Bill Maher is a master skewerer.

Now he’s tilting his prongs toward your smartphone. Or, more precisely, the people who keep you gazing into it — comparing them to cigarette makers.

On Friday’s episode of Real Time, Maher declared a “new rule”: tech tycoons need “to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world,” he said. They have to “admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children,” he added.

Maher referenced a 60 Minutes interview with Tristan Harris, the former Google design ethicist and co-creator of Time Well Spent, the movement to align technology with our humanity. It’s “brain hijacking,” Harris likes to say, and your phone is a slot machine in your pocket.

While your personal goal isn’t to spend as much time on Facebook as possible, that’s certainly what Zuckerberg and company want. It’s about time that we collectively became conscious of this, just as we have with public health initiatives before. “Food companies are not in the satisfying hunger business, they’re in the finish the whole bag business,” he says. “They’re in the we own you business.”

Same with the multi-billion dollar social media companies. “Let’s face it,” Maher says. “Checking your likes is the new smoking.” And the more you scroll, the worse you feel.

“Philip Morris just wanted your lungs,” he added. “The App Store wants your soul.”

Watch the full segment below.

Originally published at


  • DRAKE BAER is a deputy editor at Business Insider, where he leads a team of 20+ journalists in covering the shifting nature of organizations, wealth, and demographics in the United States. He has been a senior writer at New York Magazine, a contributing writer at Fast Company, and the director of content for a human resources consultancy. A speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival and other conferences, he circumnavigated the globe before turning 25. Perception is his second book.