Facebook whistleblower reveals identity, says firm chooses ‘profit over safety’

Taliban criticizes Facebook for curbing freedom of speech in Afghanistan

The whistleblower who shared a trove of Facebook documents alleging the social media giant knew its products were fueling hate and harming children’s mental health revealed her identity Sunday in a televised interview, and accused the company of choosing “profit over safety.”

Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest — but said in an interview with CBS news show “60 Minutes” that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

She called for the company to be regulated. “Facebook over and over again has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety,” Haugen said.
“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she said.

The world’s largest social me-dia platform has been embroiled in a fire-storm brought about by Haugen, who as an unnamed whistleblower shared the documents with US lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal that detail how Face-book knew its products, including Insta-gram, were harming young girls.

In the 60 Minutes interview she explained how the algorithm, which picks what to show in a user’s News Feed, is optimized for content that gets a reaction.

The company’s own research shows that it is “easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” Haugen said.

“Facebook has realized 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.” During the 2020 US presiden-tial election, she said, the company real-ized the danger that such content pre-sented and turned on safety systems to reduce it.

But “as soon as the election was over they turn them back off, or they change the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety, and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me,” she said.

“No one at Facebook is ma-levolent,” she said, adding that the incen-tives are “misaligned.”“Facebook makes more money when you consume more content … And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact, the more they con-sume.”—AFP

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