This Tuesday (5/10), former Facebook employee Frances Haugen attended the US Senate to testify about her complaints against the company, which included internal documents that had been leaked and published by the press.
Earlier, Facebook founder and director Mark Zuckerberg needed to speak out on another front for the company this week: in a post, he apologized for the group’s social media being down for about six hours on Monday (4), in much of the world.
Later, the company clarified that there was a problem with the connection between its data centers and the internet, and said it was working to make its infrastructure “more resilient”.
The day before the world crash that compromised the functioning of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, Frances Haugen had already put the company’s name in a bad light when she had an interview broadcast by the American network CBS.
On Sunday, the 37-year-old former employee said the company prioritizes “growth over safety” — whether in protecting democratic principles or caring for the mental health of teenagers.
Documents leaked by her to the Wall Street Journal have been published in the last three weeks. One was about a survey Instagram did internally, revealing signs that the app could be harmful to girls’ mental health. However, according to Haugen, the company neglected alerts like this one.
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but it won’t make the necessary changes because it puts its astronomical profits in front of people,” the engineer told senators on Tuesday.
She also criticized Mark Zuckerberg for having ample power, in a setting where “no one holds Mark to responsibilities other than himself”; and called for greater regulation of networks by Congress.
“We need to act now,” asked the former employee.
In a statement following the deposition, Facebook said it did not agree with “the characterization of many issues she (Haugen) testified about”, but said it agreed that “it is time to start creating standard standards for the internet”.
The company’s director of communications, Andy Stone, posted on Twitter, as the Senate testimony was taking place, that Frances Haugen was touching on issues outside the scope of the areas she worked on on Facebook — including child protection and Instagram itself.
With a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Olin College, and an MBA from Harvard University, Haugen has worked for major technology companies such as Pinterest and Google.
In 2019, she went to Facebook — as her personal website says, to take on a position as “lead product manager of the civic disinformation team, which dealt with issues related to democracy and disinformation, and later also worked on counter-espionage.”
In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program, she said that she decided to leave Facebook in May this year after becoming annoyed with the company’s practices.
In the interview, Haugen also accused Facebook of fomenting violence in the Capitol raid earlier this year, an episode that left five dead. She said the social network activated security systems to reduce misinformation only during elections in the United States.
“As soon as the election was over, they deactivated or changed the settings to what it was before, to prioritize growth over security, and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy.”
Crash: losses for Facebook
Facebook is the world’s largest social networking company, with 2.7 billion active users daily on one of its platforms, according to a July report.
On Monday, with the world crash, the company’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, had a fall of 4.89%.
Zuckerberg is believed to have lost about $6 billion of his personal fortune when Facebook’s shares tumbled, according to tracking software on business website Fortune. With that, he lost to Bill Gates the 4th position in Bloomberg’s daily ranking of the richest people in the world.
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