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Facebook whistleblower Haugen urges Zuckerberg to step down

The Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen looks on during the opening ceremony of Web Summit, Europe's largest technology conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 1, 2021.

Image: REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, in her first public statement since leaking a trove of damaging documents about Facebook’s inner workings, encouraged her former employer, Mark Zuckerberg, to step aside and enable change instead of committing resources on a makeover.

“I think it is unlikely the company will change if [Mark Zuckerberg] remains the CEO,” Haugen told a crowded arena on Monday at the opening night of the Web Summit, a digital festival that has drawn tens of thousands to Lisbon, Portugal.

When asked if Zuckerberg should resign, the former Facebook product manager responded affirmatively, adding: “Maybe it’s a chance for someone else to take the reins… Facebook would be stronger with someone who was willing to focus on safety.”

Last week, the social network, which has roughly 3 billion users, rebranded as Meta, focusing on the creation of the “metaverse,” a shared virtual world that it believes will be the successor to the mobile internet.

Early adopters of the virtual worlds known as the metaverse, on the other hand, slammed Facebook’s rebranding as a cynical attempt to profit from growing interest in a concept it didn’t invent in order to deflect recent bad publicity.

In response to the rebranding, Haugen stated that it made no sense given the ongoing security concerns.

“Over and over again, Facebook chooses expansion and new areas over sticking the landing on what they’ve already done,” Haugen told an ecstatic audience.

Facebook’s announcement comes as politicians and authorities slammed the company’s business practises, particularly its massive market power, algorithmic judgments, and monitoring of abuses on its platforms.

The social media network has retaliated, claiming that the data released by Haugen were being used to present a “false picture.” Facebook employs a dual-class share structure in which Zuckerberg and a tiny group of investors control the company.

Last month, Haugen told British and American legislators that until Facebook’s algorithms, which push extremist, divisive content and prey on susceptible populations to keep users scrolling, it will fuel more deadly upheaval around the world.

“A key problem is that the foundation of the platform’s security is based on monitoring content language by language, which does not scale to all the countries where Facebook operates,” Haugen noted.

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