Ex-Facebook employee bringing sharp criticisms to Congress

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A former Facebook data scientist has shocked lawmakers and the public with revelations of the company’s awareness of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and allegations of dishonesty in its fight against hate and misinformation. Now she is coming in front of Congress

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Frances Haugen has come forward with widespread condemnation of Facebook, supporting thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job at Facebook’s civil integrity unit. Haugen has also filed complaints with federal officials alleging that Facebook’s own research shows it fuels hate, misinformation and political unrest, but that the company hides what it knows.

Following recent reports in The Wall Street Journal that he caused a public outcry based on documents leaked to the newspaper, Haugen revealed his identity in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday night. She stressed that “Facebook has shown time and again that it chooses advantage over security.”


The former employee challenging the social network giant with 2.8 billion users worldwide and nearly $1 trillion in market value is a 37-year-old data expert from Iowa with a degree in computer engineering and a master’s in business from Harvard . She worked for 15 years before being recruited by Facebook in 2019 at companies including Google and Pinterest.

Haugen is set to testify to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection at a hearing Tuesday.

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The panel is investigating Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers on Instagram, which may indicate potential harm to some of its younger users, especially girls, while it publicly underestimated the negative effects . For some teens devoted to Facebook’s popular photo-sharing platform, the peer pressure generated by the visually-focused Instagram led to mental health and body-image problems, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts, leaked by Haugen. It was found from the research done.

An internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls as saying that Instagram makes suicidal thoughts worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.

“And what’s so sad is Facebook’s own research says, as soon as these young women start consuming this eating disorder material, they become more and more depressed,” Haugen said in the television interview. “And it really motivates them to use the app more. And so, they end up in this reaction cycle where they hate their bodies more and more. ”

As the public relations debacle on Instagram Research escalated last week, Facebook halted its work on a children’s version of Instagram, which the company says is primarily aimed at tweens ages 10 to 12.

Looking forward to hearing from Senator Haugen.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar D-Min. The subcommittee told the Associated Press on Monday. “I want to discuss how Facebook’s algorithms promote harmful and divisive content, and how much profit Facebook actually makes from our children.”

At issue are the algorithms that control what appears on users’ news feeds, and how they favor hateful content. Haugen said the 2018 change in content flow contributed to more division and malfeasance in networks built to bring people together. Despite the animosity that the new algorithms were feeding, Facebook found that they helped keep people coming back — a pattern that helped the social media giant sell most of its revenue-generating digital ads.

Haugen’s criticisms go well beyond the Instagram status. She said in interviews that Facebook had prematurely shut down security measures designed to incite misinformation and violence after defeating Donald Trump last year, alleging that the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol contributed to.

Following the November election, Facebook dissolved the Civil Integrity Association, where Haugen was working. That, she said, was the moment she realized “I don’t believe they’re really willing to invest what Facebook needs to invest in to keep it from being dangerous.”

Haugen says he told Facebook executives when they recruited him to work in an area of ​​the company that fights misinformation, because he lost a friend to conspiracy theories online. Was.

Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis faced criticism from senators on the commerce panel at a hearing last Thursday. He accused Facebook of hiding negative findings about Instagram and demanded a commitment from the company to make changes.

Davis defended Instagram’s efforts to protect youth using its platform. He disputed the way the research is depicted in The Wall Street Journal story.

Facebook says Haugen’s allegations are misleading and insists there is no evidence to support the premise that it is the primary cause of social polarization.

“Even with the most sophisticated technology that I believe we deploy, even with the thousands of people we need to work on trying to maintain the security and integrity of our platforms, We’ll never be on top of this 100% at the time,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and public affairs, said Sunday on CNN’s “Trusted Source.”

It’s because of the “instantaneous and effortless communication” on Facebook, Clegg said, adding, “I think we do more than any reasonable person would expect.”

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Facebook

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