Facebook’s former head of monetization, Tim Kendall, unloaded on the social media giant during a hearing about social media’s role in spreading extremist content — saying that his former employer, like big tobacco companies, worked to make its product as addictive as possible.
“We sought to mine as much attention as humanly possible,” he said. “We took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset.”
Kendall, who worked for Facebook during the pivotal growth years from 2006 to 2010, said that the tech giant made upgrades to the site designed specifically to keep users coming back for more.
“Tobacco companies initially just sought to make nicotine more potent,” he said. “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.”
Now, he said, the chickens have come home to roost, with the addictive platform spreading harmful content at scale.
“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.”
READ MORE: Former Facebook manager: “We took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook” [Ars Technica]
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