Facebook whistleblower reveals identity, accuses platform of “betrayal of democracy”


A Facebook whistleblower who brought internal documents detailing the company’s research to the Wall Street Journal and the US Congress came forward before an interview she gave to “60 Minutes,” which aired Sunday night.

Frances Haugen, former product manager of Facebook’s civic disinformation team, according to her website, was revealed to be the source behind a mine of leaked documents. On her personal website, she shared that during her time at the company, she “felt more and more alarmed by the choices the company is making in prioritizing its own profits over public safety.” – putting people’s lives in danger. As a last resort and at the risk of her life, Frances took the courageous act of denouncing Facebook. “

Haugen previously worked as a product manager at Pinterest, Yelp and Google, according to his LinkedIn profile. She also bills herself as the technical co-founder of the dating app Hinge, claiming that she brought her precursor, Secret Agent Cupid, to the market.

“I saw a bunch of social media and it was a lot worse on Facebook than anything I’d seen before,” Haugen told “60 Minutes”.

Haugen told “60 Minutes” that she quit Facebook in May.

Jeff Horwitz, the Journalist who wrote the series of articles based on the leaked documents, also shared Haugen’s identity on Twitter Sunday night, revealing her as the primary source behind the stories.

The documents, first reported by the Journal, revealed that Facebook executives were aware of the negative impacts of its platforms on some young users, among other findings. For example, the Journal reported that an internal document found that among teens reporting suicidal thoughts, 6% of US users attributed the urge to kill themselves to Instagram.

Facebook has since said the Journal’s data is handpicked, and even the headlines of its own internal presentations ignore potentially positive interpretations of the data, such as the fact that many users have found positive impacts of engagement with. their products.

“Every day, our teams must balance protecting the ability of billions of people to speak out openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” said Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch, in a statement after Haugen’s identity was revealed. “We continue to make significant improvements to combat the spread of disinformation and harmful content. To suggest that we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.

Haugen said she decided this year to go public with Facebook’s internal communications, saying she realizes she will need to do it “systemically” and “get out enough that no one can argue with it. let it be real “.

Haugen in turn copied and published tens of thousands of pages of documents, “60 Minutes” reported.

Haugen called the 2020 election a turning point for Facebook. She said Facebook announced it was disbanding the “Civic Integrity” team she was assigned to after the election. A few months later, social media communications would be the focus of concern following the January 6 uprising on the United States Capitol.

“When they got rid of civic integrity, that was the moment I was like, ‘I don’t believe they’re willing to invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous. Haugen said “60 Minutes.”

Facebook told the news program that it has distributed the work of the civic integrity team to other units.

Haugen pointed to Facebook’s algorithm as the element that pushes misinformation on users. She said Facebook recognizes the risk of misinformation for the 2020 election and has therefore added security systems to reduce that risk. But, she said, Facebook relaxed those security measures again after the election.

“As soon as the election was over, they either deactivated them or they brought the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over security,” Haugen said. “And that really sounds like a betrayal of democracy to me. “

In an interview with the Journal published shortly after the “60 minutes” article began airing, Haugen said she found much of the research she conducted with her in the internal forum of Facebook employees, which she said was accessible to virtually every Facebook employee. She sought out research from colleagues whom she admired, according to the Journal, whom she often found in farewell messages calling out Facebook’s alleged failures.

Haugen also told the Journal that she openly wonders why Facebook hasn’t hired more workers to tackle, among other things, its human exploitation issues on its platforms.

“Facebook acted as if it was powerless to staff these teams,” she told the Journal.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the Journal that he had “invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe, and made the fight against disinformation and providing authoritative information a priority “.

Lawmakers seemed oblivious to Facebook’s responses to Journal reports based on Haugen’s disclosures. In a hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Thursday, senators on both sides of the aisle lambasted the company, urging it to take a temporary hiatus from building a platform. -Instagram form for children permanent. Lawmakers said they did not trust Facebook could be a good steward of such a platform based on reports and past behavior.

The whistleblower is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the Senate trade subcommittee on consumer protection. Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis told lawmakers on Thursday that Facebook would not retaliate against the whistleblower for her Senate disclosures.

“Facebook’s actions make it clear that we cannot trust it to control itself,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Who chairs the subcommittee, said Sunday night. “We need to consider tighter supervision, effective protections for children and tools for parents, among the reforms needed. “

Haugen said she “empathized” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying he “never set out to create a hate platform. But he allowed choices to be made where side effects of these choices are that hateful and polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach. ”

She called for more regulations on the company to control it.

“Facebook has shown they can’t act independently Facebook, time and time again, has shown it prefers profit over security,” Haugen told “60 Minutes”. “He subsidizes, he pays for his profits with our security. I hope this has had a big enough impact on the world that they have the courage and motivation to put these regulations in place. This is my hope.

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