Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in front of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security on Tuesday (October 5). Haugen, who was responsible for leaking thousands of pages of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal, told lawmakers that Facebook is putting profits ahead of people and urged them to take action against the social media giant.
"I am here today because I believe that Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy," she said during her opening remarks. "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. Congressional action is needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help."
Haugen said she was compelled to speak out against her former employer after they disbanded the social integrity unit following the 2020 presidential election.
"There was a long series of moments where I became aware that Facebook — when faced with conflicts of interest between its own profits and the common good, public safety — that Facebook consistently chose to prioritize its profits. I think the moment which I realized we needed to get help from the outside, that the only way these problems would be solved would be by solving them together, was when civic integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election," Haugen told lawmakers.
"It really felt like a betrayal of the promises that Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe by basically dissolving our community and integrating in just other parts of the company," she added.
Haugen told lawmakers that some of the problems at Facebook are due to understaffing.
"Facebook has struggled for a long time to recruit and retain the number of employees it needs to tackle the large scope of projects that it has chosen to take on," Haugen said. "Facebook is stuck in a cycle where it struggles to hire. That causes it to understaff projects, which causes scandals, which then makes it harder to hire."
Haugen told Senators that Congress must make changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to hold social media companies accountable for spreading harmful content.
"I think if we had appropriate oversight, or if we reformed Section 230 to make Facebook responsible for the consequences of their intentional ranking decisions, I think they would get rid of engagement-based ranking because it is causing teenagers to be exposed to more anorexia content," Haugen said. "It is pulling families apart, and in places like Ethiopia, it is literally fanning ethnic violence."