The CEO of chatbot and ‘conversational commerce’ company LivePerson says Facebook should be shut down until it can fix what he sees as multiple issues with the social media platform.
“Shut it down, fix it, and then put it back up. It's not good enough to let it run when we know it could be harming our community,” Live Person CEO and founder Robert Locascio told media in Sydney yesterday.
Criticism of Facebook has ramped up in recent years, particularly of its privacy practices and role in spreading hate.
“We're done, you can’t run a company like that, they need to go under,” Locascio said.
Locascio pointed to a number of what he said were serious failings by the social media giant.
The platform was used to live-stream footage from the Christchurch massacre gunman’s headcam in March; the stream was viewed 200 times during the broadcast, and about 4000 times in total before being removed. It was reuploaded and viewed thousands of times, prompting the Australian government to pass legislation targeting “abhorrent violent material” and impose penalties on platforms that failed to quickly remove footage after being notified of it.
Facebook in November admitted it had not done enough to prevent the platform’s use by Buddhist extremists to inflame violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority in 2017.
In 2018, the social media giant revealed that the personal information of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which advised US President Donald Trump's election campaign, by building psychographic profiles of voters in key swing states.
Cambridge Analytica has also been linked to the UK’s Brexit referendum, and elections in Nigeria, India, Kenya, Malta and Mexico.
Facebook is also facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.
Given the multiple and persistent failings of Facebook, Locascio said the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg should simply shut the platform down.
“He's a billionaire. I've got enough money, he's got a lot more money than I do, he doesn't have to worry, he could buy half this town…You're not making anything good, you don't need the money, so what’s it about? If it ain't about the money, you've got enough wealth, why the hell? You know it's a problem you created, you funded it, shut it down. Shut it down, you will win a Nobel Prize,” the New Yorker said.
Locascio noted that Facebook’s co-founders and early investors had spoken out against the platform.
Co-founder Chris Hughes said in May that “It is time to break up Facebook” while former executive Chamath Palihapitiya in 2017 admitted “tremendous guilt” over his role in growing the social network.
Investor Roger McNamee has called the platform a “catastrophe” and supported Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s call to break up Facebook and other big tech companies.
“You’re destroying society,” Locascio continued, “and ultimately you’ve got to wake up in the morning and look at your kids and look at your family and community. Your best friend thinks you’re doing bad, your first investor thinks you’re doing bad. You're doing bad!”
Locascio’s impassioned remarks come just months after Zuckerberg shared Facebook’s new focus on privacy and messaging.
As it builds out a “privacy-focused social platform” Zuckerberg said that “significant thought needs to go into all of the services we build on top of that foundation -- from how people do payments and financial transactions, to the role of businesses and advertising, to how we can offer a platform for other private services”.
Those services will potentially compete with Live Person’s offering, which is already up against Facebook’s Messenger Platform, launched in 2016, to allow developers to easily build custom bots and chatbots for Messenger.
Nevertheless, Locascio believes the move to ‘conversational commerce’ and messaging will result in a “shift in power” away from tech titans like Facebook.
"He's betting on that future and he wants to own it. He isn’t going to own it, it's not his future,” Locascio said.
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