Facebook Live Updates: Haugen Says 'Isolated' People are Most Vulnerable to Misinformation on Facebook

Live Updates

Facebook faced damaging testimony from an ex-employee in Congress today after the former data scientist revealed shocking insights into the company's alleged complacency surrounding misinformation and harmful content.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in front of the Senate Commerce subcommittee Tuesday, adding to the serious disruption caused by her bombshell interview on 60 Minutes and a worldwide outage of the company's services for several hours yesterday, including Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

In her testimony, Haugen revealed that Facebook puts its profits over the health and safety of its users.

"Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy," she said. "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 said that Facebook's own research shows that teenagers are suffering from mental health issues and eating disorders due to Instagram's engagement-based ranking system that pushes harmful content to young users.

She said teenagers know the platform makes them feel bad about themselves, but the algorithm creates a feedback loop that keeps them on the site.

One Facebook spokesperson refuted Haugen's testimony in real-time on Twitter.

Haugen and the Senators on the Subcommittee compared Facebook to the tobacco industry. She said Instagram "leads young users to anorexia content" just as tobacco companies did with cigarettes.

And like Big Tobacco, Haugen advocated for more strict oversight of Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg from Congress.

The live updates for this blog have ended.

Instagram likes and comments create an addictive feedback loop, Haugen says

Haugen said taking likes off of Instagram, without also taking down comments, does nothing to help ease social comparisons.

The feedback loops keep kids engaged, she said. The more likes or comments someone gets provides a little reward and will encourage them to produce more content. That, in turn, will lead to more content and advertisements viewed. This system keeps users on the platform longer and makes the company more money, Haugen said.

"We need to do more than just removing quantitative measures," she said, pushing for more oversight and an adjustment of algorithms.

Haugen says Facebook is not equipped to dispel vaccine misinformation on its platform

Frances Haugen said Facebook knows who is most vulnerable to misinformation on its platform. She said people who are isolated, like those who are recently widowed, divorced or move to a new city, are more likely to engage in false information.

When asked if Facebook has the resources to stop vaccine misinformation, Haugen said she doubts that is possible.

"I do not believe Facebook as currently structured has the capability to stop vaccine misinformation because they are overly reliant on artificial intelligence systems that they themselves say will likely never get more than 10 to 20 percent of content," she said.

Haugen says Facebook is aware of the effect Instagram has on teens' mental health

Frances Haugen said that Facebook is aware that social media usage leads to increase mental health issues in teenagers due to the feedback loop Instagram's algorithm promotes.

"There is a broad swath of research that supports the idea that usage of social media amplifies the risk for these mental health harms and Facebook's own research shows that," she said. "Kids are saying 'I am unhappy when I use Instagram and I can't stop.'"

She said kids are "self-soothing" on the app but then are also seeing content that "makes them hate themselves."

"If Instagram is such a positive force, have we seen a golden age of teenage mental health in the last 10 years? No, we've seen the opposite," she said.

Haugen said the age limits for the apps should be raised to 16 or 18-years-old based on children's self-regulation issues.

Haugen advocates for chronological ranking on content on Facebook to curb censorship

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Frances Haugen about political censorship on Facebook.

She said it is shocking that a company with as big of an impact on the world has so little transparency.

Haugen said the content on the platform should be chronologically ranked, where posts are ordered by time.

"I don't want computers deciding what we focus on," she said. "Computers shouldn't choose who we hear from."

She added that a regulatory body should oversee the company.

Key moments from Frances Haugen's testimony

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is sharing her testimony with the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Tuesday.

Haugen emphasized that Facebook puts profits over the safety of its users, particularly children, and presents a "false choice" between privacy and oversight.

She said the company stokes division, weakens democracy and has misled the public on the impact of the content pushed on its platform.

Facebook's algorithm has pushed content to young users, particularly girls, that leads them to develop eating disorders and promotes posts with hate speech and misinformation that evokes strong emotions, Haugen said.

She adds that the company has run experiments and is aware of the effect of its engagement-based ranking system on users.

Haugen called on Congress to act and issue stronger regulations on the company.

Facebook communication team weighs in on Frances Haugen's testimony

The Facebook communications team took to Twitter to respond to Frances Haugen's testimony.

"Just pointing out the fact that Frances Haugen did not work on child safety or Instagram or research these issues and has no direct knowledge of the topic from her work at Facebook," Andy Stone said.

Haugen herself admitted during the hearing that she did not work directly in certain departments, including teen research and ad regulation on Instagram.

Just pointing out the fact that @FrancesHaugen did not work on child safety or Instagram or research these issues and has no direct knowledge of the topic from her work at Facebook.

