A Facebook Whistleblower Says the Company ‘Chooses Profit Over Safety’

Frances Haugen has identified herself as the former Facebook employee who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal documents that have once again put the company on the hotseat. On a lengthy interview with 60 Minutes, the former product manager laid out her case that the company knew its platform spread misinformation, hate and violence, but buried the evidence in order to keep those clicks coming in.

“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,” she said. “And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”

“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” she continued.

Haugen’s leaked documents have led to a number of disastrous headlines for Facebook, proving the company deliberately looked the other way when faced with proof that its algorithm rewarded divisive content and misinformation.

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Last week, we wrote about a 2020 report that found 19 of Facebook’s top 20 Christian pages were being run by foreign troll farms that deliberately posted provocative content. It’s not exactly clear how many of those pages remain in operation today, but the report found that Facebook did little to respond to internal concerns that its algorithm was being used to sow chaos.

Haugen says that Facebook’s decision to look the other way contributed to the chain of events that led to the attempted insurrection in Washington D.C. on January 6.

“One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is that it is optimizing for content that gets engagement, a reaction, but its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions,” she said. “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.”
Facebook disputed many of Haugen’s claims. Spokesperson Lena Pietsch told CNN that “protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
Haugen said that “no one at Facebook is malevolent,” arguing that the company is less deliberately evil than inadvertently harmful to a healthy community. “The incentives are misaligned,” she said.

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