A Facebook whistleblower has said that the social media giant is putting money ahead of the people’s wellbeing such as allowing hateful and false information to spread.
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, has told CBS show 60 minutes that it was “tearing our societies apart”.
She also said that Instagram, owned by Facebook, was damaging the mental health of some teenagers, according to the company’s own research.
Ms Haugen said: “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.”
She alleged that Facebook was once again allowing misinformation to spread on Facebook after reversing back a change to its algorithm after the 2020 US presidential election where Joe Biden was elected.
Ms Haugen, who had joined Facebook to help it tackle misinformation said: “And as soon as the election was over, they turned them (the safety systems) back off or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritise growth over safety. And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.”
The 37-year-old claimed that having also worked for Google and Pinterest, she found that Facebook was the worst for stopping content that could be harmful.
She stated: “I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than anything I’d seen before.”
But she also felt that Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg did not seek to have harmful content but had allowed decisions to be made where the side effects have been that “hateful, polarising content gets more distribution and more reach.”
On Instagram’s negative impact for the mental health of some youngsters, Ms Haugen claimed that an estimated 32% of teenage girls felt that it made them feel more dissatisfied with their bodies.
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Most worryingly, she claimed, was that Facebook’s own research has shown that the teenagers who start taking in content on eating disorders, use the app more and more, and they become further depressed.
Ms Haugen claimed Instagram was dangerous for teenagers according to Facebook research and worse than other forms of social media.
She claimed she needed to speak out about Facebook this year as she believes that the company is not combating online hate and misinformation as is being claimed.
Facebook told MirrorOnline that it has to balance the rights of people to express their opinions with making it a “safe” place.
It said: “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place.
“We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
Facebook said they make eradicating harmful content a priority.
“We’ve invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe, and have made fighting misinformation and providing authoritative information a priority,” the statement said.
“If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments, and society would have solved them a long time ago. We have a strong track record of using our research — as well as external research and close collaboration with experts and organizations — to inform changes to our apps.”