Facebook boss “doesn’t want to protect the public from harm”

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Facebook boss “doesn’t want to protect the public from harm”


The Facebook whistleblower whose revelations plunged the social media giant into crisis has launched a scathing new criticism of Mark Zuckerberg, saying he has shown no willingness to protect the public from harm caused by his business.

Frances Haugen told Observer that the founder and CEO of Facebook had not expressed a desire to run the company in a way that protects the public from the consequences of harmful content.

His intervention came as pressure mounted on the nearly $ 1 billion (£ 730 million) company following a new wave of disclosures based on documents leaked by Haugen, a former Facebook employee. . The New York Times reported that workers had repeatedly warned that Facebook was inundated with false allegations that the 2020 presidential election result was fraudulent and believed the company should have done more to deal with it.

Haugen, who appears before MPs and his peers in Westminster on Monday, said Zuckerberg, who controls the company through the majority of its voting shares, has shown no willingness to protect the public.

“At the moment, Mark has no accountability. He’s in control. He has no oversight and has failed to demonstrate that he is willing to run the business to the level necessary for public safety. “

She added that giving all shareholders an equal voice in the management of the company would lead to change at the top. “I believe in shareholders’ rights and shareholders, or shareholders minus Mark, have been asking for a share, a vote for years. And the reason is, I’m pretty sure shareholders would choose other leadership if they had an option. “

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is accused of failing to protect the public. Photography: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Haugen, who stepped down as Facebook product manager in May, said she disclosed tens of thousands of documents to the le journal Wall Street and in Congress because she realized that the business would not change otherwise.

She said: “There are big companies that have made major cultural changes. Apple has made a major cultural change; Microsoft has made a major cultural change. Facebook can change too. They just have to get the will.

Over the weekend, a consortium of US news agencies published a new wave of articles based on Haugen’s documents. The New York Times reported that internal research showed how, at one point after last year’s US presidential election, 10% of all US views of political material on Facebook – a very high proportion for Facebook – were posts alleging falsely that Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent. An internal review criticized attempts to tackle Stop the Steal groups by claiming on the platform that the elections were rigged. “The application was sketchy,” the research said.

The revelations rekindled concerns about Facebook’s role in the January 6 riots, in which a crowd seeking to overturn the election result stormed the Capitol in Washington. The New York Times added that some of the story’s reporting was based on documents unpublished by Haugen.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “At the heart of these stories is a premise that is wrong. Yes, we are a business and we make a profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of the safety or well-being of people misunderstands where our business interests lie. The truth is, we’ve invested $ 13 billion and have over 40,000 people doing a job: keeping people safe on Facebook. “

Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said the company has put in place several measures to protect the public during and after the election and that “the responsibility of the [6 January] the insurgency belongs to those who broke the law during the attack and to those who incited them ”.

It was also reported on Friday that a new Facebook whistleblower had come forward and, like Haugen, had filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial regulator, alleging that the company had refused to enforce safety rules for fear of angering Donald Trump. or impacting the growth of Facebook.

Haugen will testify in person on Monday before the joint committee reviewing the online security bill, which would impose a duty of care on social media companies to protect users from harmful content, and allow the communications regulator, Ofcom, to impose a fine on those who violate this. The maximum fine is 10% of global revenue, so in the case of Facebook it could reach billions of pounds. Facebook, whose services also include Instagram and WhatsApp, has 2.8 billion daily users and generated $ 86 billion in revenue last year.

In addition to posting detailed rebuttals of Haugen’s revelations, Facebook is said to have planned a major change that would attempt to put some distance between the company and its main platform. Zuckerberg could announce a rebranding of Facebook’s corporate identity on Thursday, according to a report the company is keen to highlight its future as a player in the “metaverse,” a digital world in which people interact and lead their social and professional life virtually. .

Haugen said Facebook must be forced by all regulators to be more transparent with the information available to it internally, as detailed in its leaked documents. She said a key reform would be to put in place a formal structure through which regulators could demand reports from Facebook on any issue they identify.

“Suppose there is a brand of car that has five times more car accidents than other cars. We wouldn’t take this automaker to say, “It’s really hard, we’re doing our best, we’re sorry, we’re trying to do better in the future.” We would never take that for an answer and we hear this from Facebook all the time. There has to be a path where we can escalate a concern and they actually have to give us an answer. “

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