‘I Don’t Like Being a Nanny Co’: WhatsApp Founder on Hate Speech

WhatsApp Founder Brian Acton’s view on hate speech was quoted in Steven Levy’s book ‘Facebook - The Inside Story’.

Tech News
2 min read
Brian Acton, former co-founder, WhatsApp, has now  

How seriously did former WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton see the findings that their messaging product was being used to promote hate speech, fuel lynch mobs and incite other societal harm? Apparently not seriously at all, according to Casey Newton, Silicon Valley editor for The Verge, who interviewed Steven Levy, author of the book Facebook - The Inside Story.

Acton apparently told Levy that “There’s no morality attached to technology, it’s people that attach morality to technology.”

“It’s not up to technologists to be the ones to render judgment. I don’t like being a nanny company. Insofar as people use a product in India or Myanmar or anywhere for hate crimes or terrorism or anything else, let’s stop looking at the technology and start asking questions about the people.”
Brian Acton to Steven Levy, Author of Facebook - The Inside Story

WhatsApp has been at the forefront of fake news and hate speech being spread in countries like India. In October 2019, the Supreme Court granted Indian Government three months’ time to frame new rules to regulate the misuse of social media.

The Indian government has requested WhatsApp several times for access to a tech solution that would allow the government to trace origins of messages on the platform. However, the Facebook-owned social media platform says allowing access would compromise its end-to-end encryption of messages.

Levy’s book on the social network only briefly covers WhatsApp, where he had access to the former co-founder of WhatsApp. The book focuses more on Facebook and how the social network evolved from when it was founded to the present day. For the book, Levy had access to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many top executives such as Sheryl Sandberg, besides Brian Acton.

After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Acton has moved on to start a rival messaging platform called Signal. WhatsApp founder Jan Koum and Brian Acton left Facebook over a disagreement on data privacy and the social network’s business model for the messaging platform.

It took Levy around three and a half years to get the book done, chronicling 16 years of the social network’s existence.

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