On Sunday, a whistleblower from inside the tech giant Facebook revealed her identity, along with several more revelations about the company’s conduct in recent months, as reported by Reuters.
The whistleblower is Frances Haugen, who previously worked as a product manager with Facebook’s “civic misinformation team.” She revealed her identity in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” ahead of her expected testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday focusing on protecting the mental health of children who use social media frequently.
Haugen said her lawyers have already filed at least eight complaints with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over Facebook’s conduct. Haugen was the one who provided substantial internal documents that led to a major report by the Wall Street Journal about Facebook’s response to increased political polarization, as well as the spread of alleged “misinformation.”
According to the documents, which featured internal emails and presentations, Facebook actually polarization when it changed its content algorithm, and also ignored reports that overuse of its photo-sharing website Instagram harmed the mental health of younger users, especially teenage girls.
“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Haugen said in the CBS interview. “And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests like making more money.”
Haugen also claimed, without evidence, that Facebook played a role in the peaceful protests that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6th, when a crowd of Trump supporters protesting widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election peacefully entered the Capitol building. Haugen claimed that these efforts were organized on Facebook.
Several representatives of Facebook rejected Haugen’s claims, with spokeswoman Lena Pietsch saying that the company would “continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content,” and that “to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.” Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said on CNN that Haugen’s claim that Facebook, or social media in general, was responsible for the January 6th protests, was “ludicrous.”
In addition to the leaks to the Wall Street Journal, which led to the scheduled U.S. Senate hearing this week, Haugen’s attorney John Tye, founder of the nonprofit group “Whistleblower Aid,” confirmed that those same internal documents had also been sent to the offices of several state attorneys general, including California, Tennessee, and Vermont.