WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A Facebook whistleblower revealed her identity as former employee Frances Haugen in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.
- Haugen leaked documents that revealed Facebook executives had been aware of the negative impacts of its platforms on some young users.
- Haugen accused the social media giant of “tearing our societies apart” and placing profit above the good of the public.
A Facebook whistleblower revealed her identity in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday on CBS.
Frances Haugen spoke out publicly while accusing the social media giant of prioritizing divisive content over safety to garner higher profits.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” Haugen said.
Haugen said she copied thousands of pages of internal documents that would back up her claims before leaving the company in May.
The data scientist also talked about Facebook’s inaction in squashing misinformation to the Jan. 6 US Capital riot.
According to Haugen, Facebook removed the Civic Integrity unit and disabled some safety features they had put in place to lessen misinformation.
“They told us, ‘We’re dissolving Civic Integrity.’ Like, they basically said, ‘Oh good, we made it through the election. There wasn’t riots. We can get rid of Civic Integrity now,” Haugen told host Scott Pelley.
“Fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection.”
“As soon as the election was over, they turned them back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety,” Haugen said of the features.
“And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.”
Facebook informed CBS that work undertaken by the dissolved department was allocated internally to different units.
Haugen revealed that the company enables divisive content to continue because of changes it made in 2018 to its algorithms that prioritize content for individual accounts based on their past engagement.
“One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is it is optimizing for content that gets engagement, or reaction,” said Haugen.
“But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” said Haugen.
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” she added.
Haugen is set to testify before Congress this week. She has already filed reams of anonymous complaints against the company with federal authorities.
The woman said she acquired a 2019 internal report that details an argument from European political parties over the content dominating on its platform due to its algorithm.
In a written statement to “60 Minutes,” Facebook denied the allegations that the company encourages harmful content.
Source: New York Post