- By Steve Smith
- December 23, 2021
Recently, a harsh series of reports by The Wall Street Journal was released against Facebook based on internal documents. Provided by a whistleblower who previously worked for the social media giant.
In the episode of CBS ’60 minutes’, the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, disclosed some internal secrets that put Facebook in a tight spot. Haugen worked at Facebook for about two years. She claimed that Facebook is fully aware of how the platform has been used to spread false information, hatred, and violence, and hasn’t done enough to control it.
The crisis further developed for the social media network after Frances Haugen explained about Facebook’s alleged involvement in harming children and weakening democracy.
Haugen worked at Facebook for nearly two years as a product manager in the company’s civic integrity team. Her job was to combat election interference and misinformation and assuring that the platform was not used to undermine democracy.
Before working at Facebook, she worked as a product manager at several top tech firms, including Google, Pinterest, and Yelp. She also co-founded a dating platform called Secret Agent Cupid, which subsequently became the famous dating app ‘Hinge’.
In an interview with “60 Minutes”, Ms. Haugen said she had become frightened by what she saw on Facebook. She said that Facebook frequently puts its interests ahead of the public. The company was not doing much to stop the spread of misinformation. In her interview, she claimed that Facebook repeatedly optimizes for its own interests, like making more money.
She copied many pages of Facebook’s internal research to show how Facebook lied to the users about making an effort to combat misinformation and promotion of violence through Facebook. Haugen specifically mentioned the 2018 algorithm change that prioritized posts with high user engagement. According to her, “if Facebook changed the algorithm to be healthier, people will spend less time on the site, they will click on fewer ads, as a result, Facebook will make less money”.
Haugen added, “I have seen many social networks. And it was more dreadful at Facebook than what I had seen before. Facebook repeatedly, chooses profit over the safety of users”.
Haugen does not want people to hate Facebook. She said, “if people hated Facebook more because of what I have done, then I will fail. I believe in truth and we need to admit reality”. The claim of whistle France Haugen investors were also misled by Facebook about its efforts to combat violent extremism, hate speech, and human trafficking.
Haugen also told lawmakers that she believes in Facebook’s potential for good if the company can fix its issues. She even said she would like to work for Facebook again if she had the chance. She argued that a company should declare “moral bankruptcy” if it wants to seek healing and reconciliation
In her written testimony, Haugen said, “When we realized tobacco companies were covering the harm that tobacco causes, the government took action. When we figured out that our cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action”. Haugen’s testimony says she needs the government to do the same in this case.
In a statement some days after the ’60 Minutes’ interview. Facebook director of policy communication, Lena Pietsch denied all the statements. And said that the company was continually trying to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content.
“Every day our teams have to balance safeguarding the ability of billions of people to expose themselves publicly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” said Pietsch. “To say we support bad content and look at nothing is not true.” She argued that Facebook cannot control all the content on its apps and its job is to “reduce the bad and strengthen the good.”
Haugen’s revelation of internal business information may result in retribution. She said Facebook spread False information. Facebook has indicated that the business would not retaliate against Haugen for testifying before Congress. But they gave no indication about whether or not the firm would take legal action on other grounds against Haugen. People call her a Whistlerbowler.