— Andy Stone (@andymstone) October 5, 2021

Haugen says Facebook knows it is pushing "anorexia content" to users

Frances Haugen said Instagram is pushing content on its platform that leads to eating disorders in young girls.

The platform's algorithm uses an engagement-based ranking to pick content for its users. She added that the company has run several experiments the prove the algorithm works.

"Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content," she said.

"No one is holding Mark [Zuckerberg] accountable," Frances Haugen says

Frances Haugen said that there is no oversight for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The buck stops with Mark. There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself," she said.

She said that while "the metrics make the decisions" at Facebook, Zuckerberg is responsible for those decisions as the company CEO.

Haugen added that Facebook "should be honest" and "declare moral bankruptcy."

Haugen says Facebook presents a "false choice" between oversight and freedoms

Frances Haugen said Facebook presents a "false choice" between free speech, privacy and oversight.

"Facebook's closed design means it has no real oversight," she said. "Facebook hides behind walls that keeps researchers and regulators from understanding the true dynamics of their system."

She said the company wants the public to believe in "false choices" between oversight and privacy and that the issues on its platform cannot be resolved.

"These problems are solvable," she said. "A safer, free speech respecting, more enjoyable social media is possible. Facebook can change but is clearly not going to do so on its own."

She called on Congress to take action.

"My fear is that without action, divisive and extremist behaviors we see today are only the beginning," she warned.

"I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act, but we must act now. I am asking you, our elected representatives, to act," she added.

Frances Haugen says Facebook harms children, stokes division and weakens democracy

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen says the social media giant is harming children and weakening our democracy.

"I joined Facebook because I think Facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us, but I am here today because I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy," she said in her opening statement to the Subcommittee.

She added that when faced with a conflict between profits and safety, "Facebook consistently resolve these conflicts in favor of its own profits."

"The result has been more division, more harm, more lies more threats and more combat," she said. "In some cases, this does this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence."

Sen. Blackburn says Facebook prioritizes profit over safety

Senator Marsha Blackburn said Facebook is putting profits over safety.

"Facebook is not interested in making significant changes to improve kids' safety on their platforms, at least not when that would result in losing eyeballs on posts or decreasing their ad revenues," she said.

She urged others to "follow the money," and added that the company is marketing to children as young as 8-years-old and collecting kids' data to sell to "hacking forums."

"Facebook prioritizes profits over the wellbeing of children," she said.

Sen. Blumenthal calls out Facebook's algorithms for "harming teenagers"

Subcommittee Chair Senator Richard Blumenthal welcomed Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to the hearing and said she is "armed with documents and evidence" to prove how "Facebook put profits over people."

He said the company knew its products were harming teenagers by exploiting and amplifying their insecurities with its algorithms. He said the algorithm of Instagram can "push teenagers into dark places."

Blumenthal questioned whether there is such thing as a "safe algorithm."

He also called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to come in front of the subcommittee, adding that the company "rejected and ignored" recommendations from its own researchers on how to make its apps safer for children.

Sen. Blackburn seeking questions on privacy ahead of Facebook hearing

Ahead of the Facebook hearing, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) says users should "own the virtual you."

"We have questions about protecting your privacy and your child's privacy and finding out exactly what Facebook is doing with your data," she said in a video on her Twitter. "You should own the virtual you."

Senator Blackburn is the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security.

You, not Facebook, should own the “virtual you.” pic.twitter.com/DrCG5u0t2c

— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) October 5, 2021

Sen. Blumenthal praises Facebook whistleblower ahead of Senate hearing

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, praised the Facebook whistleblower and promised "riveting" testimony at today's hearing.

"This whistleblower is one gutsy, smart, strong woman who is speaking truth to the nation about how Facebook is dragging children into dark places and deepening their insecurities with online bullying, self-injuries, suicide, eating disorders," he told reporters Monday.

Blumenthal expects tough testimony at the hearing on Tueday.

"I think she will tell us what it's like to see the top Facebook executives make decisions that profit Facebook at the expense of children's safety, how they put children's safety...below profit-making motive," he said.

In an interview on CNBC Tuesday morning, Blumenthal said "big tech is facing big tobacco's moment of reckoning."

30 minutes until Congress hearing

The session of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee starts at 10am EDT and is billed as "hearings to examine protecting kids online, focusing on testimony from a Facebook whistleblower".

Frances Haugen, who was hired to help Facebook tackle disinformation, is set to add to a series of explosive claims she made in an interview on 60 Minutes, accusing the company of putting profits before the wellbeing of its users.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog for updates throughout the hearing this afternoon

Right-wing social media apps mock Facebook over outaged

Parler and GETTR used Facebook's major outage yesterday to hit out at Big Tech, while urging others to join their right-wing social media platforms.

