from the world's big
I invested in Facebook. By 2016, I couldn’t stay silent.
Why an early Facebook investor is now Facebook's biggest critic.
ROGER MCNAMEE: I never expected to be an activist. But I was raised in a family with really strong values. I was born in the mid '50s, my parents were involved in the civil rights movement. And I grew up in a family that believed that everyone should have an equal opportunity. And I was also raised in a family where they believed that we all had a responsibility to be good citizens, to be engaged. And the real question in my life was: When would my opportunity come up? It wasn't like I was looking for it. It was more that there never seemed be anything going on in which I could be a useful voice.
So when I began my career, all of that went into the back of my mind. But I still had a really strong value system. And I noticed, beginning in 2007, that the values of Silicon Valley were changing. That Silicon Valley was moving away from the value system of Steve Jobs and empowering users, to starting to view the people who used the products as a source of economic value, not a beneficiary of it. And I had to pass on a series of companies that I knew were going to be successful; it started with and Zynga and then Spotify and then Uber, all of which I could have been an investor in practically at the beginning. I don't want to be critical of those companies, specifically. But for me, my value system said: I want to be involved in companies where our values are aligned. And they were comfortable exploiting certain populations. And I just didn't feel good about that. And that's what caused me to think that maybe I couldn't be an investor anymore. I couldn't manage other people's money if I wasn't willing to invest in the best that Silicon Valley had to offer.
So that's the backdrop for 2016, when I start to notice things going wrong on Facebook. The thing is that I was convinced that Facebook was different. When Mark started the company, he insisted on authenticated identity, right? Everybody had to have an email account from a school. And with that you got rid of trolls because people couldn't be mean and hide behind anonymity. They had to be willing to take whatever the social blowback was if they didn't behave well. And I thought that was the holy grail. And it never occurred to me that Facebook would move away from that. But that's what they did. And so in 2016, when I started to see things going wrong, I eventually said, I can't sit back and watch this. I was retired. The easy thing to do would have been to just sit there and say, this is not my problem. I'll leave it to young people who have an economic stake. But for whatever reason, my value system kicked in and said, this is my moment. There's something really wrong here. I need to reach out to my friends. I thought Mark and Sheryl were the victims. I didn't think that they were the cause of any of this. And I wanted initially to protect them. The hard part came when I discovered, no, they weren't interested in fixing the problem. They wanted to treat it as a public relations problem. Now I'm faced with a quandary. This is a company I've been involved in, not from the very beginning, but from year two, or year three, I guess. They were two years old when I first met them. And if I was going to push back in public, I was going to have to walk away from what was, I think, probably the most successful investment I'd made in an incredibly successful career.
And it didn't take long to make that decision. I realized that there was a real risk that Facebook had been used to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. It was almost certainly a factor in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. And who knew what else. I mean, we've since discovered it was a factor in a genocide in Myanmar and in hate-speech-related killings in Sri Lanka and election interference in many countries in Europe, maybe even turning over an election in Brazil with WhatsApp. But I didn't know that then. What I knew was that I had seen something I couldn't live with. And I had profited from this thing. And I couldn't very well sit back and do nothing, given I'd been involved. I profited. And I saw something I knew wasn't right. It was one of those moments where you have to make a choice. If I wasn't going to stand up on this issue, what issue was I going to stand up on, right? This is where my value system comes into play. Is it just talk, or am I going to walk the walk?
Now, what did it mean? Most of the people that I've been most closely associated with professionally are not comfortable with me anymore. Some of them say really awful things about me, much of it completely not true. And I'm OK with that. I'm OK with that because I believe in what I'm doing is right. And I believe that if Mark and Sheryl get a good night's sleep, if Larry and Sergey get a good night's sleep, they'll wake up and realize, they'll have an epiphany that they've been successful beyond their wildest dreams. And the time has come to be the hero in their own story. That the next billion dollars isn't worth anything to them. That they can do more good in a year by reforming their companies than they could ever do with a foundation.
- Investor Roger McNamee joined Facebook as an early investor when the company was just two years old.
- In this video, he explains why he went from Facebook supporter to public critic, and why he came to write the book "Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe".
- The next billion dollars Facebook makes means nothing if it doesn't reform its practices, says McNamee.
- Think Facebook can manipulate you? Look out for virtual reality - Big ... ›
- Why the business model of social media giants like Facebook is ... ›
- How lies become the truth: Facebook, familiarity bias, and fake news ... ›
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>