Face­book backer likens ‘ad­dic­tive’ so­cial me­dia to Nazi pro­pa­ganda

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Nick Allen in Wash­ing­ton and James Tit­comb

AN EARLY in­vestor in Face­book has com­pared the so­cial net­work’s meth­ods to those of Nazi pro­pa­ganda chief Joseph Goebbels and Ed­ward Ber­nays, the “fa­ther of pub­lic re­la­tions” who pro­moted smok­ing for women.

Roger Mc­namee, who made a for­tune from early back­ing of the so­cial net­work, sug­gested Face­book and other tech­nol­ogy gi­ants like Google have sub­sti­tuted “phoney re­la­tion­ships for real re­la­tion­ships” and were not be­ing held ac­count­able.

He said: “In or­der to main­tain your at­ten­tion they have taken all the tech­niques of Ed­ward Ber­nays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other peo­ple from the world of per­sua­sion, and all the big ad agen­cies, and they’ve mapped it on to an all-day prod­uct with highly per­son­alised in­for­ma­tion in or­der to ad­dict you. We are all to one de­gree or an­other ad­dicted.”

Mr Mc­namee is the lat­est in a se­ries of tech in­vestors to de­nounce what they see as the evils of so­cial me­dia but has pre­vi­ously com­mented that the peo­ple run­ning the com­pa­nies aren’t “ter­ri­ble” peo­ple.

“I don’t think they are con­sciously do­ing bad things. I think what hap­pened was they each adopted an ad­ver­tis­ing-based busi­ness model that es­sen­tially en­cour­aged en­gage­ment,” Mc­namee said pre­vi­ously.

Sean Parker, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Face­book, this week de­nounced the so­cial net­work for “ex­ploit­ing a vul­ner­a­bil­ity in hu­man psy­chol­ogy” and sug­gested it might be putting chil­dren’s men­tal health at risk.

Mr Mc­namee told The Daily Tele­graph: “Many of these meth­ods are the same as they use in casinos. The prob­lem is the ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness model. There are mil­lions of things they can show you and they pick the 20 things most com­mer­cially valu­able to them, and these are not de­signed to make you wiser, bet­ter ed­u­cate or health­ier.

“I think their moral com­pass is re­ally heav­ily af­fected from the per­vad­ing cul­ture in the US, which ba­si­cally says peo­ple are not re­spon­si­ble for down­stream con­se­quences of their ac­tions.”

He said, sim­i­lar to tabloid news­pa­per wars dat­ing back to the 19th cen­tury, “fear and anger” had be­come the pre­dom­i­nant emo­tions on the so­cial net­work. We have low­ered the civil dis­course, peo­ple have be­come less civil to each other.”

Mr Mc­namee said the tech giant had “weaponised” the First Amend­ment to “es­sen­tially ab­solve them­selves of re­spon­si­bil­ity”. He added: “I say this as some­body who was there at the be­gin­ning.”

Mr Parker told Ax­ios ear­lier this week: “It lit­er­ally changes your re­la­tion­ship with so­ci­ety, with each other. It prob­a­bly in­ter­feres with pro­duc­tiv­ity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s do­ing to our chil­dren’s brains.

“The in­ven­tors, cre­ators, un­der­stood this con­sciously. And we did it any­way.”

Last month Justin Rosen­stein, a for­mer Face­book en­gi­neer who built a pro­to­type of the net­work’s “like” but­ton, called the cre­ation the “bright dings of pseudo-plea­sure” and said he was lim­it­ing his own use of Face­book.

Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts emar­keter, Face­book is ex­pected to see a de­cline of 3.4per cent among teenage users in the US this year.

‘In or­der to main­tain your at­ten­tion they have taken all the tech­niques of Ber­nays and Goebbels’

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