If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, then we’ll do a quick recap about the whole “Whistleblower” incident. Frances Haugen who worked on civic integrity issues at Facebook came out of the shadows when she revealed everything on “60 Minutes” on Sunday. The 37-year-old former Facebook product manager had been working with a team of lawyers, journalists and lawmakers secretly for months so she could build a case against the company.
On Tuesday, Haugen appeared before a Senate subcommittee to testify about Facebook’s policies that placed profits before the mental being of children on its platforms. Haugen, who holds an MBA degree from Harvard, joined Facebook in 2019 before having worked on algorithms at Google, Pinterest and Yelp. She hoped to improve the internal policies that were criticized for only amplifying politically divisive content that would generate more engagement from the users. This affected Facebook’s only source of generating income; their advertisement sector and it resulted in the system only amplifying “division, extremism, and polarization” by “undermining societies around the world.”
According to Haugen, she witnessed the company giving preference to profits above everything else and this resulted in “self-harm” and “self-hate” decisions among the platform’s younger audience. “This is not simply a matter of some social media users being angry or unstable,” said Haugen. “Facebook became a $1 trillion company by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children. And that is unacceptable.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on consumer protection, asked whether Facebook has known all along that children were becoming addicted to Instagram, to which Haugen replied, “Many of Facebook’s internal research reports indicates that Facebook has a serious negative harm on a significant portion of teenagers and younger children. Facebook knows that it’s amplification algorithms, things like engagement based rankings on Instagram, can lead children… from something innocent like health recipes to anorexia-promoting content, over a very short period of time.”
In the end, it seems like the CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds the ultimate responsibility but as of now, “There’s no one currently holding Mark accountable.”