Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old former product manager at Facebook, revealed herself to be the whistleblower who leaked information for the Wall Street Journal‘s bombshell investigation into Facebook, and filed complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaints alleged that Facebook has been hiding from investors and the public its shortcoming about stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” Haugen said on “60 Minutes,” where she was interviewed by correspondent Scott Pelley.
In a lengthy statement, Facebook called Haugen’s allegations “misleading.”
“On Sunday, ‘CBS 60 Minutes’ ran a segment that used select company materials to tell a misleading story about the research we do to improve our products. The segment also disregards the significant investments we make to keep people safe on our platform and seeks to impugn the motivations of our company,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
Haugen alleged in the complaints that Facebook is aware of the problems on its apps, including the spread of ethnic violence and abuse faced by young girls on Instagram, but the company has been lying about its progress to tackle the issues.
“When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content, it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other. The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” Haugen said.
She added that Facebook prioritizes showing content that’s optimized for engagement from users, but research shows that the content is typically hateful and geared toward stirring anger. Haugen plans to testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, saying, “Facebook has demonstrated they cannot act independently. Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety. I’m hoping that this will have had a big enough impact on the world that they get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations into place. That’s my hope.”
Facebook execs previously have pushed back on the Journal’s reporting, saying the publication’s characterization of the internal research cited in its “Facebook Files” series was inaccurate and lacked context.
Watch the “60 Minutes” interview with Haugen below.