Facebook weakens democracy, says whistleblower

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, 37, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic integrity team, testified at an internet safety hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and said “they [Facebook] have put their immense profits before people.”

She told senators at a Washington hearing that Facebook’s leaders know how to make their products safer but won’t, she says

She said Facebook weakens democracy. “They have put their immense profits before people”

Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”

Democrats and Republicans expressed their concern about Facebook in their opening remarks.

Facebook has rejected her claims, saying it has spent significant sums of money on safety.

The highly anticipated testimony comes a day after a massive Facebook outage, which saw services down for six hours and affected billions of users globally.

A big part of Haugen’s argument is that the only people who really understand Facebook’s inner workings are its employees.

“Facebook has a culture that emphasises that insularity is the path forward,” she told the members at the hearing earlier. “That if information is shared publicly, it will be misunderstood,” she says.

If you follow Haugen’s logic, this inward-looking culture is precisely why Congressional oversight of the social media giant is needed, some say.

Haugen is arguing that regulation may even make Facebook “more profitable over the long-term”.

In response to questions from Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper, Haugen says “if it wasn’t as toxic, less people could quit it” – though that isn’t something we can test.

Haugen also continued her comparisons between Facebook and the tobacco industry.

“Only about 10% of people who smoke ever get lung cancer,” she said. “So [at Facebook] there’s the idea that 20% of your users can be facing serious mental health issues and that’s not a problem.”

Haugen, whose last role at Facebook was as a product manager supporting the company’s counter-espionage team, was asked whether Facebook is used by “authoritarian or terrorist-based leaders” around the world.

She said such use of the platforms is “definitely” happening, and that Facebook is “very aware” of it.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal suggested that these national security concerns could be the subject of a future subcommittee hearing.

Source: Graphic Online