Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies former employer an ‘urgent threat’ to U.S. and should be regulated

, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies former employer an ‘urgent threat’ to U.S. and should be regulated, Nzuchi Times National News

‘The core of the issue is that no one can understand Facebook’s destructive choices better than Facebook’

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WASHINGTON — Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, where she sharply criticized her former employer as “one of the most urgent threats” facing the country, and called for a dedicated government body to regulate operations of the social media giant.

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Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team, says the social media giant keeps its algorithms and operations a secret.

“The core of the issue is that no one can understand Facebook’s destructive choices better than Facebook, because only Facebook gets to look under the hood,” she said in written testimony prepared for the hearing.

“A critical starting point for effective regulation is transparency,” she said in testimony delivered to a Senate Commerce subcommittee. “On this foundation, we can build sensible rules and standards to address consumer harms, illegal content, data protection, anticompetitive practices, algorithmic systems and more.”

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Once the hearing began, Haugen told the senators that, “I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”

She said that Facebook actively markets to children under 18, and targets tweens as young as eight years old for some of its products such as Instagram.

“Yesterday we saw Facebook taken off the internet. I don’t know why it went down, but I know that 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,” Haugen said.

In an era when bipartisanship is rare on Capitol Hill, the top Democrat and Republican on the subcommittee agreed on the need for big changes at Facebook.

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Subcommittee chair Richard Blumenthal noted that Facebook’s leadership had rejected recommendations made to make its sites, which include Instagram, safer. “There are a lot of teens who are looking in the mirror right now and feeling bad about their self image and their bodies. Mark Zuckerberg should be looking in the mirror,” he said in a television interview on Tuesday.

, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies former employer an ‘urgent threat’ to U.S. and should be regulated, Nzuchi Times National News

Added Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, “Children of America are hooked on their product. There is cynical knowledge on behalf of these Big Tech companies that this is true.”

The top Republican, Marsha Blackburn, remarked that Facebook turned a blind eye to children below age 13 on its sites. “It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of our children.”

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Facebook spokesman Kevin McAlister 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.

Haugen came forward this week to reveal she was the one who provided documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on Instagram’s harm to teen girls.

The Journal’s stories showed the company contributed to increased polarization online when it made changes to its content algorithm; failed to take steps to reduce vaccine hesitancy; and was aware that Instagram harmed the mental health of teenage girls.

Haugen said Facebook had also done too little to prevent its platform from being used by people planning violence.

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

Reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Mark Porter)

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