It seems Facebook and controversy are inconceivably linked at this point.
Frances Haugen, a prior data scientist for Facebook, recently revealed herself as the “whistleblower” behind the recent scandal. In a recent episode of 60 minutes, Haugen reveals that it was, in fact, her who was responsible for copying and leaking thousands of pages worth of confidential Facebook documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal. She claimed that the documents revealed Facebook’s deliberate act to spread hatred and how it contributes to negative body images of teenagers and even leads to suicidal thoughts. Saying that the company itself “prioritizes [financial] growth over safety.”
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 speaks on how “super tragic” it is that Facebook is aware of these damages but turns their heads in order to prioritize financial growth; the more we interact with the app, the more money the company makes. For instance, Facebook’s research says that as young women begin to “consume eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. This actually makes them use the app more.” Therefore ending up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more. She even claims that Facebook’s subsidiary, Instagram is super dangerous and is “distinctly worse than other forms of social media.”
Zuckerberg responded to these allegations on his personal Facebook page, saying, “Many of the claims don’t make any sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?” Also going on to say, “it’s disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care.”
When asked about the correspondence between the Facebook/ Instagram outage on Monday and the controversy, Zuckerberg replied that the outage was not, in fact, a reaction to the controversy but rather, “the SEV that took down all our services yesterday was the worst outage we’ve had in years.”
As things continue to heat up, we ask ourselves what is next for the billion-dollar corporation?