Modern day hero or villain?

Facebook Whistleblower speaks on Capitol Hill

PHOTO COURTESY/ Unsplash Brett Jordan

PHOTO COURTESY/ Unsplash Brett Jordan

Facebook sees itself once again on Capitol Hill, after various executives were summoned for hearings regarding the social media platforms’ content moderation policy. However, the hearing of Oct. 5 stood out due to an ex-Facebook employee and now whistleblower, Frances Haugen. 

Haugen, 37, is a data scientist from Iowa with a degree in computer engineering and a Harvard master’s degree in business. She has worked for many social media platforms such as Google, Pinterest and, most importantly, Facebook. 

Earlier this year, Haugen quit her position at Facebook because of the conflict of interests Facebook has with the public. 

“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” Haugen said in an interview on 60 minutes. 

Haugen secretly copied tens of thousands of pages of Facebook internal research. She says the platform is deceiving its users with their claims that they are making significant progress against hate, misinformation and violence. All aspects that Facebook has faced criticism about for years. 

This past week, Haugen attended the hearings against social media platforms as a witness of the wrong-doings that these companies have imposed in society. 

Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy” and put profit over moral responsibility, Haugen told lawmakers at Capitol Hill. 

Although it is always shocking to hear someone from the inside speak up about the immoral actions done for profit by some companies, I do not think that Facebook’s operations are brand new information to anyone. For years, these companies have been in the spotlight for invading the privacy of their users and manipulating them by spreading false information and hate speech, among other tactics. So much has been the knowledge of these actions, that, ironically, it has even become the source of many memes on social media. 

At the same time, it is appalling to see and know of these actions, yet still keep these social media platforms so close to us. This can be seen with last week’s social media outage. Despite the fact that Haugen’s interview was already out in the public, the minute that Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp went down, the public was desperate and looking forward to the minute it came back on so they could keep sharing pictures and thoughts with the online world.

It is important to note that Haugen’s interview is not the first of its nature. In fact, Facebook has been under fire for a couple of years now. In 2018, Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton joined the “delete Facebook” movement through a tweet that said “it is time. #deletefacebook.” This is unusual because Whatsapp is owned by Facebook. 

Haugen has unquestionably added flames to an already powerful fire that was the anti-Facebook movement. What we must ask ourselves is, as social media users, how do we move forward? Do we go about our lives disregarding the invasion of privacy or is it time to enact serious change in social media guidelines?