Key things the Facebook whistleblower told a Senate panel

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Frances Haugen, 37, a former Facebook product manager who worked on civil integrity issues at the company, faced questions from a commerce subcommittee on what Facebook-owned Instagram knew about its effects on young users, among other issues. .

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“I am here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, promote division and undermine our democracy,” he said in his inaugural address. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safe, but they won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical advantage before the people. Congress needs action. They can’t solve this crisis without your help.” will do.”

She stressed that she came forward “at great personal risk” because she believes “we still have time to act. But we must act now.”

Haugen’s identity as a Facebook whistleblower was revealed on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. It previously shared a series of documents with regulators and the Wall Street Journal, which published a multi-part investigation Showing that Facebook was aware of problems with its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation and the harm caused by Instagram, especially to young girls.

“When we realized that tobacco companies were hiding the harm it caused, the government acted,” she said in her opening remarks. “When we found out that cars with seat belts are safe, the government took action. And today, the government is taking action against companies that hide evidence on opioids. I beg you here to do the same.” “

After the hearing, Facebook issued a statement attempting to defame Haugen. “Today, a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing at Facebook with a former product manager who worked for the company for less than two years had no direct report, ever a decision-point meeting with C-level executives. did not participate in – and testified more than six times for not working on the subject in question,” the statement, the spokesperson tweeted Andy Stone, read. “We don’t agree with his characterization on many of the issues he testified about. Despite all this, we do agree on one thing; it’s time for the Internet to make standard rules.”
Facebook is no stranger to scandals, and this isn’t the first time the company has been the subject of congressional hearing. Nor is this the first time a whistleblower has shaken Facebook’s public image. But Haugen’s document and ensuing testimony come amid a broader scrutiny of Facebook’s power and data privacy practices, and has already inspired bipartisan criticism of the company’s influence on children. However, it remains to be seen whether this will create momentum for any meaningful regulation.

From outage to outrage

The testimony came after a rough day for the company. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were down for nearly six hours on Monday.
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In his testimony, Haugen said, “Yesterday, we took Facebook off the Internet. I don’t know why it went down, but I do know that using Facebook for more than 5 hours can deepen division, destroy democracy.” Wasn’t meant to destabilize, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.”

She continued: “It also means that millions of small businesses haven’t been able to reach potential customers and countless photos of new babies around the world are not happily celebrated by family and friends. I believe in the potential of Facebook. We can It’s the social media we enjoy that connects us without breaking our democracy, endangering our children, and sowing ethnic violence around the world. We can do better.”

Beyond the documents, there’s also the power of Haugen’s personal backstories. She started at Facebook in 2019 after working for other major tech companies Google (GOOG) And Pinterest (pins). He Spoke with The Wall Street Journal About losing friendships due to online misinformation and how social media affected the way she thought about it. She also told the publication that her goal in speaking is not to bring Facebook down, but to “save it.”
About a month ago, Haugen filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the company was hiding research from investors and the public about its shortcomings. It also shared the documents with regulators and the journal, which published a multi-part investigation Showing that Facebook was aware of problems with its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation and the harm caused by Instagram, especially to young girls.

Senator says Facebook issues ‘will haunt a generation’

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, expressed “heartfelt gratitude” to Haugen for “standing up to one of the most powerful, irrepressible corporate giants in the history of the world.”

He continued: “The selfishness and damage to self-worth done by Facebook today will haunt a generation.”

Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis was grilled last week by members of the same Senate subcommittee after the Journal reported the impact of its apps on young users. Davis, who identified herself as a mother and former teacher, insisted on the idea that the report was a “bombardment” and called for publicly releasing a full research report, taking into account potential “privacy considerations”. was not committed. She added that Facebook is “exploring ways to release more research.”
The Journal’s report, and subsequent renewed pressure from lawmakers, also forced Instagram to reconsider its plans to offer a version of its service for children under the age of 13. A few days before the hearing, Instagram said it would put an end to the project.

“Facebook’s actions make it clear that we cannot rely on the police ourselves,” Blumenthal said in a statement on Sunday. “We should consider stronger oversight, effective protection for children and tools for parents, among the improvements we need.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday Night Issued a statement of 1,316 words Addressing Monday’s Facebook outage and Hogen’s testimony on his personal Facebook page. He said, in part, that instead of ignoring young people’s use of technology, tech companies should “create experiences that meet their needs while also keeping them safe.”

National security concerns — and future hearings

During his testimony, Haugen said, “Congress can change the rules of Facebook and prevent many of the damages that are happening now.”

Haugen, whose last role at Facebook was as product manager supporting the company’s counter-espionage team, was asked by a senator whether Facebook is used by “authoritarian or terrorist-based leaders” around the world. She said such use of platforms is “definitely” happening, and Facebook is “very aware” of it.

“My team worked directly on tracking Chinese participation on the platform, surveying the Uighur population in locations around the world. You can actually find Chinese people doing this kind of work,” Haugen said. “We also saw the active involvement of the Iranian government spying on other state actors.”

She called Facebook’s “constant understanding” of counter-espionage and counter-terrorism teams a “national security issue”.

“I have serious national security concerns about how Facebook works today,” Haugen said.

His comments on national security indicated what could lie ahead for Congress to investigate based on internal document leaks. Haugen said she already plans to talk to other parts of Congress about those concerns, and Blumenthal suggested that Facebook’s impact on national security be the subject of a future subcommittee hearing with Haugen. could.


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