Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies to British lawmakers, painting the company as focused on money over safety and in need of regulation.
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower, says the company does not have the will to make its apps safe for users. 37-year-old Haugen first came to prominence earlier this month after she revealed herself to be the source behind a series of reports by The Wall Street Journal that delved into multiple internal Facebook studies, sharing what the company knew about its platform and its harms. Since that time, the documents—since dubbed the Facebook Papers—have become the focus of reporting by multiple outlets, running a slew of stories covering everything from waning Facebook user numbers among teens to claims CEO Mark Zuckerberg has focused on growth over safety.
The Facebook Papers have been passed to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, US lawmakers, and numerous publications, leaving Facebook to defend itself on multiple fronts. Haugen testified in front of a Senate committee in early October, where she stated she intends to help fix Facebook rather than damage it. Shortly after, Facebook founder and Zuckerberg posted to the platform, claiming the firm does not “deliberately push content that makes people angry,” suggesting any such move would be “deeply illogical.” Zuckerberg’s response was not enough to swell the tide, and since then, Haugen has committed to meet with the company’s Oversight Board.
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Haugen appeared in London yesterday to speak with British parliamentary lawmakers about Facebook and what she has learned about how it operates. Haugen says the company’s primary focus is profitability, suggesting the company’s leadership does not have the will “to make sure these systems are run in an adequately safe way.” The whistleblower also shared her doubts that Facebook subsidiary Instagram would be able to create a service that is safe for those younger than 13. The suggestion follows Facebook’s decision to pause development on Instagram Kids, an app aimed at pre-teens.
Haugen also echoed concerns she shared with US Senators, including the idea that Facebook’s suite of apps can be used to radicalize people. Haugen noted she is “concerned that they have made a product that can lead people away from their real communities,” pulling them into “rabbit holes and these filter bubbles.” She also proposed Facebook should do more to slow the spread of ​​disinformation and hateful content.
As with her previous statements, Haugen stressed a desire to see the introduction of external regulation for social media platforms. The whistleblower says Facebook is filled with “good, kind, conscientious people” but claims the company is structured in such a way that the incentive for profit outweighs any substantial safety measures. Facebook says that narrative is false and that it invests heavily in measures to address problems on its platforms. But with lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic paying attention to Haugen, it may not be enough to slow future regulation.
Next: Facebook’s Own Oversight Board Says Facebook Lies Too Much
Source: The Verge, The Washington PostFacebookThe Guardian
Tom is a writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has covered the tech industry, business, and film for many years. He lives in New York City with his wife, cat, and dog.