The Facebook company, hit by the biggest fail of the application in history, is back in the spotlight. Now - because of the hearings in the US Congress, based on the "leaking of documents" by former employee Frances Haugen. She accuses the company of lying about success in combating hatred and misinformation and making money on the hate on social networks.
On Tuesday, Haugen will testify to the US Congress, where she will bring a number of charges, including responsibility for the storming of the Capitol. The employee claims that the company canceled a number of measures against disinformation immediately after the end of the presidential election. The Instagram app will also get problems for harming teenage girls.
Haugen will also speak to British MPs after the committee examines the Internet safety bill.
We will tell you in more detail what Facebook and Instagram are accused of, as well as how the former employee managed to obtain incriminating documents.
Who is Frances Haugen?
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, responsible for the series of high-profile leaks, revealed her identity in an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes Sunday program. Haugen, 37, is a data scientist and worked at Facebook as a product manager in the company's civil responsibility group from 2019 to May 2021.
She is an algorithm expert who quit after getting angry with the company. Haugen said that when hiring, the company promised that it would be able to fight disinformation, but the reality turned out to be different. Before leaving, she copied a number of memos and documents. Haugen shared these documents with the Wall Street Journal, which has been publishing articles for the past three weeks.
She previously worked at Google and Pinterest. But Haugen said Facebook was "significantly worse" than anything she had seen before when it came to user engagement over the safety of its products.
Shortly after the show aired, Haugen told Twitter that "we can do better."
"Together we can create social networks that bring out the best in us. We solve problems together - we do not solve them alone," she wrote.
The loudest Facebook revelations
- The documents showed that in content moderation, the company treated celebrities, politicians and ordinary users differently. The XCheck moderation policy (cross-checking) was not applied to such accounts at all - they turned a blind eye to aggressive posts of famous people.
- Facebook algorithm specifically shows posts with hate and aggression in the feed. Thus, it increases traffic and earnings. The company's management knows how to make Facebook and Instagram more secure, and is not going to make changes because they put profit over people, Haugen says.
"Facebook realized that if they change the algorithm to make it more secure, people will spend less time on the site, they will click on fewer ads, and (Facebook - ed.) will make less money," she says.
- Facebook's responsibility for the storming of the Capitol. Haugen told 60 Minutes that Facebook has tightened security measures ahead of the 2020 elections to reduce misinformation and animosity. But following Biden's victory, Facebook shut down security systems and decided to disband the Civic Integrity team - a move it believes helped spark the unrest.
- The accusations over Instagram are especially troubling for American politicians. Facebook had information from its own research that could point to harm to adolescent girls. At the same time, the negative consequences were publicly understated.
For some adolescents, peer pressure has led to mental health problems, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal ideation. A leaked study found that 13.5% of adolescent girls said Instagram exacerbated suicidal thoughts, while 17% of adolescent girls said it exacerbated eating disorders.
"Research shows that as these young girls start consuming content about an eating disorder, they become more depressed. And this makes them use the app more. So they get into a cycle in which they hate their bodies more and more, "Haugen said.
- Another leak revealed that Facebook is also facing a complex lawsuit from a group of its own shareholders. The group claims that Facebook's $ 5 billion payment to the US Federal Trade Commission to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal was so high because it was designed to protect Mark Zuckerberg from personal liability.
Facebook released a statement after the interview and said it continues to improve its fight against misinformation and malicious content.
“It is simply not true to suggest that we reward bad content and do nothing,” said Lena Pitch, director of political communications.
“Every day, our teams have to balance between defending the right of billions of people to express themselves openly and keeping our platform safe and positive,” Pitch said.
Amid criticism of Instagram's impact on children's mental health, Facebook announced that it is suspending development of its Instagram Kids app.