Facebook whistleblower says company encouraged hate speech for profit
The whistleblower who leaked several thousand pages of Facebook's internal research and documentation publicly revealed her identity on national television in the US on Sunday. The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, told CBS's 60 Minutes host Scott Pelley Facebook is so devout to product optimization that it willingly incorporated algorithms that amplified hate speech. The whistleblower made many other stunning revelations about Facebook's policies. Here's more.
Who is Facebook's newest whistleblower, Frances Haugen?
According to her now-deleted LinkedIn profile, 37-year-old Haugen was a Product Manager for Facebook's Civic Integrity Group. After working for Pinterest and Google, she joined Facebook in 2019 which she remarked was "substantially worse" than others. Civic Integrity Group was dissolved after the 2020 US Presidential Election. Haugen opined this allowed Facebook to be used to help organize the January 6 Capitol Hill protests.
More profit repeatedly outweighed importance of user safety for Facebook
Explaining why she chose to leak internal research, Haugen said that when debating between what was good for Facebook and what was good for the public, Facebook repeatedly chose to "optimize for its own interests, like making more money." "It's paying for its profits with our safety," Haugen told 60 Minutes. Haugen pinpointed the problem to algorithms rolled out in 2018.
Haugen complained to SEC several times after Capitol Hill violence
Haugen chose to leave Facebook in 2021. She claimed she didn't trust that Facebook was "willing to invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook (and its subsidiaries) from being dangerous." Following the Capitol Hill events and the dissolution of her Civic Integrity Group, Haugen complained to the Securities and Exchange Commission at least eight times suggesting better regulation of the company.
Despite Haugen's leaks, Facebook tried steering narrative about Instagram Kids
The documents Haugen leaked were scooped up by the Wall Street Journal for a multi-part investigation called The Facebook Files. One document found that Facebook was well aware of Instagram's ill effects on teenagers' mental health. This led to a Congressional hearing ahead of which Facebook attempted to change the narrative by publishing a blog post accompanied by two of the leaked documents.
Leaked documents show Facebook knew it propagated hate speech, misinformation
Other documents Haugen leaked said Facebook would act on "as little as 3-5% of hate and ~0.6% of V&I (Violence and Incitement) on Facebook despite being the best in the world at it." Another document bluntly stated, "We have evidence... that hate speech, divisive political speech, and misinformation on Facebook and the family of apps are affecting societies around the world."
Before Haugen's show, Facebook Global Affairs VP refuted allegations
Facebook preemptively sent its Vice-President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg to defend the company on CNN's Reliable Sources, hours before Haugen's interview. Responding to the allegation that social media was responsible for the Capitol Hill events, Clegg said, "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."
Haugen called for regulation, Facebook shamelessly parroted age-old baseless defense
On 60 Minutes, Haugen concluded calling for broader regulation of social media. On Tuesday, she will appear before a Senate Commerce panel. Shortly after 60 Minutes aired, Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch told CNN Business, "Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place."