New York: 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, fueling hate and walking away from ethical considerations because profits come first.
Frances Haugen testified to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She accused FB of intentionally walking away from fixing broken algorithms that fuel some of the worst effects of addictive social media apps.
Haugen claims boss Mark Zuckerberg knew about internal research showing potential negative impacts of Instagram.
“The company hides vital information from the public and from the US and other governments around the world,” she said.
US lawmakers 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, it needs “help”.
Therefore, “Congressional action is needed,” she said.
“They won’t solve this crisis without your help,” she told Congress.
Nonetheless, “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 it won’t, 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 Facebook manipulates algorithms to keep kids hooked to its platform.
“The buck stops with Mark (Zuckerberg),” Haugen confirmed, in the context of current staffers dancing around the details of who takes the big calls at Facebook.
Zuckerberg, she explained, controls more than 50 per cent of Facebook’s voting shares. “There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.”
By Nikhila Natarajan