experience on the platform,” the statement said. “In the past year, we’ve worked to destroy the business model for false news and reduce its spread, stop bad actors from meddling in elections, and bring a new level of transparency to advertising. Last week, we started prioritizing meaningful posts from friends and family in News Feed to help bring people closer together. We have more work to do and we’re heads down on getting it done.”
But a former adviser to Zuckerberg, Roger McNamee, tells NBC News that Facebook has failed its users.
“All the content is stuff that you like, right? It’s what they think you like. But what it really is, is stuff that serves their business model and their profits,” he said. “And making you angry, making you afraid, is really good for Facebook’s business. It is not good for America. It’s not good for the users of Facebook.”
“What people don’t know about or see about Facebook is that polarization is built in to the business model,” Harris told NBC News. “Polarization is profitable.”
Last week, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is changing its news-feed algorithm to promote more quality interactions between friends and family, with less content from pages, publishers, and brands.
The moves to fix Facebook may be too little, too late, however: McNamee, Parakilas and Harris said self-regulation won’t be enough.
They are calling on Facebook to make its data available to outside researchers who can be tasked with discovering suspicious activity before it becomes a widespread problem. They also want there to be limits on how long social media companies can use their data and, if all else fails, possibly break up social media companies that grow too large for their own good.