FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington

Founder of 'original' Facebook claims social network is as addictive as tobacco

By KHALEDA RAHMAN Time of article published Aug 31, 2018

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INTERNATIONAL - The founder of the 'original' Facebook has claimed Mark Zuckerberg's social network has failed to protect its users and is to blame for 'countless deaths.'

Aaron Greenspan created the 'Universal Face Book' at Harvard University four months before Mr Zuckerberg registered and launched his website using aspects of Mr Greenspan's version.

He later won a payout – an undisclosed sum – from Facebook after arguing that he came up with the idea first.

But now, he has reignited his feud with the Silicon Valley billionaire by claiming Mr Zuckerberg compromised safeguards and security for the sake of growth.

Mr Greenspan told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, ignored his warnings – instead making the network as addictive as tobacco and costing lives. 

'Facebook's addictive qualities may not kill anyone directly as cigarettes do every day but it is now established that the site has led to countless deaths,' he told the newspaper.

He cited the leaked memo written by Facebook's vice president Andrew Bosworth, who said the site's determination to connect people might cause deaths by exposing them to bullies or if a terrorist co-ordinated an attack using Facebook.  Mr Greenspan added: 'Mark and I fundamentally disagreed over the importance of quality versus quantity.  'Mark floored the accelerator for 15 years straight to achieve maximum quantity and he succeeded at that.'

Had he remained involved, Mr Greenspan said he would have stressed the importance of quality – meaning a smaller network than Facebook's reported 2.2 billion active monthly users.  In his confidential settlement with Mr Greenspan, Facebook commended his 'hard work and innovation' in developing the Universal Face Book, according to the Telegraph.

But it was noted that Facebook included additional elements such as member profiles.  A spokesman for Facebook said it wasn't designed to be addictive and was working with experts to better understand excessive use, the Telegraph reports.

The social network is now looking at cooler growth following a years-long breakneck pace.   Last month, shares in Facebook plummeted dramatically, wiping out some $100 billion, after the firm missed quarterly revenue forecasts and warned growth would be far weaker than previously estimated.

It comes after Mr Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress in April to explain how data belonging to 87 million users was improperly shared with a political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, and why it ran ads and posts placed by Russian operatives in what US authorities believe was an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Facebook has modified app data sharing policies since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.  And last month, Britain's data regulator said it will fine Facebook £500,000 ($644,000) for failing to protect user data, as part of its investigation into whether personal information was misused ahead of the Brexit referendum.

The Information Commissioner's Office began investigating the social media giant earlier this year due to the Cambridge Analytica data mishandling.

Cambridge Analytica has denied accusations and has filed for bankruptcy in the US and Britain.  Silicon Valley-based Facebook has acknowledged it faces multiple inquiries from regulators about the Cambridge Analytica user data scandal.

Mr Zuckerberg apologized to the European Parliament in May and said the social media giant is taking steps to prevent such a breach from happening again.


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