Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen argued the social media giant needed Congress to demand more transparency from the company during testimony Tuesday before a Senate hearing.
“I believe Facebook’s products harm children, fuel division, weaken our democracy and so much more,” she told a trade subcommittee focused on consumer protection.
Haugen, 37, former product manager of Facebook’s civic disinformation team, said effective Facebook regulation should start with transparency, including allowing “full access to data for research not directed by Facebook “.
- Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies before a Senate subcommittee on what she says are issues within the social media company that “harm children” and “fuel division.”
- The hearing comes a day after a global Facebook outage, which was unrelated to Haugen showing up to share internal company documents.
- Haugen said Facebook put safeguards in place ahead of the 2020 election, but then turned them off. But the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol led Facebook to “break the window” and turn them back on.
On Monday, Facebook experienced a massive outage that knocked out service to the social media giant’s platforms for users around the world.
Haugen said in his opening statement: “I don’t know why it went down. I know that for more than five hours Facebook was not used to deepen divisions, destabilize democracies and ensure that young girls and women feel bad in their bodies. “
Haugen argued that allowing outside entities to view Facebook’s data would help combat much of the problems created by the social platform. External researchers would enable regulators to develop “sensible rules and standards to address consumer harm, illegal content, data protection, anti-competitive practices, algorithmic systems and more,” he said. she declared.
“As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is not accountable to anyone,” she said. Haugen previously worked at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp.
Haugen will also compare Facebook to Big Tobacco and the drug companies that make opioids.
“When we realized that the tobacco companies were hiding the harm they were causing, the government took action,” she said. “When we realized that cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today the government is taking action against companies that have hidden evidence on opioids. I implore you to do the same here. “
Tuesday’s hearing, and another last week in which senators questioned Facebook security chief Antigone Davis, were called after the Wall Street Journal reported a leak of internal research who seemed to identify the negative effects of Instagram on the mental health of children and adolescents.
“The recent revelations about Facebook’s effects on children’s mental health and its plan to target a younger audience are indeed disturbing,” Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Said at the start of the hearing Tuesday. .
Facebook said the Wall Street Journal misinterpreted the results, according to to a blog post published 12 days after the post was published.
Ahead of last week’s hearing, Facebook said it would be halting development of a children’s version of Instagram following growing criticism from child safety groups and lawmakers.
Haugen also alluded to actions taken by the platform around January 6, the day of the riot at the United States Capitol.
“Facebook focused on a false choice. They said safeguards had been put in place [ahead of the 2020 election] in question the freedom of expression. But the choices that were happening on the platform were about how responsive and jerk the platform was. How viral the platform was, ”Huagen said.
She added that Facebook changed the default security settings in the run-up to the election “because they knew they were dangerous and then reverted them to their original defaults. They had to break the glass. January 6th and turn them back on and I think that’s deeply problematic. “