On Tuesday, a former Facebook employee accused the business of prioritizing profit over safety will testify before U.S. senators in Washington, D.C.
On Sunday, Frances Haugen, 37, identified herself as the source of a series of damning Wall Street Journal reports that have increased political pressure on the internet giant. According to Haugen, Facebook's top concern is making money rather than doing what is best for the public.
"What I saw time and time again at Facebook was conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook has often chosen to optimize for its own goals, such as increasing profits," she said.
Haugen is anticipated to convince lawmakers that Facebook is unregulated and that Congress should intervene. "As long as Facebook operates in the shadows, it has no accountability. And it will continue to make decisions that are not in the best interests of the public," she wrote in her written testimony.
Haugen was summoned to appear before the U.S. Senate's commerce subcommittee on the dangers his company's products pose to children. The hearing was convened in response to a Wall Street Journal report based on Haugen's records, revealing that Facebook was aware of the harm its Instagram program was inflicting to teen mental health and wellness. According to one survey included in the stolen information, 30% of teenage girls believe Instagram has exacerbated their body dissatisfaction.
"When we discovered that tobacco companies were concealing the harms they were causing, the government acted. The government acted when we discovered that cars were safer with seatbelts," Haugen wrote. "I implore you to do the same here," says the narrator. She is anticipated to compare Facebook and Big Tobacco, which refused to notify the public that smoking was harmful to their health.
Haugen will claim that Facebook's closed design means it is immune to oversight, even from its oversight board, which was established in 2020 to make decisions independent of its leadership.
In her testimony, she wrote, "This inability to see into Facebook's actual systems and confirm that Facebook's systems work as they say is like the Department of Transportation regulating cars by watching them drive down the highway." "Imagine if no regulator could get in a car, pump up its tires, crash test it, or even be aware that seatbelts exist."
Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat who chairs the committee holding the hearing on Tuesday, told the Washington Post's Technology 2020 newsletter that legislators would question Haugen about her comments on the 2020 presidential race.
Following Joe Biden's election victory, Haugen said on 60 Minutes that Facebook prematurely reinstalled outdated algorithms that prized participation above all else, a move she claimed contributed to the 6 January attack on the Capitol.
"As soon as the election was over, they turned them off or changed the settings back to what they were before, prioritizing growth over safety," says the source. And to me, that feels like a violation of democracy," she explained.
Following the election, Facebook dismantled its civic team integrity team, which dealt with issues linked to political elections worldwide and on which Haugen worked. The team's responsibilities were spread across the corporation, according to Facebook.
After more than a decade in the digital business, including stints at Pinterest and Google, Haugen joined Facebook in 2019 as a product manager on the civic integrity team.
The hearing on Tuesday is the second in as many weeks to focus on the influence of Facebook on children. Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, was interrogated by M.P.s last week, who accused the firm of "routinely" prioritizing growth over children's safety.
Facebook has vehemently denied the allegations.
Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice-president of policy and public affairs, wrote to staff on Friday ahead of Haugen's general appearance. "In recent years, social media has had a significant impact on society, and Facebook is frequently where much of this debate takes place," he said. "However, the evidence does not support the notion that Facebook, or social media in general, is the primary source of polarization."
On Monday, Facebook urged a federal judge to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) updated antitrust complaint, which attempts to force the tech behemoth to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.