Former Google, Facebook Employees Step Up Battle Against Tech Addiction

By Levi Sumagaysay
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new coalition aims to inspire companies to help consumers “take control of their digital lives” by spreading awareness about the ill effects of technology and social media.

The Mercury News

Former Google and Facebook employees, and early investors, are launching a campaign to warn people about the dangers of the technology they helped create.

Roger McNamee, Tristan Harris and others have been agitating for change at companies such as Facebook. Now they’ve formed a coalition, the Center for Humane Technology, and are launching a huge awareness campaign called The Truth about Tech.

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube “are not neutral products,” the website for the Center for Humane Technology states. “They are part of a system designed to addict us.”

McNamee, a longtime tech investor who was an early backer of Facebook, and Rogers, former design ethicist at Google, have been sounding an alarm about the ill effects of technology and social media lately.

In a recent interview with NBC News, they slammed Facebook for its role in spreading misinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign and election.

McNamee has penned op-eds about his suggestions on how to “fix” Facebook.

Now, with millions of dollars from San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense Media and others, the new coalition aims to inspire companies to design their devices with tech addiction in mind; apply political pressure and advise governments on how to protect their constituents; helping consumers “take control of their digital lives” by spreading awareness; and “empowering” like-minded tech employees.

This Wednesday in Washington, Harris will join tech and health experts and lawmakers at Common Sense Media’s conference, “Truth about Tech: How Tech Has Kids Hooked.”

“Tech companies are conducting a massive, real-time experiment on our kids, and, at present, no one is really holding them accountable,” said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a statement Monday. Last week, Common Sense and other advocacy groups and children’s health experts urged Facebook to pull the plug on Messenger Kids, its new messaging app.

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