Whistleblower Haugen testifies as UK scrutinizes Facebook

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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen said Monday she has “no doubt” the violence seen during the US Capitol riots could occur again because the social media giant prioritizes polarizing content and doesn’t do enough to remove hate speech.   

Testifying before British lawmakers as the UK works on legislation to reign in the power of social media giants, Haugen said the current turmoil occurring in countries like Ethiopia and Myanmar were just the “opening chapters.”

She said even if Facebook argues that only a slither of content on the platform is hate, Haugen said it becomes “hyper-concentrated” in the population. 

And when that content is hyper-concentrated in 5 percent of the population, you “only need 3 percent of the population on the streets to have a revolution,” she warned.

 “Anger and hate is the easiest way to grow on Facebook,” she told the lawmakers.

Frances Haugen
Frances Haugen is set to appear before a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft legislation to crack down on harmful online content.
Reuters
Frances Haugen.
Frances Haugen’s comments could help lawmakers beef up new rules.
Shawn Thew/EPA

The whistleblower also accused Facebook of “dancing over the data” regarding how much hate speech is actually removed, saying only about three to five percent is taken down.

She said that Facebook should hire 10,000 engineers to work on safety on the platform, rather than 10,000 engineers to build the “metaverse” — taking a dig at founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent obsession with the “metaverse,” a futuristic notion for connecting online that uses augmented and virtual reality. 

She argued that there was a view inside Facebook that safety is a cost center, not a growth center, which she said was “very short-term in thinking.”

Frances Haugen.
Frances Haugen testified before the US Senate earlier this month about the danger Facebook poses.
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP

“Because Facebook’s own research has shown that when people have worse integrity experiences on the site, they are less likely to retain,” she said.

“I think regulation could actually be good for Facebook’s long-term success. Because it would force Facebook back into a place where it was more pleasant to be on Facebook.”

Some stories based on the documents have alleged the company misled investors and masked slowing growth among critical demographics like young users in the US.

Facebook logo
Haugen is testifying the same day that Facebook is set to release its latest earnings.
AP

During her Senate testimony earlier this month, Haugen said she believes a federal regulator should be put in place to oversee companies like Facebook.

British and EU officials are already working on a similar move.

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