TECHNOLOGY

Facebook whistleblower hearing will be different


The only safe The prediction for today’s Senate hearing on Facebook is that, for the first time in a long time, it will be Different. Over the past three and a half years, the company has sent a rotating crew of high-level executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to Washington to talk about Facebook and its affiliates, Instagram and WhatsApp. This has turned into a recurring scene in which the CEO absorbs and avoids abuse while touting the amazing ways Facebook is bringing the world together. Today’s testimony from Frances Hogan, the former employee who leaked thousands of pages of internal research to The WEvery Street JournalAnd Congress, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, it certainly won’t.

Haugen, who revealed her identity in a 60 minutes Plot On Sunday, a former member of the Civic Integrity Team: Someone whose job was to tell the company how to make its platform better for humanity, even at the cost of engagement and growth. In about two years working there, Haugen concluded that it was an impossible job. When conflicts arise between commercial interests and the safety and well-being of users, Facebook has “consistently resolved those conflicts in the interests of its own profits,” as it put it in its prepared opening statements. And therefore I left The company – and she took a bunch of documents with her. These documents, she says, prove that Facebook knows that its “products harm children, fuel division, weaken our democracy, and much more” but choose not to fix those problems.

So what exactly do the docs show? The Wall Street JournalThe reports, in an ongoing series called “Facebook Profiles,” are the only window so far on this question. according to one storyHowever, changes Facebook made to make its ranking algorithm favor “meaningful social interactions” – a shift that Zuckerberg publicly called the “right thing” to do – ended up promoting misinformation, anger and other types of negative content. It has done so to such a degree that European political parties have told Facebook that they felt the need to take more extreme positions just to get to people’s feeds. When the researchers brought their findings to Zuckerberg, the magazine I mentioned, that he refrained from taking any action. Another story documenting how Facebook’s “XCheck” program It enforces more lenient rules with millions of important users around the world, some of whom are taking advantage of this freedom by posting content in flagrant violation of the rules of the platform. However, perhaps the most significant that has been published so far, and suggest Facebook’s investment in security in much of the developing world – where its platforms are essentially the “internet” of many millions of people – is weak or non-existent.

You can see the challenge here for both Haugen and the senators questioning her: Such a broad scope of disclosure does not easily unite into one clear narrative. Perhaps for this reason, the committee apparently plans to focus on a a story whose headline declares, “Facebook knows Instagram is harmful to teenage girls, company documents show.” The committee has already held one hearing on the matter, last week. as I wrote At that time, the documents in question, which magazine Publicly released, it’s more obscure than that title suggests. They are also based on regular surveys, not the kind of internal data that only Facebook can access. In other words, they may be politically useful, but they do not significantly enhance the public’s understanding of how Facebook’s platforms work.

However, some other documents in the cache seem to do just that. Crucially, at least according to magazineIn the reports, they illustrate the gaps between how Facebook executives describe the company’s motivations in public and what actually happens on the platforms they own. So does Haugen’s personal experience as an integrity agent pushing against the mercenary impulses of Facebook’s leadership. Conveying this dynamic may enhance the conversation more than any particular outcome of the research.


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