A Facebook whistleblower said the company was “operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny”
Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old former Facebook product manager who has worked on civic integrity issues at the company, was confronted with questions from a trade subcommittee about what Facebook-owned Instagram knew of. its effects on young users, among other problems.
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, fuel division and weaken our democracy,” she said in her opening remarks. âThe management of the company knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but will not make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits ahead of people. Congressional action is needed. They will not solve this crisis without your help.”
She stressed that she had come forward “at great personal risk” because she felt that “we still have time to act. But we must act now”.
“When we realized that the tobacco companies were hiding the harm they were causing, the government took action,” she said in her opening remarks. âWhen we realized cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today the government is taking action against companies that have withheld evidence on opioids. I implore you to do the same here. “
From breakdown to indignation
In his testimony, Haugen said: âYesterday we saw Facebook go off the Internet. I don’t know why it went down, but I do know that for over 5 hours Facebook was not used to deepen divisions, destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about themselves. their body. “
She added: âIt also means that millions of small businesses have not been able to reach potential customers and countless photos of new babies have not been happily celebrated by family and friends around the world. I believe in the potential of Facebook. We can have the social media that we enjoy, that connects us, without tearing our democracy apart, endangering our children and sowing ethnic violence around the world. We can do better.
Facebook problems ‘will haunt a generation,’ says senator
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate Trade Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Haugen for “standing up to one of the most powerful and relentless giants in the world. ‘history of the world’.
He added: “The damage done to self-interest and self-esteem by Facebook today will haunt a generation.”
âFacebook’s actions make it clear that we cannot trust the police itself,â Blumenthal said in a statement Sunday. “We need to consider tighter supervision, effective protections for children and tools for parents, among the reforms needed.”
National security concerns – and future hearings
During his testimony, Haugen said, âCongress can change the rules that Facebook follows and stop the much damage it is doing now. “
Haugen, whose last role at Facebook was as a product manager supporting the company’s counterintelligence team, was asked by a senator whether Facebook is being used by “authoritarian or terrorist leaders” in the world. She said that such use of the platforms was happening “certainly” and that Facebook was “very aware” of it.
“My team worked directly on tracking Chinese participation on the platform, for example monitoring Uyghur populations around the world. You might actually find the Chinese based on them to do this stuff.” , Haugen said. “We have also seen active participation of, say, the Iranian government spying on other state actors.”
She then called Facebook’s “constant understaffing” of counterintelligence and counterterrorism teams a “national security problem.”
âI have strong national security concerns about the way Facebook operates today,â Haugen said.
His comments on national security hinted at what may be Congress’ next investigation based on the leaked internal documents. Haugen said she already plans to discuss these concerns with other parts of Congress, and Blumenthal suggested that Facebook’s impact on national security could be the subject of a future subcommittee hearing with Haugen.