Image Credit: NPR
Recently, Facebook has been under a lot of fire from the media surrounding the whistleblower that is claiming the company is lying about stopping hate and actually fanning the fire for profit.
Facebook is a platform created by Mark Zuckerberg where people can post about their lives and add photos and videos. Other platforms like Instagram (which was bought by Facebook in 2012), SnapChat and Twitter are very similar, but Facebook was the baseline for these other types of social media. Nowadays, Facebook is mainly used by baby boomers, Generation X or older, while Millennials and Generation Z tend to use the more modern forms of social media.
The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is a former data scientist that worked in a now disbanded Civic Integrity team. Haugen, being a former employee, is giving insight into what happens behind Facebook’s servers and more people are paying attention to her as of late.
On Tuesday, October 5, Haugen testified in front of the Senate subcommittee. She stated that Facebook harms children, sows division, and undermines democracy. She told Congress that Facebook constantly prioritizes their platform’s growth and intake rather than the safety of its users and hid it from the public. “The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people,” Haugen testified.
Now, we have the Facebook Files, which are thousands of pages of classified documents that were released by Haugen to the public. She stated that no one outside of Facebook really knows what is going on inside of the company; not even government officials know what is happening behind the scenes. Haugen says, “The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the U.S. government, and from governments around the world.”
Facebook owns other social media platforms, their most prominent being Instagram. Instagram preaches on body positivity, but has done nothing for the many girls who find themselves feeling suicidal because of what they see on Instagram. Haugen states that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls who participated in a survey said their suicidal thoughts increased after starting on Instagram. Another study said that 17% of teen girls said that eating disorders got worse after first logging onto the platform. About 32% of girls that felt bad about their bodies felt worse after going onto Instagram.
Senator Marsha Blackburn accused Facebook of intentionally targeting kids under the minimum age limit to be on Instagram, which is 13. She backed Haugen’s argument that Facebook is prioritizing profit over the safety of children. Even subcommittee Chair Richard Blumenthal agreed stating, “Facebook exploited teens using powerful algorithms that amplified their insecurities.
Haugen is claiming that Facebook has done even worse than this: “they’ve broken the law.” According to Haugen’s legal team, Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, misstated and omitted key details about what was known about Facebook and Instagram’s ability to cause harm.
While Mark Zuckerberg has spoken out and claimed that these accusations are false, many are not sure they can trust the CEO because of what has been let out into the open.