The firms have welcomed a series of right-wing politicians and commentators that have been booted off mainstream social media sites, including former President Donald Trump.

While Big Tech imploded, @GETTROfficial was going strong! There’s a reason #GETTR is the fastest growing social media platform in history…

Free Speech. Superior Technology. It’s time to cancel “Cancel Culture.” Join now at https://t.co/DqberSjr6X!#facebookdown #instagramdown pic.twitter.com/HR5Pp6fbHL

— GETTR (@GETTRofficial) October 4, 2021

Imagine, if you will, an outage so bad that your team - no matter how talented - is helpless. Six hours... that's nothing. #parler #wewillnotbecanceled

— Parler (@parler_app) October 5, 2021

Facebook fights FTC antitrust challenge, describes claims as 'fictional'

Facebook is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss a revised complaint against it by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is accusing the social media giant of trying "buy or bury" rivals to suppress competition - but the firm, which is currently dealing with a host of other issues, is standing strong against the claims.

The FTC's fictional market ignores the competitive reality: Facebook competes vigorously with TikTok, iMessage, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, and countless others to help people share, connect, communicate or simply be entertained. The FTC cannot credibly claim Facebook has monopoly power because no such power exists.

A federal judge in June dismissed earlier antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the agency and a broad coalition of state attorney generals that were among multiplying efforts by federal and state authorities to regulate the online tech industry.

Facebook's issues full apology to 'people and businesses around the world'

We've been working as hard as we can to restore access, and our systems are now back up and running," the company's Vice President for Engineering and Infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said in a statement earlier.

The underlying cause of this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem. Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication. This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.

Our services are now back online and we're actively working to fully return them to regular operations. We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change. We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime. People and businesses around the world rely on us everyday to stay connected. We understand the impact outages like these have on people's lives, and our responsibility to keep people informed about disruptions to our services. We apologize to all those affected, and we're working to understand more about what happened today so we can continue to make our infrastructure more resilient.

WATCH: What is the Facebook whistleblower claiming about the company?

WhatsApp outage's crippling affect on Latin America's communications

Whatsapp has also become an invaluable tool for those wanting a free and easy way to keep in contact with relatives who have moved to the U.S., due to extremely costly service charges on regular.

José Caparroso, an editor at Forbes, tweeted about how the WhatsApp outage would overwhelmingly affect those in Latin America.

"Latin America lives on WhatsApp. I am surprised by so many people underestimating how catastrophic this downfall has been," he said.

FULL STORY: Facebook Outage Left Latin America Dark, Where WhatsApp Dominates

Ex-Facebook employee to 'implore' lawmakers to restrict social media company powers

Frances Haugen will tell lawmakers later that Facebook's products "harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more".

"When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms [they] caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action...I implore you to do the same here," she will say according to her prepared testimony.

What is likely to be asked at Congress later?

Ex-Facebook employee Frances Haugen blew the whistle on the company's alleged complacency when it comes to misinformation and harmful content and will testify before Congress' Commerce subcommittee later today to explain further.

Haugen shared a study she found, from earlier this year, where the company reportedly estimated that "as little as 3-5 percent of hate and about 6-tenths of one percent of violence and incitement on Facebook" was dealt with appropriately.

The committee is likely to ask about her claim that Facebook refuses to make healthy changes to its apps because "if they change the algorithm to be safer people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, they'll make less money".

FULL STORY: 5 Biggest Revelations From Facebook Whistleblower's '60 Minutes' Interview

Why did Facebook's servers go down?

The sudden outage yesterday left hundreds of millions of people around the world without their favored method of communicating with family and friends, with problems not only crippling Facebook and its app, but also Instagram and WhatsApp.

The social media giant appeared to have accidentally wiped its servers, meaning that not only did it crash all apps associated with the company, but also its ability to fix the problems it caused.

Engineers blamed the outage for taking out "the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the problem", with reports suggesting staff were unable to access the building that house the company's servers because the smart card needed to open the doors were tied with the servers which went down.

Without being able to solve the problem remotely, or get into the building to fix the servers in-person, the delay was significantly longer than any previous outage.

FULL STORY: Facebook Engineers Reveal Cause of Monday Outage

Facebook shares drop 5 percent

Big tech woes are causing a stock market stumble as Facebook's share price drops 4.89 percent following the major outage of the social media giant's platforms yesterday.

It is understood CEO Mark Zuckerberg's personal wealth also took a significant hit yesterday, wiping several billion dollars off his fortune and dropping a place in the 'world's richest people' league table.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

Facebook is preparing for yet more disruption today as former senior employee Frances Haugen is set to testify before Congress at a hearing later.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Tuesday for all the latest.