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A data scientist who posed as a Facebook whistleblower on Sunday says the social media giant will choose its own interests whenever there is a conflict between the public good and what benefits the company.


Frances Haugen was identified in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday as the woman who anonymously filed a complaint with federal law enforcement that the company’s own research shows how it disseminates hate and misinformation. Increases.

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Haugen, who worked at Google and Pinterest before joining Facebook in 2019, said she was asked to work in an area of ​​the company that fights misinformation after she called a friend for online conspiracy theories. had lost.

related: Facebook responds to Biden’s criticism over COVID-19 information

“Facebook has shown time and again that it chooses advantage over security,” she said. Haughan, who will testify before Congress this week, said he expects the government to come forward and make rules to govern the company’s activities.

She said Facebook had prematurely shut down security measures designed to prevent misinformation and nuisance when Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last year, alleging that the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. contributed to the deadly attack.

After the election, the company dissolved an entity on civil integrity where she was working, which Haugen said was the moment she realized “I don’t believe they’re really ready to invest. Which Facebook needs to invest in to prevent this from happening. Dangerous.”

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.

related: White House says Facebook needs to work harder to censor COVID-19 misinformation

Despite the hostility that the new algorithms were feeding, Facebook found they helped keep people coming back — a pattern that helped the Menlo Park, Calif., social media giant sell more of the digital ads that generated most of its ads. helped.

Facebook’s annual revenue has more than doubled from $56 billion in 2018 to an estimated $119 billion this year, based on estimates from analysts surveyed by FactSet. Meanwhile, the company’s market value has grown from $375 billion at the end of 2018 to nearly $1 trillion now.

Even before the full interview came out on Sunday, a top Facebook executive was calling the whistleblower’s allegations “misleading.”

“Social media has had a huge impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often the place where most of this debate takes place,” Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote in a memo sent Friday to Facebook employees. part.” . “But the evidence that is there does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media in general, is the primary cause of polarization.”

The “60 Minutes” interview has already grabbed headlines on Facebook as lawmakers and regulators around the world examine the immense power of social networking to shape opinion and its polarizing effects on society.

related: US Surgeon General calls COVID-19 misinformation a ‘grave threat’

The reaction has been swift since The Wall Street Journal Publication of an Expo in mid-September This showed that Facebook’s internal research had concluded that the social network’s attention-grabbing algorithms had helped fuel political discontent and contributed to mental health and emotional problems among adolescents, especially girls. After copying thousands of pages of Facebook’s internal research, Haugen leaked them to the Journal to provide the foundation for a succession of stories packaged as “Facebook files.”

Although Facebook claimed that the Journal had picked out the most damaging information in internal documents to cast the company in its worst light, the disclosure prompted an indefinite delay in the rollout. a children’s version Its popular photo- and video-sharing app, Instagram. Facebook currently requires people to be at least 13 years old to open an Instagram account.

Clegg appeared on CNN’s “trusted source” Sunday in another pre-emptive attempt to soften the blow of Haugen’s interview.

Clegg told CNN, “Even with the most sophisticated technology that I believe we deploy, even with the thousands of people that we need to know about security and Let’s try to maintain integrity.” On top of this 100% of the time.”

He added that this is because of the “immediate and effortless form of communication” on Facebook, “I think we do more than any reasonable person would expect.”

By choosing to appear on “60 Minutes”, Haugen selected television’s most popular news program, an evening likely to increase its viewership because, in many parts of the country, it was broadcast directly to Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Follows the NFL matchup between.

Haugen, 37, is from Iowa and has a degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in business from Harvard University – the same school that Facebook founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg attended.

related: Facebook halts development of ‘Instagram Kids’ app after pushback

Haugen, 37, has filed at least eight complaints with US securities regulators alleging that Facebook violated the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.” Facebook could in return take legal action against him if it claims that it stole confidential information from the company.

“Nobody is malevolent on Facebook,” Hogen said during the interview. “But incentives are given the wrong way, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that generate an emotional response. And the more anger they expose. the more they interact and the more they consume.”

Liedtke reported from San Ramon, Calif.