Receive free Facebook Inc updates
We will send you a myFT Daily Digest email that rounds out the latest news about Facebook Inc. every morning.
A Facebook whistleblower accused the company on Sunday of placing ‘profits above safety’ as it came to light that she had complained to US security regulators that it was misleading investors.
Talk about the news program 60 minutes, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, unmasked herself as the whistleblower who leaked a bunch of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. Her revelations have plunged the social media business into the deepest crisis since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Haugen suggested that the company lied to the public and exaggerated the progress it had made in tackling hate, violence and misinformation on its platform, and provided ‘tens of thousands’ of pages of documents as evidence.
“There have been conflicts of interest between what’s good for the public and what’s good for Facebook,” Haugen said in the interview. “And Facebook has repeatedly chosen to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money.”
Among her allegations, she said that Facebook had dissolved its civic integrity team – responsible for protecting the democratic process and tackling misinformation – prematurely after the 2020 election, the effect of which contributed to the storm of Capitol Hill that hit 6 January followed.
“That was the moment I was on the point, I do not trust that they are willing to invest what needs to be invested to prevent Facebook from being dangerous,” she said.
The platform came under fire again earlier this year for its alleged role in enabling the perpetrators of the uprising in the Capitol to provoke unrest, spread conspiracy and eventually organize the storming of the government building.
According to 60 minutes, Haugen’s lawyers filed ‘at least eight complaints’ with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. This contrasts with the company’s internal research with its public claims — including, for example, the assertion by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook removes content that leads to actual harm.
Haugen’s lawyers have indicated that they have accused the company of making misrepresentations affecting investors.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but went on the attack ahead of the television segment. Nick Clegg, his head of global affairs, sent a memorandum to employees on Friday in which he called the accusations “misleading” and appeared on CNN on Sunday to make it “ridiculous”.
“The responsibility for the riots in the Capitol rests with the perpetrators of the violence and those in politics and elsewhere who have actively encouraged them,” Clegg said in the memorandum, obtained by the FT and first reported by the New York Times. “The idea that Facebook is the main cause of polarization is not supported by the facts.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Haugen has been working as a product manager at Facebook in Menlo Park in the civil integrity team since 2019. She left the business in May. Her career also includes periods as a product manager for Pinterest, Yelp and Google, and she was part of the founding team of the first iteration of the dating app Hinge, then called Secret Agent Cupid.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal began publishing a series of articles based on documents shared by Haugen, casting a harsh spotlight on the company’s internal operations.
So far, it contains allegations that the company has a system called ‘cross-check’, which enables certain celebrities, politicians and other elite users to break its rules with impunity. Other articles highlight the company’s efforts to attract young people to the platform amid growing competition from Snapchat and TikTok – and suggest that the company has buried research that has found it could harm the mental health of teenage users, especially young girls. .
Last month, Haugen met and shared documents with several members of Congress, including Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, and is due to testify at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
Her revelations – via the Journal – have already caused a whirlwind of criticism on Facebook by regulators and legislators across the political spectrum, demanding more transparency from company executives about his research and how he plans to meet his many challenges to offer.
Last week, Facebook suspended its plans to develop Instagram Kids, a version of the photo app for under-13s, amid the investigation.