In a continuation of Facebook’s worst week ever, Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the scathing whistleblower testimony of a former Facebook employee.
Frances Haugen testified before Congress about internal Facebook reports she leaked. The former Facebook product manager leaked findings from internal research on Instagram’s harmful effects, published by the Wall Street Journal. Her identity had been unknown until she revealed it earlier this week. She said that she came forward at great personal risk because of her staunch belief now is the time to act.
Haugen’s testimony packed many shocking allegations, including the claim that Facebook knew it was promoting anorexia content to young users, and that different authoritarian or terrorist-based leaders used the site to spy on people. She claimed that Facebook executives prioritize money over misinformation. She also said Facebook disbanded the Civil Integrity team immediately following the 2020 election. Haugen also detailed how the company’s business model and News Feed algorithm is dedicated to keeping users on the app at all costs, even when it knows the content is harmful.
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy,”Hagen said in opening remarks.
Haugen said that Facebook knows how to make its platforms Facebook and Instagram safer, but refuse to because they prioritize profit. She told the subcommittee that congressional action is needed. “We won’t solve this crisis without your help,” she said.
Haugen called on Congress to regulate social media and allow the public to sue companies over algorithms that promote harmful content.
Current Facebook executives are less than pleased with the testimony.
Zuckerberg released a 1,316-word statement first to Facebook staffers, and then publicly on his Facebook page. In it, he addressed the service outage and Haugen’s testimony. He claimed Haugen’s testimony created a “false picture of the company,” and that the claims “don’t make any sense.”
Prior to this Zuckerberg had stayed silent about accusations against the company, including the recent reports on Instagram’s negative effects on teenagers and their mental wellbeing. His silence has been extremely noted by not only the public, but also by congress.
Following the hearing, Facebook issued a statement that attempted to discredit Haugen. Spokesperson Andy Stone attacked Haugen’s credibility, claiming she did not work on the subject matters in question. He claimed she never worked on anything Instagram-related, and had “no direct knowledge” of Facebook’s work on child safety.
The research showing Instagram’s negative effects on teens has stoked anger towards Facebook, resulting in calls to publish more research, and for independent experts to evaluate it. Congress is being encouraged to look at ways to regulate the tech giant.