SOCIAL media pioneers are warning the world about the very products they helped create.
Former industry big wigs have spoken out about the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram, saying that they make “deliberate decisions that do great harm”.
One such technologist is Tristan Harris, who used to work on the ethics of design at Google, and says that children are particularly at risk.
“They’ve created the attention economy and are now engaged in a full-blown arms race to capture and retain human attention, including the attention of kids.
“Technologists, engineers, and designers have the power and responsibility to hold themselves accountable and build products that create a better world.
“Plenty of smart engineers and designers in the industry want to create apps that provide us with the information we need to improve our lives as quickly as possible, instead of just sucking us in for as long as possible.”
Harris serves as a senior fellow at Common Sense, an organisation dedicated to protecting kids in the digital age.
The group has launched a campaign called Truth About Tech, which hopes to pressure tech giants to make its products less intrusive and addictive.
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Common Sense is working with The Center for Human Technology on the project, with support from Roger McNamee, a former adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook.
Jim Steyer, who helped start Common Sense Media, said that tech firms are conducting a “massive, real-time experiment on our kids and, at present, no one is really holding them accountable”.
“Their business models often encourage them to do whatever they can to grab attention and data and then to worry about the consequences later, even though those very same consequences may at times hurt the social, emotional, and cognitive development of kids,” he added.
“It’s time to hold tech companies accountable for their efforts designed to target and manipulate young people.
“When parents learn how these companies can take advantage of our kids, they will join us in demanding the industry change its ways and improve certain practices.”