Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen tells Congress “it really felt like a betrayal” when Facebook dissolved its Civic Integrity team, and that was when she sought outside help.
“I think the moment which I realized we need to get help from the outside […] was when Civic Integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election” — Frances Haugen
Today, “Facebook whistleblower” Haugen testified before Congress where she explained her motives for divulging the company’s internal research.
After Facebook dissolved its Civic Integrity division following the 2020 US presidential election, Haugen told Congress she felt betrayed.
“It really felt like a betrayal of the promises that Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe by basically dissolving our community” — France Haugen
“I think the moment which I realized we need to get help from the outside — that the only way these problems will be solved is by solving them together and not solving them alone, was when Civic Integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election,” said Haugen.
“It really felt like a betrayal of the promises that Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe by basically dissolving our community and integrating it into just other parts of the company,” she added.
Haugen began her work in Facebook’s Civic Integrity division in 2019 and remained through the 2020 US Presidential election, during which time Facebook suppressed the NY Post “smoking gun” story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
She told 60 Minutes on Sunday that she agreed to take the job at Facebook “only if she could work against misinformation because she had lost a friend to online conspiracy theories.”
Since going public, Whistleblower Aid has setup a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign in support its client, Haugen.
Whistleblower Aid lists founding legal partner Mark Zaid and lawyer Andrew Bakaj among its team members.
Both Zaid and Bakaj represented the so-called intelligence “whistleblower” who complained about ex-President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, leading to an impeachment.
“Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children” — Frances Haugen
Feeling betrayed by Facebook, Haugen has since gone public, and today she told Congress that the social media giant repeatedly misled the public about its research on children’s health and that Facebook’s internal research must be regularly made public.
“The documents I have provided to Congress prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in spreading divisive and extreme messages,” Haugen testified.
“I believe it is vitally important for our democracy that we establish mechanisms where Facebook’s internal research must be disclosed to the public on a regular basis” — Frances Haugen
The former Facebook insider added that “Facebook’s internal research must be disclosed to the public on a regular basis” because the big tech giant won’t make any changes on its own as it prioritizes “astronomical profits before people.”
In her opening statement, Haugen expressed that she believed Facebook could still be a platform for good, but that it would require company transparency and independent oversight.
“I believe it is vitally important for our democracy that we establish mechanisms where Facebook’s internal research must be disclosed to the public on a regular basis, and that we need to have privacy-sensitive data sets that allow independent researchers to confirm whether or not Facebook’s marketing messages are actually true,” Haugen recommended.
“[Facebook] intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world” — Frances Haugen
Haugen testified today that she came to realize a “devastating truth” while at Facebook — that the company intentionally hides vital information from the public, including governments.
“During my time at Facebook, I came to realize a devastating truth — almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside of Facebook,” she said.
“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world.”
Haugen added, “I came forward because I believe that every human being deserves the dignity of the truth.”
“I would immediately establish a policy of how to share information and research from inside the company with appropriate oversight bodies like Congress” — Frances Haugen
When asked what changes she would immediately institute if she were in Mark Zuckerberg’s place as CEO and Chair, Haugen listed four:
- “I would immediately establish a policy of how to share information and research from inside the company with appropriate oversight bodies like Congress.”
- “I would give proposed legislation to Congress saying, ‘Here’s what an effective oversight agency would look like.'”
- “I would actively engage with academics to make sure that people who are confirming ‘are Facebook’s marketing messages true’ have the information they need to confirm these things.”
- “And I would immediately implement the quote ‘soft interventions’ that were identified to protect the 2020 election, so that’s things like requiring someone to click on a link before re-sharing it, because other companies like Twitter have found that that significantly reduces misinformation. No one is censored by being forced to click on a link before re-sharing it.”
“I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy” — Frances Haugen
Earlier in the hearing, Haugen explained, “I joined Facebook because I think Facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us, but I am here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes as they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
“Yesterday, we saw Facebook get taken off the internet. I don’t know why it went down, but I know that for more than five hours Facebook wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies” — Frances Haugen
Regarding Monday’s social media blackout, the former Facebook employee said she didn’t know why Facebook and all its apps went offline for several hours, but for a brief moment the platform wasn’t used to “make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.”
“Yesterday, we saw Facebook get taken off the internet,” she said, adding, “I don’t know why it went down, but I know that for more than five hours Facebook wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.
“It also means that millions of small businesses weren’t able to reach potential customers, and countless photos of new babies weren’t joyously celebrated by family and friends around the world.
“I believe in the potential of Facebook. We can have social media we enjoy, that connects us, without tearing apart our democracy, putting our children in danger, and sowing ethnic violence around the world.”
“I would be sincerely surprised if they do not continue working on Instagram Kids” — Frances Haugen
When asked if she believed Facebook would continue to develop Instagram Kids, Haugen remarked:
“I would be sincerely surprised if they do not continue working on Instagram Kids, and I would be amazed if a year from now we don’t have this conversation again.
“Facebook understands that if they want to continue to grow, they have to find users.
“They have to make sure that next generation is just as engaged with Instagram as the current one, and the way they’ll do that is by making sure that children establish habits before they have good self-regulation.”
Haugen testified that all-in-all, “Left alone, Facebook will continue to make choices that go against the common good — our common good” because the social media giant puts profits over people.
Her written testimony can be found here.
Update October 5, 2021: Following the hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a 16-paragraph note he wrote to everyone at his company on Facebook refuting Haugen’s claims, stating, “At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That’s just not true.”
The Facebook CEO said he “found it difficult to read the mischaracterization of the research into how Instagram affects young people,” and added, “The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content.”