Published: Wed, February 07, 2018
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Ex-Google and Facebook employees unite to fight tech addiction

Ex-Google and Facebook employees unite to fight tech addiction

The campaign, titled The Truth About Tech, will be funded with $7 million from Common Sense and capital raised by the Center for Humane Technology. The non-profit media company has also donated over fifty million dollars in United States airtime from partners inclusive of Comcast and DirecTV.

Former Google and Facebook employees came together to launch a campaign against the addictive and manipulative side of technology companies.

In layman's terms, that means the Center for Humane Technology wants tech companies to redesign their devices and user interfaces to protect young minds from distraction.

"The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies - Google and Facebook - and where are we pointing them?" Their first call to duty is to create a website called Ledger of Harms, which will exist to exclusively let rank-and-file engineers know what the ethical side of things are looking like in regards to what they are being asked to build by the companies that govern them. "They know how much time they think a child should spend online and how they want them to use those technologies and what we're trying to do is really give parents control", she said. Social media and smartphones have undeniably benefited society in some ways, but their harmful effects have increasingly been the subject of debate in recent years.

In their race to monetise our attention, technology platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google are hijacking our minds and society, says a group of technologists who were early employees at some of these companies. The campaign will look to educate students, parents, and teachers about the dangers of technology on both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The big technology platforms have produced incredible products that have benefited the world enormously, but with their use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued, these companies are now adversely affecting our mental health, social relationship and democracy, according to the Center for Humane Technology. They are particularly incensed at Facebook's decision to introduce Messenger Kids, a service aimed, they say, to hook children early and are asking Mark Zuckerberg to pull it fast, claiming that children as young as six may not distinguish reality from fantasy.

While tools are a start, some tech insiders feel that if Facebook is serious about making a change, it will have to change its business model. "We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works", Tristan Harris, a former in-house ethicist at Google, said while talking to New York Times.

It will also lobby politicians on two forthcoming pieces of legislation, one looking at the impact of technology on children's health and one requiring digital bots to be identified. "If they are turned down, they don't get to ask again", reported the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm. "Ambiguous answers such as "I'm busy" or 'I can't that night, ' count as a 'no, ' said Heidi Swartz, Facebook's global head of employment law".

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