Former Execs to Battle 'Social Media Addiction'

John Lister's picture

Former Facebook and Google employees are campaigning to warn users of the dangers of tech addiction. The 'Center for Humane Technology' will work on lobbying officials and educating children and parents.

Though the organization has been running since 2014, it's not achieved much publicity so far. That could change with a high-profile relaunch after receiving several forms of funding including cash from a "media watchdog" non-profit, plus the equivalent of $50 million in free advertising space from companies such as Comcast and DirecTV.

Google 'Ethicist' In Charge

The group is largely made up of people who used to work for major tech companies, including its chief Tristan Harris who was once an "in-house ethicist" at Google. They say they've got a unique insight into the way the battle for consumer attention among tech giants isn't always compatible with people's well-being.

They give specific examples such as Facebook creating echo chambers in which users mainly see news "stories" from people they agree with, and Instagram creating a misleading impression about how successful and enjoyable other people's lives are. (Source:

The group plans a range of tactics both publicly and behind the scenes. This will include a "Truth About Tech" campaign in 55,000 public schools - around half of those in the country. The campaign will be modeled on anti-smoking efforts in the past and will target children because they are considered particularly vulnerable.

Lobbying Efforts Planned

There will also be a special website aimed at engineers that details ways in which the work their employers ask them to do could be harmful to user's well-being, along with suggestions for alternative approaches.

Lobbying of legislators will be another part of the group's efforts. Among the bills, it will back and contribute ideas to that will require more research on how technology affects children. Another idea is to remind users that many social media accounts are in fact fully automated 'bot accounts' (software programs), rather than genuine content being written by humans. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support the aims of the group? Has it chosen suitable tactics? Is education or legislation a better way to improve online sites and help users?

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mummsy's picture

Technology can be very useful and wonderful, but I feel it has destroyed how people relate to each other and what they expect of others. I know 20/30 somethings that can't relate to the opposite sex very well because of all they see on social media. When they talk to me about the issue with the opposite sex, and I try to ask the why questions, they say, "Everyone on Facebook says I'm right to think this way". They cannot get past that. So very sad.

I know a 3 y/o and a 10 y/o that are addicted to watching you-tube videos (kiddie for the 3 yo. Super hero stuff). They do not yet have "social media" accounts, but please, you-tube IS a form of social media. What will happen to these children years from now? Will they be able to make their own decisions? Apathetic? Jaded? I am not related to these children, but continue to tell the parent and the children to stop all the you-tube watching. The parent, about 30, does not see the harm. The boys do not know how to have fun other than watching videos.