Facebook whistleblower: what we know

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Haugen is scheduled to testify Tuesday before a US Senate subcommittee. Here’s what we know about her so far.

Haugen grew up attending caucuses in Iowa with his parents, according to his personal website. This experience instilled “a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation,” the website added.
After studying electrical and computer engineering, followed by an MBA, Haugen worked in several technology companies from 2006, including Google, Pinterest and Yelp. She specializes in “algorithmic product management” and has worked on several ranking algorithms similar to the one used by Facebook to organize its main news feed, according to her prepared testimony obtained by CNN on Monday. She is scheduled to appear before the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security on Tuesday.

“Working at four large tech companies that operate different types of social media, I was able to compare and contrast how each company approaches and deals with different challenges,” she wrote in her prepared testimony.

Disappointed on Facebook

Haugen, 37, joined Facebook in 2019 to work on civic integrity, including “issues of democracy and disinformation,” according to his website. These issues have been at the center of criticism from Facebook and other social media companies, particularly around the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 US presidential election.

Haugen took the job at Facebook to fight disinformation, she said in her “60 Minute” interview. But she said her feelings about the company started to change when she decided to disband her civic integrity team shortly after the election.

She suggested that this move, in part, allowed the platform to be used to help organize the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

Facebook says the civic integrity team’s work was distributed to other units when it disbanded, and company executives have rebuffed accusations it was responsible for the Capitol Hill riot.

Haugen’s revelations are also significant because they come as lawmakers, regulators and activists around the world have repeatedly criticized the company for not doing enough to protect its hundreds of millions of users.

“I joined Facebook (…) because a relative became radicalized online,” she said in her comments to the Senate subcommittee. “I felt compelled to take an active role in creating a better, less toxic Facebook.”

But over the past two years, she said she has started to feel that Facebook is not so committed to ensuring that its products contribute to the public good.

“What I saw on Facebook over and over again was that there was a conflict of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook chose over and over again to ‘optimize for her own interests, like making more money, “she said” 60 minutes. “

In his statement to the Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Haugen criticized Facebook’s creation of a “system that amplifies division, extremism and polarization” around the world.

“Facebook has grown into a trillion dollar business by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children,” she wrote. “And this is unacceptable.”

What she did

About a month ago, Haugen filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the company is hiding research into its shortcomings from investors and the public.
Haugen also shared the documents with the Wall Street Journal, which published a multi-part investigation showing that Facebook was aware of issues with its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation and the damage it caused, particularly to young girls, by Instagram.

“Every day, our teams must balance protecting the ability of billions of people to speak out openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” said Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch, in a statement to CNN Business after Sunday’s “60 minutes”. maintenance. “We continue to make significant improvements to combat the spread of disinformation and harmful content. To suggest that we promote bad content and do nothing is just not true.”

Haugen resigned from Facebook in April this year and left the company in May after handing over some projects, according to a profile in the Journal, but not before collecting the documents that would form the basis of the investigation. publication.

“If people hate Facebook more because of what I did, then I failed,” she told the Journal. “I believe in truth and reconciliation – we have to admit the reality. The first step is documentation.”

What happens next

On Tuesday, Haugen will testify before the Senate subcommittee chaired by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.

The subcommittee asked Facebook global security chief Antigone Davis last week about the impact of her apps on young users. Davis sought to portray the company’s services, especially Instagram, as more useful than harmful to teens.

“Now that does not mean that those who are not [finding it helpful] are not important to us. In fact, that’s why we’re doing this research, ”she said.

Those lawmakers will now hear Haugen firsthand and have the opportunity to ask her about her experience on Facebook.

The company strongly rebuffed the claims of its former employee, including a more than 700-word statement Sunday night exposing what it called “missing facts” from the “60-minute” segment and claiming that the interview “had used selected company materials to tell a misleading story about the research we are doing to improve our products. “

But his revelations seem likely to cause more than just a ripple effect for Facebook. The business has been closely watched by regulators and governments around the world for years, and the pressure continues to mount every week.

Even as it faced the continued fallout from Haugen’s revelations as well as a widespread outage of its main services for several hours on Monday, Facebook sought to dismiss an antitrust complaint from the Federal Trade Commission accusing it of being a monopoly.

Haugen says the only way to hold Facebook accountable is to reveal its inner workings like it has.

“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: hardly anyone outside of Facebook knows what’s going on inside Facebook,” she wrote to the Senate committee on Monday. “As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it will not be accountable to anyone. And it will continue to make choices that go against the common good.”

– CNN Business’s Clare Duffy and Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.


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