Whistleblower Says Facebook Is 'Unquestionably Making Hate Worse'

Whistleblower Frances Haugen has said that Facebook is "unquestionably making hate worse."

The former Facebook data scientist gave evidence in front of lawmakers in the U.K. who are working on legislation to crack down on harmful online content.

In her opening remarks to the committee on Monday, Haugen said Facebook was "very good at dancing with data" and that its engagement-based rankings prioritize extreme content.

"I came forward now, because now is the most critical time to act," she said.

"When we see something like an oil spill, that oil spill doesn't make it harder for society to regulate oil companies. But right now, the failures of Facebook are making it harder for us to regulate Facebook on those failures, looking at the way the platform is moderated today."

Haugen said that when she worked at Facebook, critical teams were understaffed. "There are no incentives, internally, to rally for help because everyone is under water," she said. "Facebook's most important teams are understaffed and under-resourced.

Asked if she believed it was likely that there would be more consequences like the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Haugen cited ethnic violence in Myanmar and Ethiopia as the "opening chapters" of a "horrific" novel.

Later, Haugen was asked if she thinks Facebook is "evil." She replied that she "cannot see into the hearts of men," but described the company as "negligent."

She said Facebook is full of conscientious, kind and empathetic people. But she added that "good people embedded in a system with bad incentives are led to bad actions."

Those who are "willing to look the other way" are promoted over those who raise alarm, she added. "I do believe there's a pattern of inadequacy that Facebook is unwilling to acknowledge its own power," she said.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee at the Russell Senate Office Building on October 05, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Matt McClain/Pool-Getty Images

Her testimony comes as news organizations started publishing stories based on thousands of pages of internal company documents she obtained.

The documents, which Haugen provided to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, allege Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its research from investors and the public.

The Associated Press reported that the documents show Facebook engineers raced to tweak internal controls to stop the spread of misinformation and inciteful content during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hit back at the claim that the company knowingly profits off of misinformation and hateful content.

"At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being," Zuckerberg wrote in a lengthy post on Facebook.

"That's just not true... The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content."

Haugen's appearance before lawmakers in the U.K. comes after she testified in the U.S. Senate earlier in October.

UPDATE 10/25/21,10:40 a.m. ET: This article was updated with additional details.