Facebook Weakens Democracy & Harms Children

A former Facebook employee has told US lawmakers that the company's sites and apps "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy". Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old former product manager turned whistleblower, heavily criticised the company at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Ms Haugen, a data scientist from Iowa, has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest, but said in an interview with CBS News' 60 Minutes that Facebook was "substantially worse" than anything she had seen before.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg hit back, saying recent coverage painted a "false picture" of the company. In a letter to staff, he said many of the claims "don't make any sense", pointing to their efforts in fighting harmful content, establishing transparency and creating "an industry-leading research program to under these important issues... It's difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives."

Facebook is the world's most popular social media site. The company says it has 2.7 billion monthly active users. Hundreds of millions of people also use the company's other products, including WhatsApp and Instagram.

Ms Haugen said during her testimony, "The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people".  She criticised Mark Zuckerberg for having wide-ranging control, saying that there is "no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself."

The documents leaked by Ms Haugen included  a review that suggests the peer pressure generated by Instagram led to mental health and body image problems among young girls, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.
And she praised recent Facebook outage which affected users around the world. "Yesterday we saw Facebook taken off the Internet," she said. "I don't know why it went down, but I know that for more than five hours, Facebook wasn't used to deepen divides, destabilise democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies." The answer, she told senators, was congressional oversight. "We must act now," she said. 

In his letter, Zuckerberg said the research into Instagram had been wrongly characterised and that many young people had positive experiences of using the platform. He said "it's very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids".

Both Republican and Democratic senators said there was a need for change at Facebook which was a rare topic of agreement between the two political parties. "The damage to self-interest and self-worth inflicted by Facebook today will haunt a generation," Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said.  Fellow Republican Dan Sullivan said the world would look back and ask "What the hell were we thinking?" in light of the revelations about Facebook's impact on children.

In a statement issued after the hearing, Facebook said it did not agree with Ms Haugen's "characterisation of the many issues she testified about". But it did agree that "it's time to begin to create standard rules for the internet... It's been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated, and instead of expecting the industry to make societal decisions that belong to legislators, it is time for Congress to act," the statement read.

CNN:    Facebook:     BBC:     Standard:     Newstalk:    SBS:     WIO News:

You Might Also Read: 

US Legislators Take Aim At Big Tech Companies:

 

« Data Is Your Most Valuable Asset. How Are You Protecting Yours?
Inventive Ransomware Group Focused On Healthcare Data »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity is a cybersecurity company that delivers a unified platform for endpoint protection, risk management, and cyber threat intelligence.

CSI Consulting Services

CSI Consulting Services

Get Advice From The Experts: * Training * Penetration Testing * Data Governance * GDPR Compliance. Connecting you to the best in the business.

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout enables cyber security professionals to reduce cyber risk to their organization with proactive security solutions, providing immediate improvement in security posture and ROI.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

Authentic8

Authentic8

Authentic8 transforms how organizations secure and control the use of the web with Silo, its patented cloud browser.

Perkins Coie LLP

Perkins Coie LLP

Perkins Coie LLP is an internationalk law firm with offices across the USA and Asia. Practice areas include Privacy and Data Security.

AFCERT

AFCERT

AFCERT is the national Computer Emergency Response Team for Afghanistan.

Cyber Threat Intelligence Network (CTIN)

Cyber Threat Intelligence Network (CTIN)

CTIN provides cyber threat intelligence services including training, platform evaluation, ISAC/ISAO systems development and counter botnet operations.

Netpay International

Netpay International

Netpay's innovative technology ensures your business can provide secure, innovative payments solutions to all your e-commerce transactions.

SlashNext

SlashNext

The SlashNext Internet Access Protection System (IAPS) provides Zero-Day protection against all internet access threats including Social Engineering & Phishing, Malware, Exploits and Callback Attacks.

Windscribe

Windscribe

Windscribe is a Virtual Private Network services provider offering secure encrypted access to the internet.

Aujas

Aujas

Aujas helps organizations manage information security risks by protecting data, software, people and identities in alignment with best practices and compliance requirements.

Styra

Styra

Styra allows companies to secure cloud environments and applications, including those built on the popular Kubernetes open-source cloud platform.

Thomsen Trampedach

Thomsen Trampedach

Thomsen Trampedach offers a tailored-made brand protection solution to each customer using a proprietary enforcement automation and reporting tool and a multilingual enforcement team.

SOFTwarfare

SOFTwarfare

SOFTwarfare deliver high-quality, reliable and secure enterprise application integrations through RESTful APIs for Cyber, Ops & Dev.

Jacobs

Jacobs

Jacobs is at the forefront of the most important security issues today. We are inspired to be the best and deliver innovative, mission-focused outcomes that matter to our clients.

Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI)

Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI)

Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute builds on the strength of its members in the area of network and communication security, artificial intelligence, big data and cyber physical systems.

Flexxon

Flexxon

Flexxon is the industry leader to develop NAND flash storage devices. Our key focus is to innovate memory devices ensuring data security and reliability.

Cyberguardians

Cyberguardians

Cyberguardians is a team of experienced cybersecurity experts and consultants who always believe in the value and a high level of cybersecurity services to clients.

Chainguard

Chainguard

Founded by the industry's leading experts on open source software, security and cloud native development, Chainguard are on a mission to make the software supply chain secure by default.

Gem Security

Gem Security

Gem is on a mission to help security operations evolve into the cloud era, and stop cloud threats before they become incidents.