Facebook ‘prizes growth and profits’ over combatting ‘hate speech, misinformation, and other threats to the public’, new whistleblower affidavit claims
- A former member of Facebook’s Integrity Team said the company failed to combat dangers to society and only focused on making a profit
- The whistleblower alleged that top officials shot down concerns regarding misinformation and hate speech, saying it was only ‘a flash in the pan’
- The former employee also lamented Facebook’s failure to curb hate speech in Myanmar, which propagated the 2017 ethnic killings of the Rohingya
- ‘I, working for Facebook, had been a party to genocide,’ the whistleblower wrote
- The allegations come after whistleblower Frances Haugen’s bombshell testimony before congress on Facebook’s failings
A new whistleblower affidavit submitted by a former Facebook employee accuses the social media giant of prioritizing profits over their due diligence to combat hate speech, misinformation and other threats to the public.
The new allegations, submitted anonymously under penalty of perjury, echoed the claims made by fellow whistleblower Frances Haugen, who delivered a scathing testimony before Congress earlier this month on Facebook’s moral failings.
In the most dramatic line of the affidavit, the former employee anguished over Facebook’s inability to act quickly to help curb racial killings in Myanmar in 2017 as military officials used the site to spread hate speech.
‘I, working for Facebook, bad been a party to genocide,’ the whistleblower wrote.
The new allegations come after whistleblower Frances Haugen, pictured, testified before Congress earlier this month over Facebook’s failings
The anonymous whistleblower accused one of Facebook’s top communication officials, Tucker Bounds, pictured, of brushing aside an employee’s concern of misinformation
Building on Haugen’s statements, the anonymous whistleblower, who worked on Facebook’s Integrity Team, also shared a story about a top company official brushing aside worries of election interference, the Washington Post reports.
As the company was looking to quell political controversy following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook communications official Tucker Bounds allegedly said, ‘It will be a flash in the pan.’
‘Some legislators will get pissy. And then in a few weeks they will move onto something else. Meanwhile we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine.’
The whistleblower explained that Bounds’ alleged viewpoint was common among the leadership in the company, and other former employees have said that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg were well aware of the problems.
Bounds has denied the claim and both he and Facebook chastised the Washington Post’s reporting of the affidavit.
‘It sets a dangerous precedent to hang an entire story on a single source making a wide range of claims without any apparent corroboration,’ Facebook spokeswoman Erin McPike said in a statement.
Former employees said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, and COO Sheryl Sandberg were aware of Facebook’s failings but did little to fix the situation
Zuckerberg, shown testifying before congress in 2019, has defended his company despite leaked documents and testimony from former employees detailing the company’s wrongs
This is the first time the company has faced such accusations since the internal memos released and testimony given by Haugen.
Haugen and the new whistleblower also submitted the allegations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees all publicly traded companies.
In the SEC affidavit, the anonymous ex-employee alleges that Facebook officials routinely undermined efforts within the company to fight misinformation and hate speech out of fear of angering then-President Donald Trump and his allies.
The former employee said that on one occasion, Facebook’s Public Policy team defended a ‘white list’ that exempted the alt-right media company Breitbart News and other Trump-aligned publishers from Facebook’s ordinary rules against spreading fake news.
When an employee questioned this policy, Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global policy, reportedly shot down any concerns.
‘Do you want to start a fight with Steven Bannon,’ Kaplan allegedly said.
Kaplan, who had been previously criticized by former employees for allegedly seeking to protect conservative interests on Facebook, denies he ever showed bias.
‘There has never been a whitelist that exempts publishers, including Breitbart, from Facebook’s rules against misinformation.’
The whistleblower also complained that Facebook had not been aggressive enough when it came to military officials in Myanmar using the platform to spread hate speech during the mass killings of the Rohingya ethnic group.
Although Facebook had previously acknowledged its failure to act swiftly in the mass deaths of the Rohingya people, the company said it no longer makes such mistakes.
‘Facebook’s approach in Myanmar today is fundamentally different from what it was in 2017, and allegations that we have not invested in safety and security in the country are wrong,’ McPike said in a statement.
The whistleblower went on to accuse Facebook of failing to properly police the secret groups set up on the site.
The former employee said the secret group enable ‘terrifying and aberrant behaviors’ and are poorly monitored. They go on to say that Facebook Groups have become havens for crime.
These are claims echoed by Gretchen Peters, of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, who has filed a series of complaints against Facebook for its alleged failings since 2017.
