Former Facebook exec: I take back what I said about Facebook 'destroying how society works' -- kinda

Flickr/TechcrunchChamath Palihapitiya, the founder of Social Capital.
  • The former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said during a recent talk at Stanford that he felt guilty about what social media had done to society.
  • Facebook has pushed back on the assertion that social media negatively affects society.
  • On his Facebook page on Thursday night, Palihapitiya walked back some of his statements about Facebook and added more context to his remarks.

The former Facebook executive who recently criticised social media for “destroying how society works” is walking back some of his criticisms after Facebook issued a rebuke.

“I genuinely believe that Facebook is a force for good in the world, so I’d like to expand on my comments before we break for the holidays,” Chamath Palihapitiya, who was the vice president of user growth at Facebook, said on the social network on Thursday night.

He added: “My comments were meant to start an important conversation, not to criticise one company – particularly one I love.”

His statement is a reversal of one he made during a talk last month at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

When asked about the role of social media in society and its potential effect, he said, “I feel tremendous guilt.”

Moreover, he said, he and others at Facebook were aware early on of the potential impact of the tools they were creating.

“In the back, deep, deep recesses of our mind, we kind of knew something bad could happen,” he said.

Chamath PalihapitiyaYouTubePalihapitiya speaking at Stanford in 2017.

Facebook uncharacteristically issued a response on Tuesday after multiple publications picked up Palihapitiya’s remarks, which appeared on the front page of the print edition of the Daily Mail.

“Chamath has not been at Facebook for over 6 years,” the statement read. “Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realised how our responsibilities have grown too.”

But while Palihapitiya said in his latest statement that he still loved Facebook and was looking to add more context to his early comments, he still seems to be striking a middle ground, standing by his assertions that the product he helped create has “unintended consequences.”

“In 2017, many of us have grappled with the unintended consequences of the products we’ve built,” he wrote. “Social media platforms in particular have been used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined. Much blame has been thrown and guilt felt, but the important thing is what we as an industry do now to ensure that our impact on society continues to be a positive one.”

You can read his full Thursday statement here – and check out the video from his Stanford talk below:

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