Facebook Whistleblower Claims Company Chose Profits Over Safety


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The leak of thousands of pages of Facebook’s internal research documents, titled “The Facebook Files,” has exposed Facebook for failing to fix numerous problems the company knew it was causing. The person behind the leak is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager that worked on the company’s civil integrity team, which was involved with work that focused and prioritized Facebook’s impact on people before the company’s profits and growth. After working at the company for two years, Haugen decided to quit, noting that “Facebook consistently resolved those conflicts in favor of its own profits.” Recently, Haugen went on 60 Minutes to explain her side of the narrative and announced a European tour to speak with law regulators. Haugen also testified on Facebook’s negative impacts in a congressional hearing in early October. The public was outraged by these documents and numerous state attorney generals sent letters to Facebook, demanding more information. 

The Facebook Files revealed two major problems about the company’s conduct. The first is that Facebook’s rules do not apply to all users. Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that all users on the platform have equal representation when voicing their opinions and posting, but in fact, Facebook implemented a system called “XCheck” which gives high profile accounts and VIP users more leniency in the content they post. The XCheck program shields these accounts from being flagged when posting content that is clearly in violation of Facebook’s rules. The Wall Street Journal launched an investigation into this program and found that numerous users have been abusing this system by posting offensive and inappropriate content.

The second finding that caused legislators to blast the social media giant is Facebook’s knowledge of Instagram’s toxic and harmful effects on younger users, especially teen girls. Many parents have worried that Instagram, a photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, makes younger girls insecure about their bodies and can cause anxiety or depression as a result. Instagram researchers themselves have found that Instagram is more harmful to girls than many other social media apps. However, Facebook kept this research private and Mark Zuckerberg even commented that “The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.” Facebook blatantly lied about its companies’ impact on its users and downplayed the harm that younger users are exposed to. 

Other documents in The Facebook Files illustrate Facebook’s incompetence in banning accounts owned by criminal organizations. Some include pages that recruit boys to become hitmen or lure women into trafficking. In certain cases, these accounts were able to post violent, graphic, or inappropriate images displaying illegal activities for up to five months before Facebook or Instagram took them down. 

Despite Haugen’s damaging exposure of the company, she claims that she does not want to see the company be completely broken up or shut down. Rather, she hopes that the U.S. government can take action in regulating Facebook to fix these problems. She believes that Mark Zuckerberg “never set out to make a hateful platform” but made choices that gave “hateful and polarizing content…more distribution and more reach.” Haugen firmly believes in prioritizing users’ protection over the company’s profits and growth. She would like to see more regulations and scrutiny on Facebook in order to prevent the company from engaging in harmful activities. 


Works Cited:

“The Facebook Files.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-facebook-files-11631713039. 

Vlamis, Kelsey. “Facebook Whistleblower Says Mark Zuckerberg ‘Never Set out to Make a Hateful Platform’ but That He Allows Choices That Give Hateful Content More Reach.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 3 Oct. 2021, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/facebook-whistleblower-says-mark-zuckerberg-050000571.html. 

Mitchell, Taiyler Simone, and Dominick Reuter. “Facebook Leadership Consistently ‘Put Their Immense Profits before People,’ Whistleblower Will Reportedly Tell Congress in Her Prepared Remarks.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 4 Oct. 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-whistleblower-leadership-put-profits-before-people-prepared-remarks-report-2021-10. 

Scheck, Justin, et al. “Facebook Employees Flag Drug Cartels and Human Traffickers. the Company’s Response Is Weak, Documents Show.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 16 Sept. 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-drug-cartels-human-traffickers-response-is-weak-documents-11631812953?mod=article_inline.