Business & Technology

Frances Haugen: Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken democracy

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Frances Bordwell Haugen, 37, has testified before a Senate subcommittee. Originally from Iowa, United States, she worked for Facebook in Menlo Park, California, USA from June 2019 to May 2021.

In 2004, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, 37, founded Facebook with Eduardo Saverin, 39, Andrew McCollum, 38, Dustin Moskovitz, 37, and Chris Hughes, 37. The founders attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and so did Haugen.

As a Facebook product manager, Haugen worked on civic integrity issues at the company. The company acquired Instagram in April 2012 and WhatsApp in February 2014.

After leaving Facebook in May 2021, Haugen leaked internal Facebook documents to the Wall Street Journal. She also sent the documents to lawmakers and filed for whistleblower protection with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to Haugen, Facebook refused to add any safety measures that would reduce the amount of time people spent on the company’s platforms. She claimed that the company of its apps’ negative effects of misinformation and the harm Instagram caused to young girls.

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On October 3, 2021, Haugen was featured in a “60 Minutes” episode. Since then, she was dubbed the Facebook whistleblower.

On October 4, 2021, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down for almost six hours. On October 5, 2021, Haugen said during her opening remarks before a Senate subcommittee, “I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.”

“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,” Haugen continued. “Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

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After the hearing, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone released a statement. He said Haugen neither had direct reports nor attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives when she was employed by the company.

“We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about,” Stone said of Haugen. “Despite all this, we agree on one thing; it’s time to begin to create standard rules for the internet.”

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