Mark Zuckerberg has yet to comment on the lingering controversy surrounding Facebook, with the CEO instead posting videos of him browsing and fencing on his own profile in recent weeks.
Facebook is under surveillance after a former employee turned whistleblower made a number of damning statements in a series of articles posted by The Wall Street Journal after disclosing tens of thousands of internal documents.
Among some of the allegations, this company was aware of how Instagram, the photo-sharing app it owns, can be potentially harmful to teens.
Despite the denial of these claims, Facebook announced at the end of September that it would suspend the deployment of its planned platform “Instagram Kids”, which would have been aimed at children 13 and under.
The allegations were reported by The Wall Street Journal since September 13, but Zuckerberg has not commented on them publicly.
Instead, statements from the social network defending their actions or denying the allegations have been posted by other prominent figures, such as its vice president for policy and public affairs, Nick Clegg, or Pratiti Raychoudhury, vice -President and Head of Research of Facebook.
According to a report by The New York TimesFacebook COO, Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are being deliberately kept away from the public about the allegations surrounding Instagram, with members of its “strategic response” teams dealing with the fallout instead.
Facebook has come under new criticism after the whistleblower identified herself in a 60 minutes interview with Frances Haugen, 37, data scientist who joined Facebook in 2019.
Haugen, who is due to testify before Congress, could reveal more damning allegations about how the social network works.
On Sunday night’s show, Haugen accused Facebook of not telling the truth about the progress it is making in tackling hate speech, violence and the spread of false information about the app, and of prioritize business growth over public safety.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Haugen said. “And Facebook, time and time again, has chosen to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
Haugen alleged that the company made a number of decisions that it knew could harm real life in order to increase its profits, including changing its algorithm so that posts with a lot of engagement were shown in the media. flow of people.
Sunday, before 60 minutes The show was due to air, Zuckerberg uploaded a video of him sailing with his wife Priscilla Chan.
On September 20, a week after the allegations first appeared on Instagram, Zuckerberg himself faced off against gold medalist Lee Kiefer and world champion Gerek Meinhardt, who was recorded on filmable sunglasses, in which Facebook and Ray-Ban worked together.
Haugen claimed that Facebook made the move in 2018 despite its own research showing that “hateful, divisive, polarizing content” gets the most engagement.
“When we live in an information environment filled with angry, hateful and polarizing content, it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to care for one another,” he said. declared Haugen. “The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”
Haugen said that while Facebook took steps to control the spread of disinformation around the 2020 election, those were withdrawn shortly after the results were announced in November and the algorithm that drove the engagement. of users came back.
Haugen said the ripple effect was that Facebook contributed to the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill.
“Facebook realized that if it changed the algorithm to be more secure, people would spend less time on the site,” she said. 60 minutes. “They will click on fewer ads, they will earn less money.”
Elsewhere, Haugen said she “had a lot of empathy” for Zuckerberg because he “never set out to create a hate platform.”
She added, “But it has made it possible to make choices where the side effects of those choices are that hateful and polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.”
Haugen is due to testify before Congress this week, where she will argue that the federal government must help impose restrictions on Facebook.
“Facebook has shown that it cannot act independently. Facebook, time and time again, has shown that it prefers profit over security,” Haugen said.
“It subsidizes, it pays its profits with our security. I hope this has had a big enough impact on the world that they have the courage and the motivation to put these regulations in place.”
In a statement to News week On the need for more internet regulation, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We agree that it is time to update internet regulation and we have been calling for it ourselves for two and a half years.
“Every day we make tough decisions about the boundaries between free speech and harmful speech, privacy, security and other issues, and we use both our own research and that of outside experts to improve our products and policies.
“But we shouldn’t be making these decisions on our own, which is why we’ve been advocating for years for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards that we can all adhere to.”
On September 30, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of security, was questioned by senators at a Senate subcommittee on commerce, science and transportation about claims the company was aware that she knew Instagram could harm children.
Ahead of the hearing, Facebook posted annotated slideshows for two internal research reports – “Teen Mental Health Deep Dive,” released in October 2019 and “Hard Life Moments,” released in November 2019 – which they say show “This It is simply not true that this research shows that Instagram is ‘toxic’ to teenage girls. “
The annotations even suggested more precise titles that should have been used in internal documents, instead of those cited by The newspaper.
According to The New York Times, a number of people who worked on the reports were not happy with the way the company criticized The newspaper for basing his report on what he described as the document’s limited and imprecise conclusions in an effort to save face.
“They don’t care about the research,” an employee said on a company bulletin board.
Raychoudhury said in a previous statement: “In addition to putting specific results into context, it is also essential to clarify the nature of this research.
This research, some of which relied on contributions from just 40 teens, was designed to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions about Instagram. It did not measure the causal relationships between Instagram and real world problems.
“These documents were also created and used by people who understood the limitations of the research, which is why they sometimes used abbreviated language, especially in headings, and did not explain the caveats on each. slide.”
Facebook declined to comment on allegations made in The New York Times report.
Update 4/10/2021 7:05 AM ET: This article was updated with further comments from Facebook.