Facebook hit back at a former executive who said the company “programs” people

Of two minds.
Of two minds.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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After a thinly-veiled criticism of the company for “ripping apart the social fabric” by a former executive went viral, Facebook has decided to weigh in.

Ex-vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya said in November that he felt “tremendous guilt” about being involved in building tools that exploit human psychology—”program you,” in his words—and undermine healthy social interactions. The comments were noticed by The Verge on Dec. 11, and quickly spread across the internet. Facebook claims that at the time Palihapitiya was employed, it was a different company, and that as it has grown, it has realized its immense responsibilities.

Here’s the full statement, per CNBC, and confirmed to Quartz by Facebook:

Chamath has not been at Facebook for over six years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have realised how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve. We’ve done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we’re using it to inform our product development. We are also making significant investments more in people, technology and processes, and – as Mark Zuckerberg said on the last earnings call – we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made.

Palihapitiya, who founded venture capital firm Social Capital, went on CNBC to talk about his comments, emphasizing that he was speaking about social media in general—although in his initial remarks he is clearly talking about his own involvement and thus Facebook’s—in creating damaging social media dynamics.

He also said that he owes Facebook “everything” and that “they have done more than any other company to try to fix it.”