Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is poised to provide British politicians with evidence amid new revelations about the company’s inner workings.
Ms Haugen will address the committee that finalizes the UK’s online safety bill, which will put in place new rules for large social networks.
It comes as several news outlets have released new stories based on its thousands of leaked documents.
Facebook, meanwhile, has characterized previous reports as misleading.
Ms. Haugen left Facebook earlier this year, but took thousands of documents when she did, providing them to the Wall Street Journal.
That newspaper then ran a series of articles that Facebook considered negative and, it claims, misrepresented the source material.
But the allegations – that Facebook knew Instagram was bad for teen mental health, for example – led to her being invited to testify before politicians and regulators around the world.
I am looking forward to discussing the online safety law with the @OnlineSafetyCom in @British Parliament tomorrow
Tune in ⬇️https://t.co/AeUcWb0lc3
– Frances Haugen (@FrancesHaugen) October 24, 2021
Its appearance in London comes at a pivotal time in the technology regulation debate, as the Online Safety Committee considers additions and changes to the proposed new rules.
The proposed additions include whether online abuse of women and girls should become a legal offense.
The commission’s chairman, MP Damian Collins, said it “will set a new regulatory era for technology platforms that will hold them accountable.”
“The real question is, can we, as an audience, change incentives so that it makes more sense for Facebook to invest more money in security on Instagram,” Ms. Haugen said in a BBC interview with Ian Russell, the father. of 14- Molly Russell, a year old, who committed suicide after seeing disturbing content on Instagram.
“I’m sure … the experience that Molly had caused them to look more at these questions,” she added.
But Ms Haugen said much faster progress is needed.
“Facebook research shows that a surprisingly high fraction of [under-18s] exhibit what is known as problem use [on Instagram],” she said.
Not being able to control their use is “kind of like cigarettes that way,” he added.
“Unquestionably, Facebook could invest more resources to make the platform more secure,” he said. “They made a number of choices to prioritize profits over people.
“Right now there is no company in the world that has as much power as Facebook and so little transparency.”
It comes in the midst of a new batch of leaked document reports, which have been provided to more than a dozen news outlets to search for additional news lines following the initial Wall Street Journal batch of reports.
NBC News reported on an internal Facebook experiment on the new account of a fictional woman being recommended by QAnon’s extreme conspiracy theory groups within two days. This was based on nothing more than basic interests like following Fox News and Donald Trump and expressing interest in Christianity.
“Within a week, Smith’s feed was filled with groups and pages that violated Facebook’s rules, including those against hate speech and disinformation,” NBC reported. Facebook told the store that such research helped lead to the ban on QAnon in October 2020.
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Bloomberg, meanwhile, published a new piece detailing the reaction of internal staff to the Capitol riots on January 6, including quotes from those who wondered why they were still working for the company.
CNN reported Facebook’s analysis of events around January 6, in which the tech giant’s staff claimed that while “hindsight is 20:20”, the procedures the company had in place were inadequate to stop the “Stop the Steal” theory, which falsely claimed that the election US presidential elections had been the subject of massive fraud.
The New York Times, meanwhile, published a story about the impact Facebook policies have in India, which he characterized as an “amplified version” of the problems related to disinformation, hate speech and violence that the company faces elsewhere. A fictitious trial user in India who accepted Facebook’s recommendations was apparently subjected to “polarizing nationalist content, misinformation, violence and blood”.
Axios reports that Facebook has warned internally his staff expects “more bad headlines in the coming days”.
Facebook previously denied many of the reports released during the Wall Street Journal’s initial reporting, referring to the documents at one point as “stolen.”
But at the same time, the company has admitted that in many areas it has more to do and is mainly opposing what is said to be a misrepresentation or a selection of the leaked documents.
It also points to its long-standing calls for regulatory reform of the tech sector, which would affect all major tech companies, not just Facebook.
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