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Facebook will fuel further unrest, whistleblower says

Stock MarketsOct 25, 2021 06:16PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' on Capitol Hill, in Washi 2/2

By Paul Sandle and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) -Facebook Inc will fuel more violent unrest around the world unless it stops its algorithms pushing extreme and divisive content, whistleblower Frances Haugen told the British parliament on Monday.

The former employee, who accused the social media giant of putting profit before people at a Senate subcommittee earlier this month, said she was encouraged by British plans to force big tech companies to tackle harmful content on their platforms.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Haugen said, saw online safety as a cost and the company lionised a startup culture where cutting corners was good. "Unquestionably it is making hate worse," she said.

With a focus on the United States, the company was wilfully blind to its impact in many markets where a lack of local-language staff meant it often failed to understand the toxic or dangerous nature of messages on its platform, she said.

The world's biggest social network has rejected the charges, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-congress-facebook-idCNL1N2R10Y1 saying earlier this month that it was deeply illogical to argue that Facebook deliberately pushed content that made people angry.

"Contrary to what was discussed at the hearing, we've always had the commercial incentive to remove harmful content from our sites. People don't want to see it when they use our apps and advertisers don't want their ads next to it," Facebook said in a statement on Monday.

It said it had spent $13 billion on keeping users safe and agreed regulation was needed across the industry, adding that it was pleased Britain is moving ahead with online safety laws.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has been accused by U.S. lawmakers of chasing higher profits while being cavalier about user safety.

Britain is bringing forward laws that could fine social media companies up to 10% of their turnover if they fail to remove or limit the spread of illegal content.

"The events we're seeing around the world, things like Myanmar and Ethiopia, those are the opening chapters because engagement-based ranking does two things: one, it prioritises and amplifies divisive and polarising extreme content and two it concentrates it," Haugen said.

Haugen in October told a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing that Facebook had devised ways to keep users scrolling even if it was detrimental to their wellbeing.

She also said she provided the documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on Instagram's harm to teenage girls. She compared the platform to addictive substances such as tobacco and opioids.

Facebook operates in more than 190 countries and boasts more than 2.8 billion monthly users.

BRITISH INTERIOR MINISTER SEEKS TOUGHER LAWS

Before Monday's hearing, Haugen met the country's interior minister, Priti Patel, who advocates tougher legislation for tech platforms that fail to keep users safe.

She is scheduled to speak at a major tech conference, the Web Summit, next week and in Brussels to European policymakers.

"Facebook has been unwilling to accept even little slivers of profit being sacrificed for safety, and that's not acceptable," she said on Monday, singling out Instagram's impact on the mental health of some young users.

Reuters, along with other news organisations, viewed documents released to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress by Haugen.

They showed Facebook https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-knew-about-failed-police-abusive-content-globally-documents-2021-10-25 had known it had not hired enough workers who possessed both the language skills and knowledge of local events needed to identify objectionable posts from users in a number of developing countries.

Facebook will fuel further unrest, whistleblower says
 

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Comments (15)
Vi Ma
Vi Ma Oct 26, 2021 2:40AM ET
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she is being sponsored by on of FB's competitor companies founder, forgot the name. Ignore the sulking B****
Lesko Brandon
Lesko Brandon Oct 25, 2021 7:38PM ET
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she is a well known democrat partisan, just an actor pushing mar.xist fascistic censorship agenda. nobody cares though, plenty of alternative platforms that people are moving to. let's go brandon song was just banned on youtube last week for "medial misinformation" and then quickly went to number one spot on iTunes even above Adele. meanwhile plenty of rap songs about ***** ra.ppe, and demeaning women for you to enjoy on youtube.
Lesko Brandon
Lesko Brandon Oct 25, 2021 7:35PM ET
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she is a well known democrat partisan, just an actor pushing mar.xist fascistic censorship agenda. nobody cares though, plenty of alternative platforms that people are moving to.
Josh Modern
JoshModern Oct 25, 2021 7:30PM ET
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plenty of hate here and didn't need an algorithm to see it
José Alberto Ocampo
José Alberto Ocampo Oct 25, 2021 5:03PM ET
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She wants money. that all
katya litski
katya litski Oct 25, 2021 4:00PM ET
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define: Karen
Saroop Calvete
Saroop Calvete Oct 25, 2021 1:29PM ET
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She's just providing justification for more censorship under the guise of a "whistleblower."
Saroop Calvete
Saroop Calvete Oct 25, 2021 1:27PM ET
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What is "harmful content" in on the eye of the beholder.  In any case, I don't use any of those platform as they are public sewers.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Oct 25, 2021 1:06PM ET
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Interesting.  Communists and democrats are starting to blame their failures on facebook.
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Oct 25, 2021 12:31PM ET
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By unrest the fake whistleblower means people will wake up to the fascist control of Democrats over news and media.
EUGENIO WETTER
EUGENIO WETTER Oct 25, 2021 11:31AM ET
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Facebook – Zuckerberg´s (mountain of sugar, as translated from german) opinions and publishings should be carefully analized. He might be at the service of very powerful people whose long term objective is to rule the whole planet, as incredible as this may sound.
me ish
me ish Oct 25, 2021 11:31AM ET
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that's not at all incredible - the powers that be love him and FB - this is all a show - governments could have put a stop to him and taxed his company far more heavily years ago - just like tax havens and money laundering, governments talk the talk, but DONT walk the walk - in fact they're such hypocrites, they're all actually involved in tax evasion and fraud. More to the point, in the article where it says "illegal" content - it will be the governments that tell Zuccini berg what is "illegal" and that will include any dissent against the government and it's mainstream narrative - from vaccine mandates to anything else they choose - it will be just like living in fascist Italy or China
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Oct 25, 2021 11:31AM ET
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me ish they why does FB only censor Republicans?
Dominic Mazoch
Dominic Mazoch Oct 25, 2021 11:21AM ET
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What needs to happen at FB:1. Completely new CEO and BOD2. Mike Z needs to completely sell all his stock in FB, and cannot own more than 5% of another companiy's stock for a period of 5 years.3. income tax on sold stock at 100%.
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 25, 2021 11:00AM ET
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People had to be told facebook is harmful to people and kids… thats the only surprising thing here
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 25, 2021 10:52AM ET
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Facebook whistle blower is a known leftist to an uncomfortable degree… this comment offends we
Rajesh Kumar
Rajesh Kumar Oct 25, 2021 10:52AM ET
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Finally, someone has found the courage to speak about Facebook. Thank you Ms Haugen
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Oct 25, 2021 10:52AM ET
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A leftist whisteblower works in FB favor
Saroop Calvete
Saroop Calvete Oct 25, 2021 10:52AM ET
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Felipe Daniel   She's just providing justification for more censorship under the guise of a "whistleblower."
 
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