According to a former Facebook employee, the company’s sites and apps “harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.”
At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old former product manager turned whistleblower, slammed the company.
Facebook has been the subject of increasing scrutiny and calls for regulation.
Mark Zuckerberg, the business’s founder, retaliated, saying recent coverage created a “false picture” of the corporation.
Many of the claims “don’t make any sense,” he wrote to staff, citing their efforts to combat harmful content, establish transparency, and create “an industry-leading research program to underpin these important issues.”
“We are deeply concerned about issues such as safety, well-being, and mental health,” he wrote in the letter, which he shared on Facebook. “It’s frustrating to see coverage that misrepresents our work and motivations.”
Facebook is the most widely used social media platform on the planet. According to the company, there are 2.7 billion monthly active users. The company’s other products, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, are used by hundreds of millions of people.
However, it has been chastised for failing to protect users’ privacy and failing to do enough to combat the spread of misinformation.
On Sunday, Ms. Haugen told CBS News that she had recently shared a number of internal Facebook documents with the Wall Street Journal.
According to the documents, Instagram conducted research that showed the app could harm girls’ mental health.
This was a recurring theme in Ms Haugen’s testimony on Tuesday. “The company’s leadership understands how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but they refuse to make the required changes because their huge profits come first,” she stated.
She chastised Mark Zuckerberg for wielding such power, claiming that “no one is now holding Mark accountable but himself.”
She also applauded Facebook’s major outage on Monday, which impacted users all around the world.
“We saw Facebook taken down from the internet yesterday,” she said. “I don’t know why it went down, but for more than five hours, Facebook wasn’t being used to widen gaps, destabilize democracies, or make young girls and women feel horrible about their bodies.”
She told senators that the solution was congressional supervision. She stated, “We must act now.”
In his letter, Mr Zuckerberg claimed that the Instagram research had been misrepresented and that many young people had positive experiences with the platform. “It’s really essential to me that everything we build is safe and nice for children,” he stated.
On Monday’s outage, he said the bigger issue was “what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities,” rather than “how many people transfer to competitor services or how much money we lose.”
On October 5, 2021, Frances Haugen spoke in a Senate hearing on internet safety.
According to Frances Haugen, the corporation has frequently put profits ahead of the safety of its customers.
On Tuesday, both Republican and Democratic senators agreed that the company needed to change — a rare point of agreement between the two political parties.
“Facebook’s current damage to self-interest and self-worth will haunt a generation,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal stated.
“Big Tech now faces the Big Tobacco jaw-dropping moment of truth,” he added, referring to tobacco companies’ concealment of their products’ harmful effects.
In light of the findings about Facebook’s impact on youngsters, fellow Republican Dan Sullivan predicted that the world will look back and wonder, “What the heck were we thinking?”
Facebook said it did not agree with Ms Haugen’s “characterization of the many concerns she testified about” in a statement released following the session. It did agree, though, that “it’s time to start creating uniform internet rules.”
“It’s been 25 years since the internet’s regulations were revised, and instead of expecting the industry to make societal decisions that should be made by legislators, it’s time for Congress to act,” the statement continued.
Finally, Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement.
Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter, has written an analysis box.
At long once, Republicans and Democrats in Congress can agree on something: Facebook and the threat it poses.
Senators on both the left and right expressed alarm about Facebook’s size and power during Frances Haugen’s whistleblower statement on Tuesday.
Of course, everyone had other instances in mind. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, was concerned that the company’s algorithms encouraged the extreme ideas that led to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th. Ted Cruz, a Republican, blasted Facebook for what he regarded as its censoring of conservative perspectives.
Others concentrated on the proof. Facebook disregarded its own study, which found that Instagram had a negative impact on the mental health of adolescent girls.
At this juncture, Facebook’s best hope may be that its opponents split out over the best ways to address these concerns, and that political gravity reasserts itself in the end.
Their executives, on the other hand, have a limited amount of time to respond if they want to avoid the political consensus that the solution to the Facebook problem is the same as the one used to break up Bell Telephone in the 1980s.