Democracy in Danger if Facebook Does Not Change, Says Former Zuckerberg Advisor

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A former adviser to Mark Zuckerberg said democracy “may never be restored” if Facebook does not change and called for the misuse of user data to be labeled as unethical as child labor .

Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor who has become a staunch critic of the company, said whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations created an opportunity for change in Zuckerberg’s social media empire.

If Haugen’s testimonies and documents do not force reform by touching company profits, then democracy would suffer, he said, adding: “If it does not, then the democracy and our ability to make our own choices may never be restored.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, McNamee reiterated a recent demand that the extraction of user data and its use to manipulate consumer behavior should be made as unethical as child labor. “Extracting the essence of our humanity as data and then using it to manipulate our behavior is as unethical as child labor and it should be banned in the same way that child labor has been banned. “, did he declare.

Facebook generates its revenue from advertisers, who are able to target specific demographics and consumers because the company has created profiles of its users through their online activity. Facebook’s parent company Meta, which also owns the Instagram photo-sharing app and the WhatsApp messaging service, had a turnover of $ 86 billion (£ 63 billion) last year. Almost 2 billion people use Facebook every day.

Haugen claimed in his testimony, while also citing internal company documents, that Facebook manipulates user behavior through algorithms that tailor what users see, especially in promoting divisive content. Meta denied doing it and that advertisers would avoid a company that promotes extreme content. Speaking at the summit via video link on Tuesday, Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Meta, said much of Facebook’s content was “babies, barbecues and barmitzvahs.”

McNamee, who co-founded investment firm Elevation Partners, said Haugen approached the whistleblower as a product launch by anonymously disclosing company documents, then revealing his identity on TV and appearing before Senators Americans before embarking on a wider advertising campaign, alongside Congress releasing the cache of documents to a consortium of news agencies.

“She’s the first person to ever perceive that you could raise an alert as a technology product announcement, a technology product deployment,” McNamee said. “I would say the way she sounded the alarm has been the most effective product rollout since the original iPhone… And I just take my hat off to her. Just awesome.

McNamee said the pace of her revelations, which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal before she made her mark on the TV show 60 Minutes, was akin to the movie Jaws. “They don’t show you the shark at the start of the movie. There is a nice build-up and the anticipation makes the appearance of the shark more effective. He added, “The impact of that… literally stopped the conversation and started it up in a deep way. “

McNamee added that he was always ready to talk to Zuckerberg. He started advising Zuckerberg in 2006, but quit three years later when he cited the ambition to reach 1 billion users, which McNamee deemed too aggressive. “I would like to help him get it right,” McNamee said.

Another senior Meta executive defended the company against Haugen’s disclosures on Wednesday. Speaking to the Web Summit via a video link, Chris Cox, Meta’s product manager, said the debate created by the leaked documents raised a “significant set of questions,” but the ensuing fury had “Lost track” of the billions of dollars Meta invests to keep its users safe.

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