Facebook whistleblower tells Congress social network is 'accountable to no one'


Gifted One
Staff member
Apr 16, 2021
Perched on a rock in Canada
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen argued at a Senate hearing Tuesday that Congress needs to require more transparency from the social networking giant.

“I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more,” she said to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

Haugen, 37, a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team, said that effective regulation of Facebook would need to start with transparency, including allowing “full access to data for research not directed by Facebook.”

The hearing largely focused on the company's impact on children and protecting kids who use online platforms. The senators' questions indicated bipartisan agreement that the content teenagers see is problematic and additional regulations are needed.

The top Republican on the subcommittee, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, said that Facebook turned a blind eye to children on its sites. "It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users."

On Monday, Facebook had a massive outage that knocked out service to the social media giant's platforms for users around the world.

Haugen said in her opening statement: "I don't know why it went down. I know that for more than five hours Facebook wasn't used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies."

Haugen argued that allowing outside entities to see Facebook's data would help combat much of the problems that the social platform creates. External researchers would allow for regulators to build “sensible rules and standards to address consumer harms, illegal content, data protection, anticompetitive practices, algorithmic systems and more,” she said.

“As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is accountable to no one,” she said. Haugen previously worked at Google, Pinterest and Yelp.

Facebook needs an opportunity for Congress to step in and for them to declare "moral bankruptcy," said Haugen.
"We have financial bankruptcy because we value people’s lives more than we value money. Facebook is stuck in a feedback loop they can not get out of. Hiding this information because they feel trapped. They need to admit they did something wrong and they need to help solve these problems. That’s what moral bankruptcy is," she said.

Haugen will also compared Facebook to Big Tobacco and pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids.

“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action,” she said. “When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today, the government is taking action against companies that hid evidence on opioids. I implore you to do the same here."

"Facebook says one thing and does another," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said at the hearing. "Facebook's platforms are not safe for young people, as you said," he said, referring to Haugen. "Facebook is like Big Tobacco, enticing kids with that first cigarette."

The hearing Tuesday, and one last week at which senators questioned Facebook’s head of safety, Antigone Davis, were called after The Wall Street Journal reported on leaked internal research that appeared to identify Instagram’s negative effects on children and teens’ mental health.

"The recent revelations about Facebook's mental health effects on children and its plan to target younger audiences are indeed disturbing," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., at the start of the hearing on Tuesday.

Facebook said the Journal mischaracterized the findings, according to a blog post released 12 days after the article was published.

Prior to the hearing last week, Facebook said it would pause development of a version of Instagram aimed at children following mounting criticism from child safety groups and lawmakers.

Haugen also referred to the actions the platform took surrounding Jan. 6, the day of the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"Facebook has been emphasizing a false choice. They said safeguards that were put in place [ahead of the 2020 election] implicated free speech. But the choices that were happening on the platform were about how reactive and twitchy was the platform, how viral was the platform," said Huagen.

Facebook changed the safety defaults in the run up to the election, she said, "because they knew they were dangerous and then returned them to their original defaults. They had to break the glass on Jan. 6 and turn them back on, and I think that’s deeply problematic."

Facebook can be a useful tool, I use it to keep in touch with close friends and family and to follow favourite writers and local groups.

My standard procedure if someone posts what I don't like is to block the source of the link, I never see anything from there again.

It's like listening to talkback radio, you just change the station to easy listening... 😉

I agree that it can be a very useful tool for keeping in touch with family & friends but they have been getting away with far too much for far too long.

We've all seen the racism & propaganda & misinformation and they have made little or no effort to stop it. I've complained to them myself and they've gotten back to me & said "sorry, not breaking any rules".

Here's a classic I've seen several times: A picture of 3 nasty looking Muslims with the caption that says, "These 3 Muslims raped and murdered an 11 year old girl. Share if you think they should be castrated & jailed!"

Of course there was no 3 Muslims, there was no 11 year old girl and there was no rape or murder. The entire purpose of the post is to get people to hate Muslims. That post has been going around for years & years! How can that be "not breaking any rules"?

Then there was the recent U.S. election and the lies & sewage from Trump & his cronies. How can that be "not breaking any rules"? A whole nation of people at each other throats!

IMHO It's high time something was done to bring these social media giants under control!!!

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