There is “no will at the top of Facebook to ensure it is run in an adequately safe way” and Mark Zuckerberg is only concerned with shareholder interest, according to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who is giving evidence to a UK committee this afternoon.
Haugen, who leaked thousands of internal documents that have this week been collated by news outlets as the ‘Facebook Papers’, repeatedly stressed a “pattern of inadequacy” and “flatness” at Facebook that deems it unsafe for its users, especially those aged under 18.
She told US lawmakers earlier this month that breaking up Facebook wouldn’t lessen the risks its platform poses.
Giving evidence this afternoon to the UK’s Draft Online Safety Committee Bill Joint Committee, which is overseeing new UK laws to regulate social networks, she said: “Facebook is negligent and shows a pattern of inadequacy. It is unwilling to acknowledge its own power or accept that children are not adults. Facebook believes in ‘flatness’ and won’t believe in the consequences of its own actions.”
Haugen called for a raft of independence measures to rein Facebook in, including moderators to have independent oversight over Zuckerberg and the board. She also called for Facebook to provide moderators for any Facebook group above a certain size and for mandatory risk assessments, which would force Facebook to communicate how it is solving certain problems.
“Mark Zuckerberg has unilateral control over 3BN people yet there’s no will at the top to make sure Facebook is run in an adequately safe way. Until a counterweight is brought in, things will be operated for shareholder interest and not in the public interest.”
Haugen said senior Facebook execs “prioritise profit over people” and are “too afraid to change a metric and make people not get their bonuses.”
Children in particular are at great harm, she continually stressed, stating that it may be “impossible for [Facebook-owned] Instagram to be safe for a 14-year-old, and definitely not for a 10-year-old.”
The UK is currently debating whether social media users should be allowed anonymity in the wake of the death of UK MP Sir David Amess but Haugen said there are better ways to approach the problem.
“A more scalable effective solution [than anonymity] is thinking about how content is distributed on these platforms and concentration, examining whether people are being pounded by this content.”
She also praised the UK for taking a “world leading stance” on social media regulation.
“I can’t imagine Mark isn’t paying attention for what you’re doing because this is a critical moment for the UK to stand up,” she added.