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Facebook whistleblower says company knew its algorithms promoted harmful content

This weekend a Facebook whistleblower has come forward to discuss the practices of the company, highlighting concerning issues as to how the platform handles misinformation, promotes harmful content and skirts the rules for its executives.

The whistleblower has revealed herself as Franes Haugen, who joined the company in 2019 to work on issues involving democracy and misinformation at Facebook.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Haugen explains that the company has chosen to prioritise the bottom line over the safety of its users, which contradicts much of the rhetoric that Facebook has been making of late.

“I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than what I had seen before. Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” she noted in the 60 Minutes interview.

This matches much of the information on Instagram and the role it can play in terms of a negative body image for women, which only came to light following a leaked report.

In the lead up to the interview, Haugen had brought tens of thousands of internal documents to Whistleblower Aid, requesting legal protection and assistance in releasing the information she had gathered.

On top of this, she filed a whistleblower complaint with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), citing the fact that the company’s internal practices wilfully contradicted its public statements.

“Facebook has publicized its work to combat misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and insurrection,” Haugen wrote in a cover letter regarding the matter.

“In reality, Facebook knew its algorithms and platforms promoted this type of harmful content, and it failed to deploy internally recommended or lasting countermeasures,” she added.

While we appreciate and commend Huagen coming forward on this matter, it remains to be seen now that she has revealed so much about Facebook.

It looks like the company is remaining resolute and looks open to discussions.

“The segment also disregards the significant investments we make to keep people safe on our platform… to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” a company spokesperson told Engadget in a statement.

“The company also pushed back against any claims it was misleading the public or regulators. “We stand by our public statements and are ready to answer any questions regulators may have about our work,” it adds.

If those Q&A sessions are anything like those between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Congress, little to nothing will result from them.

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