The U.S. Senate heard explosive testimony today from Frances Haugen, an ex-Facebook insider who detailed the company’s manifest failures in protecting teens and other users from serious and pervasive problems within Facebook’s different platforms, including Instagram. Ms. Haugen focused her testimony on the cascade of ways in which the social media behemoth actively harms younger users, and took pains to highlight how Facebook invariably puts profits ahead of user welfare at every turn.
Haugen, a former project manager at Facebook, described the company as one terrified of “even basic transparency,” one that “goes out of its way to block researchers who are asking awkward questions.” She urged lawmakers to implement Congressional oversight of the social media giant.
Haugen, who had previously leaked tens of thousands of internal Facebook research documents to lawmakers, regulators, and the media, said the documents showed that Facebook was concealing information about its risks to users, and about its progress in combating the hate and misinformation that is rife across the platform.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public, and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money,” Haugen noted.
“Its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing — it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” she said.
Haugen told CBS’s 60 Minutes earlier in the week that her own turning point came when Facebook dissolved her civic integrity team after the 2020 presidential election, and turned off safety systems that were used to reduce misinformation. She said she then realized, “I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.”
Haugen detailed her allegations that Facebook misleads the public, misleads investors, harms teens, affects global societies in tearing them apart and causing ethnic violence, and contributes to political polarization that led directly to the Capitol riots.
The Senate has directed Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to appear before it later this week to address the allegations.
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