Whistleblower tells commons Facebook is making hate 'unquestionably worse'
Facebook is making hate 'unquestionably worse'
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has appeared in front of MPs on the culture select committee. The committee is currently scrutinising the upcoming Online Harms Bill which hopes to hold tech giants responsible for material posted on their platforms.
Haugen, an American data engineer, scientist and former product manager is supplying evidence on her former employer and has released tens of thousands of internal documents detailing Facebook's failure to keep users safe from harmful content.
The employee-turned-whistleblower believes Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been allowed to profit from "harmful but legal" content, calling for swift intervention from governments.
Hate drives engagement
Haugen has told the culture select committee that Facebook adopted a strategy of amplifying division and hate to drive profit. Facebook saw safety as a "cost-centre, not a growth centre", and focused primarily on the latter.
She told the select committee: "It is substantially cheaper to run an angry hateful divisive ad than it is to run a compassionate, empathetic ad".
Asked if the social media platform was making hate worse, Haugen replied: "Unquestionably, Facebook is making hate worse."
This is because hate drives engagement and engagement drives Facebook.
For Haugen, events like the storming the US Capitol in January could happen again if governments fail to intervene.
She also cited Facebook's role in providing a platform for harmful content that led to real-world violence in Ethiopia and Myanmar.
Haugen explained the thinking at Facebook is "we didn't invent hate or ethnic violence" but they are able to amplify it.
An unwillingness to halt the spread of disinformation had real-world consequences, namely, covid conspiracy theories that have changed the course of people's lives.
Younger users display an 'addicts' narrative'
Child users exposed to Instagram and Facebook report symptoms indicative of addiction.
Younger users report the sites make them unhappy but they're unable to stop using them. In studies, children report an inability to control their usage of social media and feel if they left it would leave them ostracised.
She said: "I am deeply worried that it may not be possible to make Instagram safe for a 14-year-old and I sincerely doubt that it is possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old"
Haguen argued Instagram is more dangerous than other social media platforms due to its algorithmic focus on "bodies" and "social comparisons".
Asked if Zuckerberg cared about what was happening, Haguen conceded she couldn't see into the hearts of men but when safety issues were presented “they kept choosing profits”.
Time is running out
Haugen has triggered a crisis at Facebook. A crisis with a time-limit.
As the world grows increasingly aware of the harms caused by online platforms, she says Facebook is "closing the door"
Haugen told the culture select committee: "We have to take advantage of this moment
"We have a slight window of time to regain people control over AI".
Asked if she thinks the Online Harms Bill is keeping Mark Zuckerberg up at night, Haugen said: "I can't imagine Mark isn't paying attention to what you're doing," adding the UK has a "world-leading stance" towards social media regulation.
Earlier today (October 25), Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed she met Haugen, tweeting: "Tech companies have a moral duty to keep their users safe."
Patel posted the photograph on Instagram, a platform owned by Facebook.
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