Those failing include permitting terrorist content, drug sales, allowing hate speech and misinformation to flourish, all while inadequately warning investors about any potential risks.
‘Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives repeatedly claimed high rates of success in restricting illicit and toxic content — to lawmakers, regulators and investors — when in fact they knew the firm could not remove this content and remain profitable,’ Peters said in a new complaint filed on Friday.
Haugen (pictured testifying in Congress on October 5), who claims Facebook puts ‘profits before people,’ earlier this month released tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit
Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony to Congress
During a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on October 5, Whistleblower Frances Haugen called for transparency about how Facebook entices its users to keep scrolling on its apps, and the harmful effect it can have on users.
‘As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,’ said Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team. She left the nearly $1 trillion company with tens of thousands of confidential documents.
‘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. Congressional action is needed,’ Haugen said.
Haugen revealed she was the person who provided documents used in a Wall Street Journal and a Senate hearing on Instagram’s harm to teenage girls. She compared the social media services to addictive substances like tobacco and opioids.
Before the hearing, she appeared on CBS television program ’60 Minutes,’ revealing her identity as the whistleblower who provided the documents.
‘There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,’ she said during the interview. ‘And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money.’
Haugen, who previously worked at Google and Pinterest, said Facebook has lied to the public about the progress it made to clamp down on hate speech and misinformation on its platform.
She added that Facebook was used to help organize the Capitol riot on January 6, after the company turned off safety systems following the U.S. presidential elections.
While she believed no one at Facebook was ‘malevolent,’ she said the company had misaligned incentives.
In response to Haugen’s bombshell comments, a Facebook executive accused her of stealing company documents and claimed she is ‘not an expert’ on the company’s content algorithms.
Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert spoke out in an interview with Fox News on, slamming Haugen a day after she testified to Congress.
Bickert said that Haugen ‘mischaracterized’ the internal studies regarding the harmful impacts of content on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which she presented to to Congress.
The complaints come after the Haugen’s testimony before Congress in early October, where she claimed Facebook promoted divisiveness as a way to keep people on the site, with Haugen saying the documents showed the company had failed to protect young users.
It also showed that the company knew Instagram harmed young girls’ body image and even tried to brainstorm ways to appeal to toddlers by ‘exploring playdates as a growth lever.’
‘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. Congressional action is needed,’ Haugen said at a hearing.
Haugen, who anonymously filed eight complaints about her former employer with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, told 60 Minutes earlier this month: ‘Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.’
She claimed that a 2018 change prioritizing divisive posts, which made Facebook users argue, was found to boost user engagement.
That in turn helped bosses sell more online ads that have seen the social media giant’s value pass $1 trillion.
‘You are forcing us to take positions that we don’t like, that we know are bad for society. We know if we don’t take those positions, we won’t win in the marketplace of social media,’ Haugen said.
She also blamed Facebook for spurring the January 6 Capitol riot.
Meanwhile, the senator leading a probe of Facebook’s Instagram and its impact on young people is asking Zuckerberg to testify before the panel that has heard far-reaching criticisms from a former employee of the company.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, called in a sharply worded letter Wednesday for the Facebook founder to testify on Instagram’s effects on children.
‘Parents across America are deeply disturbed by ongoing reports that Facebook knows that Instagram can cause destructive and lasting harms to many teens and children, especially to their mental health and wellbeing,’ Blumenthal said in the letter addressed to Zuckerberg.
‘Those parents, and the twenty million teens that use your app, have a right to know the truth about the safety of Instagram.’
In the wake of Haugen’s testimony early this month, Blumenthal told Zuckerberg, ‘Facebook representatives, including yourself, have doubled down on evasive answers, keeping hidden several reports on teen health, offering noncommittal and vague plans for action at an unspecified time down the road, and even turning to personal attacks on Ms. Haugen.’
Blumenthal did offer, however, that either Zuckerberg or the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, could appear before his committee.
‘It is urgent and necessary for you or Mr. Adam Mosseri to testify to set the record straight and provide members of Congress and parents with a plan on how you are going to protect our kids,’ he told Zuckerberg.
A spokesman for Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, confirmed receipt of Blumenthal’s letter but declined any comment.
Haugen, who buttressed her statements with tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit, accused Facebook of prioritizing profit over safety and being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation.
‘In the end, the buck stops with Mark,’ Haugen said in her testimony. ‘There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.’
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