- A group of former Facebook and Google employees has formed the Center for Humane Technology to express concern over the effects of social networks and smartphones and to challenge the companies that they helped build and grow, according to a CNBC report.
- The group is working with media watchdog Common Sense Media on an anti-technology addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign. Called "The Truth About Tech," the campaign will target 55,000 U.S. public schools to educate parents, students and teachers about the dangers of technology and the possibility of depression from heavy social media use. The ad campaign will be funded by $7 million from Common Sense and fundraising efforts. Common Sense is also donating $50 million in media and airtime from Comcast, DirecTV and other partners.
- The Center for Humane Technology is additionally creating a Ledger of Harms, a website that includes data on the health effects of technology and guides on how to make healthier products for engineers. Among its first lobbying efforts, the group will support a bill introduced by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) to commission research on how technology impacts children's health and a California bill by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg that would prohibit bot use without identification, per CNBC.
Generations of parents, teachers and researchers have expressed concerns over how children are impacted by media and technology — from television to video games, and now social media. Social media and smartphones have undeniably benefited society in some ways, but their harmful effects have increasingly been the subject of debate in recent years.
It sends a strong message that the tech experts that helped build Facebook and Google — the two largest digital advertising platforms in the world — are now calling into question the products that they helped create. Marketers want safe platforms to run their campaigns, and are only pouring more money into digital and social channels. As research evolves, however, they may need to adjust their strategies to best reach their target audiences, and tech and social media companies will need to take action to demonstrate that their platforms have accountability for users.
Last month, some Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to create ways to limit iPhone and iPad use by children, CNBC reported. Pediatric and mental health experts have also pleaded for Facebook to get rid of a messaging service it recently introduced specifically for children. Several groups have additionally complained about YouTube Kids, which has featured unsavory content in the past, and Google recently implemented tougher screening criteria for YouTube videos to ensure that their content is brand safe.
Regardless of the growing number of controversies and research pointing to its ill effects, people are spending more and more time on social media: up to 40 minutes per day on YouTube, 35 minutes on Facebook, 25 minutes on Snapchat and 15 minutes on Instagram, according to MediaKix data reported by Adweek. That means some users spend more time on social media than they do eating, drinking, grooming, socializing and doing laundry.