The data scientist from Iowa is said to appear before the Online Safety Bill committee on the 25th of October to discuss Facebook‘s protection of, or lack thereof, its users, particularly its effect on children.
AccusationsHaugen’s main concern is the effect of Facebook’s practices on the mental wellbeing of its users, saying that Facebook as a company, and its sister, Instagram, foster an addictive environment that promotes body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
She has detailed Facebook‘s constant refusal to make changes for the safety of users within the platform, mainly covering hate speech, violence, conspiracies, and mental health, due to the fact that it may damage profits.
She said in a lengthy interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes: “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. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
She also laid out the process behind her claim that Facebook “weakens democracy”, saying that Facebook stokes division in society with its users.
She cited the Myanmar genocide in 2018, in which Facebook was a key player. A human rights report commissioned by Facebook themselves said that misinformation spread through the country, leading to the Burmese military launching the genocide of more than 24,000 Rohingya people.
Haugen went on to point out that misinformation will stoke anger, which will, in turn, entice users to stay on the site.
“Facebook has realised 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,” she said.
Haugen is working towards the regulation of Facebook and is joined by more and more politicians since her initial interview on 60 Minutes with CBS.
She has since gone on to release documents to the Wall Street Journal, speak in front of the US Congress, and is now appearing in front of the UK Parliament in a bid to bring the app’s controversial practice into the light.
ReactionFor their part, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have dismissed the claims by Haugen, saying in a statement that they disagreed with many of the issues raised, saying that Haugen “mischaracterised” the documents and that they deemed them misleading, but that “it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet.”
Their argument was that it “didn’t make sense” for hate speech to run rife on the site since advertisers do not wish to appear on controversial material.