United States lawmakers are being encouraged by a former Facebook Inc employee to regulate the company citing the mental health harm of the social media to some young users, stirring up divisions and deteriorating democracy.
On Tuesday, whistleblower Frances Haugen told a US Senate subcommittee that the social media site has deceived people multiple times regarding its recognized harm on girls due to Instagram, saying it also stroke division.
“I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” the whistleblower expressed in a statement before she testified on Capitol Hill.
“Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”
Haugen’s statement followed the prolonged widespread outage of Facebook, along with photo-sharing apps Instagram and WhatsApp and in the wake of the growing pressure on the company to clear its policies for the younger population.
The whistleblower appeared before an interview with CBS last Oct. 3, divulging that she was assigned to give files used in a Senate hearing that tackled Instagram’s alleged damage, as well as in the investigation by the Wall Street journal.
According to the stories by WSJ, the social media company has helped online polarization to rise when it altered its content algorithm. Its failure to act on lessening vaccine hesitancy was also mentioned, and Instagram’s negative impact on teenage girls’ mental health.
“As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,” she shared to the panel on Tuesday.
“Until the incentives change, Facebook will not change. Left alone, Facebook will continue to make choices that go against the common good,” she furthered. “Facebook hides behind walls that keep researchers and regulators from understanding the true dynamics of their system.”
But Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch disagreed with Haugen’s claims. “We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about,” she said in a statement following the hearing.
In an email to Reuters news agency, another Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister said the social media company gives more importance to community protection than gaining profits.
McAlister also disputed the accuracy of the leaked inside research showing the toxicity of Instagram for young girls, Al Jazeera reported.
The same argument was earlier voiced by Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global security, before the Senate committee. “We care deeply about the safety and security of the people on our platform,” Davis said, adding that: “We take the issue very seriously … We have put in place multiple protections to create safe and age-appropriate experiences for people between the ages of 13 and 17.”