Whistleblower accuses Facebook of misleading public and investors

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A whistleblower accused Fb on Sunday of putting “revenue over security”, because it emerged that she had complained to US securities regulators that the social media firm was deceptive buyers.

Talking on information programme 60 Minutes, Frances Haugen, a former Fb product supervisor, unmasked herself because the whistleblower who leaked a trove of inside firm paperwork to the Wall Road Journal. Her revelations have plunged the social media firm into its deepest disaster for the reason that Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Haugen urged that Fb had lied to the general public, exaggerating the progress it had made tackling hate, violence, and misinformation on its platform, presenting “tens of hundreds” of pages of paperwork as proof.

“There have been conflicts of curiosity between what was good for the general public and what was good for Fb,” Haugen stated within the interview. “And Fb, time and again, selected to optimise for its personal pursuits, like making more cash.”

Amongst her claims, she stated Fb had prematurely disbanded its civic integrity crew — answerable for defending the democratic course of and tackling misinformation — after the 2020 US election, which contributed to the January 6 storming of Capitol Hill.

“It was the second the place I used to be like, I don’t belief that they’re prepared to truly make investments what must be invested to maintain Fb from being harmful,” she stated.

The platform got here underneath fireplace this 12 months for its perceived position in permitting the perpetrators of the revolt on the Capitol to stoke unrest, unfold conspiratorial content material and organise the storming of the federal government constructing.

In keeping with 60 Minutes, Haugen’s legal professionals final month filed “no less than eight complaints” with the Securities and Alternate Fee. These contrasted the corporate’s inside analysis with its public claims — together with, for instance, the assertion by chief government Mark Zuckerberg that Fb removes content material that results in real-world hurt.

Haugen’s legal professionals indicated that that they had accused the corporate of constructing misstatements that affected buyers.

“We stand by our public statements and are able to reply any questions regulators could have about our work,” Lena Pietsch, Fb’s director of coverage communications, stated in an announcement on Sunday following the 60 Minutes broadcast.

“Defending our group is extra vital than maximizing our income,” she added. “To say we flip a blind eye to suggestions ignores these investments, together with the 40,000 individuals engaged on security and safety at Fb and our funding of $13bn since 2016.”

Fb had already been on the offensive forward of the programme’s airing. Nick Clegg, Fb’s head of world affairs, despatched a memo to workers on Friday wherein he known as the accusations “deceptive”. He additionally appeared on CNN on Sunday to dismiss the claims as “ludicrous”. 

Duty for the Capitol riots “rests squarely with the perpetrators of the violence, and people in politics and elsewhere who actively inspired them”, Clegg stated within the memo, obtained by the Monetary Occasions and first reported by the New York Occasions. “The concept that Fb is the chief reason for polarisation isn’t supported by the information.” 

In keeping with her LinkedIn profile, Haugen, 37, labored as a product supervisor at Fb based mostly in Menlo Park since 2019 on the civic integrity crew. She left the corporate in Might. Her profession has additionally included stints as a product supervisor for Pinterest, Yelp and Google, and she or he was a part of the founding crew of the primary iteration of relationship app Hinge, then known as Secret Agent Cupid.

In a profile revealed alongside the 60 Minutes report, the Journal defined how Haugen used Fb’s inside programs to sift by way of analysis experiences throughout her closing weeks on the firm, having resigned in April. In that point, she reviewed “hundreds” of paperwork concerning the community’s interior workings.

Final month, the Wall Road Journal started publishing a sequence of articles based mostly on these paperwork, which included allegations of a system that allowed celebrities, politicians and different elite customers to interrupt Fb’s guidelines with impunity.

Different articles highlighted the corporate’s efforts to lure younger customers to the platform amid competitors from Snapchat and TikTok, and urged that Fb had buried analysis that discovered its companies might be detrimental to the psychological well being of stripling customers, notably women.

Final month, Haugen met and shared paperwork with a number of members of Congress, together with Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn. She is because of testify at a Senate listening to on Tuesday.

Haugen’s revelations have sparked a firestorm of criticism of Fb from regulators and lawmakers throughout the political spectrum, who’ve demanded extra transparency from its executives and details about the way it plans to deal with its myriad challenges.

Final week, Fb suspended its plans to develop Instagram Children, a model of the picture app for under-13s.

Through the 60 Minutes interview, Haugen additionally took purpose at Fb’s worldwide presence, saying misinformation, notably in international locations that beforehand had minimal web entry, was “instantly resulting in individuals dying”.

“It’s a drive that I fear will destabilise societies,” she stated.

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