A Facebook whistleblower who brought details of the company’s research to The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Congress revealed himself before an interview with “60 Minutes.”
Frances Hausen, the former product manager of Facebook’s Citizen Misinformation team, has revealed herself as the source behind the leaked document, according to her website. On his personal website, he shared that while at the company, he “became increasingly apprehensive about the company’s choice to prioritize its own profit over public safety – risking people’s lives. As a last resort and at great personal risk, Francis dared to blow the whistle on Facebook.” “
According to his LinkedIn profile, Hausen previously worked as a product manager for Pinterest, Yelp and Google. He listed himself as the technical co-founder behind the dating app Hinge, saying he took its pioneer, Secret Agent Cupid, to market.
“I saw a bunch of social networks and it was worse than what I saw on Facebook,” Hausen told “60 Minutes.”
Hausen told “60 Minutes” that he left Facebook in May.
Jeff Harwitz, Journal Reporter who wrote a series of articles based on the leaked document Hausen shared his identity on Twitter Sunday night, revealing him as the main source behind the story.
Documents first reported by the journal reveal that Facebook executives were aware of the negative impact of its platform on some young users, among other searches. For example, the journal reported that an internal document found that while teens reported suicidal thoughts, 6% of American users found urges to kill themselves on Instagram.
Facebook has since said that the journal’s reporting cherry-picked data and even the headlines of its own internal presentations have ignored the potential positive interpretation of the data, as many users have had a positive impact from being involved with their products.
“Every day, our teams need to strike a balance to protect the ability of millions of people to express themselves openly in the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place,” Facebook spokeswoman Lena Pietz said in a statement after revealing Hausen’s identity. “We continue to make significant improvements in dealing with the spread of misinformation and harmful content. We recommend encouraging bad content and do nothing.”
Hausen said he decided to make Facebook’s internal communication public this year, saying he understood he had to do it “systematically” and “come out enough so no one could question whether it was real.”
Hausen in turn copied and published thousands of pages of documents, “60 Minutes” reported.
Hausen pointed to the 2020 election as a turning point for Facebook. He said that after the election, Facebook announced that it was disbanding the “Civic Integrity” team, which was given to him. Just a few months later, social media communication will be a major focus in the wake of the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol.
“When they got rid of Civic Integrity, at the moment I was, ‘I don’t believe they’re actually willing to invest in saving Facebook from being dangerous,'” Hausen said. “60 minutes.”
Facebook told the news program that it had distributed the work of the Civic Integrity Team to other units.
Hausen points to Facebook’s algorithm that the element pushes the wrong information on users. He said Facebook has acknowledged the risk of misinformation in the 2020 election and added security measures to reduce that risk. But, he said, Facebook has relaxed that security again after the election.
“They return them as soon as the election is over, or they return the settings to their previous state, so that the increase in security is a priority,” Hausen said. “And that really seems to me to be a betrayal of democracy.”
In an interview with the journal published shortly after the “Min0 Minutes” piece began airing, Hausen said he found a lot of research with him on Facebook’s internal employee forum, which he said was accessible to virtually all Facebook employees. According to the journal, he sought research from acclaimed colleagues, which he often found in farewell posts about the alleged failure of Facebook.
Hausen further told the Journal that he openly questioned why Facebook does not hire other staff to address the issues of human exploitation on its platform, among other things.
“Facebook has acted as if the staff of these parties are powerless,” he told the journal.
Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, told the Journal that it had “invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform secure, and prioritized the fight against misinformation and the provision of authentic information.”
Lawmakers are upset to see Facebook’s response to the journal’s report based on Hausen’s publication. During a hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Thursday, senators on both sides of the corridor lengthened the company, urging kids to take a break from building a permanent Instagram platform. Lawmakers said they did not believe Facebook could be a good steward of such a platform based on reports and past behavior.
The whistleblower is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Tuesday. Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, told lawmakers Thursday that Facebook would not retaliate against the whistleblower for disclosing it to the Senate.
“Facebook’s actions make it clear that we cannot trust the police themselves,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the subcommittee, in a statement Sunday night. “Among the necessary reforms we must consider strong supervision, effective protection for children and tools for parents.”
Hausen said he has “sympathy” for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said “he was never ready to build a hateful platform. And reach out more.”
He called for more regulations to keep the company in check.
“Facebook has proven that they can’t operate Facebook independently, repeatedly showing that it chooses profit over security,” Hausen told “60 Minutes.” “It’s subsidizing, it’s paying for its profits with our security. I hope it will have a global impact enough that they will be motivated by their perseverance and indeed the implementation of those rules. That’s my hope.”
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