As tech companies are coming under increasing pressure to address digital addiction, Facebook's head of global safety Antigone Davis told CBS This Morning recently what the social media giant is doing in response to criticism about the platform's addictive qualities.
On Monday, to former tech industry insiders- who've launched the "Truth About Tech" initiative - says companies like Facebook are fostering addictive behavior by "making deliberate decisions that do great harm." We talk about addiction and we tend to think, 'Oh, this is just happening by accident culturally -- what are the kids doing these days?'" said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. "The truth about what's happening on the other side of the screen is that this is happening by design."
But Davis maintains, "There's a lot of misinformation and miscommunication about the concept of addiction and how people are engaging online. We really care at Facebook about making sure people are engaging in a positive, safe way."
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She pointed to Facebook's recent announcement that it is prioritizing content from friends and family in news feeds as a way to promote "meaningful conversations" and an ad-free video chat and messaging app called Messenger Kids that's controlled by parents. (Messenger Kids has come under fire from child development experts who say social media isn't appropriate for young children, even with parental controls.)
According to Davis, the company has recently put more money behind research into tech addiction and has already conducted some of that research. Pressed to answer whether or not Facebook agrees that too much screen time is bad, Davis deferred to parents' judgment. "Every parent knows their child best. They know how much time they think a child should spend online and how they want them to use those technologies and what we're trying to do is really give parents control," she said. The company says it will offer parents the latest academic research and expert opinions to help them make more informed decisions about what's best for their kids.
While tools are a start, some tech insiders feel that if Facebook is serious about making a change, it will have to change its business model.
Davis responded, "Well, I think two examples that – that I gave are looking at how we utilize news feed and figuring out how we promote meaningful connections, is one thing. By the way, we knew when we did that that was probably decrease the amount of time spent on our platform and it did. But that seemed like the right decision. It is in our best interests for people, as well as for the community of people using Facebook for the connections to be meaningful. For people to see value. And that's what we're trying to accomplish."