Some of the people who were once Facebook’s most powerful executives and allies are publicly breaking up with the social network.
When Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes dropped a New York Times op-ed calling for the breakup of Facebook, it prompted a terse response from the company. But though Hughes might be the most prominent Facebook alum to criticize the company, he is far from alone.
Over the last couple years, numerous former Facebook execs and other insiders have publicly criticized the social network and its leadership. And while that criticism may be hard for the company to swallow — Facebook would likely point out that these men have all become very, very wealthy thanks to their roles at the company — it’s worth considering how unusual it is to air this kind of criticism publicly.
Here’s a look some of the most prominent Facebook insiders who have changed their minds about the company.
Chris Hughes (right) was with Mark Zuckerberg during Facebook’s dorm-room beginnings.
Image: Rick Friedman / Corbis via Getty Images
Who he is: Hughes helped found Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg while the two were students at Harvard. He was the company’s firs spokesperson, and later worked on the product team. He left the company in 2007.
What he’s said: In a searing op-ed titled “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook,” Hughes argued that the social network has gotten too big and powerful for its founder to control. “Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can,” he wrote. He urged the FTC to intervene and separate Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram into separate entities to encourage more competition, and to “create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media.”
Zuckerberg’s one-time classmate had some particularly harsh criticism for the CEO. “Mark is a good, kind person,” he wrote. “But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.”
It is time. #deletefacebook— Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 20, 2018
It is time. #deletefacebook
— Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 20, 2018
Who he is: The cofounder of WhatsApp, known as a staunch privacy advocate. He left Facebook in 2017.
What he’s said: Six months after leaving Facebook (and walking away from nearly a billion of dollars of unvested Facebook stock), Acton infamously tweeted #deletefacebook. Later, in a stunning interview with Forbes, the WhatsApp founder took things even farther, calling himself a “sellout.” “I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day,” he said.
Since leaving Facebook, Acton has given $50 million of his personal fortune to the Signal Foundation, the organization responsible for the private messaging app Signal.
Alas, no word on what Snoop thinks of #deleteFacebook.
Image: Kevin Mazur / WireImage
Who he is: Parker was Facebook’s founding president, famously portrayed by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network.
What he’s said: Parker told Axios he considers himself “something of a conscientious objector” to the social network. And the billionaire former Facebook executive candidly described how Facebook was designed to be addictive from the very beginning.
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ … God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Who he is: An early investor in Facebook, McNamee famously advised Zuckerberg against taking Yahoo’s $1 billion acquisition offer. The advice helped earn McNamee a reputation as Zuckerberg’s “mentor.”
What he’s said: McNamee became a vocal critic of Facebook following the 2016 election. He claims he was one of the first to raise the alarm about potential election interference to Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, but that his concerns were ignored. He’s said that Zuckerberg’s vision of a “privacy-focused” Facebook is little more than a PR stunt and that the company’s leadership is not able to address criticism.
“The people at Facebook live in their own bubble,” he wrote in a piece in Time earlier this year. “Zuck has always believed that connecting everyone on earth was a mission so important that it justified any action necessary to accomplish it. Convinced of the nobility of their mission, Zuck and his employees seem to listen to criticism without changing their behavior. They respond to nearly every problem with the same approach that created the problem in the first place: more AI, more code, more short-term fixes.”
Palihapitiya says he has mostly quit using Facebook years after running the company’s first growth team.
Image: Mike Windle / Getty Images for Vanity Fair
Who he is: Palihapitiya joined Facebook in 2007 and oversaw the company first growth team. He left in 2011 and founded a venture capital firm.
What he’s said: In a sobering talk at Stanford’s business school, Palihapitiya said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his involvement with Facebook. “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we have created are destroying how society works.”
The inventor of the like button now worries about social media addiction.
Who he is: One of Facebook’s earliest engineers, Rosenstein is known as one of the creators of Facebook’s iconic “like” button. He later cofounded Asana with Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz.
What he’s said: Rosenstein said he’s concerned about the addictive, time-sucking nature of social media. So much so that he told The Guardian in 2017 that he had his assistant block social media apps from his phone. “It is very common for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences,” he said.
Facebook’s former CSO says Zuck should relinquish the CEO role. Ouch.
Image: Stephen McCarthy/ Sportsfile via Getty Images
Who he is: Facebook’s former Chief Security Officer, Stamos was on the front lines during Russia’s attempts to use the social network to interfere with the 2016 election. Stamos left the company in August 2018, after a three-year stint as the company’s security chief.
What he’s said: Though Stamos has at times been critical of Facebook, he has also publicly defended the company and made clear that he doesn’t think it should be broken up. But, just hours after this story was originally published, he said that Mark Zuckerberg should find a new CEO for Facebook.
“There’s a legit argument that he has too much power,” he said, according to CNBC. “He needs to give up some of that power. If I was him, I would go hire a new CEO for the company.” Stamos, who was speaking at the Collision Conference, went on to suggest that perhaps longtime Microsoft President Brad Smith would be a good fit for the role.
UPDATE: May 21, 2019, 3:09 p.m. PDT Added Alex Stamos’ comments.
Read more: https://mashable.com/article/facebook-executives-turned-critics/
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