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Former Facebook Manager: ‘We Took a Page From Big Tobacco’s Playbook’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Speaking to Congress today, the former Facebook manager first tasked with making the company make money did not mince words about his role. He told lawmakers that the company “took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset” and arguing that his former employer has been hugely detrimental to society. His analogy continued: “Tobacco companies initially just sought to make nicotine more potent. But eventually that wasn’t enough to grow the business as fast as they wanted. And so they added sugar and menthol to cigarettes so you could hold the smoke in your lungs for longer periods. At Facebook, we added status updates, photo tagging, and likes, which made status and reputation primary and laid the groundwork for a teenage mental health crisis. Allowing for misinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news to flourish were like Big Tobacco’s bronchodilators, which allowed the cigarette smoke to cover more surface area of the lungs. But that incendiary content alone wasn’t enough. To continue to grow the user base and in particular, the amount of time and attention users would surrender to Facebook, they needed more.”

Tim Kendall, who served as director of monetization for Facebook from 2006 through 2010, spoke to Congress today as part of a House Commerce subcommittee hearing examining how social media platforms contribute to the mainstreaming of extremist and radicalizing content. “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,” Kendall said in his opening testimony (PDF). “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.” As director of monetization, he added, “We sought to mine as much attention as humanly possible… We took a page form Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset.”


Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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