“Facebook Files”: the article to read to understand the scandal which threatens the giant of social networks

the essential A former Facebook employee claimed that the social network favored its profits over security by relying on tens of thousands of internal documents. La Dépêche du Midi explains the scandal of the Facebook Files.

After a worldwide failure of the Facebook group on Monday, October 4 in the evening, which caused Mark Zuckerberg to lose nearly $ 7 billion in just a few hours, it is now a new scandal that tarnishes the image of the American giant: the “Facebook Files” (“Facebook files”). Former employee Frances Haugen accuses the company of making a profit from misinformation and the unease of its users. La Dépêche du Midi explains to you what is behind these revelations.

Who is Frances Haugen, the whistleblower?

This computer engineer is a former employee – from mi 2019 to mi 2021 – from the Facebook group. She testified the day after the global blackout of the American company before the Senate Commerce Committee on the impact of the social network created by Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram on their young users. Frances Haugen drew on her experience as a product manager at Facebook and on the thousands of documents she took with her, grouped together under the name of “Facebook Files”. These thousands of pages of internal documents were then sent to the Wall Street Journal last September but also to American regulators. She also filed a complaint with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the financial market supervisory authority because, according to her, these documents show that Facebook lied to its investors.

What should we remember from these revelations?

The social network would have minimized its influence on adolescents. In an article published in mid-September by the Wall Street Journal , the American daily, thanks to documents provided by Frances Haugen, reveals that Facebook had been researching its social network Instagram for three years to assess the effects on adolescents. In particular, studies have shown that % of teenage girls felt that using Instagram had given them a more negative body image when they were already not satisfied with it.

During an internal meeting in 55 was posted an Instagam slideshow where it was written: “We worsen the relationship to his body of one in three teenagers”. “Teens accuse Instagram of increasing anxiety and depression levels.” Aware of the problem, Facebook would have minimized, according to the former employee, its influence on the psychology of tens of millions of young people who connect every day.

The network would have consciously disabled filters against fake news. Frances Haugen also claims that Facebook deleted, after the US presidential election of 2020, filters against fake news to encourage an increase in the number of visitors to its platforms. “The company realized that by changing the algorithm for more security, users spent less time on the platform, clicked less ads, and they made less money,” he said. she explained.

Facebook has indeed set up teams to limit disinformation at election time. But his team was disbanded shortly after the November ballot 2020. Barely two months later, social media was used by Internet users to prepare for the January 6 rally in Washington, which led to the intrusion on Capitol Hill.

Some users could escape moderation. In this Facebook Files scandal was also revealed a program which allows certain celebrities, politicians and Internet users in order not to have to obey the same rules on the moderation of content than the rest of the users. According to the Wall Street Journal , which cites internal company documents, this program called “Crosscheck” or “XCheck” does not apply not the same checks on messages posted on the Facebook and Instagram accounts of these personalities as those of ordinary users. Last year 5.8 million people would have benefited from this program.

Mark Zuckerberg would run Facebook “unilaterally”. During his hearing before the US Senate, Frances Haugen particularly pointed the finger at Mark Zuckerberg. “He has a unique role in the tech industry because he owns 32% of the voting rights in Facebook. There is no such powerful company that is so unilaterally controlled. So ultimately the responsibility lies with Mark, “she criticized. She also said that the boss of the company is “not accountable to anyone. And he is, in effect, the chief designer of the algorithms.”

How did the company react?

Group boss Mark Zuckerberg responded to accusations of influencing young people in a statement: “If we wanted to ignore the research, why would we create- us a cutting-edge curriculum to understand these important issues? If we don’t care about tackling harmful content, why would we hire so many people dedicated to it? At the heart of these accusations is the idea that we prioritize profits over safety and well-being. This is just not true. “

He also felt that in addition to being unfounded, Frances Haugen’s accusations relayed by the Wall Street Journal were “completely illogical”: “We make money with ads, and advertisers tell us all the time that they don’t want their ads alongside harmful or vehement content. And I don’t know of any tech company that sets out to develop er products that make people angry or depressed. “

Regarding the intrusion on Capitol Hill, Nick Clegg, vice president of Facebook, retorted that the responsibility of “the insurgency falls on those who inflicted the violence and on those who encouraged it, including the presidentTrump “. According to him, it is” too easy to look for a technological explanation for the political polarization in the United States. “However, the head of the platform admitted that Facebook must try to” understand how [le réseau social] contributes to negative content and extremes, hate speech and disinformation. “

Mark Zuckerberg has also been invited by several senators to answer their questions shortly following the various revelations and accusations of his former employee.

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