According to a Facebook whistleblower, a data scientist revealed that the social media giant will choose its interests whenever there is a conflict between what benefits the public and what benefits the company.
Frances Haugen was identified as the anonymous complainant with federal law enforcement in Sunday’s “60 Minutes” interview. The company’s research shows that it magnifies hate speech and misinformation.
Haugen, who previously worked at Google and Pinterest, before joining Facebook in 2019, stated that she asked for a job in the area of Facebook that combats misinformation because she lost a friend to conspiracy theories online.
She stated that Facebook has repeatedly shown that it prefers safety to profit. Haugen will testify in Congress this week and said that she hopes the government will establish regulations to regulate the company’s activities by coming forward.
She claimed that Facebook had prematurely disabled safeguards to prevent misinformation and rabble-rousing following the defeat of Donald Trump in 2016. This was alleged to have contributed to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Haugen stated that the company disbanded a unit on civic integrity, where she was working. This Haugen said was when she realized, “I don’t trust they’re willing to invest what needs to be spent to keep Facebook safe.”
The algorithms that control what content appears in users’ news feeds and their preference for hateful content are at issue. Haugen claimed that a 2018 update to the content flow caused more division and ill will within a network that was supposed to bring people closer.
Facebook discovered that new algorithms helped people keep coming back, despite the hostility they were generating. This pattern helped the Menlo Park-based social media giant to sell more digital ads that generated most of its advertising.
According to estimates by FactSet, Facebook’s annual revenue has increased more than twice from $56 billion in 2018, to $119 billion in 2019. The company’s market capitalization has increased from $375 billion to almost $1 trillion by the end 2018 to close to $1 trillion.
A top Facebook executive dismissed the whistleblower’s claims as “misleading” even before the interview was published on Sunday.
“Social media have had a huge impact on society in the recent years, Facebook is often where much of that debate plays out,” Nick Clegg (the company’s vice-president of policy and public affairs), wrote in a memo to Facebook employees. It was sent on Friday. “But the evidence is not strong enough to support the notion that Facebook or social media is the main cause of polarization,” Clegg wrote.
The interview on “60 Minutes” intensifies the scrutiny already focused on Facebook by lawmakers and regulators all over the globe, who are examining the social network’s enormous power to influence opinions and its polarizing effect on society.
The Backlash against Facebook has intensified since The Wall Street Journal published in September an expose that showed Facebook’s internal research concluded that the social network’s attention-seeking algorithm had contributed to teenage mental and emotional problems. Haugen copied thousands of pages from Facebook’s internal research and leaked them to The Wall Street Journal to create a series of stories called the “Facebook Files.”
Facebook claimed that the Journal had selectively chosen the most damaging information from internal documents to paint the company in the worst light. However, these revelations caused an indefinite delay in rollout of the Instagram Kids’ Version. To open an Instagram account, you must be at least 13 years of age.
Clegg was on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday to try and soften the blow of Haugen’s interview.
Clegg stated that even with the most advanced technology, which I believe is deployed, and the tens or thousands of people that are employed to maintain safety and integrity on the platform, CNN will never be 100% on top of it all.
He explained that it was because of Facebook’s “instantaneous, spontaneous form of communication”, adding, “I believe we do more than any reasonable individual can expect to.”
Haugen chose to make a public appearance on “60 Minutes” to highlight her choice to appear on television’s most popular news show. This was on an evening when its viewership is likely inflated, as it followed an NFL matchup in many areas of the country.
Haugen, 37 years old, hails from Iowa. He has a degree from Harvard University in computer engineering as well as a Master’s in business degree from Harvard University. This Harvard University school is the same one that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, attended.
According to “60 Minutes,” Haugen, 37 has filed at most eight complaints to U.S. securities regulators claiming that Facebook violated the law by withholding information regarding the risks posed social media. Facebook could also take legal action against Haugen if it claims she has stolen confidential information from the company.
Haugen stated that no one at Facebook is evil. But the incentives are not aligned. Facebook makes more money if you consume more content. People enjoy being able to engage with content that provokes an emotional response. They are more likely to react to anger the more they interact with it and the more they consume. “