Face­book may be push­ing US into civil war, warns ex-boss

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce - By Lau­rence Dodds

FACE­BOOK may be push­ing the United States to­wards a sec­ond civil war by am­pli­fy­ing the most di­vi­sive voices in pur­suit of profit, a for­mer em­ployee has claimed.

Tim Ken­dall, Face­book’s first di­rec­tor of mon­eti­sa­tion, told the US Congress yes­ter­day that the com­pany had used “Big Tobacco” tac­tics to make its prod­uct as ad­dic­tive as pos­si­ble with­out re­gard for its so­cial im­pact.

He com­pared the so­cial me­dia gi­ant’s con­tent rank­ing al­go­rithms, which have been widely ac­cused of deep­en­ing par­ti­san di­vides by pri­ori­tis­ing anger and con­tro­versy, to an arms dealer who sup­plies both sides of a con­flict.

It comes af­ter re­ports that some of Face­book’s cur­rent em­ploy­ees are con­cerned about its group rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem, which ex­perts be­lieve has di­rected po­ten­tially mil­lions of peo­ple to­wards ex­trem­ist groups. Mr Ken­dall said: “When I started work­ing in tech­nol­ogy, my hope was to build prod­ucts that brought peo­ple to­gether in new and pro­duc­tive ways. I wanted to im­prove the world we all lived in.

“In­stead, the so­cial me­dia ser­vices that I and oth­ers have built over the past 15 years have served to tear peo­ple apart with alarm­ing speed and in­ten­sity.

“At the very least, we have eroded our col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing; at worst, I fear we are push­ing our­selves to the brink of a civil war …

“So­cial me­dia is not the root cause of ev­ery prob­lem we’re fac­ing. But I be­lieve it may be the most pow­er­ful ac­cel­er­ant in his­tory. These ser­vices are mak­ing us sick. These ser­vices are di­vid­ing us.”

Face­book de­clined to com­ment. The hear­ing was part of a gen­eral at­tack by US politi­cians on “sec­tion 230”, the law that ef­fec­tively cre­ated mod­ern so­cial me­dia by broadly ex­empt­ing them from li­a­bil­ity for what oth­ers post on their ser­vices.

A Se­nate com­mit­tee said it would is­sue sub­poe­nas to the chief ex­ec­u­tives of Face­book, Google and Twit­ter to testify about the law on Oct 1.

Mean­while, yes­ter­day it emerged that the Win­klevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who claimed Mark Zucker­berg swiped their idea to cre­ate Face­book, have ex­panded Gemini, their cryp­tocur­rency ex­change, into the UK.

‘The so­cial me­dia ser­vices that I and oth­ers have built over the past 15 years have served to tear peo­ple apart’

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