Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower, told legislators in the United Kingdom working on legislation to rein in social media corporations on Monday that the business is exacerbating online hatred and extremism and suggested ways to enhance online safety.
Haugen spoke before a parliamentary committee looking at the British government’s draft legislation to combat dangerous internet content, and her testimony might help lawmakers strengthen the restrictions. She’ll be testifying on the same day that Facebook will announce its latest earnings report, and The Associated Press and other news outlets will begin publishing articles based on hundreds of pages of internal business records she got.
Haugen explained to MPs in the United Kingdom how Facebook Groups amplify online hatred, claiming that algorithms that encourage participation push individuals with mainstream interests to the extremes. She suggested that the corporation hire moderators to ensure that groups aren’t used to disseminate extreme viewpoints.
“Unquestionably, it is exacerbating hatred,” she stated.
“I was astonished to hear lately that Facebook wants to double down on the metaverse and that they’re going to employ 10,000 engineers in Europe to work on the metaverse,” Haugen said, alluding to the company’s aspirations for an immersive online environment that it hopes will be the next major internet fad.
“I was like, ‘Wow, do you know what we could have done with safety if we had 10,000 more engineers?” “It would be fantastic,” she stated.
It’s her second appearance in front of legislators, following her testimony in the United States Senate earlier this month on the dangers she claims the firm presents, ranging from child abuse to instigating political violence and spreading misinformation. Internal research materials that Haugen covertly copied before quitting her work in Facebook’s civic integrity section were highlighted by Haugen.
According to the records, Facebook put profits ahead of safety and withheld its own research from investors and the public. Some pieces based on the files have already been published, revealing internal anguish after Facebook was caught off guard by the U.S. Capitol brawl on Jan. 6, as well as how it dithers over policing contentious content in India, with more to come.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has challenged Haugen’s description of the firm as one that prioritizes profit over user well-being or promotes contentious material, claiming that a misleading picture is being portrayed. However, he agrees that revised internet restrictions are needed, claiming that politicians are the best people to examine the tradeoffs.
Haugen has told legislators in the United States that she believes a federal regulator is required to monitor digital behemoths like Facebook, something that authorities in the United Kingdom and the European Union are already working on.
The internet safety law proposed by the UK government asks for the establishment of a regulator to keep firms accountable when it comes to deleting dangerous or illegal information from their platforms, such as terrorist propaganda or photographs of child sex abuse.
“This is a significant occasion,” Damian Collins, the committee’s chairman, said ahead of the hearing. “This is a moment similar to Cambridge Analytica, but arguably greater in that I believe it gives a true window into the spirit of these businesses,” says the author.
Collins was alluding to the 2018 scandal involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which improperly obtained information on up to 87 million Facebook users.
On Thursday, representatives from Facebook and other social media corporations will testify before the committee.
Haugen met the father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who committed herself in 2017 after reading troubling information on Facebook’s Instagram. Ian Russell informed Haugen in a BBC interview that following Molly’s death, her family discovered notes she wrote about being hooked to Instagram.
Haugen will also meet with European Union officials in Brussels next month, where the bloc’s executive body is revamping its digital code in order to better safeguard internet users by holding online corporations more accountable for unlawful or hazardous material.
Silicon Valley behemoths may face a fine of up to 10% of their worldwide income if they violate the UK guidelines, which are set to take effect next year. A similar punishment is being proposed by the EU.
The UK committee will be eager to hear more from Haugen regarding the information obtained by IT companies. The internal papers that Haugen has given over to US authorities are significant, according to Collins, since they illustrate the type of information that Facebook possesses — and what questions regulators should be asking when looking into these firms.
Sophie Zhang, a Facebook whistleblower who raised the alarm after discovering evidence of online political influence in nations like Honduras and Azerbaijan before being dismissed, has previously testified before the committee.