Facebook whistleblower reveals identity, accuses the platform of a ‘betrayal of democracy’

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  • A Facebook whistleblower exposed himself as a former product manager to civil misinformation during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday.
  • The whistleblower leaked documents detailing private research to The Wall Street Journal and the US Congress.
  • The documents revealed that Facebook executives were aware of the negative effects of its platform on some young users.

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A Facebook whistleblower who brought internal documents detailing the company’s research to The Wall Street Journal and the US Congress exposed himself ahead of an interview given to “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night.

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Francis Haugen, a former product manager for Facebook’s civil misinformation team, revealed himself to be the source behind a bunch of leaked documents, according to his website. On her personal website, she shared that during her time at the company, she “became concerned with options prioritizing their own profits over public safety – risking people’s lives. And great as a last resort.” At personal risk, Frances took the adventure of whistling on Facebook.”

Haugen previously worked as a product manager at Pinterest, Yelp and Google, according to her LinkedIn Profile. She also lists herself as the technical co-founder behind dating app Hinge, saying she took her forerunner, Secret Agent Cupid, to market.

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“I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was much worse on Facebook than it was before,” Haugen told “60 Minutes.”

Haugen told “60 Minutes” that he left Facebook in May.

Jeff Horwitz, the journal reporter who wrote a series of articles based on the leaked documents, also Haugen’s identity shared on Twitter Sunday night, revealing him as the prime source behind the stories.

document, First reported by Journal, revealed that Facebook executives were aware of the negative effects of its platform on some young users, among other findings. For example, the Journal reported that an internal document found that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 6% of US users detected urges to kill themselves on Instagram.

Facebook has since said that the journal’s reporting cherry-picked the data and even headlines on its internal presentations ignored potentially positive interpretations of the data, such as the number of users who engaged with its products. found positive effect.

Facebook spokeswoman Lena Pietsch said in a statement after Haugen’s identity was revealed, “Every day our teams need to keep our platform a safe and positive place to protect billions of people’s ability to express themselves openly. You have to strike a balance.” “We continue to make significant improvements to combat the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest that we encourage bad content and do nothing is simply not true.”

Haugen said that he decided to make Facebook’s internal communications public this year, feeling he would need to do so “in an orderly manner” and “outside enough so that no one could question whether it was going to happen.” is real.”

Haugen in turn copied and released thousands of pages of documents, “60 Minutes” reported.

Haugen pointed to the 2020 election as a turning point at Facebook. She said Facebook had announced it was disbanding the “civil integrity” team that was assigned to it after the election. Just a few months later, social media communications would be a major focus in the wake of the January 6 uprising in the US Capitol.

“When they got rid of civil integrity, it was the moment where I was like, ‘I don’t believe they’re really willing to invest what Facebook needs to invest in to keep it from being dangerous,'” Haugen. Said “60 Minutes.”

Facebook told the news program that it has split the work of the Civic Integrity team into other units.

Haugen pointed to Facebook’s algorithm as the element that pushes misinformation on users. She said Facebook recognized the risk of misinformation in the 2020 election and therefore added security systems to mitigate that risk. But, she said, Facebook eased those security measures once again after the election.

“As soon as the election was over, they turned them back on or they changed the settings to prioritize development over security,” Haugen said. “And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.”

Lawmakers appeared unimpressed by Facebook’s reactions to the Journal’s reporting based on Haugen’s disclosures. During a hearing Thursday before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, senators on both sides of the aisle rebuked the company, urging a temporary moratorium on permanently building an Instagram platform for children. The lawmakers said they did not believe Facebook could be a good manager of such a platform based on the report and past behavior.

The whistleblower is due to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. Facebook’s global head of safety Antigone Davis told lawmakers on Thursday that Facebook would not retaliate against whistleblowers for his disclosures in the Senate.

Haugen said he has “sympathy” for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, adding that he “never set out to create a hateful platform. But he has allowed us to make choices where those choices have side effects.” That hateful, polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.”

He called for more regulations to keep the company under control.

“Facebook has demonstrated that they cannot act independently, time and again Facebook has shown that it chooses advantage over security,” Haugen told “60 Minutes.” “It’s subsidizing, it’s paying for our profits with our security. I’m hoping it would have had a big enough impact on the world that they would have found the perseverance and motivation to actually enforce those rules.” This is my hope.”

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