A news story posted on bbc.com reports that a Facebook whistleblower who released several bombshell leaks has decided to reveal her identity. Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old woman who was a product manager on Facebook’s Civic Integrity Team, revealed her identity during an interview on Sunday by CBS. Ms. Haugen provided the Facebook corporate documents that proved Facebook repeatedly prioritized “growth over safety.” According to Haugen, if Facebook changed its Instagram algorithm to be safer for children, the company would make less money.
Facebook executives stated that Ms. Haugem’s leaks “glossed over” the company’s positive research, and the accusations were misleading.
In the CBS 60 Minutes interview, Ms. Haugen stated that she left Facebook earlier in 2021 after she became extremely frustrated with the company. Prior to leaving, she made copies of a series of company memos and internal documents. Ms. Haugen shared those internal documents with the Wall Street Journal, which released the documents in batches over three weeks, otherwise known as “The Facebook Files.
Statements and information included Facebook’s internal documents showed that certain politicians, celebrities, and other high-profile Facebook users were treated differently. Moreover, the leaked information showed that moderation policies were employed differently, or not at all, to certain accounts. This practice was known as XCheck (cross-check).
According to the news report, more leaked documents revealed that Facebook is facing a complex lawsuit from its own shareholders. The shareholders allege, amongst many other allegations, that Facebook’s $5 billion payment to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle the Cambridge Analytica data scandal was so large because the settlement was “designed to protect Mark Zuckerberg from personal liability.”
However, it is the charges concerning Instagram that are particularly worrisome to U.S. legislators. The internal documents leaked that internal studies showed that Instagram was negatively impacting the mental health of teens and Facebook decided to hide its research that states Instagram is “toxic” for many teenagers. According to a Facebook presentation reported by the Wall Street Journal, 32% of teen girls surveyed reported that they felt bad about their bodies, and Instagram made the girl feel even worse.
Ms. Haugen recently testified before a Senate subcommittee in a hearing called “Protecting Kids.” The hearing covered the company’s internal research concerning Instagram’s effect on young girls’ mental health. According to news reports, Ms. Haugen’s testimony severely damaged Facebook’s reputation. Ms. Haugen explained to the U.S. Senate subcommittee that Facebook had conflicts of interest between what was good for Facebook profits and what was good for user safety, and Facebook repeatedly chose to “optimize for making more money.”
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