Facebook whistleblower says ‘Congressional action is needed’ | #itsecurity | #infosec


A former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower told U.S. senators on Tuesday that Congress should take action to reign in the social media giant’s practices and products in order to protect children. Frances Haugen, 37, is originally from Iowa but was a member of Olin College’s first graduating class in 2006 and completed her master’s degree in business at Harvard — the same institution that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg attended.She testified Tuesday to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.Haugen accused the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.”Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen said.Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, an outspoken critic of Facebook, is a member of the subcommittee. He called Haugen an “American hero” for blowing the whistle on the company. “Yesterday Facebook had a platform outage,” he said. “But for years, it has had a principles outage.”Markey, who recently joined with other Democratic senators in reintroducing legislation intended to protect children from certain online practices, asked Haugen if she supported the bill.”I strongly encourage reforms that push us toward human-scale social media and not computer-driven social media,” Haugen said. “Those amplification harms are caused by computers choosing what’s important to us, not our friends and family.”Haugen has filed at least eight complaints with U.S. securities regulators alleging Facebook has violated the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.” Facebook in turn could take legal action against her if it asserts she stole confidential information from the company.Haugen said she decided to speak out because of her belief that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.””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,” she said in her written testimony prepared for the hearing. “Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”Haugen alleged that Facebook prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble-rousing after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last year, alleging that contributed to the deadly Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.Post-election, the company dissolved a unit on civic integrity where she had been working, which Haugen said was the moment she realized, “I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.”Facebook is facing a major crisis after a series of reports published by The Wall Street Journal exposed the company’s awareness of internal research into the negative effects of its products.The Journal’s stories, called “The Facebook Files,” painted a picture of a company focused on growth and its own interests instead of the public good.Facebook has tried to play down the research. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote to Facebook employees in a memo Friday that “social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower told U.S. senators on Tuesday that Congress should take action to reign in the social media giant’s practices and products in order to protect children.

Frances Haugen, 37, is originally from Iowa but was a member of Olin College’s first graduating class in 2006 and completed her master’s degree in business at Harvard — the same institution that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg attended.

She testified Tuesday to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

Haugen accused the company of being aware of apparent harm to some teens from Instagram and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.

“Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” Haugen said.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, an outspoken critic of Facebook, is a member of the subcommittee. He called Haugen an “American hero” for blowing the whistle on the company.

“Yesterday Facebook had a platform outage,” he said. “But for years, it has had a principles outage.”

Markey, who recently joined with other Democratic senators in reintroducing legislation intended to protect children from certain online practices, asked Haugen if she supported the bill.

“I strongly encourage reforms that push us toward human-scale social media and not computer-driven social media,” Haugen said. “Those amplification harms are caused by computers choosing what’s important to us, not our friends and family.”

Haugen has filed at least eight complaints with U.S. securities regulators alleging Facebook has violated the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.” Facebook in turn could take legal action against her if it asserts she stole confidential information from the company.

Haugen said she decided to speak out because of her belief that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”

“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,” she said in her written testimony prepared for the hearing. “Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

Haugen alleged that Facebook prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble-rousing after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last year, alleging that contributed to the deadly Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

Post-election, the company dissolved a unit on civic integrity where she had been working, which Haugen said was the moment she realized, “I don’t trust that they’re willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.”

Facebook is facing a major crisis after a series of reports published by The Wall Street Journal exposed the company’s awareness of internal research into the negative effects of its products.

The Journal’s stories, called “The Facebook Files,” painted a picture of a company focused on growth and its own interests instead of the public good.

Facebook has tried to play down the research. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of policy and public affairs, wrote to Facebook employees in a memo Friday that “social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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