The Facts: BJ Fogg & Persuasive Technology

A piece on Medium has mischaracterized my work and the work in my Stanford research lab. The author is misleading readers by portraying me as the bad guy.

I put together some facts about my efforts to raise awareness about the ethics of persuasive tech.

Check out the stuff below and then you decide who is telling the truth.


BJ Fogg

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1. Soon after starting the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, BJ Fogg began teaching about the ethics of persuasive technology, both at the university and in industry (1997). (No exact online citation for this, but you can ask my teaching assistants Jon Bruck, Jared Kopf, or Daniel Berdichevsky. However, to see what I was saying about the “dark side” in the year 2000, see: )

2. BJ Fogg published the first peer-reviewed paper to address the ethics of persuasive tech. This paper was required reading for Fogg’s students and lab members. See page 229

3. BJ Fogg and his lab members were the first to organize a panel at a major conference to address the ethical issues of persuasive tech (1999):

4. BJ Fogg commissioned his lab members to write an article on the ethics of persuasive tech in 1999, which was part of a special issue of ACM that he guest edited. See this issue here:

5. BJ Fogg was the first to write a book chapter (2002) about the ethics of persuasive tech. See chapter 9 in his book Persuasive Technology. Start with page 213 here:

6. The Persuasive Tech Lab organized the first-ever conference about the ethics of persuasive tech (half-day event at Stanford).

7. With help from his students, BJ Fogg created a video in 2006 to warn the FTC (and others) about problematic areas related to persuasive technology. See the video here:

(BJ’s quick note: This video above has a slow pace, and it’s not my best look, with the shaved head and all. However, do listen to what I was predicting and warning people about. At least go to minute 10 and see what I say about the political use of persuasion profiles. Remember, I recorded this video in 2006, not 2016. The purpose was to warn policymakers.)

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In addition let me add these things:

My lab’s focus on technology to promote peace (starting in 2009) led to a new lab at Stanford called the “Peace Innovation Lab” —

In 2010 I co-authored a book to help parents understand Facebook and protect their kids: Facebook for Parents (out of print now but you can find copies online).

I’ve long been a champion for my former student Tristan Harris and his work (“Time Well Spent” and now Center for Humane Technology). You may have seen his TED talk. In answering a question he implied stuff about my Stanford lab that is not true. Later, Tristan apologized to me for this. He explained that he was nervous at the time, and then he promised to try to fix things. The TED organization has since changed the talk transcript to match the facts, but TED could not fix the video for some reason. (You can see my claim is true by looking at the edit in the transcript.)