Some of the first staffers at Facebook and Google have formed a group called The Center For Humane Technology, which will combat addiction to technology. The coalition is working with Common Sense Media to develop an ad campaign targeting US public schools as well as a widespread counter-technology addiction movement.
All together, Common Sense Media and The Center For Humane Technology have raised or donated $7 million to pay for The Truth About Tech, as the group’s movement is called, while other sponsors such as Comcast have offered $50 million worth of media spots. The primary goal of the group is to teach students and their adults about the hazards of over-using technology.
“We were on the inside,” says Tristan Harris, an early worker at Google and the leader of The Center. He explains that as former employees of major tech companies, the assembly understands how both the tech firms and the mechanics themselves work.
Recently, several authorities have questioned the effects of constant smart phone and device use on young people. A month ago, Wall Street shareholders challenged Apple to investigate the issue further. Health employees demanded that Facebook to eliminate a messaging app developed for very small children. Many parents are concerned about YouTube’s kid-focused YouTube Kids.
Harris also questions the ethics of targeting kids with new technologies.
Unlike in the early days of technology clans, Silicon Valley employees have begun openly criticizing company policies. Previous Facebook staffer Chamath Palihapitiya went so far as to say the company was destroying social relationships.
The Center For Humane Technology already contains a large number of tech heavy-hitters, from Harris to former Google exec Lynn Fox, former Facebook shareholder Roger NcNamee, and several others, and its size will likely increase in the coming months.
In addition to increasing education about technology issues, the alliance plans to launch a site called a Ledger of Harms, which allows engineers to voice concerns about new products.
According to Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, Truth About Tech focuses on how these new technologies are marketed to children to exploit their susceptibility, much like with tobacco advertising.
The coalition will also support two bills that focus on safe application of technology for children and beyond.
McNamee felt obligated to affiliate with the group after observing the monster Facebook had become.
As he says, “This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong.”