Former Facebook and Google employees have formed a group – Center for Humane Technology – to fight tech addiction. In partnership with the non-profit media group, Common Sense Media, the newly formed group is targeting over 55,000 U.S. public schools with an anti-tech addiction ad campaign and lobbying effort.
How the group plans to fight
With their campaign, titled The Truth About Tech, the group aims to raise awareness among students, teachers and parents about the dark side of excessive technology use. Further, the group also wants to educate them about the connection between the excessive use of technology and depression.
Speaking to Quartz, Center for Humane Technology co-founder, Tristan Harris said, “All the tech companies profit the more attention they extract out of human vessels. They profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep them hooked.”
The group – Center for Humane Technology – will also lobby for a bill to dig into the effects of technology on children’s health. The bill was drafted by U.S. senator Ed Markey, known for authoring the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, better known as COPPA. A conference by the non-profit Common Sense is scheduled for Feb. 7, where the group members will discuss the digital health of kids.
Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor, got with the Center for Humane technology after coming face to face with the reality about the side-effects.
“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he told the New York Times. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”
About the Center for Humane Technology
Besides Harris, the group includes Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook operations manager; Dave Morin, a former Facebook executive; Lynn Fox, a former Apple and Google communications executive; Justin Rosenstein, who created Facebook’s Like button and is a co-founder of Asana; Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook; and Renée DiResta, a technologist who studies bots.
The Truth About Tech campaign will get $7 million from Common Sense Media and the Center for Humane Technology. Common Sense also has $50 million in media and airtime from partners including the Comcast and DirecTV, notes The New York Times.
Rising discontent against social networks
For years, the Silicon Valley tech firms have worked in solidarity, defending each other and rarely speaking against each other in public. However, that changed recently when Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist and an early Facebook employee, stated in November that the social network is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Lately, there have been a lot of discussions on the effect of technology on kids. Back in January, two prominent Wall Street investors asked Apple to weigh the health effect of its products on kids and offer an easier option to restrict kids from using iPhones and iPads.
And last week, Facebook faced the ire of pediatric and mental health experts, who asked the social networking giant to discontinue the messaging service introduced for kids. Some groups have also raised concerns about YouTube Kids, a product known for displaying disturbing content sometimes.