Facebook Whistleblower Testifies to Senate


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WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 5: Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled ‘Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower’ on Capitol Hill, October 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Haugen left Facebook in May and provided internal company documents about Facebook to journalists and others, alleging that Facebook consistently chooses profit over safety. (Photo by Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images)

Murphy Eggers, Contributor

If you attempted to check your Facebook feed early last week and got an error, you are not alone.  Early last week, Facebook had a major network outage for nearly 5 hours before the problem was resolved.  The apps affected by the outage include Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp.  This outage affected billions of users worldwide.

This outage was just a speck of what Facebook could be potentially facing in the near future. Recently, a former employee by the name of Frances Haugen testified before a Senate committee. She started “

I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.  The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people”

— Frances Haugen


The main topic of discussion in Haugen’s testimony is the risks that are posed to teenage women on social media platforms like Instagram.  She went on to say that 20% of users could be facing serious mental health issues but she feels strongly this has not been a worry for Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal published a study done by Facebook that was released on the company’s internal site.  The contents of the documents show research that has been found in studies of Facebook’s users.  In the original document, posted in late 2019, the file highlights, “82% of teens have felt at least one emotional issue in the past month.  One in five has thought about suicide or self-injury.”

Haugen found it crucial that this information be shared for the pure fact that the outcomes that social media can have can be very detrimental to teens and their futures.  Another key fact that Haugen spoke on was the statistic that 17% of teen girls reported that their eating disorders worsened after using Instagram.

Part of the reason why Facebook has had such a detrimental impact is because of its algorithms. Haugen, being a former data scientist for Facebook, knows how the algorithms work and the impact they can have with who sees what on their feed.

The problems for Facebook do not stop at just that, though.  Haugen and her legal team say the Facebook executives have broken U.S. security laws.  Regulators on both the federal and state level want to regulate Facebook. In addition, this is not just a Democrat or Republican problem. Both parties want to regulate Facebook as they see the harms that Facebook and their other apps can pose on the population.

Haugen presented the essential idea that there are very few people outside of Facebook that know what happens within Facebook.  She believes this is by design to hide potentially harmful information.

Mark Zuckerberg defended the allegations against his company by releasing a long statement on Facebook. He said, “Many of the claims don’t make any sense.  If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?” He then went on to defend himself on the accusation that Facebook only cares about profits by stating, “At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being.  That’s just not true. For example, one move that has been called into question is when we introduced the Meaningful Social Interactions change to News Feed. This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family – which we did know it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being.”

A spokesperson for Facebook also stated that Haugen was not directly informed about the subjects she has discussed. While Haugen may not have been in meetings discussing research or company decision-making, Haugen put in the research necessary to make her reasoning known. Along with her research, he compiled documents from Facebook after she had left.

Even more recently, a second whistleblower said she is willing to testify before congress. As more former employees come out with their experiences with working for Facebook, we could see information that could pose a danger to the public. It is not whether Facebook is right or wrong, but rather that the issues posed by Facebook are solved and don’t pose a danger to users in the future.