Whistleblower Frances Haugen challenges Facebook to face its contradictions, pushes Congress to act

the essential The presentation of the whistleblower Frances Haugen damaged the image of Facebook to the point of pushing Congress to promise to better regulate the Californian giant.

“A catalyst”, this is how an elected representative described the whistleblower Frances Haugen, whose presentation tarnished Tuesday, October 5 the image of Facebook to the point of pushing Congress to promise to better regulate the Californian giant. “Moral bankruptcy”, “spiral”, the computer engineer of 37 years described, with calm and precision, the situation of a company which gave up, according to her, to some moral principles in the name of profit. “You have been a catalyst for change like I have never seen before and I have been working on these topics since or 15 years, “commented Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal during his hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Three days ago, this thirty-something was unknown, a computer scientist among others, with a successful career but far from the ruling circles of Facebook. Today, her face has been around the world and she embodies, at least for a few days, the rebellion against the omnipotence of the tech giants. “I know Facebook has the resources and potentially the motivation to ruin my existence, but I accept it because I know that I am aligned with my values ​​and what I believe in,” said this Harvard graduate in a video online Sunday.

“You are a heroine of the 21 century, who warned our country of the dangers facing our youth and our democracy,” solemnly greeted Democratic Senator Ed Markey. “Our Nation is grateful to you.” “We still have time to act. But we must do it now,” urged Frances Haugen, who left Facebook last May after two years with the company.

Throughout her testimony and questions from senators, she relentlessly unfolded the contradictions and turpitudes of Facebook executives, who “finance their profits with our safety”, according to her. Among the group’s drifts, according to Frances Haugen, the methods that push adolescents to use Instagram in high doses, to the point of sometimes sinking into addiction.

During her hearing, Frances Haugen awarded a special mention to Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and boss of the Facebook group. Several senators invited him on Tuesday to come and answer their questions. “There is no such powerful company that is controlled so unilaterally. So in the end, the responsibility rests with Mark. And he’s not accountable to anyone. And Mark Zuckerberg is, in effect, the designer. in chief of algorithms “, assured the engineer.

” To render accounts “

Mark Zuckerberg defended himself shortly after the hearing in a lengthy post on his Facebook page. “At the heart of these accusations is the idea that we prioritize profits over safety and well-being. This is simply not true,” he writes.

Picking up many points from the testimony of the whistleblower who denounced Facebook’s indifference to studies showing the toxic influence of the group’s social networks on adolescents, Mark Zuckerberg retorted: “If we wanted to ignore the research, why Would we create 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? ” “Gone are the days when you invaded our privacy, promoted toxic content and used children and adolescents. Congress is going to act,” Senator Ed Markey thundered before Congress.

To back up her claims, Frances Haugen draws on her experience with the company and on the thousands of documents she took with her last spring. Already presented, in part, by the Wall Street Journal in mid-September, they show that some of the teenage Instagram users are still less comfortable with their body than they were before.

Regarding the version of Instagram for those under 13, a project officially suspended at the end of September, the engineer explained that she did not see Facebook give up. “They need to make sure the next generation is just as invested in Instagram as they are today.” A Facebook spokesperson reacted on Twitter by pointing out that Frances Haugen had “not worked on child protection (at Facebook) or on Instagram (…) and has no direct knowledge of these topics from his work at Facebook “.

For the whistleblower, we must impose on Facebook more transparency and information sharing, with the help of a new regulator dedicated to internet giants, able to understand the complexity of these platforms. “It’s time to create a data protection agency and hold (the tech giants) to account,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted Tuesday.

“We do not agree with her way of presenting the subjects on which she testified,” commented Lena Pietsch, spokesperson for Facebook. “But we agree on one thing: it is time to create new rules for the internet. (…) And rather than waiting for the industry to make societal changes, (…) it is time to Congress to act. “

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