Facebook In Crisis As Whistleblower Hits 60 Minutes
A 37-year-old former Facebook product manager has revealed herself as the whistleblower responsible for a number of damaging leaks.
Frances Haugen worked as a product manager on the civic integrity team at Facebook, and leaked documents to Wall Street Journal, as well as speaking to the publication anonymously.
She was interviewed over the weekend by 60 Minutes, where she revealed her identity, and claimed the documents she leaked shows Facebook’s continued “growth over safety” policy.
Haugen left Facebook earlier this year, copying a series of internal documents and memos, which she leaked to WSJ.
The documents have revealed Facebook XCheck system that skips moderation for celebrities and politicians; a lawsuit filed by its own shareholders due to Facebook’s $6.9 billion AUD payment for the US Federal Trade Commission, which was designed to protect Mark Zuckerberg from personal liability; and — most shockingly — internal research that shows Instagram negatively impacts the mental health of its teenage users.
Haugen will testify in Senate today, in the ‘Protecting Kids Online’ hearing.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” she told 60 Minutes
“Facebook over and over again chose to optimise for its own interests, like making more money.”
She also claimed Facebook were lax in protecting users for misinformation after the US election.
“As soon as the election was over they turned [protection settings] back off, or they changed the settings to what they were before, to prioritise growth over safety, and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy.”
Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg (above, with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sanberg) told CNN to hold Facebook responsible for the Capitol Hill riots was ludicrous.
“I think it gives people false comfort to assume that there must be a technological, or technical, explanation for the issues of political polarisation in the United States,” he said.
Clegg also prepared Facebook staff of the coming 60 Minutes report on Friday, writing in an internal email:
“I know some of you – especially those of you in the U.S. – are going to get questions from friends and family about these things.
“So I wanted to take a moment as we head into the weekend to provide what I hope is some useful context on our work in these crucial areas,” he wrote, before claiming those at the January 6 riots were “the perpetrators of the violence, and those in politics and elsewhere who actively encouraged them.
“Mature democracies in which social media use is widespread hold elections all the time – for instance Germany’s election last week – without the disfiguring presence of violence.”