On October 3, 2021, Frances Haugen appeared on “60 Minutes” to state Facebook is aware its social media platform contains false information. Yet, the company still allows this information to remain posted and generate a profit for the company.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was that there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” said Haugen.
Between June 2019 and May 2021, Haugen, age 37, worked as a product manager at Facebook. She was assigned to its civic integrity group, a body that dissolved in 2021. This group was meant to help protect the democratic process and decrease the spread of viral misinformation and fake accounts. The group repeatedly failed at these tasks.
“Person after person after person inside of Facebook has tackled this and ground themselves to the ground,” said Haugen.
In September 2021, Haugen filed at least eight whistle-blower complaints to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She alleged Facebook hid research and lied to investors and the public about its work behind the scenes.
On Tuesday, October 5, Haugen is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. Her testimony will center on Facebook’s impacts on young users. In particular, Haugen plans to focus on how misinformation on Facebook-owned platforms, including Instagram, is harmful to young women.
“I am hoping this will have had a big enough impact on the world that they (the federal government) get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations (prohibiting the spread of misinformation) into place,” said Haugen.
Haugen also leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal research from Facebook to the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp., used the scores of documents provided by Haugen as a source for “The Facebook Files.” This fall 2021 investigative series is highly critical of Facebook.
Facebook pushed back against Haugen’s statements in a late Sunday night statement to CNN Business.
“We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” said Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch.