Filed Under: Politics

“Facebook’s products harm children”: Whistleblower testifies to Congress

By

Expanding on her damning interview with “60 Minutes” that aired over the weekend, a former Facebook data scientist-turned-whistleblower testified in front of Congress Tuesday. The video above shows clips from Tuesday’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection hearing.

“I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Frances Haugen said at the hearing. “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 focused on algorithm products during her time at Facebook. She said a 2018 change to the content flow contributed to more divisiveness and ill will.

The whistleblower also told Congress Facebook has acknowledged publicly that integrity controls were needed for the systems that stoke user engagement. However she then said the company disabled some of those controls.

“The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat,” Haugen said. “In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”

Members of Congress at the hearing agreed with the whistleblower and used the hearing as a chance to go after Facebook.

“Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking at themselves in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity,” subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-MA) said. “Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror today. And yet, rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.”

Ranking member Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) added “they knew what they were doing, they knew where the violations were, and they know they are guilty. They know this”.

Tuesday’s whistleblower testimony comes as Congress is examining Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers on Instagram that could indicate potential harm for some of its young users, especially girls.

“Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said at the hearing. “They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

The investigation came after Haugen leaked thousands of documents of internal research showing that potential harm, which includes mental health and body-image problems. One internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls saying Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.

The whistleblower also told Congress Zuckerberg was aware of the internal research, but Facebook publicly downplayed it.

Frances Haugen, Former Facebook Official: “I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. 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. Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

“I saw Facebook repeatedly encounter conflicts between its own profits and our safety. Facebook consistently resolves these conflicts in favor of its own profits. The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat. In some cases, this d… this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”

“The severity of this crisis demands that we break out of our previous regulatory frames. Facebook wants to trick you 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.”

“Facebook wants you to believe that the problems we’re talking about are unsolvable. They want you to believe in false choices. They want you to believe that you must choose between a Facebook full of divisive and extreme content or losing one of the most important values our country was founded upon – free speech.”

“I really appreciate the seriousness which the members of Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission are approaching these issues. I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act. But we must act now.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Senate Commerce Subcommittee Chairman: “Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking at themselves in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror today. And yet, rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.”

“Facebook, as you have put it Miss Haugen so powerfully,  maximizes profits and ignores pain. Facebook’s failure to acknowledge and to act makes it morally bankrupt. Again, and again Facebook rejected reforms recommended by its own researchers.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Senate Commerce Ranking Member: “Facebook’s internal research so they knew what they were doing, they knew where the violations were, and they know they are guilty. They know this.”

“It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users. So, as a mother and a grandmother, this is an issue that is of particular concern to me.”

Expanding on her damning interview with “60 Minutes” that aired over the weekend, a former Facebook data scientist-turned-whistleblower testified in front of Congress Tuesday. The video above shows clips from Tuesday’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection hearing.

“I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Frances Haugen said at the hearing. “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 focused on algorithm products during her time at Facebook. She said a 2018 change to the content flow contributed to more divisiveness and ill will.

The whistleblower also told Congress Facebook has acknowledged publicly that integrity controls were needed for the systems that stoke user engagement. However she then said the company disabled some of those controls.

“The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat,” Haugen said. “In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”

Members of Congress at the hearing agreed with the whistleblower and used the hearing as a chance to go after Facebook.

“Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking at themselves in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity,” subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-MA) said. “Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror today. And yet, rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.”

Ranking member Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) added “they knew what they were doing, they knew where the violations were, and they know they are guilty. They know this”.

Tuesday’s whistleblower testimony comes as Congress is examining Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers on Instagram that could indicate potential harm for some of its young users, especially girls.

“Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said at the hearing. “They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

The investigation came after Haugen leaked thousands of documents of internal research showing that potential harm, which includes mental health and body-image problems. One internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls saying Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.

The whistleblower also told Congress Zuckerberg was aware of the internal research, but Facebook publicly downplayed it.

Full Story

View All Reports in this Story

Recent Reports


Get unbiased straight facts, context, and perspective!