Facebook Whistleblower: Company Is 'Tearing Our Societies Apart for Profit'
Frances Haugen says Facebook's manipulation of content caused Capitol riot
A Facebook whistleblower has gone on the record to expose a huge alleged conspiracy by the social media giant to divide society "for profit" by manipulating the information flow on the platform.
The former Facebook employee has been identified as Frances Haugen and she is responsible for leaking thousands of pages of internal company research.
Haugen is a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa who was widely known as the "Facebook whistleblower" after she recently left the Big Tech giant and lifted the lid on the company's inner workings.
She has now spoken out publicly for the first time since she anonymously filed at least eight complaints with federal law enforcement.
In an explosive 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday night, Haugen accused Facebook of prioritizing its own interests over the public good to further assert its power grip over society and boost profits.
"There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook," she revealed in the interview.
"And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money," Haugen explained.
The former employee also claims the social media giant is responsible for making America increasingly polarized.
Haugen blames much of the societal division in the United States on a change to Facebook's algorithm in 2018.
The change makes users more likely to see posts from Facebook friends and groups they are already part of - suggesting they are grouped with like-minded people.
In January 2018, Facebook said the News Feed algorithm was changed to promote so-called Meaningful Social Interactions (MSI).
While ranking more highly posts from friends, family, and groups, posts from publishers and brands are now ranked lower.
According to Haugen, Facebook knows that this change is causing users to become deeply divided and more heavily influenced by one-sided political narratives due to the lack of balance that would normally occur in real life.
She also claimed that Facebook played a role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by manipulating the flow of information on the platform.
She said these changes had been implemented in the run-up the 2020 election.
"The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world," Haugen told 60 Minutes Sunday.
Haugen accused the company of placing profit above the good for the public, despite assurances from Facebook leadership that the company was working to make the platform safe.
Haugen's interview comes after she collected documents and blew the whistle on Facebook to the Wall Street Journal, which then published a series of reports on the files that revealed previously unknown details about the inner workings of the social media company.
Documents revealed that Facebook's own internal research showed that the company knew some of its products were harming the mental health of some of its users, most notably teen girls.
"Facebook's own research says, as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed," Haugen said.
"And it actually makes them use [Instagram] more."
Haugen said that Facebook placed profit above the well-being of those harmed.
"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," she said.
"Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety."
Haugen, a data scientist with a computer engineering degree and a Harvard MBA, said she believes that the federal government should now act to regulate the company, an idea that has gained more traction among lawmakers in the wake of the story.
Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation with the aim of holding social media companies accountable for the harm they cause.
"Like Big Tobacco before it, Big Tech pushes products it knows are harmful," a spokesperson for Hawley said in a release explaining the legislation.
"At a Senate hearing last week, a Facebook representative would not even say, in response to questioning by Senator Hawley, that using Instagram is safe.
"Social media companies should not be allowed to continue profiting from exploiting children."
In a statement responding to the 60 Minutes interview, Facebook said they "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."