Facebook whistleblower claims social media company’s products harm kids, fuel division


A former Facebook data scientist told Congress that the social network’s products are harming children and fueling polarization in the United States, and his bosses are refusing to make changes because they prefer profits over safety.

Frances Haugen was testifying before the Senate Trade Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, after accusing the company of being aware of the apparent harm done to some teens by Instagram and of being dishonest in its public fight against hate and disinformation.

Ms Haugen has spoken out against Facebook, with tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents that she secretly copied before quitting her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.

She has also filed complaints with federal authorities alleging that Facebook’s own research shows it amplifies hatred, disinformation and political unrest, but the company is hiding what it knows.

Ms Haugen says she speaks out because she believes “Facebook products harm children, fuel division and weaken our democracy.”

“Company management knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical profits ahead of people,” she said in written evidence prepared for the ‘hearing.

“Congress action is needed. They will not solve this crisis without your help.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, the company that has been criticized by a US Senate committee

After recent reports based on documents she leaked to the Wall Street Journal sparked public outcry, Ms Haugen revealed her identity in a TV interview that aired on Sunday night. She said: “Facebook, time and time again, has shown it prefers profit over security.”

The ex-employee defying the social network with 2.8 billion users worldwide and nearly $ 1 trillion in market value is a 37-year-old data expert with a computer engineering degree and a master’s degree in Harvard Commerce.

Before being hired by Facebook in 2019, she worked for 15 years at technology companies such as Google, Pinterest, and Yelp.

The panel examines Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers on Instagram that could indicate potential harm to some of its young users, especially girls, while publicly downplaying negative impacts.

For some teens, peer pressure generated by Instagram has resulted in mental health and body image issues, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts, research disclosed by Ms Haugen has shown.

“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, the US government and governments around the world,” Ms. Haugen said in her written testimony.

“The documents I have provided to Congress prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about children’s safety, the effectiveness of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in dissemination of conflicting and extreme messages.

As the public relations row over Instagram’s search escalated over the past week, Facebook suspended work on a children’s version of Instagram. What is at issue are the algorithms that govern what shows up on user newsfeeds and how they promote hateful content.

Ms Haugen, who has focused on algorithmic products in her work at Facebook, said a 2018 change in the flow of content contributed to more division and ill will.

Despite the enmity the new algorithms were fueling, Facebook found they were helping people come back – a model that has helped the social media giant sell more of the digital ads that generate most of its revenue.

Ms Haugen also said Facebook prematurely deactivated safeguards designed to thwart disinformation and incitement to violence after Joe Biden beat Donald Trump last year, alleging it contributed to the deadly assault on January 6 against the US Capitol.

After the November election, Facebook disbanded the Civic Integrity Unit where Ms Haugen worked. to be dangerous “.

Facebook maintains its claims are misleading and insists there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that it is the main cause of social polarization.

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