The social media giant Facebook is known for many controversies especially how it’s handling its user’s privacy and data with many calling users of the website “products” that are being marketed to advertisers.
Behind many of Facebook’s bombshell leaks lies many whistleblowers and one of them is Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old product manager on the civic integrity team at the social media giant. She was recently interviewed by CBS on Sunday where she made it known that Facebook continued to prioritized “growth over safety”.
However, Facebook countries the leaks stating that the information in it was misleading but Haugen had a different opinion about the company where she had worked before.
During the Sunday interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Haugen stated that she left the company earlier in the year after she became exasperated with the company.
However, she did copy a series of internal memos and documents before leaving the company. The copies were then shared with the Wall Street Journal which has been releasing the material in batches over the last couple of weeks – also referred to as the “Facebook Files”
In the documents, it was revealed that the company afforded special treatments on celebrities, high profile users, and even politicians over common users.
The leaks also revealed that the company applies different moderation policies on different groups of people.
Another batch of the leaked documents showed the company was facing a complex legal battle from a group of its own shareholders
The allegations brought against Facebook include the payment of US$5 billion to the US Federal Trade Commission or FTC to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal which the shareholders’ group felt was too much since it was designed to protect the company CEO Mark Zuckerberg from personal liability.
But it’s allegations about Instagram that have been particularly worrying to US politicians.
The company itself reportedly conducted internal research on Instagram where it found that its sister social medial platform has a continuous mental health effect on teenagers even though it didn’t share its findings when they suggested that the platform was a “toxic” place for younger people.
In the slides which were reported by the Wall Street Journal, about 32% of teenage girls surveyed said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel even worse.
Haugen also testified before a US Senate subcommittee on Tuesday in a hearing which was titled “Protecting Kids Online” which was centered on the company’s research into Instagram’s effect on the mental health of young users.
However, an executive representing the US-based social media company testified before the US senate that the leaks had failed to highlight the positive impact the platform had on teens as well.
However, Haugen wasn’t feeling the claims made by her former employer.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” she said.
“Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
Facebook on the other hand had strongly denied those claims stating that it had spent a significant sum of money on safety.
“To say we turn a blind eye to feedback ignores these investments, including the 40,000 people working on safety and security at Facebook and our investment of $13 billion (£9.6 billion) since 2016,” said Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s director of policy communications.
Haugen also talked about the deadly Capitol Hill riots in January – claiming that Facebook helped fuel the violence. She also claimed that the company only turned on the safety systems temporarily to reduce misinformation during the US election.
“As soon as the election was over they turned them back off, or they changed the settings to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety, and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy.”
However, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg has refuted the claims on a CNN appearance stating that claims that Facebook was responsible for the January riots were ludicrous.
“I think it gives people false comfort to assume that there must be a technological, or technical, explanation for the issues of political polarisation in the United States,” he said.