The Facebook whistleblower who released a trove of documents revealed her identity in a 60 Minutes interview. On Sunday, Frances Haugen, a former data scientist for the company, accused the company of “paying for its profits with our safety.”
Facebook Whistleblower Releases Data That Shows Platform Amplified Hate Speech
Frances Haugen worked as a data scientist that aimed to combat misinformation. However, the Facebook whistleblower discovered that the platform amplifies hate speech.
Regular browsing of the toxic content also can prove harmful to teens. She copied internal documents and released them to the media last month. The stories triggered a wave of criticism at the social media company. She will testify before Congress this Thursday.
Also, Haugen’s attorney filed several lawsuits with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The attorney charged Facebook with making material misstatements that adversely affect investors.
Haugen said that continued to see conflicts of interest during her time there. What Facebook finds good often conflicts with the public good. “And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” she said.
Misinformation Spread Because of the Algorithm
During her interview, Haugen revealed she worked at the Civic Integrity unit of Facebook. She said that the company dissolved the unit after the last presidential election. A few weeks later, the January 6 Capitol riots happened.
The Facebook whistleblower thought that dissolving her unit reflected the company’s thinking. “When they got rid of Civic Integrity, it was the moment where I was like, ‘I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous,'” she said.
Haugen said that Facebook’s algorithm design is part of why misinformation and hate speech spreads easier across the platform. The algorithm optimizes content that receives greater engagement or reactions.
However, “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,” she said.
Facebook Chose More Money Instead of Safer Posts
As a result, Facebook realized that changing to safer settings will make people stay less. And if users spend less time on the site, they’ll click less on ads. Which ultimately, leads to less money for the company.
In addition, the company insisted that the Civic Integrity unit's work continued. However, 60 Minutes countered that Facebook helped organize the January 6 incident.
No One Working At Facebook Is Evil, But Incentives Are Misaligned
Haugen clarified the company’s image as an evil corporation. The Facebook whistleblower said that “no one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right?
Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”
In defense, Facebook said on 60 Minutes that they are performing a delicate balancing act every day. The company protects the right of billions of people to express themselves openly.
At the same time, it also needs to keep the platform a safe and positive place. They assured the public that the company continues “to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content.
To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” it said. In addition, Facebook said that “if any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments and society would have solved them a long time ago.”
Watch the complete 60 Minutes interview with Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen:
What do you think of Facebook and its platform that contributes to the spread of misinformation? Do you agree that social media is toxic and can prove harmful to young people?
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