Facebook whistleblower takes Zuckerberg to task

Justin Belmonte

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On October eight, 2021, a former Facebook employer named Frances Haugen leaked information to the public about the social media platform. Haugen was a data scientist and product manager of Facebook’s civic integrity team and went to the public about the faulty way that Facebook’s algorithm operates. 

Haugen revealed, through tens of thousands of documents that she copied, evidence that Facebook’s algorithm amplifies misinformation, problematic content, hate and political unrest for profit such as abetting in human trafficking. Instagram, another social media platform owned by Facebook, harms teenage girls about body image, with a study by Facebook showing that 13.5% of UK teen girls reported suicidal thoughts becoming more frequent on the social media platform. Other ways the algorithm operated were spreading misinformation during the 2020 election, and encouraging the U.S. Capital riots by hiding information from the government and public included dangerous online talk that led to actual violence.

“The company intentionally hides vital information from the public,” Haugen said. “the U.S. government, and other governments around the world,” 

Now with the multiple documents for proof, Haugen shared them with the Wall Street Journal, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Congress. The documents showed how the company has repeatedly made decisions to incentivize profits and growth over its users’ well-being, including young users on Instagram.

Haugen told Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission about all the harms of Facebook. Haugen revealed how the social media platform consistently chose to maximize its growth rather than implement safeguards on its platforms, just as it hid from the public and government officials internal research that revealed the harms from all of Facebook products.   

“The result has been more division, harm, lies, threats, and combat,” Haugen said. “In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”

What will the clever founder of the social media platform, Mark Zuckerberg, do to save its reputation?”

Haugen has said Facebook is choosing profit over safety, so how is this going to affect the social media giant? What will the clever founder of the social media platform, Mark Zuckerberg, do to save its reputation? Well, the first action taken appeared to be a widespread outage. 

 On Monday, October 4, 2021, after 60 Minutes aired the whistleblower’s interview, Facebook’s main app experienced an outage, as well as the company’s other social media platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp. This bug has affected approximately 80 million users. Zuckerberg has defended Facebook during his regular in-house meeting with his employees and said that the press is misrepresenting their work. Zuckerberg says that Facebook spends more on research and safety than its competitors. 

Facebook executives have publicly questioned Ms. Haugen’s credibility and called her accusations untrue. Employees of Facebook have become divided on Haugen’s actions with half of them calling her actions justified and heroic. However, the other half have called for her to be served with a cease-and-desist order or be sued for breaking her nondisclosure agreement with the company.

It is no surprise that Facebook believes Haugen broke the law by coming forward with all this. However, there are legal remedies for employees who come forward to raise awareness for danger or public safety from the company they work for under the Federal whistleblower protection laws.