A data scientist and a former Facebook employer, Frances Haugen, who was revealed yesterday, the 3rd of October 2021 as the woman who anonymously filed complaints with federal law enforcement against Facebook has broken her silence.
According to her, whenever there is an option to be chosen between the public good and interests that benefitted the social media giant, Facebook would rather choose its own interests. She had earlier anonymously reported that Facebook’s own research has shown how it magnifies hate and misinformation.
Ms. Haugen who had previous stints at Google and Pinterest prior to becoming a staff of Facebook in 2019 revealed that due to losing her friend to the effect of online conspiracy theories, had asked to work in a department of the company that is meant to fight misinformation.
In her words:
“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety”.
Haugen is looking forward to testify before the U.S. congress this week, saying she coming out to testify against Facebook will help the government slam regulations to control the activities of the Mark Zuckerberg owned company.
She also alleged among other things that Facebook intentionally turned off safeguards meant to stop misinformation and rabble rousing in last year’s U.S Presidential elections, noting that it contributed to the infamous U.S Capitol invasion January 6 this year.
After the election, Facebook dissolved her unit on civic integrity, which Haugen said was when she realized “I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.”
She further added that a change in algorithm flows that determines what shows up on newsfeeds of users and how they favor hateful content contributed to more divisiveness and ill will in a network ostensibly created to bring people closer together.
Facebook in its defence through Nick Clegg, its Vice-President on Policy and Public Affairs said Haugen’s allegations are misleading.
In Cleggs’s words:
“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out. But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.”
Haugen’s espouse through the ’60 Minutes’ Interview will be a source of concern for Facebook authorities as it further exposed the social media giant to public scrutiny, and opinion that has been negative to the company of recent.
It would be recalled that there was public outcry and backlash when in the middle of September last month, The Wall Street Journal in its publication revealed that the Internal Research team at Facebook had finished setting up an attention-seeking algorithms that promoted political dissent and contributed to mental health and emotional problems among teens, especially girls. Haugen had after copying thousands of pages of Facebook’s internal research, leaked them to the Journal to provide the foundation for “Facebook Files.”
In an obvious move to whittle down the veracity of Haugen’s claims, Clegg appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” had this to say:
“Even with the most sophisticated technology, which I believe we deploy, even with the tens of thousands of people that we employ to try and maintain safety and integrity on our platform,” Clegg told CNN, “we’re never going to be absolutely on top of this 100% of the time.”
According to Clegg, it was because of the “instantaneous and spontaneous form of communication” on Facebook, adding, “I think we do more than any reasonable person can expect to.”
The 37 year old accuser, Frances Haugen, from Iowa and has a degree in computer engineering and a Master’s degree in business from Harvard University , incidentally the same school Facebook founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg attended.
She has filed at least eight complaints with U.S. securities regulators asserting that Facebook has violated the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.”
“No one at Facebook is malevolent,” Haugen said during the interview. “But the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume”.
With this revelation, she can be sued for stealing confidential information from Facebook by the social media giant, but it remains to be seen if Facebook would be ready to take that route.