Om Malik on e-cigarette company Juul:
In a CNBC news report, Juul spokesman Matt David said: “Like many Silicon Valley technology startups, our growth is not the result of marketing but rather a superior product disrupting an archaic industry.” First of all, there is nothing technological about this company — unless you count behavioral addiction as a common ground with Facebook and others like them. It is utter bullshit, and reporters should know better than letting this slide without serious questioning.
From Business Insider (which called it iPhone of e-cigarettes) to CrunchBase, everyone seems to marvel over their growth rates, their post-Unicorn valuations, and jaw-dropping success at raising capital. And very rarely have I seen anyone stand up and point out that it is no different than traditional tobacco peddlers like Marlboro and Camel. They are peddling nicotine-based addiction. By focusing on charming founders, their backgrounds, large amount of funds raised and crazy valuations, no one is asking the right question: why are we supporting this company that is essentially Camel 2.0?
Addiction is a profitable and high-growth business. Ask the cartels selling other addictive products. “And is it an ethical business?,” asks Crunchbase. “We can’t answer the latter question here as we’re not equipped for it.” Yes, you are! Any halfway decent person can see that tobacco & nicotine industries are driven by greed and have preyed on human frailty.
Their “we’re not equipped for it” response reminds me of Facebook’s initial response to the use of social media platforms by Russians to manipulate politics in the United States. “We’re powerless! There’s nothing we can do!”
Fast-forward to today when Facebook announced it removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior:
It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.
Rather than be proactive about taking down accounts & pages that violate Facebook policies, they’d rather do nothing until something bad happens. They don’t want anything effecting their bottom line so they’d rather do nothing. It’s shameful.