Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen appeared on 60 minutes in America to call out the platform for “tearing our society apart,” in an explosive interview.
Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook appeared on the show to call out the social network. Haugen had previously been concealing her identity, after she released thousands of private documents from Facebook.
Haugen was an anonymous source for the piece, The Facebook Files published by The Wall Street Journal. The article alleged that Facebook was conducting revealing research but not acting ethically on the results it found.
The article alleged that Facebook which owns Instagram had done research that found Instagram is toxic for teen girls but elected not to make the research public.
The article also alleged that Facebook was allowing ‘angry’ content to be put on the platform and thrive on the platform because it got engagement – it was prioritising clicks over the truth.
Haugen, a data scientist, who has worked everywhere, from Pinterest to Google, insisted in her 60 Minutes interview, that Facebook was considerably worse than anywhere, she’s ever worked.
So, in 2021, Haugen started photocopying and taking confidential information from Facebook, resulting in her now sharing thousands of documents.
Haugen said: “I had to get out enough, that no one can question if it is real.”
Haugen went on to call out the social media network for continually making unethical choices.
Haugen said: “The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
Haugen also alleged that Facebook prioritises content that gets the most engagement, even if it is found to be harmful via research. Haugen used Instagram impacting young women negatively as an example. She also referenced ‘dangerous’ posts on Facebook.
Haugen said: “Facebook has realised that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”
Haugen also alleged that changes were made to stop the spread of misinformation in 2018 during the US election, however, “As soon as the election was over, they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritise growth over safety.”
Haugen is set to testify at a Senate subcommittee this week.
Lena Pietsch, Director of policy communications at Facebook said in a statement given to B&T: “On Sunday, CBS 60 Minutes ran a segment that used select company materials to tell a misleading story about the research we do to improve our products. The segment also disregards the significant investments we make to keep people safe on our platform, and seeks to impugn the motivations of our company. Here are the facts:
“Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.
“We’ve invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe, and have made fighting misinformation and providing authoritative information, a priority.
“If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments, and society would have solved them a long time ago. We have a strong track record of using our research — as well as external research and close collaboration with experts and organizations — to inform changes to our apps.”
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