Facebook Is 'making hate worse'

A whistleblower has warned that Facebook is stoking extremism and hatred. Data scientist and ex-Facebook employee Frances Haugen has told UK MPs Facebook is "unquestionably making hate worse", as the British government considers what new rules to impose on big social networks.

Facebook groups can be "dangerous" because they use algorithms that "take people who have mainstream interests and push them to extreme interests", Haugen told a joint committee of MPs and Lords in London who considering the proposed Online Safety Bill.

The committee is fine-tuning a draft law that will place new duties on large social networks and subject them to checks by the British media regulator Ofcom.

Haugen made the claims during a long appearance before the committee and although much of what she said echoed what had already been leaked to the US media, or revealed in her recent testimony to Congress, her damning indictment of the company seemed to make a powerful impact on the British parliamentarians.She said Facebook safety teams were under-resourced, and "Facebook has been unwilling to accept even little slivers of profit being sacrificed for safety". She also warned that Instagram was "more dangerous than other forms of social media".

While other social networks were about performance, play, or an exchange of ideas, "Instagram is about social comparison and about bodies... about people's lifestyles, and that's what ends up being worse for kids", she said.

She also aid Facebook's own research described one problem as "an addict's narrative", where children are unhappy, can't control their use of the app, but feel like they cannot stop using it.

 "I am deeply worried that it may not be possible to make Instagram safe for a 14-year-old, and I sincerely doubt that it is possible to make it safe for a 10-year-old," she said.

Asked if the law was "keeping Mark Zuckerberg awake at night", Ms Haugen said she was "incredibly proud of the UK for taking such a world-leading stance... The UK has a tradition of leading policy in ways that are followed around the world... I can't imagine Mark isn't paying attention to what you're doing." 

Ms Haugen also warned that Facebook was unable to police content in multiple languages around the world, something which should worry UK officials. "UK English is sufficiently different that I would be unsurprised if the safety systems that they developed primarily for American English were actually under-enforcing in the UK," she said. Furthermore , she said that dangerous misinformation in other languages affects people in Britain.
"Those people are also living in the UK, and being fed misinformation that is dangerous, that radicalises people," she warned.

Haugen also urged the committee to include paid-for advertising in its new rules, saying the current system was "literally subsidising hate on these platforms" because of their algorithmic ranking. "It is substantially cheaper to run an angry hateful divisive ad than it is to run a compassionate, empathetic ad," she said. She also urged MPs to require a breakdown of who is harmed by content, rather than an average figure, suggesting Facebook is "very good at dancing with data", but pushes people towards "extreme content".

"The median experience on Facebook is a pretty good experience.. The real danger is that 20% of the population has a horrible experience or an experience that is dangerous," she said.

She warned that employees were unable to report internal concerns at Facebook - something she called a "huge weak spot". "When I worked on counter-espionage, I saw things where I was concerned about national security, and I had no idea how to escalate those because I didn't have faith in my chain of command at that point," she told the committee.

While her testimony echoed much of what she told the US Senate earlier this month, her appearance drew intense interest from a British parliamentary committee that is much further along in drawing up legislation to crack down on social platforms.

BBC:       Guardian:     Mirror:      LA Times:       Yahoo:     NowThisIsNews:   Sky:     Standard

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