The United States Senate hears on Tuesday (5) Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who leaked internal documents from the social network to The Wall Street Journal. THE informant's identity was revealed last Sunday (3) on a TV channel.
The most outstanding point of the documents is the fact that the company considers the Dangerous Instagram for Kids and Teens. Internal tests of the social network would have pointed out the dangers of the platform for this audience. The recommendation algorithm is also accused of displaying posts related to eating disorders and self-harm.
At the opening, Senator Richard Blumenthal's case reporter said that Facebook "put profits before people." He even demanded that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg return to testify at the congress. “Instead of taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is sailing,” he added.
Frances Haugen on Facebook
Frances Haugen then started by saying that Facebook deceived the public with a supposed protection of children and adolescents. “What his own research reveals about the safety of children and the effectiveness of their artificial intelligence systems as a role in delivering divisive and extreme messages,” he explained.
Haugen also highlighted the need for a larger team in the company to handle complaints and investigations. According to the informant, employees can't keep up with the demand and the platform doesn't seem to care about that, with the priority always being engagement metrics.
“One pattern of behavior I saw on Facebook was that often the problems were so lacking that there was an implicit dismay of having better detection systems. For example, I worked on the counter-espionage team and, at any one time, our team could only handle a third of the cases we knew about. We knew that if we built even a basic detector, we would probably have even more boxes,” he said.
“Companies have 100 percent control over their algorithms, and Facebook shouldn't overlook the choices it makes to prioritize growth, virality and responsiveness over public safety,” Haugen said. “They are paying for their profits now with our safety,” he added.
The hearing ended with the former Facebook employee talking about the impression of security the platform makes. “The fact that we are being asked [about] these false choices is just an illustration of what happens when real solutions are hidden within companies,” she said. "We need more technology officials through legitimate channels like the SEC or Congress to ensure the public has the information they need to make technologies human-centric, not computer-centric."
Haugen left Facebook in April after Facebook dissolved his team in December 2020. Documents leaked by the Wall Street Journal reveal that Facebook considers Instagram a toxic platform for teenagers. The reports also show that drug dealer groups and people use methods to circumvent the social network algorithm.
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