Facebook’s ex-employee Frances Haugen came forward as the whistleblower who leaked a cache of internal documents saying that the internal documents are proof that the social media giant is lying about making noteworthy progress against hate, violence and misinformation.
The former Facebook employee leaked the documents to the Wall Street Journal, just a few days prior to testifying before the US lawmakers.
Haugen discussed her decision regarding the leaking of the documents during an interview with a news program 60 Minutes. She said, “There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money. The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,”.
Haugen said that she worked in the tech industry at companies such as Google and Pinterest for over a decade before joining Facebook in 2019. She had accepted the offer from Facebook on the condition that she would be allowed to work to combat misinformation. She emphasized that the issue was personal to her as she had suffered a personal loss due to online conspiracies.
Haugen said that she realized the company was reluctant to take any significant actions to counter these issues despite having the tools needed.
She told 60 Minutes, “No one at Facebook is malevolent,” Mark Zuckerberg “has never set out to make a hateful platform,” she added. However, the effects of the company’s decisions are too grave to be ignored.
Facebook intentionally deprioritized political content on its Newsfeed during the weeks ahead of the 2020 US elections. She said the company proved at the time that it was fully capable of addressing and eliminating these issues.
However, the platform decided to go back to its old algorithm which prioritizes engagement over everything else. She added that the move to switch back to its old algorithm played a part in the riot at the Capitol on January 6.
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, and [Facebook] will make less money,” Haugen said.
Haugen is to testify before Congress on Tuesday regarding her studies and the information she collected during her employment at Facebook.
Last week, Global head of safety at Facebook Antigone Davis came under fire by the lawmakers over one of Haugen’s reports provided to the Wall Street Journal which revealed that Instagram had learnt from its own research that the photo app could be harmful to children.
Facebook’s Vice President of policy and public affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a memo to the company’s employees, “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.”
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone also spoke against the allegations, saying, “to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true”.