A group of tech experts who were early employees at Facebook and Google has come together to form The Center for Humane Technology (CHT). The former employees are deeply worried about the impact of technology on children and their organization’s goal is to preach good online practices in hopes of staving off social media addition.
The CHT plans to visit close to 60,000 schools to discuss the negative effects of excessive social media use with parents, teachers, and, most importantly, students. The CHT also plans to make several lobbying efforts as well, focusing on legislation in Massachusetts and California that would subsidize research about tech’s impact on kids health as well as deanonymize digital bots.
The CHT has received a $7 million dollar investment from Common Sense Media. In addition, Comcast and DirecTV have, per The New York Times, provided a combined $50 million in free airtime for the CHT’s campaign, titled “The Truth About Tech.”
Per the Times, Tristan Harris, a former in-house ethicist at Google, is heading up the CHT. “We were on the inside,” he said. “We know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works.”
In addition to Harris, the CHT is staffed by such tech big wigs as Lynn Fox, a former Apple and Google communications executive and Justin Rosenstein, the creator of Facebook’s “Like” button.
Much like the mafia, Silicon Valley used to be a tight-knit community where speaking badly about the family to outsiders was not looked upon kindly. But, as the ill-effects of social media and screens start to stack up, more employees are decamping.
“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” said Robert McAvee, an early Facebook investor who’s also a part of CHT. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”
Mark Zuckerberg has said he’s trying to lessen the amount of time users spend on Facebook daily. The Facebook CEO came under fire recently for launching ‘Messenger Kids’, which is aimed directly at children. While the new app contains more extensive parental controls and Facebook vowed to not collect data for marketing purposes, dissenters aren’t buying it. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, another watchdog group, went as far as to say the company wasn’t addressing and solving current problem with the app’s development, but rather creating a need and means for younger and younger kids to interface with the world via social media
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook has made changes to its algorithm that effectively reduced the number of hours people collectively spend on Facebook per day by 50 million. Despite this, the social media giant is still under fire for using tools that affect people’s psychology in a way that hooks them to the app. And they’re not exactly coming clean quickly: Facebook has only just admitted publicly that aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed can have adverse effects on mental health.
If anything, such organizations as the CHT are incredibly necessary. Children need to hear about the negative effects of social media from as many sources as possible.