The whistleblower who disclosed Facebook’s negative impact on children, politics, and societies- Frances Haugen, is today giving her testimony in front of a Senate panel. Haugen says Facebook’s own research showed that the platform amplified hate, misinformation, and political unrest. However, the company ignored the findings in order to continue making profits.
What’s the issue?
In 2021, Haugen secretly copied tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research after realizing that she would have to get out enough information “that no one can question that this is real.”
The documents show that:
- the company is lying to the public about significant progress against hate, violence, and misinformation;
- Facebook is repeatedly facing a conflict of interest between what’s good for the public and what’s good for profits, and it’s choosing the later over and over again;
- Facebook’s algorithm increasingly shows content that inspires people towards anger or aggressive emotions;
- The algorithm is forcing political parties to take extreme policy positions as they would lose the social media game if they don’t take those postitions;
- Instagram is driving teenagers towards depression and self-harm.
Ultimately, Haugen says that Facebook cannot act independently and governments around the world should put regulations into place.
What do we expect at the testimony?
The Washington Post earlier published a copy of Haugen’s statements. Here’s what she will testify before the Senate:
- Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken democracy, and much more. The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immese profits before people.
- Facebook repeatedly encountered conflicts between its own profits and our safety. Facebook consistently resolved those conflicts in favor of its own profits. The result has been a system that amplifies division, extremism, and polarization- and undermining societies around the world.
- In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people. In other cases, Facebook’s profit optimizing machine is generating self-harm and self-hate- especially for vulnerable groups, like teenage girls. These problems have been confirmed repeatedly by Facebook’s own internal research.
- The serverity of this crisis demands that we break out of previous regulatory frames. Tweaks to outdated privacy protections or changes to Section 230 will not be sufficient. A critical starting point for effective regulation is transparency: full access to data for research not directed by Facebook.
Here’s how you can watch
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower”.
When: October 5th, 07:30 p.m. IST.
How to Watch: The Senate will live-stream the event on this link.
You can read the full statement below.