Facebook ‘hiding its research from public scrutiny’ says Frances Haugen

Author: Web Desk

WASHINGTON: On Tuesday, Frances Haugen, the US lawmaker has denounced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for moving towards higher profits while being insouciant about user’s safety, adding that the social media company torments children and stokes divisions.

The whistleblower Frances Haugen, during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, pleaded for pellucidity about how Facebook tempt users to stay on the site for long, providing them sufficient opportunity to advertise to them.

“As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,” said Haugen.

She maintained that she censured the breakup of Facebook as inimical.

“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. Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said.

In an age when bipartisanship is as rare as hen’s teeth in Washington, lawmakers from both parties excoriated the nearly $1 trillion company, highlighting the rising anger in Congress with Facebook amid numerous demands for legislative reforms.

On the other hand, Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican, said that he was worried about how Facebook and other apps like Instagram affected the mental health of children.

“I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and all of us are going to be like ‘what the hell were we thinking?'”

Haugen exposed that she was the one who gave documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on Instagram’s harm to teenage girls.

Meanwhile, Panel chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said that it’s in the knowledge of the owners that people are addicted to their apps, like cigarettes.

“Tech now faces that big tobacco jaw-dropping moment of truth,” he said.

He further asked Zuckerberg to provide evidence before the committee, and for the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company.

“Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror,” Blumenthal added.

Facebook’s share price is 2.3%

On Tuesday, besides all the criticism, Facebook’s share price was up 2.3% at $333.90 around midday.

Earlier yesterday, after Facebook went through an hours-long outage, Haugen used the breakdown in her statement to emphasize her point: “For more than five hours Facebook wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.”

As lawmakers denounced Facebook and Zuckerberg, the company’s spokespeople replied on Twitter, arguing Haugen did not work directly on some of the issues she was being questioned on. Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team, left the company with tens of thousands of confidential documents.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, blamed Facebook for ignoring a child below age 13 on its sites. “It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users,” she said.

On the other hand, Kevin McAlister, Facebook spokesman, said in an email ahead of the hearing that the company sees protecting its community as more important than maximizing profits and said it was not accurate that leaked internal research demonstrated that Instagram was “toxic” for teenage girls.

Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, said she would write a letter to Facebook to urge it should not to delete documents related to Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority Rohingya. An aide said that she would ask for broader retention of documents.

Frances Haugen said she would vitalize “oversight and public scrutiny” into how the content algorithms work and the consequences of them. She proposed to create an enthusiastic body within the federal government to oversee social media companies.

Haugen said Facebook had done nothing to save its site from being used by people planning violence.

Facebook was used by people planning mass killings in Myanmar and the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who were determined to chuck out the 2020 election results.

While speaking to the absent Zuckerberg, Senator Edward Markey said during the hearing: “Your time of invading our privacy and preying on children is over. Congress will be taking action.”

Throughout the hearing, lawmakers referred to Zuckerberg as going sailing instead of facing his responsibilities. The CEO this weekend posted a video taken with the company’s new smart glasses of his wife in a boat.

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