Former tech executives form coalition to fight tech addiction

Former executives from Facebook, Google and Apple have formed a new coalition that seeks to combat tech addiction. (The Center for Humane Technology)

A number of former executives from Apple, Google, and Facebook have formed a coalition called The Center for Humane Technology, which seeks to fight the increasing threat of technology addiction among today’s youth.

The group is planning to launch a nationwide campaign called “The Truth About Tech,” targeting some 55,000 public schools in the United States in its effort to educate young people about the research on the effects of tech addiction.

The formation of the coalition comes as part of the growing criticism of Facebook and other social media companies for designing platforms that are addictive and may hook the minds of young people from an early age.

“What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children,” said the group on its website.

The coalition includes the creator of the Like button Justin Rosenstein, early Facebook investor Roger McNamee, former Apple and Google communications executive Lynn Fox, and former design ethicist at Google Tristan Harris.

“We were on the inside,” Harris said. “We know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works.”

The group will be creating a Ledger of Harms, a living document designed to help engineers learn more about the technology that they are creating for major companies. The Center for Humane Technology also seeks to lobby public officials to fund research into tech addiction and propose solutions to prevent harmful content from reaching young users.

According to psychology experts, the worst-case effect of tech addiction include an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

“The decline in happiness and the rise in depression might be caused by the overuse of screens leaving less time for activities more beneficial for mental health such as seeing friends in person, sports and exercise, and sleeping,” said Jean Twenge, a psychologist and the author of the book “iGen.”