Whistleblower Tells Senate Facebook Is Dishonest

Former project manager at the social media giant says its practices are dangerous
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2021 3:35 PM CDT
Whistleblower: Don't Trust Facebook
Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill Tuesday in Washington.   (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Facebook isn’t to be trusted. That’s the main point whistleblower Frances Haugen made to the Senate Tuesday. Haugen said the social media giant knows the potential harm of its products but prioritizes profits over safety, Politico reports. One of her chief concerns was the company’s failure to stop foreign adversaries from using the platform to press their agendas. "I have strong national security concerns about how Facebook operates today," Haugen said. "They want you to believe this is just part of the deal. I am here today to tell you that's not true,” she said, per ABC News.

Some of Haugen’s most dramatic assertions:

  • Misinformation overload. Facebook knows people who are isolated are the most vulnerable to misinformation. Someone who is recently divorced or widowed, or just moved to a new city will turn to Facebook, per USA Today. Haugen said Facebook research shows that the systems used for reducing divisive posts and "demoting this information stop working when people look at 2,000 posts a day."
  • Time for an update. Section 230 is a 1996 law that removes responsibility from Internet platforms for the content people publish on them. Haugen argues that statute is insufficient, and Facebook needs to be accountable for content posted there. "We can afford nothing less than full transparency, she said, per Politico.
  • Resources for parents. Because Facebook isn’t providing guidelines, the National Institutes of Health should provide them, Haugen said. The issues are too complex for just taking away a child’s phone, and a government agency should take on the role of providing aid to parents.
  • What would Haugen do? Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz asked Haugen what she would do if she were CEO of Facebook. Haugen replied she’d share research with Congress and other governing bodies, make sure independent researchers had accurate information about the products, and implement what she called “soft interventions” that were devised around the 2020 election, such as actually requiring a user to click on a link before sharing it. "No one is censored by being forced to click on a link before sharing it," she said, per Business Insider.

Haugen was a product manager on Facebook's Civic Integrity team, tasked with preventing election interference. In refuting her claims, Facebook executives said she has no direct knowledge of the projects she’s discussing and mischaracterized research. She did not "work on child safety or Instagram or research these issues," Andy Stone, policy communications director at Facebook, tweeted. (More Facebook stories.)

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