A former Facebook employee, in an appearance on the newsmagazine show 60 Minutes on Sunday, 3 October, said that the social media company is misleading the public on progress against hate speech, violence, and misinformation.
"It’s paying for its profits with our safety," said Frances Haugen, who revealed her identity as the whistleblower who leaked Facebook’s internal research documents to the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal’s investigation last month showed how Facebook’s own research found that it was amplifying hate, misinformation and political unrest instead of clamping down. The research documents also talk about how Instagram negatively affects teens, making their thoughts of suicide and eating disorders worse.
"There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook," she added. "And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money."
Haugen worked as a product manager on the civic misinformation group at Facebook. She left the company in 2021 shortly after the group was dissolved and said that she didn’t trust that Facebook was willing to invest in keeping itself from being dangerous.
"They told us, 'We're dissolving Civic Integrity.' Like, they basically said, 'Oh good, we made it through the election. There weren't riots. We can get rid of Civic Integrity now.' Fast forward a couple of months, we got the insurrection."
Haugen also previously worked for Google and Pinterest but emphasised that Facebook was "substantially worse" than anything she had ever seen before.
She attributes this problem to Facebook’s content algorithm that was rolled out in 2018. The platform optimises content that will likely get engagements or reactions from users, which, as Haugen explains, is usually content that is hateful, divisive, or polarising.
"It's easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions," said Haugen.
Facebook has, on several occasions, deflected and tried to disprove the claims of Haugen and the investigation of the Wall Street Journal. "I think it gives people false comfort to assume that there must be a technological, or technical, explanation for the issues of political polarization in the United States," said Facebook Vice President of Global Affair Nick Clegg in an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
Haugen is expected to testify before a Senate subcommittee hearing this week about the company's research into Instagram's effect on teens. She also said that her lawyers have used the leaked research documents to file at least eight complaints against Facebook with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Written by Kyle Chua
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