Washington: Frances Haugen, who earlier outed herself as the Facebook whistleblower, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that the social media giant has made “disastrous” choices with regards to children, public safety, privacy and democracy and that the company cannot fix these problems on its own. In other words, Congress needs to push to regulate the social media giant more.
Asked specifically what needs to be done, Frances Haugen, who was a product manager with Facebook and handled democracy and misinformation issues, and on counterespionage as part of the civic misinformation team, suggested changes in a section of a 1996 law that protects online platforms from liability of their content to make Facebook reveal its decisions on algorithms and setting up a “dedicated oversight body”.
“I used to work at Facebook. I joined Facebook because I think Facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us. But I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Frances Haugen said in her testimony at a hearing of the subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety, and data security. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes as they put their astronomical profits before people.”
At one point, she suggested something radical: Increasing the minimum age for any person using social media to 17 years old from 13 years old.
“Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help,” she added.
Haugen left the company with thousands of documents on internal research that showed Facebook prioritized profits over safety as it pushed user engagement, by amplifying misinformation and hate-speech. She gave these documents to The Wall Street Journal, US Congress and regulators. In an interview to CBS 60 Minutes, she had said, the social media company prioritized “growth over safety”.
Facebook disagreed with her Congressional testimony, but said new rules for the internet were long overdue.