Tech Talk: Internet companies balance social responsibility with profits

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook on Wednesday called for a federal privacy law in the United States. (MONTCO.Today file photo.)

Digital distraction has been blamed for a range of ills, from ruining dinner-table conversation and disrupting sleep patterns, to interfering with children’s education and contributing to an increase in anxiety and depression.

Now Silicon Valley has taken what is widely recognized as the first step towards treating addiction: admitting that it has a problem, write Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler at

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Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter rely on winning consumers’ attention to secure advertising revenues. The internet boom over the past decade, just like the dotcom bubble before it, has largely been fueled by eyeballs — only this time, in such huge numbers that marketers have been eager to pay to reach them.

Evan Sharp, co-founder of Pinterest, says the scrapbook app is pushing people to spend more time offline. Pinterest’s “tried it” buttons encourage people not just to browse mindlessly, fantasising about a better life, but to upload photos showing they really did make a recipe or complete a craft project.

Investors are likely to see a conflict of interest over Mr Sharp’s comment. There is only so far that internet companies can go in encouraging their billions of users to tear their eyes away from their apps before shareholders start to worry about the impact on revenues.


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