Internal documents published by the the Wall Street newspaper (WSJ) recently revealed that Facebook allows VIPs to break its rules and that it is aware of how Instagram affects teen mental health. Now, the whistleblower who revealed this information has turned out to be Frances Haugen in an interview with 60 minutes, the New York Times reported.
“I saw a bunch of social media and it was significantly worse on Facebook than I had seen before,” Haugen said. 60 minutes. “Facebook, time and time again, has shown it prefers profit over security.”
Haugen joined Facebook in 2019, working on issues of democracy and disinformation, while also dealing with counterintelligence, according to a personal website and Twitter account she and her team have settled in. She worked as a Facebook product manager and left the company in May.
She first brought “tens of thousands” of pages of internal Facebook documents to Whistleblower Aid founder John Tye, asking for legal protection and help with disclosing the information. The treasure included internal company research, slides, cover letters and more. She also filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accusing Facebook of taking internal actions that were inconsistent with its public statements.
In the SEC complaint, Haugen compared Facebook’s internal research and documents to public statements and disclosures made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives. In one example, she said Facebook contributed to election misinformation and the Jan.6 U.S. Capitol uprising.
“Facebook has gone public with its work in combating disinformation and violent extremism linked to the 2020 elections and insurgency,” she wrote in a cover letter on the subject. “In reality, Facebook knew that its algorithms and platforms were promoting this type of harmful content, and it did not deploy recommended internal or sustainable countermeasures. “
The site allows for content that divides because it promotes engagement, she noted. “His own research shows that hateful, divisive, polarizing content is easier to inspire people with anger than other emotions,” Haugen said. 60 minutes. “Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be more secure, people will spend less time on the site, they will click less ads, they will earn less money.”
In addition to being in contact with the SEC’s whistleblower office, which normally provides protections for corporate whistleblowers, she and her legal team reached out to Senators Richard Blumenthal (R) and Marsha Blackburn (R). She also spoke with lawmakers in France and Great Britain, as well as with a member of the European Parliament.
Facebook, which has struggled to crack down on the leaks lately, preemptively postponed the 60-minute interview, calling the accusations “misleading.” Vice President of Policy and Global Affairs Nick Clegg said CNN that Facebook represented “the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity” and that it was trying “to alleviate the bad, reduce it and amplify the good”. He added that it was “ridiculous” to blame Jan.6 on social media.
In a statement to Engadget, Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch said that “the segment is also ignoring the significant investments we are making to keep people safe on our platform … suggesting that we encourage bad content and don’t do anything just isn’t true. ” The company also rebuffed any claims it was misleading the public or regulators. “We maintain our public statements and stand ready to answer any questions regulators may have about our work.”
Ultimately, Haugen said she wanted to help fix Facebook, not have it deleted. “The way forward is about transparency and governance,” she said in the video. “It’s not about breaking Facebook.” Haugen is scheduled to testify in Congress on issues surrounding Facebook’s impact on young users on Tuesday, December 5.