Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before Congress on Tuesday, to emphasise the need for “meaningful reform.” Addressing the US lawmakers regarding her allegations against social media giant Facebook, she asserted that reform was necessary “for our own good.”
The ex data scientist at the social network company came forward to accuse Facebook of “systematically and repeatedly” giving priority to its own profits over the safety of its users.
What Happens Inside Facebook, Stays Inside
Haugen has alleged that Facebook was responsible, at least in part, for fueling the Capitol riots on January 6. The reason, she claims, was that the company prematurely took down or turned off the measures it had put in place to curb the spread of misinformation during last year’s presidential polls.
While she had presented her claims to the world on Sunday itself, during an interview on “60 Minutes,” her appearance before Congress stands as somewhat of a historical moment, considering that this might be the beginning of one of the biggest legal storms that have come Facebook’s way.
Lending creditability to her testimony is the fact that she herself served as an employee at the firm, and so, her being privy to insider information is not that surprising. And she seems to have used the same to her advantage, having made public a trove containing thousands of internal documents, depicting how the platform chose business over safety, how it thrives off its users’ anger and enmity, and how its toxic to the mental health of teens, but doesn’t seem too keen on rectifying the problem.
In her address, Haugen emphasised Facebook’s hunger to ensure its growth, as it continued to hide internal research that showed the harms of Facebook products from government officials and the public.
The results, she claims, have been “more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat.” She further informed the lawmakers about the “devastating truth” that what happens inside Facebook, stays inside Facebook.
Toxic to Young Users
Haugen also proceeded to shed light on his Facebook and its subsidiaries posing a significant threat to the health of young users, banking upon recent report that Instagram aggravates body image issues among young girls.
After hearing her concerns, Senator Richard Blumenthal backed her opinion, agreeing that Facebook makes use of “powerful algorithms” to exploit teens. The company, in return, has said that there exists other research which suggests that young people feel more “connected” upon using Instagram.
Together in This
Interestingly, following Haugen’s testimony, Republican Senator Jerry Moran suggested to Blumenthal that they should put aside their differences, and come together to tackle Facebook’s issues. Now that’s something you don’t get to see everyday.
One proposal for the same is to allow private citizens to sue FB and other companies for the harms the algorithms cause. This might be done by doing away with (at least in part) with Section 230, which protects firms from being sued over the content posted by their users. Another route could include passing a national privacy law which would strengthen safeguards for children online.
Haugen has filed as many as eight lawsuits against the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing it of breaking the law when it chose to not take action against the people who were using its platform to mediate the Capitol riots.