5 of the scariest takeaways from the Facebook whistleblower interview with 60 Minutes
It really is worse than it looked.
Over the last few weeks, several reports have come from The Wall Street Journal with damning evidence from Facebook’s own internal reports that show just how bad the platform is for society. The documents include all kinds of revelations, from evidence showing how Instagram is bad for teenagers’ mental health to reports that show the platform does little to combat major criminal activity that runs rampant on the site.
It has now been revealed that the main whistleblower connected to all of these internal leaks is former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. Haugen has “tens of thousands” of pages of internal Facebook documents and plans to testify in Congress regarding the leaks later this week.
Haugen recently did an interview on 60 Minutes where she provided an even closer look at some of the things going on at Facebook, and her revelations are pretty scary. What Haugen essentially says in her interview is that things that are good for Facebook as a company tend to be bad for society as a whole.
If The Wall Street Journal’s revelations over the last month haven’t been damning enough, the revelations from Haugen’s 15-minute interview make the company look even worse. Here are some of the revelations that Haugen brought to our attention:
Facebook dissolved its Civic Integrity team before the January 6 attack on the Capitol
When Haugen was initially hired at Facebook, she only wanted to fight against misinformation on the platform. As such, she was appointed to the Civic Integrity team, which was tasked with fighting against mostly political misinformation.
However, Facebook’s leadership felt the team’s job was done after the 2020 election. The Civic Integrity team was subsequently dissolved, just a couple of months before the January 6 attack on the US Capitol building. The platform was a key tool used by the attackers to help organize the insurrection.
European political parties are forced to change their strategies to win on Facebook
Part of the outcome of Facebook promoting more negative and divisive content is actually changing the landscape of politics in some European companies. Part of Haugen’s leaked documents shows a complaint from some European political parties regarding the platform’s algorithm.
The parties say that, because of the content that Facebook promotes, they have to change their strategies in order to reach an audience on the platform. This causes some parties to take stances that they normally wouldn’t take just to get their word out, essentially changing the political landscape in some countries.
The platform intentionally shows us content that makes us angry
Haugen also revealed a lot about the algorithm that the company uses to deliver content. Facebook’s main goal is to keep users interacting on the platform, so the content it delivers us is very important. Haugen says that the platform prioritizes certain content that is known for having outstanding interaction.
What does that content consist of? Generally, anything that inspires hate. Haugen says that the company has found that hateful, divisive content tends to make people interact more. As always, Facebook chooses the more profitable option, and that means promoting more hateful and divisive content.
Facebook could be charged by the SEC for lying to investors
Haugen and her lawyer John Tye are taking their findings to the SEC. Tye is a lawyer with Whistleblower Aid, a law group in Washington, D.C. that specifically works to help protect whistleblowers. Tye alleges that Facebook has potentially lied or withheld some of this revealed information, which is illegal to do as a publically traded company.
“The SEC regularly brings enforcement actions alleging that companies, like Facebook and others, are making material misstatements and omissions that affect investors adversely,” says Tye. He also says that Haugen is protected by the Dodd-Frank Act, which protects whistleblowers who reveal information about a publicly traded company that they worked for.
Despite all this, Haugen empathizes with Zuckerberg
Even after all of these revelations, Haugen says she still has empathy for Mark Zuckerberg. “Mark has never set out to make a hateful platform. But he has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful, polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach,” she told 60 Minutes.
Whatever Mark Zuckerberg set out to do, Facebook is what was created. These revelations over the last few weeks should really help shed some light on what the social platform has done, and is still doing, to society. Hopefully, this is the turning pointed society needed to help change the way social media affects our lives.
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