Facebook Whistleblower Says Website Fuelled The Capitol Riots And Chose Money Over Safety

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed her identity in a tell-all interview with US '60 Minutes'.

Facebook Whistleblower

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Amid the chaos of the worldwide Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp outage on Tuesday, a whistleblower revealed her identity after calling out some allegedly shady business happening in Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild company.

Frances Haugen, the whistleblower, has landed Facebook in its worst scandal since Cambridge Analytica, as she claims the company is choosing profits over user safety.

Who Is The Whistleblower?

Frances Haugen is a former Facebook employee who anonymously leaked internal documents, and filed complaints with US law enforcement last month against the platform. On Monday Australian time, Haugen chose to reveal her identity on CBS News program, 60 Minutes.  The 37-year-old was concerned that Facebook it was being used to spread hate and harm, but prioritised money instead of fixing the problem.

“Facebook’s mission is to connect people all around the world,” she said in her interview. “When you have a system that you know can be hacked with anger, it’s easier to provoke people into anger. And publishers are saying, ‘Oh, if I do more angry, polarising, divisive content, I get more money’. Facebook has set up a system of incentives that is pulling people apart.”

Haugen had worked as a product manager in Facebook’s civil integrity team since 2019, dealing with and trying to prevent international election interference. She felt the Capitol riot earlier this year was fuelled by misinformation shared on the site and that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to prevent radicalisation during and after the US election.

She quit Facebook back in May, taking research and evidence away with her, before sharing them with the Wall Street Journal in a series called the ‘Facebook Files’ — at that point, she was still an anonymous whistleblower.

What Are Some Of Her Revelations?

Haugen claimed Facebook turned off anti-misinformation safeguards too early after Joe Biden won the presidency last November, therefore playing a role in the storming of the Capitol building two months later. She also said that an algorithm change in 2018 had led to hateful content being prioritised in user feeds, because it was keeping people locked on Facebook, and letting them sell more digital ads for profit.

In what won’t come as a surprise, but has never been fully proven, Haugen’s documents also showed that Instagram worsened body issues for one in three teenage girls. Despite personally leaving the company, she maintains that axing Facebook isn’t the solution, and that more transparency is needed instead.

How Has Facebook Responded?

Facebook executive Nick Clegg said the claims about the January 6 riots were “ludicrous”, and responsibility instead lies “squarely with the people who inflicted the violence, and those who encouraged them, including [former] President Trump,” he told CNN.

In a memo to employees, Clegg also hinted that Facebook is a place for debate and discussion: “Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” said Clegg. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the cause of polarisation.”

Haugen will testify before US congress on Wednesday Australian time, and hopes her efforts will lead to Facebook being more regulated.