Ex-Facebook CEO Alleges Social Network Fueled Capitol Riots
Whenever there is a conflict between the public good and what benefits the company, the social media giant will choose its own interests, a data scientist revealed Sunday as a Facebook whistleblower said.
Frances Hogan was identified in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday as the woman who filed anonymous complaints with federal law enforcement, with the company’s research showing how she amplifies hate and misinformation.
Haugen, who worked at Google and Pinterest before joining Facebook in 2019, said she asked to work in an area of the company that fights misinformation, because she lost a friend to online conspiracy theories.
“Facebook has shown, time and time again, that it chooses profit over safety,” she said. Haugen, who will testify before Congress this week, said she hoped the government, with her submission, would establish regulations to regulate the company’s activities.
She said Facebook prematurely halted precautions designed to thwart misinformation and stir up a mob after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last year, alleging that this contributed to the deadly invasion of the Capitol on January 6.
After the election, the company dissolved the Civic Integrity Unit where it had operated, which Haugen said was the moment when she realized “I don’t trust they’re willing to invest what really needs to be invested to prevent Facebook from being dangerous.”
There are algorithms that control what appears in users’ news feeds and how they prefer hateful content. Haugen said that 2018’s change in the flow of content contributed to further fragmentation and ill will in a network ostensibly created to bring people closer together.
Despite the hostility the new algorithms were fueling, Facebook found that it helped bring people back — a pattern that has helped the Menlo Park, Calif., social media giant sell more of the digital ads that generate most of its ads.
Facebook’s annual revenue has more than doubled from $56 billion in 2018 to a projected $119 billion this year, based on estimates of analysts polled by FactSet. Meanwhile, the company’s market capitalization has risen from $375 billion at the end of 2018 to nearly $1 trillion now.
Even before the full interview was given on Sunday, a senior Facebook executive was scoffing at the whistleblower’s allegations, calling them “misleading.”
“Social media has had a huge impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where a lot of this discussion takes place,” Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote to Facebook employees in a note sent Friday. . “But the evidence that exists simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media in general, is the main cause of polarization.”
The “60 Minutes” interview intensifies the already shining lights on Facebook as lawmakers and regulators around the world scrutinize the massive power of social networks to shape opinions and their polarizing effects on society.
The backlash has escalated since the Wall Street Journal published a revelation in mid-September that revealed that Facebook’s internal research concluded that the social network’s attention-seeking algorithms helped bolster political opposition and contributed to mental and emotional health problems among teens, especially girls. After copying thousands of pages from Facebook’s internal search, Haugen leaked them to the magazine to provide the basis for a succession of stories grouped together as “Facebook Profiles”.
Although Facebook confirmed that the magazine chose the most harmful information in its internal documents to shed light on the company in the worst possible light, the discoveries led to an indefinite delay in the release of the children’s version of its popular photo and video-sharing app. Instagram. Facebook currently requires people to be at least 13 years old to open an Instagram account.
Clegg appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday in another pre-emptive attempt to cushion the blow of Hogan’s interview.
“Even with the most advanced technology, which I think we’re deploying, even with the tens of thousands of people we employ to try and maintain safety and integrity on our platform,” Clegg told CNN, “we’re never ever going to be on top of this 100% of the time.”
He said that’s because of Facebook’s “spontaneous and immediate form of communication,” adding, “I think we’re doing more than any reasonable person would expect.”
Choosing to reveal herself on 60 Minutes, Haugen chose the most popular news program on television, and one evening viewership would likely swell because, in many parts of the country, it immediately followed an NFL game between Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
Haugen, 37, is from Iowa and holds a degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in business from Harvard University — the same school that Facebook founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg attended.
Haugen, 37, has filed at least eight complaints with US securities regulators alleging that Facebook broke the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.” Facebook, in turn, may take legal action against her if it asserts that she has stolen confidential information from the company.
Haugen said during the interview, “Nobody on Facebook is malicious. But incentives are skewed, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy interacting with things that elicit an emotional response. And the more anger they experience, the more They interacted and consumed more.”
Liedtke reported from San Ramon, California.
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