The Facebook whistleblower who caused a firestorm after releasing internal documents detailing how the company failed to address negative effects of its social media products came forward Sunday night on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
Frances Haugen, a data scientist who worked at Facebook as a product manager on the Civic Integrity team, said the social media platform has lied to the public about resolving hate and violence to increase traffic and engagement—and in turn, profit.
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” Haugen told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.
Who is Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower?
Haugen, 37, joined Facebook in June 2019 with hopes of improving how Facebook deals with misinformation after she lost a friend due to conspiracy theories online. By April 2021 she resigned, and leaked a massive trove of Facebook’s internal documents and research to the Wall Street Journal.
She previously worked at other Silicon Valley tech giants, including Google and Pinterest, according to her LinkedIn profile. But Haugen told Pelley Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she’s seen before when it came to putting user engagement ahead of the safety of its products.
She submitted tens of thousands of those documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress. She was also the primary source of the Journal’s Facebook Files stories last month that exposed how Facebook’s algorithm fosters anger to drive engagement, how it favors high-profile users, and how Instagram made nearly one-third of teenage girls who use it feel worse about their bodies.
Jeff Horwitz, the Journal tech reporter behind the Facebook Files stories, also confirmed Haugen’s identity after she revealed herself on the show.
The Senate has launched an investigation into the controversial internal research and how Facebook tried to obfuscate it. Haugen is scheduled to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on Tuesday.
How is Facebook responding?
Facebook has begun to hit back at Haugen’s allegations, issuing a lengthy statement in response to the 60 Minutes interview. “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” said Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s director of policy communications. “We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
Amid a spate of criticism about Instagram’s effect on children’s mental health and safety, Facebook announced on Sept. 27 that it will put the development of its Instagram Kids app on hold.
The social media giant also took to its own blog to criticize what it calls the Journal’s “deliberate mischaracterization” of Facebook’s actions against misinformation in its reporting. Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg criticized the paper for “cherry-picking” from the documents Haugen leaked.
“Facebook understands the significant responsibility that comes with operating a global platform,” Clegg said. “We take it seriously, and we don’t shy away from scrutiny and criticism. But we fundamentally reject this mischaracterization of our work and impugning of the company’s motives.”
What is Haugen trying to achieve?
Haugen clarified that she has nothing against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, adding that she knows he did not intend on creating a “hateful” platform.
“I have a lot of empathy for Mark,” she told Pelley. “But he has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful, polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.”
Shortly after the show aired, Haugen posted on her Twitter account that she believes “we can do better.”
“Together we can create social media that brings out the best in us. We solve problems together – we don’t solve them alone,” she tweeted.
Source : time