Teens analyze how social media impacts them 2:41
New York (CNN Business) – The identity of the Facebook whistleblower who posted tens of thousands of pages of internal investigations and documents, sparking a firestorm for the social media company in recent weeks, was revealed on the “60 Minutes” program on Sunday. the night. Her name: Frances Haugen.
The 37-year-old former Facebook product manager who worked on civic integrity issues at the company says documents show that the company knows its platforms are used to spread hate, violence and disinformation, and that it has tried to hide that evidence.
“What I saw on Facebook over and over again was that there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money. “Haugen told” 60 Minutes. “
“60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelly quoted an internal Facebook (FB) document as saying: “We have evidence from a variety of sources that hate speech, divisive political speech, and misinformation on Facebook and the family of applications are affecting societies around the world. “
About a month ago, Haugen filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the company is hiding the investigation into its shortcomings from investors and the public. He also shared the documents with The Wall Street Journal, which published multi-part research showing Facebook was aware of problems with its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation and the harm done, especially to girls, by Instagram. .
Haugen, who started at Facebook in 2019 after previously working for other tech giants like Google (GOOGL GOOGLE) and Pinterest (PINS), will testify Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security.
“I’ve seen a ton of social media, and Facebook was substantially worse than anything I’ve ever seen before,” Haugen said. “At some point in 2021, I realized that I was going to have to do this systemically, that I was going to have to get enough [documentos] so no one could question that this is real. “
Facebook has aggressively rejected the reports, calling many of the claims “misleading” and arguing that its apps do more good than harm.
“Every day, our teams must balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform in a safe and positive place,” Facebook spokeswoman Lena Pietsch said in a statement. to CNN Business immediately after the interview on “60 Minutes.”
“We continue to make significant improvements to address the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest that we encourage inappropriate content and do nothing is simply not true.”
Several hours after the interview aired, Pietsch released a statement of more than 700 words in which he described what he called “missing facts” from the segment and said that the interview “used select company materials to tell a misleading story about the research we do to improve our products. “
A spokesperson for “60 Minutes” did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business on Facebook’s claims.
On Sunday morning before the “60 Minutes” interview, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg told CNN’s Brian Stelter that “there is no perfection in social media as much as in any other area of the world. life”.
“We do a lot of research, share it with outside researchers as much as we can, but remember there is … a world of difference between doing a peer-reviewed exercise in cooperation with other scholars and preparing articles internally to spark and inform conversation. internal, “Clegg said.
Haugen said he believes Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg “never set out to create a hate platform, but has allowed decisions to be made where the side effects of those decisions are that hateful and polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach. “
The whistleblower disclosures
Haugen said Facebook recruited her in 2019 and she took the job to address misinformation. But after the company decided to disband its civic integrity team shortly after the 2020 presidential election, his feelings about the company began to change.
She suggested that this decision, and the company’s actions to disable other electoral protection measures, such as misinformation prevention tools, allowed the platform to be used to help organize the January 6 riot at the State Capitol. United.
“They basically said, ‘Oh well, we passed the elections, there was no disturbance, we can get rid of civic integrity now,'” he said. “Fast forward a couple of months and we had the Insurrection. When they got rid of civic integrity, that was the moment I thought, ‘I don’t trust they are willing to really invest what it takes to prevent Facebook from being dangerous.'” .
Facebook says the civic integrity team’s work was distributed to other units when it was disbanded. Facebook Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen said on Twitter Sunday night that the group was integrated into other teams so that “the pioneering work in the elections could be applied even more.”
The social media company’s algorithm that is designed to show users content that they are most likely to interact with is responsible for many of their problems, Haugen said.
“One of the consequences of how Facebook is targeting that content today is that it is optimizing it for content that generates engagement, a reaction, but its own research shows that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier for me to inspire people to anger than other emotions, “he said. He added that the company recognizes that “if they change the algorithm to be more secure, people will spend less time on the site, click on fewer ads and earn less money.”
Facebook’s Pietsch said in his statement Sunday night that the platform relies on “being used in a way that brings people together” to attract advertisers, adding that “protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
In an internal memo obtained by The New York Times early Sunday, Clegg disputed claims that Facebook contributed to the January 6 riots.
“Social media has had a huge impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate takes place,” Clegg said in the memo. “So it’s natural for people to wonder if it’s part of the problem. But the idea that Facebook is the main cause of polarization is not supported by the facts.”
Haugen said that while “no one on Facebook is malicious … the incentives are misaligned.”
“Facebook makes more money when it consumes more content. People enjoy interacting with things that elicit an emotional reaction,” he said. “And the more anger they are exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”