On Tuesday, a former Facebook data scientist brought her allegations to Congress that the company concealed its knowledge of possible harm to teens via Instagram and was dishonest about its fight against hate speech and misinformation.
Frances Haugen presented a broad condemnation of Facebook. She also included tens of thousand of pages of internal research documents that she secretly copied before she left her job at Facebook’s civic integrity division. Haugen has also filed federal complaints alleging that Facebook’s own research shows it amplifies hatred, misinformation, and political unrest. However, the company conceals what it knows.
Recent reports in The Wall Street Journal that were based on documents Haugen leaked to The Journal raised an outcry. Haugen was revealed in a CBS interview airing Sunday night. “Facebook has repeatedly shown that it prefers safety to profit,” she said.
A 37-year old data expert from Iowa, with a Harvard business master’s degree and a degree as computer engineer, is the ex-employee who now challenges the social media giant with nearly $1 trillion in market capital and 2.8 billion users around the world. Before being hired by Facebook in 2019, she worked at several companies, including Google and Pinterest for 15 years.
Tuesday’s testimony was given by Haugen to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.
While the panel is looking into Facebook’s use information from its own Instagram researchers that could be causing harm to some of its young users, particularly girls, it has publicly downplayed any negative effects. The peer pressure that was generated by Instagram’s visual-focused platform led to problems with mental health, body image, and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders for some teens, according to research by Haugen.