Economy, Sci & Tech

Silicon Valley Ex-Employees Campaign to Combat Tech Addiction

The campaign will try to educate consumers about the pitfalls of current technologies.The campaign will try to educate consumers about the pitfalls of current technologies.

Tech insiders are rallying against the companies and products they helped create. Former employees at companies such as Google and Facebook are pushing for tech companies to rethink and redesign addictive and intrusive tools under a new organization called Center for Humane Technology.

The Center for Humane Technology is partnering with nonprofit Common Sense, which advocates for kids and families in the digital age, on a campaign dubbed “Truth About Tech,” CNN reported.

It will serve to educate and inform consumers about the pitfalls of current technology through a consumer ad campaign, and outreach to 55,000 public schools in the US. The effort will include industry legislative and regulatory lobbying efforts, according to Common Sense CEO and founder James P. Steyer.

“We are not anti-tech,” Steyer told CNN Tech. “We are into the appropriate and balanced use of technology. We are calling out the industry for their excesses and their intentional effects to manipulate and addict.”

In addition, “Truth About Tech” will include direct outreach to the tech community, including educating tech workers on how to better design products for humanity.

The Center for Humane Technology is the latest genesis of former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris, who is also behind the Time Well Spent movement. Harris, who worked at Google until 2016, has made a name for himself as a thought leader encouraging designers to craft apps and services in ways that enhance humanity. He is the executive director and cofounder of the new organization.

Roger McNamee, a founding adviser of the new group, served as a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook’s early days. The veteran tech investor told CNN Tech the goal of the organization is to “empower people who are concerned about the dark side of technology.”

In an interview with CNN International’s, Facebook investor McNamee said, “profits definitely come before people at Facebook now.”

The news follows increased attention to the downside of widely popular tech products like Facebook.

Companies design their platforms and apps to keep people on them for as long as possible. Ultimately, the ad-supported business models benefit.

But McNamee has said he’s become “terrified by the damage being done” by firms like Facebook and Google. He referenced the ability for groups to pay to access “addicted users” to spread misinformation.

Researchers have found that screen time has negatively impacted happiness levels for teens and that frequent use of smartphones, and apps like Facebook and Twitter can result in higher risks of depression and suicide.

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