PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen calmly told a congressional subcommittee Tuesday that Facebook chooses to allow harmful content on its platform that is “disastrous” for society and for children in particular because of the astronomical profits such content generates.
After Haugen’s alarming revelations in her 60 Minutes interview and a worldwide Facebook outage on Monday, technology analysts anticipate more fallout following her testimony.
“The choices being made inside of Facebook are disastrous for our children, for our public safety, for our privacy and for our democracy,” she told the subcommittee.
“Facebook consistently resolved these conflicts in favor of its own profits. The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat,” she continued. “In some cases this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”
Video: Haugen Testifies That ‘Facebook Knows’ It Leads Girls To Anorexia Content
“This is not a matter of certain social media users being angry or unstable. Or about one side being radicalized against the other. It is about Facebook deciding to grow at all costs.”
Video: Haugen Explains Mark Zuckerberg’s Role In Content Selection
Following her testimony, Facebook Policy Communications Director Lena Pietsch issued the following statement:
“Today, a Senate Commerce subcommittee held a hearing with a former product manager at Facebook who worked for the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives – and testified more than six times to not working on the subject matter in question. We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about. Despite all this, we agree on one thing; it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet. It’s been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated, and instead of expecting the industry to make societal decisions that belong to legislators, it is time for Congress to act.”
Haugen stepped out of the shadows on Sunday night in an interview with CBS News “60 Minutes”, shedding light on the dark, murky, troubled world surrounding the Bay Area social media giant.
Haugen, who worked at Google and Pinterest before joining Facebook in 2019, anonymously filed complaints with federal law enforcement that the company’s own research shows how it magnifies hate and misinformation.
She had asked to work in an area of the company that fights misinformation, since she lost a friend to online conspiracy theories.
Haugen testified Tuesday morning before a Senate subcommittee, where she made an impassioned plea to lawmakers saying, “A company with control over our deepest thoughts, feelings and behaviors needs real oversight.”
“Congress, now the ball is actually in their court. What else do you want besides this?”
Two tech experts told KPIX 5 that Facebook has done such a poor job of regulating itself, it’s only a matter of time before the government steps in, and the thousands of pages of documents and research Haugen took from Facebook when she left could be the tipping point for Congress to finally act and create some sort of government oversight.
“These social media companies cannot police themselves. We’ve tried that before,” said San Jose State University professor Ahmed Banafa.
This all comes as Facebook and its other platforms Instagram and Whatsapp suffered massive outages for most of Monday.
“This is one of those things that seems awfully coincidental given that you have testimony going on tomorrow,” said Rob Enderle, a technology analyst.
Enderle thinks it’s only a matter of time before more Facebook employees come forward with other allegations.
“This is not an event that is so contained that only one person knows about it, and now that the whistleblower has come forward, government investigators will be looking for corroboration,” said Enderle.
Quotes from the report:
On Why She Took Her Stand
“Imagine you know what’s going on inside of Facebook and you know no one on the outside knows. I knew what my future looked like if I continued to stay inside of Facebook, which is person after person after person has tackled this inside of Facebook and ground themselves to the ground.”
On The Dark World Of Social Media
“When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other, the version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”
On The Programming Of Facebook Algorithm
“So, you know, you have your phone. You might see only 100 pieces of content if you sit and scroll on for, you know, five minutes. But Facebook has thousands of options it could show you.”
On The Facebook Culture
“No one at Facebook is malevolent. But the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. people enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”
Katie Nielsen contributed to this report.