Facebook whistleblower reveals herself as Frances Haugen
In an explosive “60-minute” interview broadcast in the United States on Sunday, data scientist Frances Haugen, a former employee of Facebook’s civic integrity unit, revealed that she was the source of internal documents and research showing that the company was aware of the harmful effects caused by its platforms.
The disclosures in internal research papers were the subject of a series of articles last month in the Wall Street Journal.
The company’s own findings include knowledge of the damage Instagram has done to the perception of adolescent girls’ body image and a two-tier system of penalties for the misuse of its platforms, one for celebrities and the other for the public.
“I saw a bunch of social media and it was a lot worse on Facebook than I had seen before,” Haugen told “60 Minutes”.
“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she added.
Who is Françoise Haugen?
Frances Haugen is an Iowa data scientist who spent two years at Facebook, from June 2019 to May of this year. Prior to that, she worked on algorithms at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp.
She told “60 Minutes” that she was recruited from Facebook and specifically wanted to work on issues related to disinformation.
Haugen said the career change was inspired by the loss of a friend to online conspiracies, something she didn’t want anyone else to go through.
Haugen became a whistleblower because “person after person has approached this problem inside Facebook and has stuck to the ground.”
“No one on Facebook is malicious, but the incentives are misaligned,” she said.
Who did Haugen share internal Facebook documents with?
In addition to reporters from The Wall Street Journal and “60 Minutes,” Haugen met with members of the United States Congress, including Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Earlier this month, Blumenthal tweeted that a Facebook whistleblower approached his office and revealed that “Facebook is using the great tobacco playbook” by “hiding its own research into drug addiction and the toxic effects of its products. “.
Haugen also spoke to lawmakers in the UK, France and the European Parliament.
The New York Times reports that she will testify before the US Congress on Tuesday about the damage done to young users by Facebook’s platforms and will appear before a parliamentary committee in the UK later this month.
She also went to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States, alleging that Facebook has misled investors about the effectiveness of its strategies and algorithms in mitigating the negative effects of its platforms.
Some of the documents she obtained were also shared with attorneys general in California, Vermont, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Nebraska.
Sunday’s “60-minute” interview kicks off a publicity tour that will include the Web Summit, a technical conference in Lisbon and meetings with EU lawmakers in Brussels this fall.
How did Facebook react?
Facebook did not directly respond to Haugen’s claims on Sunday. However, he sent Nick Clegg to CNN’s “Trusted Sources” program. Clegg is a former British Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats who is now Vice President for Policy and Global Affairs at Facebook.
On CNN, Clegg called the allegations published in the Wall Street Journal last month “misleading” and said the company seeks to “alleviate the evil, reduce it and amplify the good”, as opposed to what Haugen defined his experience within the company.
The show preceded Haugen’s “60 minutes” interview by several hours on Sunday.
The New York Times reports that Clegg also sent a 1,500 word memo late last week to Facebook employees describing what he said would air on “60 Minutes.”