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Facebook 'operating in the shadows', knows how to make its platforms safer, but won't do it: Ex-employee and whistleblower

Washington, October 6

US lawmakers pounded Fb on Tuesday, accusing CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for greater earnings whereas being cavalier about person security, they usually demanded regulators examine whistleblower accusations that the social media firm harms kids’s psychological well being and stokes divisions.

Zuckerberg, hours later in a public Fb put up, defended the corporate, saying the accusations had been at odds with Fb’s objectives.

“The argument that we intentionally push content material that makes folks offended for revenue is deeply illogical,” he wrote. “We generate income from adverts, and advertisers constantly inform us they do not need their adverts subsequent to dangerous or offended content material. And I do not know any tech firm that units out to construct merchandise that make folks offended or depressed.”

Throughout a Senate Commerce subcommittee listening to, whistleblower Frances Haugen known as for transparency about how Fb entices customers to maintain scrolling, creating ample alternative for advertisers to succeed in them.

“So long as Fb is working within the shadows, hiding its analysis from public scrutiny, it’s unaccountable,” mentioned Haugen, a former product supervisor on Fb’s civic misinformation group. She left the almost $1 trillion firm with tens of 1000’s of confidential paperwork.

“The corporate’s management is aware of easy methods to make Fb and Instagram safer, however gained’t make the mandatory modifications as a result of they’ve put their astronomical earnings earlier than folks.

Congressional motion is required,” Haugen mentioned.

In an period when bipartisanship is uncommon in Washington, lawmakers from each events excoriated the corporate, illustrating the rising anger in Congress with Fb, which additionally owns Instagram and WhatsApp.

Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican, mentioned he was involved how Fb and subsidiaries like Instagram affected the psychological well being of kids. “We’ll look again 20 years from now and all of us are going to be like, ‘What the hell had been we considering?'”

Haugen revealed she was the one that supplied paperwork utilized in a Wall Road Journal investigation and a Senate listening to on Instagram’s hurt to teenage women. She in contrast the social media companies to addictive substances like tobacco and opioids.

Panel chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, mentioned Fb knew that its merchandise had been addictive. “Tech now faces that massive tobacco jaw-dropping second of fact,” he mentioned.

He known as for Zuckerberg to testify earlier than the committee, and for the Securities and Trade Fee and Federal Commerce Fee to research Fb.

“Our kids are those who’re victims. Teenagers immediately trying within the mirror really feel doubt and insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg must be taking a look at himself within the mirror,” Blumenthal mentioned.

Blumenthal mentioned after the listening to that he would wish to ask Zuckerberg why he rejected suggestions to make merchandise safer for customers.

Zuckerberg, in his put up, mentioned Fb wouldn’t cease researching its societal affect. However he wrote that Congress wanted to replace guidelines to clarify the authorized age for teenagers to make use of web companies, easy methods to confirm their ages and the place to “steadiness teenagers’ privateness whereas giving dad and mom visibility into their exercise.”

Shares up

Fb’s shares rose 2% on Tuesday to shut at $332.96, roughly 13% under the document closing excessive on September 7.

Coming a day after Fb suffered an hours-long outage, Haugen pointed to the outage in her testimony: “For greater than 5 hours Fb wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make younger women and girls really feel unhealthy about their our bodies.”

As lawmakers criticized Fb, the corporate’s spokespeople fired again on Twitter and in statements, arguing that Haugen didn’t work instantly on among the subjects being raised.

“We do not agree together with her characterization of the various points she testified about,” Fb spokeswoman Lena Pietsch mentioned.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, accused Fb of turning a blind eye to kids under age 13 on its companies.

“It’s clear that Fb prioritizes revenue over the well-being of kids and all customers,” she mentioned.

Final week, Antigone Davis, Fb’s world head of security, defended the corporate in entrance of Congress and mentioned that it was in search of to launch further inside research in an effort to be extra clear about its findings.

Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, mentioned she would write Fb to insist that it not delete paperwork associated to Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority Rohingya. An aide mentioned she would ask for broader retention of paperwork.

A U.S. federal decide final month had ordered Fb to launch data of accounts linked to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media firm had shut down.

Haugen mentioned she would encourage “oversight and public scrutiny” into Fb’s content material advice algorithms and their penalties. She urged making a devoted physique throughout the federal authorities to supervise social media corporations.

Blumenthal mentioned he may wish to maintain a further listening to to debate nationwide safety points associated to Fb.

Haugen mentioned Fb had additionally completed too little to stop violence.

Fb was utilized by folks planning mass killings in Myanmar and the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who had been decided to toss out the 2020 election outcomes.

Senator Edward Markey, chatting with the absent Zuckerberg, mentioned in the course of the listening to: “Your time of invading our privateness and preying on kids is over. Congress will likely be taking motion.” All through the listening to lawmakers referred to Zuckerberg as going crusing as a substitute of going through his duties. The CEO this weekend posted a video taken with the corporate’s new good glasses of his spouse in a ship. Reuters

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