Facebook puts profits before people, whistleblower tells US Senate Commerce subcommittee

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen said the platform had done too little to prevent its use by people planning violence, leading to actual violence that harms and even kills people

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen appearing in US Senate (Photo: Twitter)
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen appearing in US Senate (Photo: Twitter)
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NH Web Desk

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen urged the Congress on Tuesday to regulate social media, saying the sites are a threat to children and democracy and even lead to violence - while founder Mark Zuckerberg spends the day sailing.

The former employee, who worked for the tech giant in its misinformation department, told a Senate Commerce subcommittee that Facebook's bosses 'put their astronomical profits before people,' as per a report carried by UK’s Daily Mail.

Speaking to Senators on Tuesday, she celebrated a massive outage that hit Facebook and its related sites the day before.

“Yesterday we saw Facebook get taken off the internet. I don't know why it went down, but I do know for more than five hours, Facebook wasn't used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies,” she said, as per the report.

During the hearing, Haugen told senators that no similar company's CEO has as much unilateral control as Zuckerberg does. “Mark holds a very unique role in the tech industry in that he holds over 55% of all the voting shares for Facebook. There are no similarly powerful companies that are as unilaterally controlled,” she said. “There's no one currently holding him accountable but himself,” she added.

She said 'the buck stops with' Facebook's tech billionaire owner, adding that 'Facebook needs to take responsibility for the consequences of its choices'.

Later in the hearing, Haugan said Zuckerberg himself even made choices that put engagement over public safety.

“We have a few choice documents that contain notes from briefings with Mark Zuckerberg where he chose metrics defined by Facebook like "meaningful social interactions" over changes that would have significantly decreased misinformation, hate speech and other inciting content,” she told Senator Ben Ray Lujan, as per the report.

Haugen also said Facebook had done too little to prevent its platform from being used by people planning violence.

“The result has been a system that amplifies division, extremism, and polarization' and undermining societies around the world. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people,” she said.

After the November election, Facebook dissolved the civic integrity union where Haugen had been working. That, she said, was the moment she realized “I don´t trust that they're willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.”

Subcommittee chairman Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized Facebook's founder in his opening statement on Tuesday morning, the report said.

“Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror today,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “And yet rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing,” he said.

Blumenthal called on him to testify on the damning research Haugen uncovered.

“Mark Zuckerberg you need to come before this committee, you need to explain to Frances Hougan, to us, to the world, and to the parents of America - what you were doing and why you did it,” he said.

He said Facebook was facing a 'big tobacco moment' in the country's reckoning over its impact on a generation of young people, slamming the company as 'morally bankrupt.'

“The damage to self interest and self worth inflicted by Facebook today will haunt a generation,” Blumenthal said. 'Feelings of inadequacy, and insecurity, rejection and self hatred will impact this generation for years to come.

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