Facebook: Former Product Manager at Facebook, Frances Haugen, was heard by the US Senate on Tuesday (5) about accusations that the social network knows about her and Instagram’s impacts on the mental health of children and adolescents. The hearing was marked by very emphatic testimonies, including that of a senator who promised to “end” the harm generated by social networks.
“My message to Mark Zuckerberg: Your time to invade privacy, promote toxic content and be predatory to children is over. Congress will act. You may or may not work with us, but we are not going to allow your company to allow our children, our families and our democracy to be harmed any longer,” fired Senator Edward J. Markey of the Democratic Party.
Haugen gave a testimony with details about how Facebook works internally and “heaved the chorus” that the company does a lot of harm to people and society.
“I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, fuel [social] division and undermine our democracy,” Haugen said at the outset of his speech.
Called “Facebook Whistleblower”, she was responsible for leaking documents to the Wall Street Journal with internal research of the company, revealing that the social network knows the negative effects of social media publications on the mental health of especially minors.
After the subject became a national discussion in the US, Haugen revealed his identity and has since maintained that Facebook acts negligently not only with the safety of children and teenagers, but also in dealing with misinformation and the dissemination of fake news and violent content.
“These problems are solvable. A safer social network that respects freedom of expression is possible”, argued the former employee.
Commercial decisions vs. safety
Questioned by lawmakers, Haugen spoke more than once about how Facebook’s business and data-driven decisions end up ignoring security issues for users. About this, she even cited Mark Zuckerberg himself as responsible for the policy that does not consider the welfare of users.
“Mark has built a company that is very metrics-driven … metrics make the decisions,” she said. About this, she later said that the relentless search for user engagement ends up exposing people to dangerous content, which is not properly verified by artificial intelligences.
She also stated that Facebook prioritizes the viralization of content, and that the company is “paying for its profits with our security”.
At other times, the former employee, who revealed to have worked in counterespionage, argued that Facebook’s strategic decisions and business model could be dangerous even for a country’s national security.
Asked by senators whether politicians should trust the words of the executives of the social network, Haugen was emphatic: “no”.
After more than 2 hours of statements and emphatic speeches by both the deponent and the senators, the session was postponed.