10% to 15% of underage children may be on Facebook or Instagram, testifies whistleblower Frances Haugen
Things are going so horribly wrong for Facebook that its tech slowdown almost provided relief—except it angered everyone even more.
I fantasized momentarily about whether Mark Zuckerberg was so fed up with the mounting criticism that he pulled the plug to remind the world how essential his creation was. Blaming it on a “faulty configuration change” is so vague.
The brilliantly orchestrated campaign by whistleblower Frances Haugen at the conclusion of Tuesday’s Senate hearing has punctured another tire in a Facebook tank that has already been scorched and scorched by hostile fire.
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After years of blunders and blunders, Zuckerberg, who is no longer an opponent of Harvard, has decided to stop apologizing. But the company’s defense has been severely undermined by its own internal documents, thousands of which Haugen leaked to the Wall Street Journal.
She then emerged, posing for the camera, revealing her identity on “60 Minutes”, adding a personal element to her crusade against the company she left.
While Facebook isn’t responsible for all of the planet’s ills, it has become its own worst enemy in many ways, and its stock has fallen 13% in recent weeks. Still, with 3.5 billion users worldwide — and that includes Instagram and WhatsApp — this juggernaut is so aggressive that it’s practically begging for government regulation.
From allowing Russian propaganda in 2016 to promoting hate speech today, to tolerating then banning Holocaust denial, the company has gone from crisis to crisis. Conservatives see undeniable evidence of liberal bias except for Donald Trump. Liberals see a greedy corporation crushing its competitors, as exemplified by a Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit.
And Haugen’s documents open a new frontier by confirming that Instagram causes depression and body-image issues for many teenage girls, but denies doing anything about it.
When Haugen testified Tuesday that Facebook’s products “harm children, perpetuate division, undermine our democracy” and “put their enormous profits in front of the people,” there was no reason to “hide in the shadows.” Not to mention, he had a lot of information to back it up.
The Journal series documented how Facebook treats VIPs more liberally, and how an algorithm tweak spread angry and toxic posts in News Feed, driving the company’s traffic.
Haugen, who has now become the face of the opposition, said Facebook could use its vast resources to “destroy me”. The Democratic chairman of the committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, immediately thanked him for taking the risk, and the company stopped “sowing hate” and “fanning the flames of division.”
The ranking Republican, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, slammed the company for allowing underage users, noting that 600,000 children under the age of 13 who “shouldn’t be in the first place” had their accounts deleted in the past three months. were given.
This went back and forth with fierce criticism from both sides of the stage. It was a rare moment of bipartisan unity: Everyone hated Facebook.
“You are the American hero of the 21st century,” said Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Haugen says that 10% to 15% of children under the age of 15 may be on Facebook or Instagram, and officials are well aware of this, even though some children lie.
In a devastating indictment, she told Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar that “Facebook knows they are leading young users to anorexia content.”
Haugen is pushing for Congressional action and has found a receptive audience. Last year Democratic presidential candidate Klobuchar declared: “The time for action has come, and I think you are the catalyst for action.”
“We’ve got a few things we can do here,” agreed Republican John Thune of South Dakota.
Haughan, serious and deeply knowledgeable, was able to illuminate the dark corners of the social network. He suggested removing some of the legal immunity protecting social media companies, especially when it comes to algorithms so computers don’t control our content.
Washington Post describes Facebook’s strategic shift: “That familiar script is gone in which Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg issues a formal apology — sometimes in lengthy blogs on his personal Facebook page or on live-streamed videos for congressional hearings — then responsibly.” Take it and promise change.
“In its place, the company has deployed a slate of executives to mount a public defense,” while “quibbing with details” of Haugen’s allegations. Nick Clegg, former British Deputy Prime Minister and now a Facebook VP, is leading the charge. But as Haugen said of the company’s CEO: “The buck stops with Mark.”
Francis Haugen is now Daniel Ellsberg of Digital Leaks. But while the Pentagon Papers looks back at the Vietnam War, Facebook’s findings tackle the here and now — and the next chapter of history has yet to be written.