Roger McNamee made a sizable fortune with his early investment in Facebook, but like the social media giant’s co-founder and original president, he has serious reservations about what it’s become, and the danger it poses to humanity’s future.
In an interview this week with The Telegraph newspaper, he said Facebook employs “all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, other people from the world of persuasion.” Everyone who uses it is addicted at some level or another, he added, saying it’s a technique similar to those employed by Las Vegas casinos to keep you gambling.
But rather than point you in the direction of information that would be useful or educational, Facebook and Google/YouTube parent Alphabet point their collective 3.5 billion users in the direction of content that is “most commercially valuable.” Combined with an American moral compass that has been spun out of control by a culture fixated on deflecting blame for one’s own actions, he added, has created a culture of fear and hatred.
But rather own up to their role, McNamee said the social media platforms have “weaponized the First Amendment” and “absolved themselves of responsibility.” In a separate op-ed written for The Guardian newspaper, he wrote they have “behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits.”
Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create “filter bubbles” around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.
McNamee has called for social media regulation, much the way governments regulate addictive substances.