Dear Commons Community,
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, is set to testify today before Congress that the tech giant puts “profits before people” and that Congress should take action to regulate it.
In written testimony released to reporters ahead of a Senate subcommittee hearing, Haugen — a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team — will say the social media company’s products “harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy.”
“The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people,” Haugen will testify. “Congressional action is needed.”
Haugen, who first revealed her identity in a “60 Minutes” interview (see video above) on Sunday, previously leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook research to lawmakers, regulators and The Wall Street Journal, which ran a series of articles called “The Facebook Files.” As reported by The Huffington Post.
“I believe what I did was right and necessary for the common good,” Haugen will testify Tuesday. “But I know Facebook has infinite resources, which it could use to destroy me.”
The whistleblower, in leaking Facebook’s internal documents, alleged that the company downplayed the negative effects of Instagram on young girls and didn’t take harsh enough action against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation spreading on its platform.
She also alleged that Facebook didn’t do enough to stop misinformation spreading about the validity of the 2020 election, both fueling dangerous lies and providing a platform for pro-Donald Trump rioters to plan the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“The result has been a system that amplifies division, extremism, and polarization — and undermining societies around the world. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people,” Haugen plans to say before a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, according to the advance testimony.
Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch said in a statement that the company’s “teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” adding that they “continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
On Monday, Facebook and the apps it owns, including Instagram and WhatsApp, experienced a massive outage, preventing users worldwide from accessing the services.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) ripped the company in a Twitter post: “It’s almost as if Facebook’s monopolistic mission to either own, copy, or destroy any competing platform has incredibly destructive effects on free society and democracy.”
“Break them up,” the progressive lawmaker added.
Ms. Haugen’s testimony may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and gets Congress to force Facebook to own up to its destructive policies.