Whistleblower to Face Select Committee Seeking 'Internal Info' on Facebook's 'Role' in Capitol Riot
Ex-Facebook product manager and whistleblower Frances Haugen told a congressional testimony on Tuesday that Facebook ignores mental health research in favour of profit and makes no effort to stop harmful content. She also said that the platform’s current version is “tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world."
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower
, is to meet with the House Select Committee investigating the 6 January riot
at the US Capitol as early as Thursday, according to sources cited by CNN.
It's believed that Haugen will hand over information detailing how Facebook was used to facilitate the deadly riot that occurred as lawmakers were certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, serving on the select panel, tweeted on Monday that the Select Committee was hoping to get “internal info from Facebook to flesh out their role." The California Democrat added that according to the whistleblower, “shutting down the civic integrity team and turning off election misinformation tools contributed to the 6 January insurrection."
In August, the Select Committee sent letters to 15 social media companies, including Facebook, seeking information on how “domestic violent extremists affiliated with efforts to overturn the 2020 election, specifically, the Capitol riot of 6 January, used their platforms.
'Prioritising Growth Over Safety'
The identity of Haugen – who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents that she says prove the company is aware its platforms are used to spread hate, violence, and misinformation – was revealed on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimise for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen, 37, told "60 Minutes."
Haugen, who joined Facebook in 2019 as product manager on its Civic Integrity team – tasked with fighting misinformation during and after the 2020 presidential election – said that after the election had been declared in November last year, Facebook’s decision to shut down the Civic Integrity team was a major turning point ahead of 6 January.
"They basically said, 'Oh, good, we made it through the election, there weren't riots, we can get rid of civic integrity'… Now, fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection. When they got rid of Civic Integrity, it was the moment where I thought 'I don't trust that they're willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous,' she said.
According to Haugen, the root of the current problems can be traced back to 2018, after Facebook changed their algorithm to determine what pops up on users' feeds.
“Facebook has realised that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site. They'll click on less ads, they'll make less money," she stated.
Haugen slammed Facebook for "prioritising growth over safety." The whistleblower also testified before a US Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, urging the creation of a new regulatory framework demanding increased transparency.
About a month ago, Haugen filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that Facebook was concealing research
about its shortcomings from investors and the public. She also shared information with The Wall Street Journal, which subsequently published an investigation to assert that Facebook was aware of problems with its apps, including the harm misinformation posted on Instagram caused, especially to young girls.
Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg went on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” broadcast to push back against the damning accusations saying:
"If the assertion is that 6 January can be explained because of social media, I just think that's ludicrous… The responsibility of the violence on 6 January and the insurrection on that day lies squarely with the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including then-President Trump and, candidly, many other people elsewhere in the media who were encouraging the assertion that the election was stolen."
On 6 January protesters breached the US Capitol building
and disrupted a joint session of Congress that was counting electoral votes to formalise Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died as a result. Donald Trump, who had repeatedly claimed the 2020 presidential election had been “stolen” from him and was “rigged,” was accused of “inciting an insurrection."
The ex-POTUS vehemently rejected the accusations, spearheaded by the Democrats, that he had "instigated" the riots. Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives but was subsequently acquitted by the US Senate.