Frances Haugen, a data scientist formerly employed by Google, Pinterest, and Facebook, revealed herself Sunday night as the whistleblower who shared that Facebook has no interest in fighting misinformation.
Haugen, who will be testifying about Facebook before Congress this week, said that while Facebook has several protocols designed to thwart the spread of misinformation, they deliberately turned them all off after Joe Biden’s election as President in 2020. She alleges that that choice contributed directly to the January 6 violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building, which left several dead and severely shook this country.
Post-election, according to Haugen, Facebook dissolved the unit on civic integrity in which she worked.
“I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous,” she said in Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview.
In 2018, she said, Facebook altered its algorithm, the program governing what shows up on users’ news feeds, to one that encouraged radicalism and divisiveness. Anger, after all, kept people coming back and kept them on Facebook for longer at a time, which helped Facebook sell more digital ads.
Supporting her statement is the fact that Facebook’s annual revenue has more than doubled from 2018, before the algorithm changed, and its market value has tripled.
But Facebook calls Haugen’s allegations “misleading.”
“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote in an internal memo sent Friday. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.”
Which isn’t what Frances Haugen is alleging, not helping Clegg’s stance.
Haugen is hoping her testimony to Congress will help move things towards assigning some legal responsibility to social media giant for their roles in politics and violence.
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