NEW YORK, Oct 7: In more than three hours of riveting testimony, a former Facebook employee tore into the now embattled social networking giant, blaming its “metrics” driven culture for hurting children, fuelling hate and walking away from ethical considerations because profits come first.
Frances Haugen, testifying to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, accused it of intentionally walking away from fixing its broken algorithms that fuel some of the worst effects of addictive social media apps.
Haugen claims Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg knew about internal research showing potential negative impacts of Instagram.
“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government and from governments around the world,” she said.
In response, US lawmakers from across the aisle broadly united behind the idea that Facebook’s role in society has become too big to ignore.
Like others before her, Haugen is urging stricter government oversight of Facebook. In Haugen’s telling, Facebook needs “help”.
“Congressional action is needed,” she said.
“They won’t solve this crisis without your help,” she told Congress.
“Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen said.
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
Haugen is urging lawmakers to “break out of our previous regulatory frames.”
She said Facebook wants to “trick” the public into thinking that privacy protections or changes to Section 230 alone will be sufficient. “While important, these will not get to the core of the issue, which is that no one truly understands the destructive choices made by Facebook, except Facebook.”
Haugen’s most compelling arguments came in connection with how it manipulates algorithms to keep kids hooked to its platform.
“The buck stops with Mark (Zuckerberg),” Haugen confirmed, in the context of current Facebook staffers dancing around the details of who takes the big calls at Facebook.
Zuckerberg, she explained, controls more than 50 per cent of its voting shares. “There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.”
By Nikhila Natarajan