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Facebook 'fix' needed, early investor Roger McNamee says

Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

Roger McNamee, founding partner of Elevation Partners and an early investor in Facebook, is making lots of noise about how to "fix" Facebook.

In the past week or so, he has written in the Washington Monthly, the Guardian and the Washington Post about Facebook's role in spreading fake news.

"It reads like the plot of a sci-fi novel: a technology celebrated for bringing people together is exploited by a hostile power to drive people apart, undermine democracy, and create misery," McNamee writes in the Washington Monthly. "This is precisely what happened in the United States during the 2016 election."

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He says Facebook needs to make fundamental changes: "The problems were inherent in the attention-based, algorithm-driven business model."

Facebook did announce a huge change last week. It will give greater weight to posts by users' friends and de-emphasize content from publishers and brands in the News Feed, a change that spooked publishers and investors alike. Friday, Facebook shares fell nearly 4.5 percent to $179.37.

 

McNamee has some thoughts on that, too.

"Changes to Facebook's NewsFeed may be a positive step, but it's not a solution," he writes in the Washington Post. "Had this change been in place in 2016, it might even have exacerbated the Russian interference by increasing the exposure of Facebook group users to misinformation."

Why is McNamee publicly criticizing Facebook instead of talking to Zuckerberg, who he once mentored (he mentions that he counseled Zuckerberg when Yahoo made an offer to acquire Facebook, and that he recommended Sheryl Sandberg for the COO job)? It appears Facebook has stopped listening to him; he writes that his last conversation with someone there -- after Zuckerberg and Sandberg "connected" him with another company executive, was in February 2017.

Last fall, McNamee also published an op-ed in USA Today that called Facebook out.

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