A former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower who appeared on Sunday night’s edition of 60 Minutes testified before the United States Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Tuesday that Congress must step in to regulate the social media platform’s failure to stop its dissemination of hate speech, threats of violence, and misinformation.
Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist, explained to lawmakers that Facebook has known that its content is often harmful and toxic and that it has kept such information from the public. Instagram is particularly sinister in its victimization of teenage girls, who frequently report having suicidal thoughts and symptoms of eating disorders after using the app.
“Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy,” Haugen said. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
Because of Facebook’s unwillingness to prioritize safety over profits, “congressional action is needed,” she said. “They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”
Haugen noted that while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg did not intend to create a vessel for misery, “in the end, the buck stops with Mark. There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.”
Haugen also repeated what she had shared in her blockbuster interview with 60 Minutes – that Facebook knew that its algorithms filled users’ newsfeed with anger-inducing content because it generates higher numbers of clicks, which translates into more money for the site.
“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the U.S. government, and from governments around the world,” Haugen said. “The documents I have provided to Congress prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in spreading divisive and extreme messages.”
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.